June 16, 2009

Use My Sky has moved to WordPress.com.
Please update your bookmarks and join me there!
Posted by leya at 09:44 PM

June 10, 2009

News from Denmark

My week in Denmark was wonderful. I slept most of the first day, having not slept much on the trip over. My flight left Halifax at midnight and I expected to be able to catch a few but watched two movies instead (one was To Kill a Mockingbird . . what a good film! I had read the book recently and loved it.) I had a long wait in Heathrow so I lay down on the benches along with the other weary travelers and took a brief nap.

It was mostly cool and sunny in Denmark, very beautiful, as I had remembered it. Thora found me a wonderful place to stay. Part of an old farm complex, quiet and clean and beautiful, like all of Denmark. Although people drive very very fast on the country roads, disturbing at first. And they drive a lot because everything is so far apart.

On Friday, I went to Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, to meet Joanne and Aaron. It was a quick trip. I took the bus and train down and rode back with them the same way. We saw some sculpture by the sea. It was the opening reception, with a marching band of high school girls, speeches and balloons. The crown prince had met his bride at the exhibit in Tasmania. They had both fallen in love with the sculpture and with each other, so they wanted to bring the exhibit to Denmark. I was able to get some pix of the royal couple.

The opening reception for my exhibit was on Saturday. It was well attended and well received. Two large paintings sold right away and then several other people wanted the same pieces. Interesting.

On Sunday we went to Skagen, the northernmost point of Denmark. Then in the evening, Joanne went back to Exeter. Monday Thora, Aaron and I went to Ebeltoft, a town with lots of old houses. We traveled around all day. Very very beautiful country. (I took lots of photos and will post them when I return home. I'm having major camera lust for Aaron's camera. I think mine has a time limit on its remaining days.)

I’m now in Exeter, U.K. with Aaron and Joanne, after a very long trip from Denmark. Aaron and I had a lovely time in Aarlborg before returning the car I had rented (and before loading ourselves onto the plane to Gatwick). We just hung out, took pix and ate. The town is on water, a harbor town like most of Denmark. Not too big, the third largest city in Denmark. The plane left Aarlborg on time, 6:50 pm, but the bus connections were lousy and one of them, the one to Exeter, broke down. We didn't get in until 4:15 am, to bed at 5 am and up again at 10 am. I'm lucky to have slept so well when I did.

Today Aaron showed me around Exeter a little. More tomorrow when we are better rested. Lots to see and do.

Posted by leya at 03:26 PM

June 01, 2009

Traveling light

I'm off to Denmark tonight. My plane leaves at 11:45 pm. Twelve hours of travel, changing planes in London with a long layover there. I'll take a shower and a nap.

Sean is staying with Lila. He loves her almost as much as I do so she will be happy. The weather here is beautiful, my garden abundant. It's hard to leave and exciting to be leaving for a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to two weeks abroad. No problem there!

Posted by leya at 04:29 PM | TrackBack

May 29, 2009

Birthday on the beach

Wednesday was my friend Gwen's birthday. Several of us went to McCoo's Island (in St. Margaret's Bay) for a surprise party. At low tide you can walk to the island.


It was chilly so we made a fire.


Lila enjoyed playing on the beach


and the deviled eggs!


Posted by leya at 07:57 PM | TrackBack

April 29, 2009

The garden crew

The garden renovations continue. Today a load of garden soil was delivered. My neighbor’s sons, Ben and Josh, have been coming over and helping me clean up the debris, build rock walls and now, toss the dirt. It all feels so necessary. We have been fortunate to have some sunny days, unusually warm for April, and being outside is easy.

The changes in my immediate landscape are not without some doubts. Recently a friend expressed dislike for the barrenness of my yard. Lots of trees downed. And I, for a couple of days, wondered what I was doing. I heard her voice, not mine. But then I realized, again, how this visual landscape is liberating for me. I’ve decided to take the winter to make the big decisions about what to do with the field that was once the woods.





Posted by leya at 07:09 PM | TrackBack

March 29, 2009

A testament to the power of positive thinking

Last night I went to a wine tasting party in my neighborhood. It’s a yearly event—people bringing two bottles of their homemade wines, one for tasting and one for the winner. As I prefer beer, I brought myself a bottle of Danish brew. It was also earth hour at 8 pm so the room was lit with candles. When the lights went on again at 9, everyone groaned and insisted they go out again.

There were also door prizes. I mentioned to several people that I often win the door prize so be prepared. I’ve won a bottle of champagne, a signed edition of Allen Ginsburg’s Howl, and a tee shirt and golf balls. There were about six prizes and after four I began to wonder why my number hadn’t been called. At number five, it was. I won a big glass beer mug, the kind you put in the freezer to chill. Cool.

Posted by leya at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

March 18, 2009

A taste of the Big Apple

I went into Manhattan yesterday to see art and visit friends. To my surprise, it was St. Patrick’s Day in the City. Lots of people dressed in green—green hats, green hair, green paint on their faces—and a big parade up Fifth Avenue from morning to evening.

I maneuvered through the crowds, to go first to the Museum of Modern Art—closed: Tuesday. So I went to some galleries along 57th Street. Not much too exciting there. A fairly decent Robert Mangold exhibit at the Pace. Mostly work on paper and not as appealing to me as his canvases. Then I met my friend Zoe at the Art Students’ League where she is currently enrolled. It was a fascinating place, students of all ages, mostly older, coming and going. People who at a certain age realized what they really wanted to do was make art and so they are.

Then Zoe and I went for lunch at a great noodle restaurant, a little hole-in-the-wall place with fantastic food. From there we walked to the Whitney Museum to see the Jenny Holzer exhibit—the museum was closed: Tuesday. We walked from there to the Metropolitan Museum and did get in.

After parting with Zoe, I went down to Soho to spend the evening with my friends Leah and Pedro who live in the loft building where I used to live. It was great to catch up. Pedro had spent three months in Venice this winter, Leah with him for one of them. Lots of stories to tell, to hear, talked till my jaw hurt.

Back home now with Tamar and Damian enjoying the quiet. Manhattan is a country of its own—loud, fast, exciting and tiring. As much as I love New York, being here, seeing all the art and culture and my friends and family, I appreciate my life in Nova Scotia.

Posted by leya at 07:34 PM

March 16, 2009

Hanging out in NJ

Plane connections went smoothly yesterday and it’s great to be here now with Tamar, Damian and Dan. Today Tamar and I spent the morning being girls—trying on clothes, doing lunch and then buying groceries. Neither of us are fond of shopping so it was much more fun together.

Tonight we will hang out, cook a good meal and maybe watch a movie. Tomorrow I head into the Big Apple for a couple of days, see friends and art. The weather is being cooperative, above freezing, a blessing.

Posted by leya at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

January 05, 2009


Happy New Year! Already it seems the days are moving far too quickly even though I am not. No school to go back to, just the dog and me and painting. Not bad. To catch up:

I did go to Ottawa to visit Aaron and Joanne. It was a lovely visit, traveling easy, wonderful company and lots of interesting entertainment. I spent a lot of time with Joanne, Aaron and Joanne’s family. A very warm and welcoming group of people.

We went to see my paintings at the Koyman Galleries, 1771 St. Laurent. They looked good and I will have installation shots soon. Then we went to the National Gallery. Saw some interesting contemporary Native art. That evening, a party at Joanne’s parents’ house.

The other events were: going to see Slumdog Millionaire (great shots of India, places not usually seen, very romantic even through the hardships of poverty), Milk (definitely one of the best films ever, very moving, haunting reminder of human inhumanity), and going for High Tea at the Chateau Laurier.

They all took me to the airport for a very early flight Wednesday morning. When I was checking in at the airport, the woman behind the counter asked me if they were with me. No, I said, they are my family. I turned to them, said I’m not used to this, but I could get used to it!

Then home to recover Lila and settle in. (She stayed with friends in Halifax.) I was happy to get back into my studio, go for walks in the park, see friends, be home. I do love Nova Scotia, strange weather and all!

Posted by leya at 02:38 PM | TrackBack

December 20, 2008

Home sweet home

The only thing worse than waiting hours at an airport for delayed planes is waiting on the phone to talk to an agent about planes that have been canceled. (Fortunately I had checked flight status before leaving for the airport.) After three hours of being put on hold, with an occasional update from a real person about flight possibilities, I’m still here, at home, with no possibility of getting to Cleveland for the party tomorrow. Even the flights I might have booked for today if there had been a seat available have been canceled. Heavy snows. But yesterday it was a bright and sunny day here. Very frustrating, to say the least.

The upside is I won’t miss my tai chi and Chinese medicine classes today. And I can work in my studio a few more days before taking off on Boxing Day for Ottawa to visit Aaron. Traveling at this time of year is rarely easy but this experience was the pits!

Posted by leya at 06:05 AM | TrackBack

December 18, 2008

Hearts and flowers and lots of years

I’m off tomorrow for a few days in Cleveland, Ohio—for my sister’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Amazing how the years go by. I remember her wedding well. It was in January in Washington, D.C., a little snow on the ground but not too cold. She looked lovely. As we walked down the aisle (I was a bridesmaid), I heard someone whisper quite loudly: Do you think she is a virgin? and the reply: You can bet on it! I may never know for sure. I've never asked her and probably won't. It doesn't really matter now, three children, five grandchildren and fifty years later.

The reception was at our house in Bethesda. And of course, she made sure I caught the bouquet. I have a small album of photos from that day. We were all so young then. Now, a few years (and more) gone by, I wouldn’t mind catching another bouquet!

Posted by leya at 11:41 AM

November 27, 2008

So good to be alive

Yesterday was my birthday. And it was a happy one. Painting (bookcases—my studio is so full of paintings I need to take a break but am looking forward to getting back to work next week), a walk in the woods and out to dinner with some friends in the evening where I was properly wined and dined. The evening before some neighbors, knowing I was going out last night, came over with a cake.

The only down part was that Tamar and Aaron weren’t here as they were last year. But we did our usual birthday phone calls and that almost made up for it.

Posted by leya at 08:34 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2008

Blowing in the wind

Lila had her haircut on Tuesday this week. I took her to the beach to run, get dirty and wear herself out a bit beforehand. The groomer is one I’ve never used before but she does Suzie and another friend of Lila’s, Kiku, and comes highly recommended. She is also the only groomer who lets the owner stay while she works. The usual policy is to leave the dog and come back a couple of hours later. They think the dog will act up if the owner is there but how do they know! Lila prefers my staying and it does make her more relaxed.

As I was watching the procedure, I mentioned that it is the blow-drying process that I find so tedious. I am far too impatient. Paula told me it takes hours to dry a Newfoundland Sheepdog. Then she told me of a time she was to meet some friends for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was a hot and muggy July First, Canada Day, and she had spent the afternoon grooming a big Sheepdog. When she finally got to the restaurant, noticeably late, her friends asked where she had been. They’d been worried about her. She said, exasperated, in a very loud clear voice, “I’ve spent the last four hours blowing a Newfoundlander!” The whole restaurant full of diners burst out in laughter. Then she felt a tap from behind on her shoulder: “Excuse me, Paula, said a male voice. “I’m part Newfie.”

She said it was weeks before she heard the end of that one. It went all around the email and phone circuits.

Posted by leya at 07:30 PM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2008

It's been three years already!

Monday was Lila’s birthday. She is now three years old. I was told early on, if you survive the first two years of a Portuguese Water Dog’s life, you have the best dog imaginable. It’s true. The first two years were hard. We had some major learning to do here. And it’s been worth it, every bit. I’ve learned so much from working with her. She taught me how to be a stronger, better person. I am very grateful.

So Monday I took her to one of our favorite dog stores, Bark & Fitz, and she picked out a toy. I wanted her to get one that makes a noise when you drop it. That way she gets to feel powerful as she pushes it around. They had a Santa, a monkey, a duck and a rooster. She liked the duck best. But I also liked the rooster, so we bought both.

That evening, to my surprise, my neighbors came over with their dog, Suzie, and we had a dog party. They brought a present for Lila and we sat around drinking beer and watching as the pup’s played (and destroyed—Lila loves to take the stuffing out!) the new toys. (We did try to stop them but it was a loosing battle! All we could do was take them away and it was, after all, a birthday party.)

Here Lila has downed the duck:


Posted by leya at 09:00 AM

August 30, 2008

Good and bad, happy and sad, all thoughts vanish like the imprint of a bird in the sky

Tamar and Damian left yesterday. Lila and I are so very very very sad. At the airport, I told Damian to bug his parents to bring him back soon. He turned to his mom and immediately gently poked her. Good!

After a sad goodbye at the airport, I went to pick up my work from the Marigold Arts Centre in Truro. Then Lila and I went for a walk in beautiful Victoria Park. Damian would have loved it there. On the way home, I stopped at a garden centre and found the boxwood plant I have been searching for to put on the steps leading up to my front door. Now I will have six in pots on the stairs.

Then home to an empty, quiet house. Did I say we are sad to see them go? We are so very sad.

P.S. The title above is from a Buddhist text, The Sadhana of Mahamudra, recited on the new and full moons. Today is a new moon.

Posted by leya at 07:39 AM

August 24, 2008


Tamar and Damian are visiting for a week. So far we have had exquisite weather—warm and sunny. We’ve been swimming, riding in the paddle-boat, playing games, reading, walking, playing with Lila—relaxed and fun. Yesterday we went to Blomidon Provincial Park, walked in the woods. All of us, except Lila, were taking photos but my camera jammed. It was the battery so all is well again. Today friends came over for a swim, boat ride pesto-from-my-garden dinner. Lovely.

Posted by leya at 08:38 PM | TrackBack

August 04, 2008

Home and happy

I’m home! The plane was only a little late. And that was the usual: other planes being delayed, holding up our plane. Seems to be the way now.

Then when leaving the airport I noticed some strange noises coming from what sounded like the right rear wheel area. I know nothing about car mechanics nor did the friend who had been staying here with Lila (and taking wonderful care of her) and who also picked me up. So we drove to her house and her husband said it sounds like wheel bearings. They very kindly lent me their car to go home and will be taking my car in for repairs in the morning. Too bad, but it’s great to have such good friends.

First thing I did when I got home, after bringing in my bags, was to go out in my garden and pick dinner. Peas, lettuce and then blueberries. So nice to be home!

Posted by leya at 07:18 PM | TrackBack

July 30, 2008

Missing Lila anyway

The strangest thing about being here, away from Lila, is being able to put something down, like my bathing cap or a piece of kleenex, and know it is not going to be swiped away by happy little teeth.

Posted by leya at 09:27 PM

July 29, 2008

Today was another beautiful sunny day

While Damian was at drama camp (learning How to Torture Your Parents, which will be performed on Friday for the brave parents), I went to the Montclair Bookstore. The very best bookstore I know. They have a huge selection of books with second hand and new books side by side. A real treat. With a suitcase full of paint sticks, I’m being cautious in buying books. I’ll go back before I leave, I’m sure.

Then, after a swim, a friend of Tamar’s whom I know well came for a visit. It was generally a very relaxing day.


Posted by leya at 08:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 28, 2008

The plane took off; the plane landed; all is well

After six hours waiting in the airport, we finally got off the ground. And it’s good to be here. The sun was bright today but it wasn’t too hot. Tamar, Damian and I had a lovely day—stocking up on food for the week, swimming in the next door neighbors’ pool (they are away and we have full access—not bad!), and generally catching up and enjoying each other’s company.

Meanwhile I keep thinking about someone I met on my travels who is physically handicapped (paraplegic). He said his disability didn’t effect who he was as a person. He did have a very positive, engaging way of being with people and relating to his life. It was quite apparent that he had overcome any possible tendency for self-pity and was also very accomplished in his chosen profession. But to say that his handicap didn’t have a strong effect on his being would be like my saying being an artist doesn’t affect my personality. I do generally take umbrage when people tell me something I do or say or how I look is because I am an artist. And yet . . . I make art because I think the way I do which then effects how you perceive me.

Posted by leya at 09:13 PM

July 27, 2008

The latest news from Halifax International Airport

I’m on my way to visit with Tamar, Dan and Damian . . . I think. I’m in the airport, waiting. We were on the plane ready to take off when they put us on hold for about an hour. Then we deplaned and are hanging out in the waiting room. Seems there are about to be thunderstorms in Newark so they’ve closed the airport. And little planes get cancelled first. Nova Scotia is small so we get put on hold. The same thing happened last March when I went to visit Tamar et al. Maybe another hour or so here, after a couple of hours waiting already. I only hope they don’t cancel the flight. The one before mine was nixed.

Meanwhile it is interesting listening to a few conversations around me. Some tourists were talking to a couple of pilots. Although the pilots land here often, they hadn’t toured the province but did start thinking about maybe next summer bringing the family here. The tourist was telling them how beautiful Nova Scotia is, about the Fundy tides, how easy it is to get around, how magnificent Peggy’s Cove is, how close everything is, and more. I just wanted to jump up and say: “I live here!” Lucky me!

Posted by leya at 02:46 PM | TrackBack

July 24, 2008


Last week Lila hurt her foot. I don’t know how she did it but it was quite bad. She couldn’t put any weight on it and it was swelling. I took her to the vet for x-rays. No broken bones, thankfully, but unfortunately she needed antibiotics. In a couple of days she was walking on her foot again.

But a few days later, as I was about to take her out for a walk and wanted to put some herbal bug repellant on her, when she saw the bottle, she started limping again. As if to say: “You can’t do that to me; I’m injured!”

Posted by leya at 04:59 PM | TrackBack

May 10, 2008

Busy days in Ottawa!

Other than the weather (which I had hoped would be warmer), so far my visit in Ottawa has been perfect. I arrived Thursday afternoon, hungry after an easy flight with not even a peanut offered for snack. I met Aaron in a coffee shop and indulged in some lunch. Then he introduced me to his office mates, a very friendly group. I left my suitcase there and walked down Sussex to take in the galleries and some tulips. On the way back I went through the Byward Market.

Aaron and I went to Chinatown for a delicious dinner at the Yangtze Restaurant. Then to the Shambhala Centre where Aaron led one of my favorite meditation practices, the Sadhana of Mahamudra. Then back to his apartment and, after having walked for three hours around downtown Ottawa, much needed sleep.

Friday I hung around Aaron's apartment in the morning, then walked downtown again to meet my friend Jackie for lunch. Aaron met us there. Then Jackie and I went to the Terrance Robert gallery on Sussex to check it out and meet the owner. It was indeed a good place. It was also an unusual coincidence that I would go there. I had received an email Tuesday evening from a the owner who had found my work on the internet and was interested in the possibility of representing me in Ottawa. He is opening a new space soon and feels my work would be appropriate there. I wrote him Wednesday morning that I would be in Ottawa the next day and perhaps we could meet then. I liked him and his attitude toward art and artists, a very important part of the process. So I agreed to send him images of new work when I return to Nova Scotia.

When Jackie and I were leaving the gallery he asked us what we planned for the rest of the afternoon, were we going to the National Gallery. I said actually, no, we were going to Holt-Renfrew for a makeover. And we did. And it was so much fun! (I have great photos I will post when I return home.)

In the evening, Aaron and I went to dinner with a friend of his and then on to the ballet. It was a performance by the Ballet de Lorraine from France. They danced a series of short pieces by different choreographers ranging from Isadora Duncan to Meridith Monk to Martha Graham and several others. The intention was to present a brief history of modern dance in the twentieth century. A really good evening.

Today, Sunday, it's been a trip, finally, to the National Art Gallery where they had a lovely exhibit of Ikebana arrangements. Then to the Tulip Festival, the pavillions, where we saw some Korean break-dancers, lots of food and displays from many countries and tons of people. And some tulips.

Tonight we are going to a party and tomorrow, more tulips!

Posted by leya at 07:03 PM | TrackBack

May 07, 2008

Ah, Spring!

I take off for Ottawa tomorrow. Looking forward to it. I'll visit Aaron in his new apartment, hang out with him, see the Tulip Festival, have lunch with my friend Jackie, and take in the galleries and museums. I haven't seen Aaron since my birthday in November. I didn't realize it's going to be Mothers' Day while I'm there. He reminded me. So I told him he could take me to brunch on Sunday.

Meanwhile it's warm and sunny here, very beautiful. It's the first real spring we have had in many years. I put in lettuce, peas, kale, radish, parsnips, a new rose bush, moved another bush, prepared the rest of the garden and am ready for a rest!

Posted by leya at 07:16 PM | TrackBack

April 18, 2008

By the brook

Now that the ice has melted on the paths. I’ve been taking walks in the woods along the brook. Lila and I have been going a lot lately, often taking friends with us. It’s an hour to an hour-and-a-half walk, depending how many distractions distract me, how long Lila wants to chase sticks in the water.

A couple of weeks ago on my walk with Lila and my friend Suzanne and her dog, the man who lives in the house by the road at the other end of the path came out to tell us to walk beside his property. He had cleared a path for hikers so that they didn’t have to walk in the mud and slush in the low-lying land near the brook. Nice. The next day when Lila and I walked by that house, he came out and said, Oh, you again. Indeed, me again. Almost every day now. Us lucky dogs.

Last weekend, Sunday to be exact, Lila and I went for our walk in the woods and met some neighbors, also with a dog. We all ended up sitting on another neighbor’s porch, the one with three labs, eating fresh made chocolate chip cookies and playing with the dogs. I went home with a bird feeder my neighbor made. He gave each of us one.

It’s not quite Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, the show I used to watch with my children when they were young. Besides the chocolate chip cookies, my neighbors were also drinking rum and coke. I just didn’t want any so I didn’t have it. And not everyone here is so very nice. But almost.

Posted by leya at 05:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

Only in Canada

Even though I enjoyed my trip to NY/NJ, and I did, every minute of it, it is so very nice to be home, looking out the window at yet another snowfall, at the lake in its many shades of grey right now, to be with Lila and to be back at work painting and teaching. Where else but in Canada would you hear on national radio a half hour program dedicated to pot-holes? And that favorite joke (also on the radio, CBC of course): “How do you make 20 Canadians get out of the pool? You say, 'Please get out of the pool.'” Of course.

Lila was a little angel while I was away. She enjoyed being with Sean and he enjoyed her. But I must say, the first evening home she decided to test me: You’ve been away; I’ll show you! Paws and mouth up on the counter, jumped onto the couch, tore up my shower cap. She realized quickly it didn’t work. So she relaxed. A few longs walks in the park and we are both happy to spend a quiet day watching the snow fall.

Posted by leya at 02:24 PM | TrackBack

March 24, 2008

Under the big-top

It was just as exciting seeing the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus Saturday as it was when I went with my children so many years ago. Tamar was surprised how excited I was to be at the circus. She thought I used to take them because you take children to the circus: that’s what you do. But I always went as much for my enjoyment as theirs. Damian enjoyed it too.

After the circus we went to Chinatown to meet my friends Leah and Pedro for Dim Sum. Then Tamar and family went back to their home and Leah and I went shopping for Tai Chi shoes (for me) and food for dinner (for us). I spent the evening with them. Some other friends also came for dinner, friends from the time I lived below Leah and Pedro’s loft on Spring Street. We stayed up late catching up and making new memories.

Yesterday Tamar and Dan hosted a brunch for the members of my family who live in the area. It was a warm fuzzy afternoon. We ate, talked, laughed, and Damian played the drums for us (a super-drummer!). The last time I had seen my relatives was at Marcella’s memorial service last August. I do enjoy my family get-togethers now that we are older. It’s nice to grow up.

Today, my last day here, Tamar and Dan gave me a choice: whatever I want to do. I feel I should want to go into the City, go to museums, be the artist. But . . . I need a quiet day. So . . . the sun is brilliant in the sky and we are going to go to a big park for a walk and enjoy the countryside. I’ll have plenty of excitement/activity when I go back to Nova Scotia.

Posted by leya at 11:27 AM | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

To the Zoo

Yesterday we went to the Bronx Zoo. We saw the birds, bears, monkeys, tigers, some deer and lots of people. The people weren’t in cages, nor were many of the animals. For the most part the animals were in spacious more-or-less-natural playgrounds. That was good. Not like the zoos I went to as a child. Everywhere we saw stories posted of conservation and devastation. Another very big change. It was painful to read.

When I was in Europe with my then five and eleven year old children, we went to zoos in London, Paris and Rome. It gave us a strong flavor of each city. The London Zoo was the first stop on our first day. The three of us took the Underground there and walked back through Hyde Park to our B&B. Everything was beautifully laid out in the zoo, lovely gardens, clean cages. In Paris there were cafes in the zoo, pleasant places to sit and sip. Rome was a bit more chaotic.

Times have changed. Environmental issues are being pushed to the forefront. A necessary, but difficult, change.

Posted by leya at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

A day to relax

The thick soupy fog in which I landed here a couple of days ago has dissipated. The weather has turned sunny. We are going to the Bronx Zoo today. Yesterday we did the necessary trip to Whole Foods. It still surprises me, the differences in the prices on some items between here and Canada, or probably more specifically the Maritime Provinces. Sometimes as much as $20 more at home for the same product. So much for free trade. Borders seem very solid at times.

We also went to Damian’s Tai Kwan Do practice. It was fun to watch the young children kicking and running around, working up a sweat. It is so perfect for children. And so different from the Tai Chi I am now learning. I think Damian (and other children) might be very bored with Tai Chi. My teacher, Dr. Robin Wu, taught Tai Kwan Do to the military in China before he learned Tai Chi. He is often showing us the difference between the two. Where Tai Kwan Do focuses on force, Tai Chi is about relaxation. There is no force involved in the movements. Dr. Wu shows us how all the Tai Chi movements are used in fighting, still with no force. It’s fascinating. And not always easy to relax. I’m working on it.

Posted by leya at 12:15 PM | TrackBack

February 29, 2008

Fun & games

The party I went to Saturday night was all girls. Well, except for the boy dog of the house, a beautiful big (165 pound) Newfoundland Sheepdog. Usually I don’t find this kind of party much fun. Often there seems to be something missing. But this was a really enjoyable evening. Maybe it was because we were all in the arts and had that to bind us. And most of the artists I know do like to play.

Lila had a good time too. I always wanted a dog I could take everywhere with me. She’s turned into that kind of pet. And after such a difficult first two years, no can be more delighted than me. She played some with her Newfie friend and she worked her way around house. The worst thing she did Saturday was snitch a couple of pieces of pizza off the counter. Naughty but nice.

Or maybe I just have indulgent friends, friends who also enjoy my spirited pup. I certainly won’t complain about that!

I used Lila as an example, metaphor for making art during midterm critiques on Wednesday. We did a group session, everyone taking turns putting up their homework assignments and about six drawings from class. One student said disparagingly that her work was a struggle; drawing was a struggle. So I couldn’t help but tell them the story of Lila: how it has been a struggle. I’ve had four dogs (she’s the fourth) and none of them have been so difficult. But with persistence and determination, the struggle has relaxed and we have a strong bond.

My artwork seems to come in two main categories: the ones that paint themselves, just flow from the ether and those that are a struggle, take excessive revisions. When those difficult ones finally come together, they have a special charge, something that comes out of the resolution of struggle. So I told the students not to be afraid of the process of their work.

Posted by leya at 07:40 PM

February 27, 2008

Such as it is

Well, my image of what I thought to be a lovely city with its beautiful park has been shaken. Yesterday Lila and I went to Point Pleasant Park with a friend and her dog. I parked my car in the lower parking lot because we can walk directly into the park from there without having to use leads. The higher ups have been enforcing leash laws on the main paths and when Lila is determined to play with a friend, she isn’t fun on the lead. The pups had a lovely romp and although it was a bit chilly, the paths were clean. No ice!

When we returned to my car, I saw a lot of shattered glass on the ground. My first thought was “I don’t remember that being there when we came” and “why doesn’t the park crew clean this up?” It took a minute for me to realize it was my car window in little pieces on the ground. It was my car that had been broken into and my friend’s bag stolen from it. I latter discovered the thief had also taken my cloth garbage bag, probably thinking it was also a purse. At least my car was otherwise okay.

A man and his dog were returning to his car, parked beside mine, just as we arrived. My cell phone was down and he very kindly called the police to help sort out how to make a report. Generally speaking, people are good. I just had an unlucky blip in my day. Luckily his car hadn't been touched.

I’ve recovered some equilibrium today but my window won’t be fixed until tomorrow. It has to come from Montreal. Not too many Honda Elements in this neck of the woods. Or maybe the other Element owners have been luckier in this regard than I.

So perhaps I should park in the upper lot which has, more often, more traffic.

Posted by leya at 07:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008


Some friends came over to skate on the lake Sunday. The one concession I've made to age has been to give up skating. It was hard watching them way out on the lake. Such an enormous feeling of freedom, I can only imagine.



The day before was sunny and I was walking out there with a friend and our dogs. Then on Monday the rain was so heavy I could see it bouncing off the lake. Today was warm and bright. And almost all the ice has melted. Finally.

Posted by leya at 08:58 PM | TrackBack

February 14, 2008

Hearts and flower and then some

Without a doubt this has been a very special Valentine’s Day. I came home yesterday to find a beautiful package decorated with hearts and flowers hanging from the handle of my front door. Not seeing any car tracks in the fresh, heavy snow, I knew it had to be from a neighbor. So when I opened the package, I found a note from guess who!?! None other than Lila, my puppy! She said, in the note “If I could talk, I wold say thanks for all your love and tenacity that has made me such a wonderful dog.” And Lila gave me a scarf for my neck to keep me warm on our winter walks. So sweet!

My neighbors have watched me work (struggle) with Lila, getting her to be more sociable, easier, gentler. She’s now an (almost) model dog, especially when you’ve known what a difficult little puppy she was. Almost everyone around here has a dog or two. So I’ve met my neighbors, with Lila’s help, on the road. And we’ve shared dog stories while our dogs sniff and play together.

I feel so lucky to live here, to have chosen this neighborhood. I haven’t enjoyed Valentine’s Day much in recent years. It usually just makes me feel more alone. But this is a very full day and I am reminded constantly of how rich my life is. A couple of my neighbors with ATVs enjoy plowing my (long) driveway, sometimes twice a day when necessary. They’ve taken on the driveways around here like a couple of kids with fancy toys. It’s delightful to watch them running the snow off their paths. Another neighbor helps shovel my stairs (when I haven’t gotten to it first).

So it’s quite a nice day for hearts and flower lovers.

Posted by leya at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2008

The big easy chair

My friend Karen was visiting for a couple of days. Lila enjoys her company and so do I. I’ve never been good with roommates but love houseguests. Karen visits often enough that we have established some history, almost like roommates. I cook, she helps with the cutting and chopping, washing food and dishes, walking and playing with Lila, etc. But I have had to learn to ask her to help with the little things around the house. She didn’t always offer to help and I didn’t ask. Because I don’t want to resent her visiting and I do want her to visit, I watch myself, test how I feel, and have learned to ask. It’s a good lesson for me.

It’s also nice to have someone here. Just a sympathetic body to ground me. There is so much to do taking care of a house sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the smallest things. I’ve been wanting to have my water tested (I’m on a well) for two years, ever since Lila came here. But it took Karen’s visit for me to do it, finally. We also cleaned out my fabric closet. By the end of that adventure both of us were overwhelmed. I’m so glad to have done it. And I couldn’t have done it alone.

Karen and I also have a favorite movie we watch every time she stays here: The Big Easy. And every time I watch it I enjoy it even more. (It must be a good movie!) There’s violence in it but at least the bad guys are (mostly) the ones who get killed. The good guys have fun—dance, eat good food, make love, laugh, solve crimes. It doesn’t hurt to watch it and it doesn’t leave bad afterimages. So Karen can come visit often.

Posted by leya at 08:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 23, 2008

Marry me

Tamar’s (and my) friend Lori has a fascinating, well written article published in Time Magazine! It’s worth a read!

It talks about the benefits of a good marriage. The chemical effects in the brain that explain the longer life, better health of happily married couples. They have proof now of how it works (better read the article—it’s complicated).

I know my dad’s life was extended by many years when met Gertrude and had a happy, twenty-five year marriage. After my mother died, my dad’s grief was overwhelming him, painful for him, painful to see. I wouldn’t say my parents’ marriage was a happy one, but it was good, especially in the later years when they could enjoy each other without the pressures of raising children. They did care about each other. They had a commitment to their marriage but my mother was more sociable and wanted more excitement in her life. My dad liked to build things in his spare time—cabinets, violins, tool sheds. My mother called herself a basement widow.

With Gertrude, my dad did all the things my mother would have liked to do—travel, restaurants, social engagements. The only bad year my dad and Gertrude had was when he wanted her to retire. She resented it. Said, “What am I going to do, clean out the closets every day?”

They had a busy, adventurous life. My dad lived until he was ninety, a very happy man.

Posted by leya at 07:32 PM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2008

Telling tales out of school; or, Today is Aaron’s birthday

Did I ever tell you my favorite snow story? It has to do with an exhibit I had in Washington, D.C., back in 1983, I believe. It was a show at the Henri Gallery, of books I had made. I had just sold my loft in Manhattan and moved into a one year sublet before moving on to Nova Scotia. Aaron was about fourteen, going to Hunter College High School and Tamar was finishing up university. She wasn’t around.

As the opening reception was on a Thursday night, I went down to Washington by train Thursday morning, planning to return Friday evening. That way, Aaron would be in school both days and only alone one evening. The book exhibit was a big success in that everyone who came to the reception was very enthusiastic about them so it felt good.

My dad and stepmother were away that week but I remember staying in their house, my childhood home. The next morning I awoke to several inches of snow and in Washington, that’s unusual. Washington doesn’t have good snow removal so I decided to take an earlier train back to New York, before transportation froze up.

I arrived back at my rental loft around noon. When I walked in I saw Aaron in his corner of the room with a young lady. I was surprised, expecting him to be at school, of course.

I said “What are YOU doing here??

And he said: “What are YOU doing here??

And she said: “What do you expect. We’re TEENAGERS!”

As for the books, the gallery was in an old but beautiful building and the snow on the roof was heavy, causing the roof to cave in. So that was the end of the book exhibit.

Happy Birthday, Aaron!

Posted by leya at 06:50 AM | Comments (2)

January 01, 2008

Happy New Year, Everyone!

So, another day, another year. Somehow, even though nothing is really different, it feels good. Almost like a fresh start. I don’t know why. Just the psychological power of a day on the calendar.

Last night I spent the evening in my favorite way, playing with Lila and then cuddling up with a good book (Miles Davis’ Autobiography—I’m almost finished). It was stormy outside as usual these days making it a perfect night to stay home. Today was warm and sunny, relatively speaking, and I went to a couple of parties. I was one of the first guests at the first one as I had been looking forward to this party all year. The hostess makes the most amazing cream puffs and I had waited 365 days to have another one. Both parties were joyful, friendly, noisy and fun. I left (not only my purse at the second party but) with a sore jaw from talking so much. I don’t even talk that much when I am teaching!

We are expecting yet another snowstorm then rain tonight. So it will be even more icy tomorrow. This morning the road was like a skating rink. I wear cleats on my shoes but it was still slippery. It’s going to be a long winter if it keeps going this way.


Posted by leya at 08:34 PM

December 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Tamar!

Today is Tamar’s birthday. Forty-six. (Aaron’s is January 3. He’ll be forty.) Where did all the years go! Tamar and her boys have plans to go to see the Big Apple Circus today. I hope they are not having the storm in New York we have now.

I remember well the day she was born. There was snow on the ground. We were living in Washington, D.C. And I was so afraid it was going to be false labor. It wasn’t. I was lucky. Labor was short, six hours. For a first baby, that’s good. But for a first baby, I was frightened. In those days the woman in labor was put in a room alone. Every now and then a nurse would come by and pat my arm. My then-husband was in the waiting room reading the Life of Sigmund Freud. I was only in the hospital three hours before she was born, but I think the first two were the longest hours in my life. The actual delivery was blissful. As was seeing a perfect, beautiful dark haired baby girl.

Life as mother and daughter has had its natural bumps but by now we know each other better and make accommodations for our differences and that’s good. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind getting older. In fact, I rather like it. I just don’t like my children getting older. I suppose it is too much of a reminder that at some point we really won’t be together. We are together now and I value that, for sure.

Happy birthday, kid! May your years be filled with awe and wonder.

Posted by leya at 05:53 PM

December 26, 2007

Oh Christmas and trees

Lila and I went out for an exceptionally early walk yesterday morning. Before the sun was up very high. It was quiet and sweet. Not too cold for a change. And the snow and ice are melting fast with the warmer air. Most of the houses were dark. But then a few were intensely lit inside, with Christmas lights bright. I could imagine the young children rushing to the tree to open their presents. One of the houses up the road has a full compliment of children. They have their two, then they adopted two Chinese and two African children. I call it the United Nations. I don’t know them well but it seems all the children are adjusting well. Their house was the brightest on the road this morning.

We had a tree when I was young. We called it a Chanukah bush. I did love it. Decorating it and all the presents underneath. There weren’t as many presents then as children get now because it was the War and Post-War Years. I remember getting shirts and socks and practical things and maybe some homemade dresses for my dolls. But my uncle gave me a Kodak box camera when I was nine and I loved taking pictures of my dolls with it. We were the only Jewish family in the neighborhood, my parents wanted us to fit in, assimilate. We actually made Easter Eggs and baskets but also lit Chanukah candles and celebrated Passover. So my becoming Buddhist is not much of a leap. I just like ritual wherever it is served up.

When my own children were young, I remember decorating a small potted Norfolk pine tree I had then. I think the tree died just before my marriage did. I don't remember much else about Christmas trees with my children except that I did enjoy collecting ornaments and so enjoy giving them to my children for their trees, when they have them.

Later in the day yesterday, Lila and I went to the Park for a walk. The paths were still somewhat icy so all the dogs were off lead, even on the main paths where it is usually illegal. It was like a picnic, a very happy romp. It was better than going to a Chinese Restaurant!

Then in the evening Lila and I went to some friends’ home for dinner. It was a feast. Lavish, lots of laughter. It’s that time of year. They had one of the prettiest trees I've ever seen. It was lit with small white lights and silver and clear bulbs. No other color. Very elegant.

I miss my family, my own children, but it’s been good, staying home. So today I am enjoying the sunshine on the remaining snow and hoping the next storm is not tomorrow

Posted by leya at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

December 24, 2007

On rituals

In my particular Buddhist community, a (relatively) new seasonal celebration has become established. I believe it is about twenty-five, thirty years now. The celebration is for children, Children’s Day, to be on the Winter Solstice. On 14 December 1954, the General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day. Some countries do, I've heard of it in November in India and in March in New Zealand. December 21 is the date chosen by the Shambhala community.

It’s hard to start a new tradition amongst a large group of people. In a family, or in a small group, traditions happen naturally. For us, with my dad and stepmother, we went to a movie as a group, whoever was visiting on any holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas (she was Christian). Before that, when my mother was alive, it was going to synagogue to kiss my grandmother on the High Holidays.

This particular “tradition”, Children's Day, always seemed to me to be forced, imposed. A way of NOT celebrating other religious traditions that happen at this time—Christmas, Chanukah. But to be honest, I never went to any of the celebrations around this event. Usually I am with my grown children at this time of year, or else I’m on retreat. But this year, after so much travel and with my children coming here for my birthday just a month ago, I needed to stay home, if only for a few months. So this is a new (and strange) feeling, to be home for the holidays.

Last Saturday evening I went to my first Children's Day. I actually enjoyed it, felt the value of it. It not only fills a need to have a holiday at this time of year but to be celebrating children, well, that’s a very good idea. Without them, we have no future, no life, nothing to look forward to. And with the beginning of the days becoming longer, the night receding, a good time to tell the children they bring light into our lives.

The ceremony consisted of a procession, including a “king” and “queen” and the dancers representing the Four Dignities of Shambhala: tiger, lion, garuda and dragon. The Shambhala teachings introduce these four mythical animals to represent the principles of confidence that a person develops in order to bring wisdom and compassion into daily life, qualities that allow us to play in the blessing and magic of our lives.

Tiger represents contentment. The joy of the lion arises from discipline. The outrageous garuda, a mythical bird, has a mind of accommodating equanimity. The dragon possesses deep wisdom based on knowing how things are.

Each of the dignities was represented by a teenage dancer to whom, after their dance, the children in the audience made appropriate offering. Then the children were given a blessing by the “king” and “queen” and, of course, a treat. We then all convened for a pot-luck dinner. I went home feeling very blessed. To have been a part of this tradition was very special.

Posted by leya at 08:55 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2007

An anniversary day

Today is the fourth anniversary of my blog. My first entry was December 18, 2003. My daughter, Tamar, had been keeping an on-line journal and then a blog for years. I had admired her writing and enjoying seeing aspects of her life not offered through our emails and phone calls.

So on my holiday visit to Sunny LA, Tamar helped me set up this up. At first it did feel strange, I admit. I was oh so aware of every word I posted. Then I began to relax a bit and enjoy the process, the communication with a broader world than I would every have imagined possible.

So many good things have happened because of my blog. My exhibit in Denmark last June was directly a result of my blog. I met Elin Neumann when she googled how to rid her garden of deer and found my recipe posted on my blog. We corresponded and she introduced me to the Galleri Saltum where I exhibited. I also spent a lovely few days visiting with her in Denmark.

I sold a photo to St. Paul Science Museum through my blog. It was posted with the title “Mist” and is going to be used in an exhibit about water, how it is transformed in its life cycle. The exhibit will travel and I hope to see it eventually at the Natural History Museum in New York City.

I must admit, when Tamar stopped her blog just over a year ago, I found it hard to write. Maybe I need to feel I am writing to someone. Like a letter. And she was my mental audience. But, on a broader view, a blog is not just a conversation but also a record of a life. What I do, what I think, what I expect. Often thoughts get written I had no idea were roaming around in my mind. Sometimes it feels like a way to taste the flavors of my experiences, to put a meal together for whoever might come to the table.

Who do I write for? Who reads blogs? I only know one friend of mine here in Halifax who reads my blog. Most of the people I mentioned it to when I first started laughed. Now they either have a blank expression or realize that blogs are so omnipresent, it is no big deal. Everyone (almost) blogs, politicians, radio programs, writers, actors, but it seems not too many of my friends.

Over the past year I did think about not writing. I let many moments slip by that now I would like to have captured in print. I know I would miss this part of my world so I am making a renewed effort. Mostly, I would miss the so many interesting people I “meet” here.

Posted by leya at 07:50 PM | Comments (8)

December 09, 2007

Hanging from the ceiling upside down

I don’t believe in closure. I think emotions are a bottomless well. Just when you/I think there is resolution/conclusion to an event/a situation/an emotional state, something arises, appears that can set off an entirely new set of feelings. Something more to look at, to ponder, to work through. For me, there is no such thing as closure.

On Sounds Like Canada Wednesday morning, the topic was caring for your elderly and/or ailing parents. A woman was talking about caring for her ex-husband. She had long before come to peace about the divorce so it was not a working on the past, she said. But it was, she also said, some kind of closure. And I could hear the question in her voice around the word closure. She knew, it seemed to me, that there could always be more.

I don’t know if I could or would take care of my ex-husband. It’s not a possibility at this point. He lives in NYC and we don’t have much communication. We didn’t have an easy separation. Lots of unpleasant feelings for a long time afterward. I did see him a year or so ago. It was interesting, pleasant enough. No real problem. No big aftermath. Just a visit.

After my mother died, it took me ten years before I stopped having shocking dreams about her, dreams that woke me shaking from an image of her still alive but inevitably dying. It was many years after that before I could think about her without some kind of lingering childhood emotion. I’m not sure I can even now but at least I am not acting on it (as often). And I think that is more important than closure.

Posted by leya at 06:25 PM

December 05, 2007

Old: and getting older every day

I have something I really need to say, something I’ve been mulling over for a few years, possible a lifetime, my lifetime, that is. It’s about my life time. It’s this: I think people, in my experience, are afraid of age, of aging, of being around older people. Yet . . . getting older, it will happen to everyone, to you too—if you are lucky.

I almost titled this post I Dare You: I Dare You to Read This to the End. But I do understand. I really do. When I was very young I too felt that way: older people were an enigma, frightening, boring. All of those things, all at once. Only my peers interested me. I didn’t like the questions older people asked me. I thought they were annoying, wasting my time; I had more important things to think about. If I look back on it, it was really only me who interested me. Other people, and especially people my age or younger, were a mirror for me, reflecting myself back to me. As examples of how to be or examples of how they saw me. Probably the best thing for me about growing older is becoming more interested in other people and the big world outside of me and my life. And this is because I feel more comfortable with myself. After all those years of searching for “something” outside myself, searching to find success, a man, friends, things, I found all that I needed by not searching. And this has come with age. Seasoning.

What’s it like to be “old” (or older)? When I’m out there shoveling snow and the wind is blowing, I wonder . . . when I carry the garbage up my long driveway to the curb, I wonder. . . When I’m with friends dancing, I wonder. . . I wonder how long I will be able to do this. When I go to bed early, I wonder because this is something I’ve always liked to do. I’ve never liked to sleep late into the mornings. I like to sleep in the nude. I still walk through the woods on rocky paths (and forget to bring my cell phone). I won’t wear loud patterns near my face anymore, but I definitely want to dress well. I used to have a phenomenal memory. Now it is not so great; names, especially, slip away and it is very frustrating. I still get up on ladders and take screens down myself. But I do hold onto railings when taking stairs. I still carry my heavy canvases around. I still work with obsessive energy. I haven’t lost the lust for life. I haven’t lost desire.

There definitely are changes. I am more settled in myself; I enjoy my life more; I worry less; I enjoy other people more, even older people, and especially younger (very young) ones. I could still dance all night if I had a partner. I could even make love all night. I just haven’t met the right person yet. Sadly there are fewer people to meet at this age. Yet I enjoy my life even when those things are not available. The best thing for me about aging is an ease that has come into my life.

Even my friends have a hard time relating to age. I was talking to a (fifty-nine year old) friend who also saw the Beckett plays. She thought The Mouth was possibly talking too fast for an older woman. I was surprised. The Mouth was seventy! I just turned seventy! I might not run or walk fast anymore, but I can talk fast if I need to. There definitely are physical changes. I may have trouble with the fine print but I can see better in the distance than I did. I do have some aches and need to take care not to move in inappropriate ways, to exercise properly every day. But I was told when I was seventeen to do specific exercises or I would have trouble later. I ignored the advice because I was young and invulnerable, or so I thought.

Once I gave an assignment at the Art College for the students to do a drawing inspired by a poem. I gave them three to choose from. I thought they were very graphic. One in particular, a Garcia Lorca poem which began “If I die, throw the windows open. . . “ It’s not “if” but “when”, something we inevitably all do. To me, the poem embraced life by acknowledging death. To the students, it was morbid and they had trouble relating. They were in a different stage of their lives—they were in the accumulating, acquiring and inquiring stage. They possibly hadn’t met death intimately yet. It’s hard to look directly at the thought that life will end for each of us. After the experience with the poems, I let my students choose their text. That worked well and I learned what interested them.

Last year when I posted by first entry on Holidailies, I had the usual flurry of readers. But after that, hardly any. My first post was about being forced to retire from teaching. Mandatory retirement. Too old to teach. That makes me boring to anyone not facing “old age”, right? I was a good teacher but I must say, I learned more from my students than they learned from me. Besides the latest in fashion and music and art, I learned how to listen, to appreciate differences, to help others. I’m not too old to teach. I’m not too old to learn.

There is humor in aging, especially when it comes from a legendary person. This “song” was sent to me by my cousin’s daughter.

To commemorate her 69th birthday on October 1, actress/vocalist, Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was 'My Favorite Things' from the legendary movie 'Sound Of Music. Here are the actual lyrics she used:

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth and glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no need for sinnin',
Weak bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short, shrunken frames,
Remembering our favorite things but not our names.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad!

*(Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes and repeated encores.) Please share Ms. Andrews' clever wit and humor with others who would appreciate it.

Yes, I'm old. And proud of it.

Posted by leya at 11:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 24, 2007

Another road

I must interrupt this photo journey to celebrate my big birthday. The actual day is Monday but we began yesterday afternoon at the airport when Tamar and Aaron arrived from their respective homes—Tamar from Montclair, N.J. and Aaron from Ottawa. As Aaron’s plane was two hours late (Tamar and I wasted no time at the airport waiting—good time to chat), we went from there to my favorite Halifax restaurant, da Maurizio. The food was, as usual, wonderful, the service impeccable and appropriately friendly, but the best part was sitting across the table from my two beautiful, grown children. Just the three of us. It was so delicious. I couldn’t have asked for a better present.

Tamar goes back Monday morning because she will have to pick Damian up from school. Right now Dan and Damian are at Dan’s brother’s for the American Thanksgiving weekend. Aaron can stay until Tuesday morning. So I have a whole weekend with my children. It’s been many many years since we have had this opportunity. I feel very fortunate.

When we were being seated at the restaurant, I, of course, had to tell the woman we were celebrating my 70th birthday. She did the usual disbelief, what’s your secret, etc. I told her “stress” and she asked, avoiding stress or flowing with it. I said the latter. But truthfully, it’s simply heredity. I do appreciate every day. I’ve known too many people who have died much younger than me. And I am fortunate to be healthy and active. I am very happy to be doing what I am doing—painting, exploring the world, playing with my dog, meeting friends. It’s a good life. So getting older, aging, is in itself a privilege.

Posted by leya at 09:05 AM | Comments (3)

November 10, 2007

A doggie day

This morning Lila played with her new duck. She loves it. Enough to make mincemeat out of it (it doesn't say "quack quack quack quack" any more):


This afternoon Minnie took a raincheck (as it is raining/snowing now) and instead, Tchai came over to play. Tchai lives a few doors up the road and is now seven months old. I don't think she will get much bigger. After a tentative start to the friendship a few months ago, they've learned to navigate the size difference and are beginning to play with each other.



Posted by leya at 06:37 PM | TrackBack

November 09, 2007

It's been two years already

The first week home after my travels was spent catching up on sleep and domestic arrangements. Then I came down with the @#$! head-cold that going around (and was a flying around on the airplane via the person sitting next to me on the plane from Newark to Halifax). But I have finally downloaded all my photographs from my trip and am sorting through them to see which ones to post. And I have, between blowing my nose and taking Lila for walks, been spending time in my studio, starting to fill it up again.

Tomorrow Lila is two years old. We’ve come out of the tough first two years and are settling into a much calmer companionship. She’s still a lively, strong willed pup. She’ll never lose that, but she is also much easier to be with now.

I had told her I would take her to Bark & Fitz for her birthday. So we went today (as I want/need to stay home tomorrow). B & F is a lovely new dog supply store in Halifax on Doyle Street (they should give me a bone for the plug!). I let her pick out a new toy—let her choose from their delightful selection. She picked (went crazy for) a duck that says “quack, quack, quack, quack” when I slap it gently on my leg. The duck also has loops forming its body so there are several places for me to hold it and her to chew. I also got her some liver treats. Tomorrow her friend Minnie is coming to play with her, wish her a Happy Birthday and share the treats.

Posted by leya at 08:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

A short history of my life in Soho

Yesterday Tamar, Damian and I went on a Big Onion Tour of Soho and Nolita. An Onion Tour peels the layers off the city I knew intimately for twenty-five years. A city that was home from one end to the other. To see Soho, once my home, from the eyes and mind of a young sociology graduate student was interesting.

Halfway through the tour, Tamar asked me if I learned anything new. I did. I learned about the cast-iron buildings, how they made them to look like stone, how they used cast iron because it was inexpensive and easy to erect. I learned about the early commerce and the brothels connected with commerce. And the fancy department stores that lined Broadway many years ago. But Tamar and I filled him in on what it really was like to be an artist family living in what was once a warehouse district and is now the expensive chi-chi neighborhood that has expelled the very people who made it appealing for residence. Yet I wouldn’t be in Nova Scotia now if it hadn’t been for that gentrification.

I never thought I would leave Manhattan. I first moved to 28th and 7th Avenue in 1960, from being a student at Yale School of Fine Arts, to a loft then owned by Alex Katz. He was teaching at Yale and sublet his loft to a couple of students (a friend and me) for the summer while he and his family went to Maine. (He had painted “No Soap, Radio” on the cast iron bathtub with claw feet that graced the kitchen and that slogan has become a favorite of mine when I don’t know what else to say.) From there I moved to 11th and Avenue C, and then to Chambers and Greenwich, and then to Washington, D.C. (for a year) where Tamar was born.

We (I was married at the time) moved (in 1962) when Tamar was six months old to Church and Franklin (now an area called Tribeca—these little names picked by realtors, we were told by our guide, to make the areas seem more seductive). It was a neighborhood unfamiliar with strollers and many times we had to avoid the freight trucks crowding the streets. It was scary. It was lonely. There were probably about one building per block occupied with artists, some well-known, some not so, but mostly all working in their living spaces. At that time we paid a $900 fixture fee (for the fixtures that the previous tenant had put in to make it living-studio quarters and our rent was $80 a month. We had to hide the bed by day in case inspectors came but I couldn’t hide the crib. It was in the middle of my studio. The poet Diane Waldman and the sculptor Robert Morris lived below us. That loft was a third-floor walkup, close to China Town and we often had sticky buns for meals. Wild rabbit was also easily available and inexpensive. Not considered a delicacy then. I made rabbit stew often.

From there we moved to the seventh floor of an elevator building on 11th between University and Broadway. When we moved in, there was nothing. Just some broken toilet fixtures. We plastered and painted and divided the room into kitchen area, living area, bedroom for Tamar, and studio for me. We left there when Tamar was around three. I longed for a place where there was a grocery store nearby and someone took out the garbage (in lofts in those days there was no garbage pickup—we had to covertly take the bags out at night and hope not to be caught dumping trash into public baskets) and brought the mail to our door. So we went to a large apartment on the Upper West Side, an area where many other artists lived and worked.

When I left my marriage, I moved with my two children, two cats, two fish tanks, and many art supplies to a sublet on 13th between First and A (a loft which had been the studio space of Claus Oldenburg and some of the sewing supplies were still there). We lived below the artist, Larry Rivers. There was no insulation between the floors, just bare wood planks that were both ceiling to us and floor to him. He’d come in at 4 am with friends. It sounded like a herd of cowboys walking on top of us. So I would get back at him by playing children’s records in the morning.

After a year there, we moved to a newly coop building at Spring and Mercer. Another sublet (from the owner), but I had to put in all the fixtures. Once again, it was a bare loft with just a toilet and sink. First I had built a kitchen and two bedrooms for the children. Eventually another one for me. Although I didn’t have great studio space there (it was only 1800 square feet, the size of my current house, but not well laid out for living and working) and it was dark, we enjoyed living there. Some of my favorite friends still live in that building. When the owner decided to sell, I took my fixture fee and moved with three cats, a dog, two children, no fish tanks and lots of art supplies to Broome and Greene.

That loft was already fixed up somewhat. I put in a couple more bedrooms and a better kitchen. It was 3000 square feet, top floor with skylights and divided into two studio spaces. I rented out one of them. It had a little elevator that serviced only our loft, the top floor. It was operated by pulleys (we pulled; it moved) and held no more than three people and a dog at one time. When the building became coop after a couple of years, we had to have the little elevator upgraded to be according to code. In the process there was an electrical fire. Because the building had originally been factories, there was a sprinkler system and so it was discharged and the building was saved. I stood on the other side of Broome Street with my dog Miranda and watched the firemen put out the fire. It was a very strange feeling.

Back in the early seventies, when lofts were first becoming popular residences, it was possible to buy a coop space, probably around 2500 square feet, for about $6000. They now sell in the millions. I was able to buy my loft for very little which is how I eventually was able to leave the City and move to Nova Scotia. I was always enchanted by the lines in the movie My Dinner with Andre when his friend Wally says (more or less): “Have you ever met a New Yorker who didn’t say they want to leave but don’t? New York is a concentration camp of the mind. It’s impossible to leave.”

But I did. Not a move that was planned for long. It just happened. And That is Another Story for Another Time.

Posted by leya at 08:52 AM

August 15, 2007

A day in the city

Monday Tamar, Damian and I went into Manhattan.


From the subway we went to the Museum of Modern Art. Seeing some of the paintings that have been so much a part of my life in the City, I really felt like I was home again.


Damian's favorite painting was by Elizabeth Murry, a large colorful painting with many twists and turns. Murry had been Tamar's art teacher when she was in pre-school. Interesting.

Then we went into the sculpture garden and Damian and I wandered through the Richard Serra pieces.


and the city scenery:



After MoMa we went to FAO Swartz.



Then we met my cousin Jonathan and nephew Rob for dinner at an open-air restaurant, 70th and the River.


Even the kitchen was outside. And it was the best hamburger I’ve had in a long time. We stayed there until dark, talking, reminiscing about Marcella, catching up on our lives and generally feeling good. A perfect day in Manhattan.

Posted by leya at 11:01 AM | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

The Marcella Tree


We buried Marcella’s ashes under a beautiful tree in my cousins’ back yard in Westchester, N.Y. A large gathering of family, from ages nine to ninety, and a strong presence of the Grande Dame herself were there. The stories and memories were amusing and touching. She was, without a doubt, a wonderful and rewarding person to have had in our lives. Intelligent, witty, warm, demanding, compassionate, generous, elegant and always and foremost, putting family first.

After the ceremony, after saying Kaddish, after planting the tree over Marcella’s ashes, my cousin Jonathan fittingly gave her a final glass of wine to carry her on her journey.


Later, about twenty of us went to a wonderful Chinese restaurant. There I learned some cool handshakes from my fifteen year old cousin (twice removed) and ate, in true Marcella style, some of the most amazing morsels, the choices of dishes overseen by Jackson, the restaurant owner.


A meal with good company and dragons:


and good fortune:


Once again, Marcella brought our large family together.

Posted by leya at 12:26 PM

August 10, 2007

Traveling again

I'm off to NYC today to visit with Tamar, Dan and Damian. Tomorrow is the Memorial Service to celebrate the life of my aunt Marcella (who died recently at the sterlling age of 102 years). It will be a big family gathering. So far I know of thirty-five people who will be there.

Tamar has sent me a list of the many many interesting things we can do during my one-week visit. So, first I take Lila to her doggie resort, and then I'm off for another adventure!

Posted by leya at 07:53 AM

July 06, 2007

A toast to Marcella


A couple of days ago I was walking through Point Pleasant Park with Lila, a friend of mine and her lively border collie. As the dogs were romping around, I told my friend that my 102 year old Aunt Marcella was dying. It was time; she was ready. I then went home to receive an email that indeed, she had died at exactly the moment I was telling Brenda that the end was near.

I do feel sad, feel a loss, but am glad that she is finally at peace. It was a long slide down. The quality of life for her in the last year especially was not good. It’s not easy for an active person to allow the body to slow. And she was memorably lively. The photo posted here is from her 100th birthday party. She was, as always, very beautiful and vivacious that day. Alert and perky for five hours, entertaining all of us.

Marcella was the last of my mother’s five siblings, four sisters and a brother. Another era closed. The emails with eulogies circulating amongst family talk mainly about her feisty personality, her strength of character, her warm, strong presence. She loved to play bridge which must have been a part of what kept her mind so active. She outlived all the friends and family of her generation and I am sure that must have been sad for her. She talked often to me about being a rebel. Not living by rules. We understood and connected. When I visited her about a year ago, she bemoaned that “The good Lord doesn’t want me and the devil won’t take me!” She was, of many things, dramatic and humorous.

As she wished, she will be cremated and buried under a rose bush in my cousin’s yard in Westchester, New York. The memorial for her will be August 11, giving our far flung family a chance to make travel plans. Once again, Marcella brings the family together.

Her obituary, printed today in the New York Times, reads:

KAPLAN, Marcella (Abrams), aged 102, of New York City, died July 3, 2007. Born in Hobart, NY, Marcella led a full life filled with travel, family and friends. She worked as personal secretary for the head of the US Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture in the 1930’s, and also worked for many years as the personal administrative assistant to Gottlieb Hammer, Exec. VP of the United Jewish Appeal. She enjoyed theater, concerts and traveling to many parts of the world, including Europe, Israel and the Far East, and visiting her relatives. An enthusiastic member of the 92nd Street YMHA, she was a well known bridge player there every Tuesday and Thursday for over 60 years. Ms. Kaplan is survived by many loving nieces and nephews, who will miss her sharp wit, colorful observations and deep love for her family. A memorial service will be held later in the year.
Posted by leya at 04:40 PM | Comments (3)

June 04, 2007

The day before . . .

Why do things always pile up just before going away! Lila is fine, back to her spunky puppiness: rearranging my papers, trying on hats and shoes, etc. Meanwhile I packed up and took quite a few paintings in today (in the heavy cold rain) to an office for approval (with fingers crossed). In the middle of cleaning cleaning cleaning sorting and packing. As someone is staying here while I am away, I need to make things presentable, not just clean. So . . . I’m very tired and ready to go. Tomorrow evening. . . off to Denmark!!!

Posted by leya at 08:36 PM | Comments (1)

June 01, 2007

On the foot again!

It’s been quite a week! After so much stress with Lila’s foot, all seems calm now. With the splint off and a homeopathic remedy, immediately she started healing. Today, when I took her back to the vet for a further check, she was already walking on it part of the time. And now most of the time. What a relief! She’ll be fine by the time I leave Tuesday.

Posted by leya at 06:56 PM | Comments (1)

May 31, 2007

Pause . . . for puppy's paw

It’s been a hectic few days here. Studio Rally was not. I did have some visitors but they were friends, neighbors, and a former student. I am glad to have my studio clean. That’s about it for that.

The big news though, for me, what has been absorbing most of my thoughts, has been Lila. On Sunday morning we were taking our usual early morning walk and met some neighbors. She played with their new puppy and the next thing I knew she was limping. When another neighbor came along with his Newfoundland (a whopping 135 pounds of sweetness) Lila started to play with her as well. But only for a few seconds. She yelped and then was obviously severely injured. It’s a fracture in the lower right front leg. She was in a splint until this morning. We had to go back to the vet because her foot was swelling. He says that area of the foot is self-splinting so she is without the splint for a day. We go back tomorrow morning to see if she will need the splint again. Without the splint, at least she can go in the water now. That was very frustrating for her. She doesn’t have much energy or appetite but was still happy to see her veterinary friends this morning. And, I am sure, happy to have the splint removed.

So all this just before I leave for Denmark—next Tuesday. At least I am almost packed, ticket in hand and arrangements made. Because I’m not thinking too clearly these days. I feel a bit stunned. The phone rang yesterday and it didn’t even register. Thankfully I have call display. It was Tamar and I’m always happy to talk to her. I’ve stopped in a few garden centers on my many trips to her vet in Chester Basin (an hour from here) and when I was waiting for her to recover from anesthesia—most of the time it takes the shopkeeper to remind me that I am there for a reason. I’m not making decisions easily.

But I have started my vegetable garden and been weeding the flowers a lot. Trying to get rid of my retched goat weed (or gout weed or, I have even heard it called devil’s weed, which it certainly is!). Getting my garden ready for my absence of two weeks. Someone will be staying here. That’s good. Lila will go to her doggie resort. I will miss her and try not to worry about her. She should heal quickly. She is a dog and a young one.

Posted by leya at 11:08 AM | Comments (2)

May 15, 2007

A trail's tale

Lila and I have been taking lots of long walks, looking for new trails wherever we can find them. There’s one very beautiful trail just a few feet from my door. It runs along the brook which runs along beside my property and over to another big lake in the neighborhood. I used to go there frequently with Katie, my last dog. Last fall Lila and I took our first hike by the brook together.

It was a fairly rainy fall and the weather was not great that day. But I put on my rubber boots and felt prepared for anything. It’s a lovely trail. The brook widens in a couple of places and becomes large ponds. The trail starts out on one side of the brook and then you need to cross over a bridge to the other side to continue. That day the bridge seemed very slimy and rickety. I told Lila I didn’t want to cross back over it so, even though the trail was very wet and difficult, we were going to continue to the end and walk back by the road.

On the way we met a man and his large Beauvier. He told us to be careful, it was very boggy further on. I said that’s okay, I had my boots on. What I didn’t realize was that my boots leaked (they have a zipper) and the trail was definitely extremely messy. We trudged on and were grateful to hit the road and walk back on firm land.

A couple of weeks later I met the man again at a party in the neighborhood. He told me when he crossed the bridge that day, it broke, with him and his dog on it. He landed up to his knees in cold water. Fortunately he had his cell phone with him, called his wife and was rescued. Just think: it could have been me. And I usually forget to carry my cell phone.

Posted by leya at 07:09 PM

May 10, 2007

Time is (and isn't)

It was Molly’s 49 Day Ceremony a few weeks ago. This is a Buddhist ritual of people gathering together to help the person who has died with the final letting go of this life.

It didn’t feel like 49 days had past since she died. She's still very present in my life. And time is a strange concept. When I stopped teaching, in January, time felt like summers did when I was a child: endless, slow, calm. When I could do anything I wanted, no schedule, no demands. Now I have become used to time being unscheduled, for the most part, and it is going by much faster, much too fast.

Every time I think of Molly’s funeral, I wonder what food and drink I would want put out at my own funeral. That’s another Buddhist tradition, to give the departed body nourishment and pleasure on its way beyond this life. I don’t know what I would want. The foods I love the most and the foods I eat the most don’t always coincide. I love dark chocolate on a piece of fresh French bread with sweet butter. I love beer. I love most foods. But I am careful about what I eat. I need to be because I like to feel good. So I suppose a big plate of black Russian kale would do.

Then too, what would I want people to say about me. I can’t really think about that. I’m alive now. And I don’t think much anymore about what people say about me. I used to care much more. I’m not really obsessing about death. It’s inevitable, we all know that, more or less, even if we don’t know it. But I’m thinking about it more now because it seems my 102 year old aunt is failing fast and we all hope she passes on soon. She’s been pretty sassy, right up till now when she is bed-ridden and mute from a stroke. When she dies (if she were Buddhist) she would get a plate of clams on the half shell and some good wine. And people will definitely recall her piss and vinegar personality with amusement. It seems as if she gives us, her nieces and nephews, hope for a sturdy old age. But sometimes it does go on too long. She has said just that for the last year. So I wish her well on her journey. And hope it’s soon.

Posted by leya at 08:01 PM

April 24, 2007

A dog story


My visit to Dr. Evans, my vet, on Thursday was truly great, very beneficial. Lila has been exceedingly itchy since the day I brought her home, possibly the source could be from the breeder who has too many dogs breeding, too many puppies at one time. Lila’s itching has become worse as she gets older. I’ve been told it’s systemic candida. The cure is difficult. The itchiness could account for a lot of her behavioral difficulties, the restlessness, the erratic behavior, possibly even the mouthiness.

When we walked into Dr. Evans office, Lila sniffed around, inspected the toys and equipment, then lay down and observed. Dr. Evans, who has known Lila’s difficulties from the beginning, was overwhelmed, delighted, amazed. He is one of the main reasons Lila is doing so well. He, and another homeopath, have worked up Lila and found the right remedy for her. I’ve said before I believe in magic, but homeopathy does work.

Another reason Lila is becoming such a lovely dog is that I’ve consulted with Calloway M’Cloud, an animal communicator in Prince Edward Island. And of course, most of what Calloway has communicated to me has pointed to healing within myself, working with my own vulnerabilities in order to work more clearly, decisively with Lila.

Then, too, there are the obedience classes we’ve taken. We will be beginning the fourth round soon. Brenda Potter uses the clicker method and it’s worked well with Lila. But the main thing is how Brenda has helped me. Lila was jumping on me and biting during the entire first seven classes. The excitement of being with seven other dogs in the classroom, being told what to do when there were so many other things she wanted to do (like play with the other dogs) was too much for her. In the eighth class she was fine, obedient and eager to please. So we were allowed to continue on into the advanced classes.

What changed her were two things. First, Brenda told me to hold her down by the collar, gently but firmly, when she tried to jump on me. She said not to wave my hands or get excited. To stay calm, ignore the behavior rather than engage in it. The calmer I was, the easier it was to work with Lila. If I got upset, it aggravated the problem. She liked the attention, considered my being upset as play. The other thing I did was take her to the supermarket last fall and start training her outside the front door. It worked. It allowed her to work around distractions, be more obedient in class. So now Brenda calls Lila her “star pupil.” (Because she started out to be her worst!)

In obedience class we do the usual: sit, stay, down, stay, heel, come when called, etc. We also do some fun things. Lila can now put her front paws up on a stool and twirl around. It’s a hoot! Next I want to teach her to High Five!

Posted by leya at 08:48 PM | Comments (2)

April 18, 2007


Aaron and Jessica are visiting from Ottawa for the week. I’m a happy mom. Because I live out of town and they have tons of friends in Halifax, they are spending most nights in town. But we are spending lots of time together, so it is fine.

Aaron and I are going to Chester tomorrow to take Lila to the vet. (That’s an excuse to take a drive in the country.) Lila has already become quite fond of Aaron and Jessica. She lights up when I mention their names. And she loves playing with them. Last night she showed them how she can put her front paws up on a stool and twirl around. She loves this trick. Her tail wags the whole time. Next we are going to learn some dance steps. Along with all the usual sit, down, stay, heel, etc., which she is very good doing, as long as there are treats or rewards to go along with it.

The weather hasn’t been cooperating for our visitors. We’ve had heavy winds and rain most of their visit so far. Sadly, it will be sunny Saturday, when they leave.

Posted by leya at 08:39 AM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2007

Welcome to the New World

I had a surprising phone conversation yesterday. It had to do with wanting to buy some fabric to make a dress for my trip to Denmark. I’ve been sewing since I was six years old. Both my grandmothers were professional seamstresses, sewing for the rich in Riga, Latvia. The story that I heard was that my father’s mother did very well with her sewing, well enough to pay for a first class ticket to the U.S. but because of the nature of marriage in those times, she couldn’t tell her husband. As a result, my dad didn’t see his father from age two until he was six years old. During those years, his father was in Africa and then in the States, working to earn enough money to bring his young family over.

My mother made most of our clothes and I always found it magical. I was so eager to sew; both she and her mother helped me make my first garment, a blue polka dot sundress. I pinned, basted, and then sewed on the machine. I remember how proud I was. From then on, I was allowed to use the sewing machine. I made mostly doll clothes until I was in my teens, when I found sewing the perfect way to fantasize about the perfect life. I could live in my thoughts and make pretty things.

Until this week, I hadn’t been in a fabric store in over a year. Having a puppy to care for has taken up most of my free time. When she’s in her kennel, I’ve preferred to go into my studio. Sewing took a back seat. So I was disappointed when I checked out the usual stores in Halifax and couldn’t find any decent fabrics, or very few. I did find some lovely lightweight red linen and am making a casual jacket from it. Everything else in the store was polyester and I wasn’t interested.

I found what looked like a local store listed in the phonebook and called. The woman said she sold only on-line, no visitors to her “store” because it is in her home, but she would mail me swatches if I wanted. Even though I live nearby. Then she told me fabric stores in Halifax are not doing well. People are not sewing. She used to teach sewing classes but they have been cancelled. They are not needed. The schools don’t have any machines now. And textile factories are closing all over Canada and the U.S. They cannot compete with China and Pakistan. The only way to get good fabrics is through on-line shopping. She gave me the name of several sites that do have some beautiful fabrics.

When I told her what a surprise all this is to me and, after years of loving to browse fabric stores, how upsetting not to be able to do that anymore, she said: “Welcome to my world!”

Posted by leya at 08:39 PM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2007

One hundred two!

My aunt Marcella turned 102 years old last Friday. She did it with her usual style—enthusiastic and saucy. I wasn’t there but the reports via the family email list has it that when she went to the doctor’s a few weeks ago, she told him she didn’t want to take any more pills. She wanted to die. Life had been no fun for her for many months. She had pneumonia after I visited her in December, was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, and miraculously recovered. But never felt well after that, slept a lot and was very uncomfortable. So the doctor took her off all but one pill. And she recovered her spunk and sass, stopped sleeping so much and began talking to people and eating more.

So her 102nd birthday party was a big celebration. As described in the family email from a cousin (with a little editing from me):

Well, our beloved Marcella has reached the awe-inspiring age of 102! Some of us (those living in the area) gathered in her apartment for a little party, which she prepared for all week -- Sylvia got a hairdresser to come and cut her hair, do her nails, etc. We each brought some "nosh", Rob brought the most delicious chocolate almond cake I think all of us ever had, and Herb and I brought three bottles of champagne -- but the piece de resistance was Jonathan, who managed to get the Knickerbocker restaurant downstairs (who doesn't do take out) to sell him 1 dozen clams on the half shell complete with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce. Marcella didn't even wait until everyone had gotten there, but sat down and immediately consumed EIGHT of them in about 1/2 hour!!! It was truly an inspiring sight for those of us who saw her so weak and frail as much as three weeks ago... She also sampled each of the other hors d'oeuvres, drank at least two glasses of champagne, and when the time came, consumed 2 small pieces of her birthday cake! Of course, with all this commotion, Marcella passed out cold about 1-1/2 hours into her party...dead asleep... She was so happy to see everyone, and when she kept asking "what did I ever do to deserve all this?" we all kept telling her she gave us all love. And that's the truth!
Posted by leya at 04:46 PM | Comments (6)

March 04, 2007

Festivies of the lake

Yesterday was one of those memorable ones—where everything seems to fall into the right place. First, Lila has made a fast friend. He’s Stewie, a Rotweiller/Lab mix, a beautiful, gentle fellow, three years old, with lovely soft brown eyes, just recently rescued and adjusting easily to a loving family with three children under four. We met on the road Friday morning and walked to where the new road is being built (one that will make the trip to my house so much easier!). The dogs ran and played and we’ve made a regular date for early morning play.

Then I went into my studio and worked for a few hours. After that another neighbor came over with his three labs. We sat on the dock and threw balls for the dogs. The big snowstorm of the night before had ended with a lot of rain so there was mush on the lake but the dogs didn’t mind.

When Mike left with his dogs, I saw my neighbors going towards the island where they are building the fort. So of course Lila and I went over there. Fortunately I had my camera with me.

First, my house from the island:


Lila with Jonathan, her friend who comes to obedience classes with us. She is especially fond of him and his brother:



Looking out from the fort:


And of course, one of Lila on the lake. (At her foot is a hat she had swiped but we did retrieve it from her!) She'll be sixteen months in a few days. Fully grown, I hope:


While we were there another family came by with their two dogs, the mom on skis, the son on his bike and the dad on foot.

After that Lila was a bit tired, so she didn’t mind my going out last night. I went to my friend Suzanne's for dinner. Then to an art show. My friend Molly and her daughter had a larger exhibit of their paintings in a beautiful gallery space. From there we went to see and hear an amazing avant-garde ensemble, Aventi, with Janice Jackson singing.

Today is another sunny day and the lake is still frozen. More play.

Posted by leya at 11:03 AM

March 01, 2007

Treading on (thick) ice

Every morning around 7:15 Lila paces at the door, ready to go out. She’s eager to greet the children at the school bus stop. The buses stop right at the top of my (long) driveway. She’s come to know the children and we chat every morning now.

So I heard about the fort they are building on the island directly in front of my house. The lake is called Five Island Lake. I’ve never been sure just which outcroppings are “the” five islands but they are all interesting and most of them are visible from my house. Today Lila and I went exploring two of them. We found the fort. She was very excited.

The ice won’t last too much longer, I suppose, so we are spending as much time out there as possible. We will miss walking on the lake but it will be nice to have some warm weather eventually. I hear we are to get another snowstorm tomorrow night.

Posted by leya at 05:08 PM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2007

The week in review


It seems my blog has been on Winter Break, along with NSCAD, Dal and the other Universities in Halifax. It’s been a good break too. Socializing and contemplating. Busy walking on the lake with Lila, playing ball on the lake, meeting neighbors and dogs. The lake has been such a wonderful treat this year, frozen solid, smooth with a gentle snow cover—it will (almost) be hard to see the warm weather return.

Last Thursday I had photos taken of recent work. Almost a dozen thirty inch square paintings. Almost. I still need to work on three. But it seems having so much time to paint, so little interference, so much continuity, I am able to try out, experiment, expand. I can’t rest with easy solutions. It’s exciting. I will put some pix up soon.

Sunday was the Buddhist New Year, a day of meditation and celebration. We are now in the year of the Fire Pig. I’m a Fire Ox. A lot of my friends have been Pigs (no slight intended). I don’t know why. So maybe that means this will be a good year. I know I am feeling good. With such an easy flow of paintings.

My friend Sharon came out for a visit after the events Sunday. She’s in town for a little while from Vermont. I was supposed to take her back into Halifax Monday evening, before my dog class, but it was snowing and blowing so we settled in to watch The Big Easy. Much better, more fun than driving in bad weather on greasy roads and poor visibility. And the dog class was cancelled anyway.

Last night I went to see Notes of a Scandal. The facial expressions in the last scene made the whole movie for me. Today was another walk in Point Pleasant Park. Tomorrow, painting. So that’s my winter break so far. And just think—no school for me next week either

Posted by leya at 08:52 PM

February 12, 2007

Winter playland

The weekend past the sun was shining, the air was crisp and the whole neighborhood was out on the lake. There were people on bikes, with kites, on skis, just plain walking, families out for a stroll, on the lake. The ice is fourteen inches thick now. You could drive a car on it, I suppose.

By evening each day Lila was pleasantly exhausted. Saturday morning I was playing ball with her when a neighbor came by on cross-country skis and her two dogs. Lila went off with them while I went in to get my skis. I’d only been on skis once before, in Cleveland visiting my sister, so I was eager to try. My neighbor, Suzanne, helped me figure out how to get them on and then how to move in them. It was very exciting.

I don’t mind winter. It’s so very beautiful.





Posted by leya at 09:24 PM | TrackBack

February 10, 2007

Remembering Molly

I went to a funeral Thursday evening. This one was for my friend Molly. At the funeral service friends and family talked about their experience of Molly. Molly was strong. Molly could be prickly. Molly was demanding, particular, exacting, not easily compromised. Molly always asked for more, from herself, from others, for more understanding, more perfection, to take more, give more.

I’ve known Molly since I first moved here twenty-three years ago. Our paths crossed and intertwined many times over those years. We worked together at the Shambhala Centre for four years. I was Practice Coordinator (setting up and administering meditation programs) and she was the graphic designer. She took classes at NSCAD U. with me, as well as some of the private classes I taught. The one word I associate with Molly’s artwork, the word I heard often from other students, was integrity. Everything she did was done with integrity and it was especially evident in her artwork even to people who didn’t know her in any other way. I loved having her in my classes because her inquisitive, challenging, intelligent questioning inevitalbly raised the quality of experience for other students as well as for me.

For a few months before she died we emailed frequently. She loved hearing about my painting process and seeing photos of work in progress. And she would tell me about her work. She and her daughter would paint on paper every day she had enough energy.

In her own words:

of course with my own work I go back and forth between being horrified and really feeling good. I hope I keep having enough energy to paint for a while longer both the abstracts and the still lifes. They are such an interesting combination.

My energy is really low these days. It makes me sad but what can I do? I just have to accept what is happening to me and relax with it as much as possible.

Any energy I have goes to do a little art. Oh well. That is a good thing to do. And at least I am recognizing that I have been an artist my whole life and that is good. I can have confidence in that finally.

I did visit her just a couple of weeks before she died. She was very frail. She and her daughter Zoe showed me the works on paper they had done together over the past year. Mostly abstract paintings, very colorful, vibrant, open, searching and discovering. For a while a couple of years ago, all of Molly’s paintings could be divided into two distinct paintings. Now there was a wholeness about the work, a unity. After knowing her for so many years when she was so critical of her own work, it was very exhilarating to see the joy she now took in her painting.

After we were through looking at the work, she told me she was about to start another round of chemo. And if it didn’t work, she said, she was toast. But, she also said, “That’s okay. I’ve had a good life, a very rich, full life.” She told me she’s been very fortunate.

As are we to have known her.

Posted by leya at 07:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 01, 2007

Meet & Greet

Lila and I went out on the lake today to play ball. It's frozen solid. And so very beautiful. I met my next door neighbor the other day for the first time. He was walking his dog on the lake. His dog is young too. The pups played and chased each other. A nice way to meet.

Posted by leya at 07:51 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2007

This week

Saturday afternoon I went to a funeral for the nineteen year old son of a friend of mine. He had died as a result of a car crash the week before. Two other of his friends also died in the crash. There must have been about five hundred (or more) people there, half of them under twenty, most of them crying. I don’t think I have seen so many people cry in one place before. It was very very sad. Yet the readers tried to emphasize celebrating Vladimir’s life, his infectious smile, enthusiasms, intelligence and wit. It was still very very sad.

Yesterday I saw the movie Venus with Peter O’Toole. Those Brits really know how to do it. An amazing movie. Beautiful cinematography. Perfect acting. You can’t beat Peter O’Toole, for sure. No plastic surgery here, no hiding. no pretence. It was, simply stated, about love and living even while facing death. I doubt if it will stay around here long. But I hope it does, that more people see it. Like the fog, death creeps in on little cat feet. But it is not something we can avoid by moving farther inland.

I also saw Karine Ponties’ dance performance Brutalis on Thursday evening. It too was an intense experience. Beautiful graphically with exotic lighting making the body dislocated forms. Rarely was the whole body seen, just parts of parts. The fifty-five minute performance went by very quickly, perfect. And it was just enough.

Posted by leya at 06:22 AM

December 30, 2006

A good life

So the trip home wasn’t as bad as the trip down. All the planes (the first and the second one) were late so I didn’t miss my connection. And I had a really good book to read and knew I wasn’t going to miss anything at home anyway (no one was there) so it wasn’t stressful.

I was reading another book about dogs by Jon Katz, finished it in one day. I’ve read most of his books and plan, in the near future, to read the ones I haven’t yet. This one was called A Good Dog: the Story of Orson Who Changed My Life. I had read about Orson in Katz’s other books so I knew he was not an easy dog. He was restless, impulsive, crazy, intense, and very insecure, not seeming to be able to do what human beings expect of their dogs to do. And Katz was determined to help Orson adjust to life with humans. In the process, Orson brought many changes to Katz’s life, helped him to become the person he wanted to be and to live a life more suited to him.

The story of the deep love he felt for his dog (and the dog for him) was very powerful. I sat on the plane with very wet eyes and tears fell (in the evening at home) as I read the sad yet peaceful ending. I feel very connected to his story. It was in many ways, similar to my life with Lila. Only she is a very different dog than Orson, with different “issues.” Orson was easily aroused, overly excitable, as is Lila, but he was more territorial than she. Orson was a nipper and Lila can be as well, but his was a protective instinct. For her, it is uncontrollable excitement.

When I picked her up at Bonnie’s, she was playing with a new ball Bonnie had given her, yet when the other dogs in the room took it away from her, she just looked confused, not angry. She had a wonderful time at her doggie resort, played enthusiastically with the other dogs, rested at quiet time, became a favorite of the owner’s husband, generally was very well behaved. She’s happy to be home, wagged her tail for the first hour here yesterday, stays near me as always.

She’s an intense little dog, needs “work” the same as Orson. During the first few months with her, when my legs were bruised from her running into me and jumping up and I couldn't figure out what would help her, many people suggested I think about giving her back. I never wanted to give up on her. She has not been easy. But I’m learning how to be with her and it is worth it. She loves training exercises, loves to please, loves to make mischief, loves to play. She's naturally good with other dogs; it's the people world she needed to learn about. She’s changed my life as I search for ways to calm her, help her with her sensitivities, both emotional and physical, find dog playmates for her, give her enough exercise, find the right foods. She’s had chronic earaches since I first got her. I’ve tried many methods to help her: Western medicine, Chinese herbs, homeopathy, osteopathy, an animal communicator, and lots of training. She’s been improving impressively recently (especially since the osteopathy three weeks ago). She’s much calmer. I took her to one of my (two) holistic vets today. The last time Jennifer had seen Lila, maybe six month ago, Lila couldn’t stay still, was pacing, jumping up, tearing the mat apart, not letting Jennifer touch her. This afternoon she sat still, obedient and curious. When Jennifer put drops in Lila’s ear to clean it, I could feel my pup relax, become heavy in my arms. Her discomfort is probably responsible for much of the restlessness she has had since I got her almost a year ago.

This dog brings me a better life. She brings me out of my solitary life. I am healthier because of having her. I’ve had to find ways to heal my (often) sore back so I can be with her. Walking with her for an hour or two a day keeps us both fit. I’m meeting many of the people on my (two kilometers of) road. (Almost every household around here has a dog or two.) And it’s so nice to have a warm, loving presence in my house.

We’ve been together one year. We’ve only just begun.

Posted by leya at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)

December 28, 2006

So it’s back home today.

It’s sad to leave here. Damian was worried I'd leave before he was awake, but I'll make sure to give him a big hug and kiss before I am whisked to the airport. I'll miss his cheery chatter and lively humor but I am really eager to be back with Lila. I got an email this morning telling me she has had a wonderful time playing with all the other puppies. My plane gets in late so I will pick her up tomorrow.

I do hope traveling is easier than it was coming down here. I transfer planes in Montreal, a less congested airport than Toronto, so maybe. . .

Posted by leya at 08:23 AM

December 27, 2006

Out on the town

It is a time of resurrection of the daylight. The winter solstice is past. The days are getting longer. The holidays are closing down. Chanukah is past, Christmas has gone by. And what did it all mean. Pretty candles for Chanukah; pretty tree for Christmas; lots of presents. But mostly what it really means is spending time with family and friends. I couldn’t put any more religious significance to any of it than I can for any other time (or day) of the year. Every day has its own importance. But what this season does give me is a reason to visit my children because there is no school.

Today was the real holiday excursion: Tamar, Damian and I went into The City for the day. Where if you stand still on the street you get run over by people. And it was extraordinarily crowded today. I lived here for almost twenty-five years but I guess I’ve become a country girl. The crowds were, I must admit, overwhelming.

First we went to visit my friend Harriet on the Upper West Side near where we used to live. Harriet and I met in Riverside Park with our very young children (three and nine months) who became fast friends. We’ve kept up a friendship. From there we went to lunch with my nephew Rob at a Jewish Dairy Restaurant above the diamond exchange on 47th street. (I don’t think I have seen that many Jews in one place since I left Manhattan twenty-two years ago. It brought back a lot of memories for living here and from my childhood.) Then we walked around midtown, saw the tree and skaters at Rockefeller Center, the amazing window displays on Fifth Avenue, and treated ourselves to pastries at an elegant Japanese bakery. We were exhausted by the time we got on the train to come back here. Too tired to download all the photos we captured of the City. Another time.

Posted by leya at 10:19 PM

December 22, 2006

Till the end of time

Yesterday I went into Manhattan. My plan was to do the galleries, check out a few museums, visit friends, enjoy the sights and sounds. But . . . I felt like the country mouse in the city, Overwhelmed. Even though I lived there for almost twenty-five years, know the streets, the transit system, know how to maneuver around the fast moving crowds, it still seemed like too much activity.

So after leaving my overnight bag at my friends Leah and Pedro’s, I went to visit my 101-almost-102 year old aunt, Marcella. I was at her 100th birthday party, a memorable event where she kept us all entertained with her humor and joy at being feted. (March 9 and 10, 2005 entries with photos.) She lives, still, in the same apartment she always did. Now someone is with her all the time, she is unsteady on her feet and no longer can cook for herself. She does go out for short excursions, loves a good meal, enjoys company. Except for some short-term loss of memory, her mind is good. Her body is weaker than when I visited her last May but she is still very curious and lively in speech.

She greeted me warmly, asked me about my life, what am I doing, do my paintings sell, do I show them, if I color my hair, told me she thought it was too dark, asked me if I had a boyfriend, and then she said never get married, just live together. When you get married, she said, something goes out of a relationship. I showed her photos of Lila and of course she liked her, commented what good company dogs are. We talked some about family. She was delighted I went to visit my sister. (So am I.) Eventually she was tired and lay down for a nap. We held hands. She told me she is no longer a good hostess. She said in a year you will remember this. Indeed I will.

She is the last of my mother’s many sisters. They were all formidable, strong women. Sadly, because of their family patterns, they had more intelligence than they were able to use creatively often enough. There was an underlying frustration for all of them.

I look at Marcella and I see my history, my grandmother, my mother, my sister, all of us at once. Being with her, seeing her age, peppered with vinegar, spice, sugar and grace. She helps me appreciate my family.


Posted by leya at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

December 19, 2006

Dirty brick road

The yellow-brick road was a little muddy today. Making travel difficult. I arrived at the airport early enough to take the 10 am plane but was scheduled for the 11:00 one so I decided to wait it out because my baggage was on the later plane and I knew I wouldn’t be able to clear customs without it. But . . . the 11:00 plane was forty minutes late getting into Toronto, so, even though I did get through customs in time, the plane left a minute before I got to the gate. They had already put me on a 3 pm plane to Newark but didn’t tell me so I had rushed to get the 1:40 one. But then . . . the 3 pm plane didn’t leave until 5 pm so . . . I didn’t get into Newark until after 6. I am now at Tamar’s house but she and Damian have gone into NYC to meet Dan and go to the Bitter End to see Damian’s drum teacher perform with his rock group. Without me!

I had one other horrendous plane experience. When Tamar et al were living in LA and Damian was about a year and a half. It was just after New Year’s and everyone was going back to school, myself included. Being very trusting (or naïve), I rarely check to see if planes are on time. So when I got to the airport early in the morning on a very warm sunny January day in LA, I discovered all planes were canceled because of a snowstorm in Toronto. When I finally got to Toronto (late that night), there were crowds of people hoping to get on the plane. As I no longer had a reservation, I was one of the hopefuls. But also because I had an airmiles ticket, I didn’t expect much. Sitting there, recovering from a bout of the flu, with a stuffy nose and slight fever, not feeling so great from all the waiting around, next to me was a young man on his cell phone yelling at his mother, telling her she had to get him on this plane, she had to do something right away, etc. etc. Everyone was looking at him but he kept at it. He did get on that plane. And, to my surprise, so did I.

Now I am happily here, settling in, playing their piano, looking forward to seeing them again, probably in the middle of the night when they return from Manhattan. Meanwhile I’m glad not to have to travel again for a week.

Posted by leya at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

Back onto the yellow-brick-road

I’m off to New Jersey/New York this morning. Aaron is accompanying my suitcase and me to the airport, then on to work for him. (Maybe I should rename this blog The Saga of a Traveling Artist!) I’m going to visit Tamar, Dan and Damian for a week. Last year we were able to be all together for part of the holidays. I wish we could again this year. Next year for sure.

Posted by leya at 07:33 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2006


We took Shaya to the airport this morning. She went back to Toronto where her mother is now, then they travel a little more and in January, back to Brazil. After three years, it was so good to see her again. She’s been studying English for the past two years and is quite good. We did have a Portuguese-English dictionary handy and Aaron knows Portuguese, so communication was easier than last visit, although it never has seemed too difficult.

It’s very quiet here now. Shaya is very much missed.


Posted by leya at 08:18 PM | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

In Ottawa

Aaron and Shaya met me at the airport. With big smiles and big hugs. Aaron had a meeting to go to at work so Shaya and I spent the afternoon doing Sudoku; then we went to a café to draw. She drew some fantastic fantasy pictures and I drew her. After teaching drawing for twenty years, it’s fun to be on the other side: just draw. And I have to keep reminding myself of things I tell my students, mainly, draw what you see, not what you know. It’s all about relativity, seeing where things actually are, about looking for the reference points.

It’s so good to see Shaya again. Three years is a long time not to see my granddaughter. She looks the same, just a little older.

After a delicious family dinner I’m ready to tumble into bed.

Posted by leya at 10:08 PM | TrackBack

I’m off to see the Wizards!

I take off for Ottawa this morning. First Lila goes to Chester Basin to her doggie resort, then I go to the airport. And then I will be having lunch with Aaron and his daughter Shaya in Ottawa! I’m very excited, eager to go.

Apparently it is unseasonably warm there too. Shaya is disappointed. Coming from Brazil, she was hoping to enjoy snow in Canada. But I’m not unhappy that the roads are not icy as they usually are at this time of year.

From Ottawa I go to NJ/NYC on Tuesday for the pleasure of visiting with Tamar et al. I’m making the holiday loop.

Posted by leya at 06:52 AM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2006

In the name of friends

Walking out of my massage treatment this morning I felt like hugging myself. It was a very strange feeling. She obviously had done a good job. Releasing lots of tensions built up over the past few months. Months of worrying. Poor sleep. Uncertainties underneath the continuum of daily tasks and pleasures. It felt so good to feel that warmth towards myself. I don’t remember ever feeling it quite like this before. It was very physical. Sensuous. It felt good. I’ve heard often that emotions can become physical. Illness can come from misguided thoughts. In reverse, healthy thoughts can feel, literally, very good.

It’s always been easier for me to look for this warmth and acceptance from someone else. Only recently am I coming to understand the pleasure of feeling comfortable within myself. But that kind of self-love was labeled conceited in my family. Compliments were to be avoided, to avoid conceit. The result was insecurities and doubts, the opposite of what was intended. In Buddhism there is the term maitri which means loving kindness, gentleness towards oneself and others. Most philosophies/psychologies/religions embrace this idea. It has to start with oneself, otherwise it cannot be genuine towards others. I learn this over and over, especially when I spend time alone—with myself. The need to make friends, first, with oneself.

I was reading this morning that people used to have three close friends. Now most people have only one, maybe two and this is not seen as healthy. We need each other, need to confide, share, enjoy. But how do you define a friend. I have many friends, each bearing different qualities of friendship. Some are more movie friends, some more book friends, some dog friends, some I share more with more often than with others. My friends—well, I have Lila, and yes, I know, she’s a dog, but she is with me a lot, I confide in her, share my home with her and we spend many hours a day, often the most memorable times, together. Another friend of mine, one I’ve know fairly well over the past year—well, our friendship is fading because I have changed so much recently, we no longer feel comfortable with each other. I don’t want the same kind of friendship I seemed to have wanted a year ago. So even friendship is fluid, changes.

It does feel very good to be my own friend. And I'm one person who will always be with me!

Posted by leya at 08:42 PM

December 06, 2006

The end of summer.

Lila wasn’t so sure about the snow at first. We had driven home Monday when the heavy snowfall started. I had planned on going for a walk with her in Point Pleasant Park after teaching but it was starting to rain heavily so I decided to leave Halifax. I’m glad I did. Most people told me it took them four hours to go a few blocks. The sudden thick snow after the intense rain made the roads treacherous and slick.

Lila looked out the window, fascinated, the entire way home. Yesterday morning she raced around the property with glee. Then we went to Point Pleasant park and she had a wonderful time playing with her dog friends in the snow. She has her special friends, Stella, Saffie, Kiku. It fascinates me how when I say their names she perks her head up looking for them and when she meets one in the park she knows exactly who they are. Friends.

It’s supposed to rain over the next few days. Warm up. Then get cold again. The weather has been spooky. It was unusually warm last week. When I was in Cleveland, it felt almost like summer (well, summer here in Nova Scotia). I went to the Farmers’ Market with my sister and the light on the produce was enchanting.




On Saturday we all (except for my sister and her husband—they needed some time-out!) went to Amish country to explore the cheese factories. I had an enjoyable conversation with a young Amish man selling pellet stoves. He had one I coveted and his price for installation was quite low. He said he would be willing to come here in his horse and buggy (at five miles and hour!) and install it for me. But that would have to wait for better weather. Actually, I don’t have the necessary space for a pellet stove (you need four feet of wall away from windows) so he doesn’t need to take the trip after all.



Posted by leya at 06:42 PM

December 04, 2006

My sister and me

I don’t have a good relationship with birthday parties, the ones that were for my birthday. I don’t remember one that felt happy. I still believe in happy, but not a party. Not for me. They work better for other people. Something major always happens, feels uncomfortable, unpleasant. Maybe it’s too many expectations. Poor planning. I don’t know. I’ve had a few great birthdays. The ones where I was with close friends and/or family. But not major party birthdays.

My recent visit to my sister’s was a birthday present from her. She’s always been generous for my birthday, and this one, took the cake (although it was homemade ice cream and cookies for us)! Tamar, Dan and Damian drove from New York, bringing D.’s son, Rob. My sister’s other son lives near them with his wife and three beautiful children. So it was a big family American Thanksgiving. This diluted the birthday emphasis which made me very happy. A very happy birthday.

The visit, this weekend there, with my sister was, simply stated, a turning point in my life. There have always been some tensions between us. (Even my 101 year old aunt asks me when I see her about it.) Maybe the usual sisterly jealousies/rivalries blossomed into critical distances, making a bridge that seemed hard to cross over. Somehow, without much effort, I changed my attitude. It only takes one person. Really. Even though relationship does take two people, when neither makes a move to make it work better, then nothing can happen. I was always waiting for her. She was supposed to “change” in the way she spoke to me, the way she thought of me. But really, my sister is a good person. We just had many misunderstandings. Communication between us was hard. The past was too much present. We are very different people; we live very different lives, have different needs, preferences, different ways of relating. (Our father, in his late 80's, told me he often wondered how we could be so different.) With this visit I made a conscious decision to see her for herself, not through my expectations and desires, but just who she is. There was one brief period where my usual irritations arose but Tamar reminded me that I didn’t want to do that any more (I had told her beforehand how I wanted to be more open to my sister) and I stopped. Tamar was right. Before going on this trip I had thought I would want to talk to D. about “our relationship” and why it was so difficult. To talk about the threads from the past. About the knots in that thread. But it wasn’t necessary. The weekend had its own rhythms. It was a very warm, pleasant, rewarding Thanksgiving—and a great birthday present.

Posted by leya at 02:53 PM | Comments (2)

November 10, 2006

Birthday Girl!

Today is Lila’s first birthday. One year old, imagine that! A very full year, indeed. To celebrate, we went for a long walk in Point Pleasant Park. We go there often now, at least a couple of times a week. I’m beginning to know my way around. I used to take Katie there but that was before Hurricane Juan and there were still lots of trees. It is so different now, I have to relearn the paths.

We had a lovely walk today. It was warm and sunny and lots of dogs for Lila to play with. Towards the end of our walk we met a boxer who had similar unstoppable energy and the two of them cavorted for the rest of the walk.

Then I took her to MetroDogWash. She had her nails clipped and I bathed her and trimmed her hair. She was delightfully good. So afterwards I bought her a few new squeaky toys and some of her favorite foods.

When I came out of the store after buying the toys, a woman and her two young girls were smiling as I was chatting to Lila, telling her to move from my seat to hers because she really cannot drive even if she wanted to. She doesn't have a license yet. (She likes to sit behind the wheel when I leave her in the car alone.) They had admired her when they first parked next to me, said she looked so cute and dignified sitting at the wheel. I, of course, told them it was her birthday and I had just bought her some new toys. The mom asked if I had baked her a cake. Actually I had. In the morning I had made her some cookies—oats, squash and canola oil—yum!. She said she often makes cakes for her daughters' stuffed animals, lets the girls pick the trimmings. And they have a very nice party. It's all about the memories, she said. Making good memories.

Still, it’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year!


Posted by leya at 06:45 PM | Comments (2)

September 28, 2006

On the road with rhodis

Summer is over; the trees are turning; and it’s time to clean up the garden. Yesterday my friend Nancy and I went to Mahone Bay to buy some rhododendrons. I know a man there who grows some from seed as a hobby and sells them at a very reasonable price. We left home as adults and came home as children: very excited about our new toys.

Nancy bought four big ones; I bought three. We stuffed them into my Element, along with her handsome ten year old son, Jonathan, and my pup, Lila (who had a delightful time racing around the rhododendrom beds and wading in the stream by the house). We then toured the scarecrow festival in Mahone Bay before stopping at the Inlet Café for a light dinner. (Really, I love their biscuits, the main course for me!) As Jonathan has shoulder length hair, the waitress there addressed Jonathan as “young lady”. We told her he is a boy and of course, she was very apologetic. Nancy told me other stories of kids making fun of him at school, but none of this seemed to upset him. They then told me Jonathan is growing his hair to donate to cancer patients for wigs. He wants to wait until he has nine inches before he cuts it. And when the other children found out his motive for growing his hair, their respect grew as well. Very impressive.

I put my rhododendrons in today and moved a few other plants. First I had to clear one of my garden patches of goat-weed (or gout weed or, better yet, vicious weed, a name it also has). It’s an extremely invasive weed that had taken over most of that particular bed. It was a warm sunny day and my friend Brian came over to help. We both love to weed. It was great playing in the dirt all afternoon. Chatting and pulling weeds, cleaning up, getting ready for winter. It’s raining now. Perfect for my transplants.

Posted by leya at 07:51 PM

September 21, 2006


The last week has been very busy. I’ve had lots of enjoyable company, including a couple of houseguests. Lila has loved it. Yesterday, after everyone left, she slept all day and evening. Today, of course, she wants to play again.

We went to our last obedience class for this session Monday night. Lila aced it! I was so happy! I’ve finally learned how to work with her high energy personality. It’s clear to me the clue is to stay calm myself. It’s very important for the dog, especially as she is so easily excitable.

We had to do an exercise involving walking across the room with our dog, leaving her with the instructor, walking back across the room and leaving for one minute, then coming back, getting the dog and walking back to our seats. Lila didn’t mind being left but when I came back she was a bit jumpy and nippy. Instead of reacting like I usually do (getting upset), I calmly told her to sit. She did and then we could continue walking back to our seat.

Outside of class I’ve been doing major training with her. Going to the supermarket and having her sit/stay with lots of people walking by (and talking to her) as well as not letting her go in or out the door before me (having her sit and wait) and sometimes bouncing a ball in front of her while she is told to sit/wait, etc. It’s paying off. There is nothing aggressive about her. Just a lot of energy.

At the end of the class, Brenda, the instructor, asked me if I felt like giving up at times. I said no, I just thought she would kick us out of the class. But we’ve come a long way and can now go into the advanced class in October.

Posted by leya at 04:30 PM

September 12, 2006

The little girls with a curl (or two)

I’ve been taking Lila to the Superstore. Not to shop but to train her around people, work with her excessive excitability. Usually, after a couple of minutes, she gets the idea and will sit and stay on command. I’m also hanging out a little bit at the school bus stop in the morning (which just happens to be at the top of my driveway and the timing coincides with our long morning walk!). Besides enjoying meeting my neighbors, I’m hearing stories of other difficult dogs and Lila is learning to sit and be petted by children (not jump up in excitement even when she wants to do so).

Yesterday I tried walking her in Halifax. Usually when we are there we go on the side streets, take a nice ambling walk through the lovely tree-lined, quiet areas. But I thought it was time to take her to the main drag where traffic is heavy and people won’t have time to admire her. But we never got there. Just the sight of the large walls of buildings frightened her and she dug her feet into the pavement and wouldn’t budge. So I gave up for now.

Meanwhile, with intensified training at home and otherwise, she has bouts of teenage rebellion (jumping up on me and thinking it’s fun for both of us) and I don’t enjoy that one bit. She’s still in school—one more week. The instructor says the important thing is for me to be calm, not raise my voice, get excited, say “no” or any other more spontaneous command. Just settle her down quietly, firmly and forcefully and then get her working (on her obedience such as sit/stay or down/stay or walk by my side) again. Wow! When she is good, she is very very good!

Posted by leya at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

September 10, 2006

There's nothing like a dog

for meeting neighbors! There is definitely something wonderful about walking a dog. I’ve met so many of my neighbors recently, and so many interesting people. It’s all a big surprise for me. This morning the children were waiting for the schoolbus and Lila was very excited to see them, pulling and panting. Everyone thought she was adorable—a puppy! One of the dad’s came over to me and we started chatting. It turns out he works for the print company that printed my catalogue for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia exhibit I had eleven years ago. And he’s interested in seeing more of my work. He also expressed a desire to do some actual screen prints (not off-set litho) and I suggested he come over and meet my friend Susan Wakefield, with whom I did the prints that were in that exhibit at the AGNS (I had the fun, doing the artwork, and she did the excellent but dirty work of printing them).

Another neighbor who has three children (and a dog), came over yesterday because I had asked him if one of his children would be interested in helping me with Lila, take her out for a walk, play ball and such, when I have a long day and can’t get home in time for her needs. He brought his two (beautiful and lovely) daughters. He said his youngest (eight), when they were driving along the road in the morning, saw a deer and said “That’s why we live here!” That—and the great neighbors!

Posted by leya at 10:27 AM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2006

The last weekend of summer

Yesterday was a perfect end of summer. (Summer really ends with Labor Day and the start of the new school session.) Friends came over for a swim and dinner. Of course Lila wasn't supposed to go swimming yet and was very frustrated. Otherwise she is doing fine with a quick recovery from major surgery-being spayed on Thursday.

It was raining most of the day today. Perfect for indoor activities, like painting. I was so frustrated waiting for my blending sticks with drier to arrive that I did some work this morning anyway. I just tried to use colors that I knew dried more quickly than the cadmiums that I love so much. I wasn't always successful avoiding them, but at least I used them more thinly than usual. I've started a couple of 36 by 48" paintings and a dozen 6" pieces. I've asked Brian to make me more stretchers so I will have some larger pieces to work on soon. And my drier sticks should be here by then.

Meanwhile, the sunrise through the fog yesterday morning was so beautiful:


Posted by leya at 08:40 PM | Comments (3)

September 02, 2006

Thoughts on eldersex

One of the things percolating in my thoughts about over the past few weeks was stimulated by a post on Ronnie’s blog, When Time Goes By (it was a few weeks back and of course I couldn’t find it again). She was saying the decrease in sexual longings with age is a relief—it’s a relief not to be driven by sexual needs. Not to be ruled by hormones. She, like many people, is content to be alone, with friends to fill communication needs, but without the ever present, indiscriminate lust that fills up so much time and energy when younger.

There is no doubt that it is easier not to feel driven by any need, whatever it might be. Perhaps that comes with age, maturity, the wisdom of experience along with the recession of hormonal energies.
There is do doubt, also, as she says, dating (or looking for sexual companionship) takes a lot of time and energy. She prefers to be able to choose to spend her Saturday nights alone reading, writing, being in control of what she does.

The numerous responses/comments to her thoughts were mainly in agreement. Yes, it is great to be master of your own energies. I can agree with that. But what feels strange to me is the complete acceptance of the loss of desire for physical contact. I don’t see it the same way. I haven’t lost the desire, just the recklessness that went with it when I was younger. Most of the time I don’t mind living alone. I’m sad there are not more possibilities for physical contact with another person but that seems to be what happens with age. I do see (and I myself find I and) most older people have the habit of caressing themselves, rubbing their arms, face, hands. Better that than nothing, it seems. But wouldn’t it be nice if, in our elder wisdoms, we could more easily share both the mind and the body with another person. As a choice.

Posted by leya at 08:30 PM

August 20, 2006

Now for a recap of what we did last week

We went to the Discovery Centre in Halifax, to Peggy’s Cove and walked around the rocks


and saw John Beale's wonderful whacky show Peggy


out to dinner at the amazing restaurant Rhubarb; to the Buskers on the waterfront and met Elvis (he would move and gyrate only when someone put coins in his cup)


hung out at the great children’s bookstore in Halifax, Woozles; for paddleboat rides around my lake



to Lewis Lake for hikes in the woods and had delicious meals on my new deck.

Damian loved Lila. He loved throwing the ball for her, kicking the soccer ball, throwing sticks in the water for her to swim after. He was good with her (sometime over-the-top) enthusiasms. There were times when she was too much, jumped on him, but seconds later he was playing with her again. He knew she was not aggressive. Just not yet completely in control of herself.

Damian also loves pushing the buttons on elevators. On Tuesday I took him to school with me when I had to see my independent studies student for our final meeting. In the elevator to the parking lot, another woman was in the elevator car and, seeing how much he enjoyed pushing the button, she asked him to push the button for her floor. He was delighted. As she was leaving the elevator she said to me, “I have a twenty year old daughter who still likes to push the buttons!”

So now they are gone, it's quiet here and I have to push the buttons for myself.

Posted by leya at 12:21 PM | Comments (1)

August 17, 2006


It’s very quiet around here. I drove Damian and Tamar to the airport yesterday. After eight days of an active eight year old and an exuberant nine-month puppy, the quiet is loud. I’m getting used to it, but it does feel strange. Just Lila and me. Damian said he didn’t want to go home. But now that he is there he says he likes being home more than he expected. He misses Lila and me. We miss both of them.

Posted by leya at 06:35 PM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2006

How to train a difficult dog

In answer to Michele's question/comment (previous post): honestly, I don’t know the answer. I’m still working on it. I love my dog dearly but she still has some quirks that need to be ironed out. She’s super intelligent. That’s part of the problem. She knows what she is supposed to do (at nine months now), but she also knows that not doing it will get my attention. It’s not that she doesn’t get enough attention. She just wants more. Most of the time. She can often play by herself, and she can be very good. But she can also be very naughty.

Her naughtiness involves mouthing (she thinks she has to put her mouth on everything, including my arms and legs), jumping up on people and counters and tables, running off with favorite items (including glasses, shoes, important papers) and what was her favorite (finally ended!), nipping people in the butt. She had stopped all this bad behavior at about four months, but then the building project started here. Each week I could see her behavior deteriorate. Once there were no more workmen in the house she improved with still some residual problems.

Over the course of the seven months she’s been with me, I’ve tried lots of techniques: ignoring (which drove me crazy and injured), yelling (which upset me more than her), kenneling (which solved the problem temporarily), and now I’m taking a new tactic. We are going to a clicker training obedience class. The method is great for her, it seems. It involves clicking (with a small clicker in my hand) at the moment she does what is appropriate behavior (sitting, lying down, coming when called, getting into heel position, and not nipping or jumping) and then treating. Click and treat.

So for the nipping (when she does), it involves taking my hand away (if that’s where her mouth went), offering it again, and again, until she doesn’t nip, and then clicking and treating. If she’s jumping on me (or someone else), it’s best to turn my back (ignore) for a few seconds, then turn around and if she stops jumping (has all four feet on the ground), then click and treat. The important part is timing: to click right away when the behavior is good. The treat can be delayed if it feels that what she is expecting for being naughty.

This seems to be working (with some lapses). With Tamar and Damian here, I have had lots of opportunities to practice training Lila. Every day she is better. Less jumping, less mouthing. Damian has been playing with her alone out in the field, throwing a tennis ball or kong or kicking the soccer ball for her. He no longer needs me there to protect him. When she does get overexcited by so much activity around her, then I kennel her for a few minutes. It does calm her down.

So it seems I am using all the techniques I’ve been taught by various people and books (all except the yelling, I hope). Tomorrow evening we are all going to the dog class together. I think Damian will enjoy it. I hope so. He’s used to cats. This is so very different for him. And it is so nice for me to have their company here.

Posted by leya at 05:34 PM

August 08, 2006


Living here by the lake in the woods with a brook running fast beside my house, I am continually grateful. Now that the building project is finished (just a few little things to clean up), I am enthusiastically enjoying the new windows and the added view and inviting just about everyone I know (friends and potential friends) to come enjoy it with me.

My special friends, Tamar and Damian arrive this afternoon for eight days. I am eager to see them, and especially eager to have them here in my little piece of paradise. I’m sorry to say Dan had to stay behind because he has a job that doesn’t end until mid-September.

It’s raining today but the sun will shine tomorrow for my family.

Posted by leya at 08:42 AM | Comments (1)

July 22, 2006

Lila update (with bragging rights)

The other day I had to go into town. Lila and I were on the front deck. I turned to her and told her: “I have to leave now. Do you want to go with me or stay here?” She then turned around, went in the door and into her kennel. Really!

She's eight months old now, forty pounds (I had hoped she would stop at thirty-five, but she had other ideas apparently), and full of boundless energy. Now that the major building stress is over, she is settling down, relatively speaking. We are starting a new obedience school, with a woman who teaches the clicker method. I think it will work well with Lila as she is so sensitive to sounds. It's taken a while (and lots of treats) for her to get used to my playing the piano. I've never had that problem before. My first dog, Miranda, would come and lie under the piano when I played. So far, Lila responds well to the beginner homework assignments with the clicker. The first class was just the owners, no dogs. This Monday Lila comes with me. Only eight dogs in the class. Should be interesting. She's obviously very intelligent, which also means very willful and testing me all the time! She understands both sides of what she is told to do!

Posted by leya at 10:17 AM | Comments (2)

July 04, 2006

Facing the Moment of Truth

Tamar now has an essay up on the Autism Speaks website. Please do take a look. It’s about the initial diagnosis for my grandson, Damian. Her writing is so very beautiful, as is the tenderness and courage of the situation. I can’t help but read it with tears in my heart. Damian has done so well, is a delightful, sassy (as she says) eight year old, still struggling but mainly actively engaged in growing and becoming.

The main reason for my recent visit to Tamar’s (the end of May) was to go to Washington for a consultation with Serena Weider, the co-author of The Child with Special Needs, the book Tamar and Dan have used as their main reference for working with Damian’s autism. Serena Weider is an amazing person. I am so glad to have met her. She immediately saw Damian as he is now (with an understanding of how he got there and from where) and what he needs to work on next. All four of us went into her office for an hour. She talked to Damian and then played with Damian and Dan to exemplify what she meant. After that she talked alone to Tamar and Dan while Damian and I went out to her beautiful garden and walked around in the warm sun.

Later they told me she talked about developing his logical thinking so that he would have less fears and feel more comfortable engaging with others. In play, this could be done by asking him for reasons he chooses his moves, what outcome he plans to have, what the scenarios mean. And also giving him more responsibilities around the house with appropriate rewards. In just one month, I can see a big change in his thinking. Usually he doesn’t want to talk to me on the phone. It’s been uncomfortable for him. Last week I spoke to him on the phone. He told me: “I am riding my scooter in the house because it is raining outside and it is okay because the scooter has rubber wheels and won’t hurt the floor.” And his annunciation was very clear and strong. That’s a big leap from the two year old who couldn’t talk at all and spent hours obsessively running his Brio train back and forth. I am so proud of them, Tamar, Dan and Damian, for all the hard work they have done and are doing, and for all the wonderful progress in bringing Damian into a rich life with them.

Posted by leya at 08:45 AM | Comments (3)

July 01, 2006

Chasing rainbows

Last night there was a big scare/excitement in my neighborhood. In the afternoon my generous friend (Hi Debby!) came over to help me collage onto the canvases. When she arrived, she mentioned there were a lot of police cars hanging out on the roads around here. After she left, she called to say there were even more with helicopters circling overhead. She asked the RCMP what was going on. They said they were looking for a black man. She just wanted to warn me.

One of the RCMP was also black. I wonder how he felt with the white RCMP’s description of the fugitive. They didn’t say if he was tall or short, thin or heavy set, just black (not green or yellow or blue). Granted this is an obviously mostly white neighborhood, so on that level, I can understand their emphasis. A black man would definitely be noticeable. But . . . even though I doubt if it was on their minds, it does have an overtone of prejudice attached to the description.

My house is more or less sitting in the woods without another house in view. If I shouted I might be heard. I do have an alarm system. But I also have a lot of windows. I've never been afraid in this neighborhood. It’s always felt safe. But I was nervous last night. So I called a neighbor. The story goes: there was an armed robbery at the Credit Union in Chester. During a police chase, the two robbers ran their car off the road on the highway near here. One escaped. The RCMP were asking everyone in the neighborhood to stay inside, lock their doors, and if they saw a black man, to call 911. Lila and I went over the neighbors’ house. We had dinner; the dogs played; it was a very lovely, pleasant evening. Except for the underlying tension.

They did catch the "black man." And Lila and I went home to sleep in our own beds.

Posted by leya at 02:46 PM | Comments (4)

May 20, 2006

Youth is . . .

There’s a sign over a doorway to the auditorium at Damian’s school that reads: “Youth is experimental.” Maybe they meant experiential. Maybe youth is an experiment. To those who are experiencing it, it often feels endless. Confusing, exhilarating, powerful, limiting. A state of being that transcends the reality of aging. A feeling of power that possibly covers up the insecurity of being small in a big world. In a world where the not-youth rule.

We went to a performance of the creative arts classes of first and second graders yesterday. They tooled the activities around a dramatization of Peter Pan. So there was acting, dancing, singing, violin playing, and a rhythm band (Damian’s group). The singing was excellent, very expressive, the best group performance yesterday. The other groups were very good, more “experimental.” Which in this case, I think means for us, as parents, friends, to be gentle in our judgments and generous in our guidance through the crests and dips of youth.



Posted by leya at 04:30 PM

May 19, 2006

Dancing around the town

Manhattan is still alive a well. My visit yesterday was full, but I could not do all that I wanted. Maybe next Tuesday. I did visit my 101 year old aunt, who is weakening but still very beautiful. My nephew Rob joined me there for lunch. Then I went to visit my ex-husband, who is now in a rehab center. I haven’t seen him in about eight years. My feelings are very blank around him now. Not angry, not bitter, just glad not to be with him. Even though much of our relationship was not good, we always had an interesting dialogue about cultural events—movies, books, plays, art. We separated thirty-three years ago. A long time and many changes. Yesterday he seemed very interested in my life now. The past has floated away.

From there I went to Dance Manhattan for a Tango lesson with the wonderful Rebecca Shulman. It was very helpful and lots of fun. She’s a great teacher. We talked a lot and danced a lot. She commented on how vulnerable dancing tango can make a person: tender egos are exposed. It’s a very intimate dance. It seems here in NYC there are so many people studying tango and classes have more fluidity; the personnel changes frequently. This way there is less attachment to a group—a problem I feel in Halifax, where the community is small and can grow a crust around itself. So I said I guess I have to move back to New York. Nice idea for dance, for being with family, for the easy access to culture, but otherwise—I don’t think so. I love my home in Nova Scotia (especially when it is not being torn apart by reconstruction!).

Posted by leya at 01:26 PM

May 17, 2006

In another world

I’ve been so busy lately I hardly had time to realize that I was traveling south this morning for a week with Tamar and Company. Now I am here and it all seems slightly unreal—and very relaxing. It was hard to leave Lila but apparently she’s adapting well, enjoying her temporary home. But I miss her. Just before leaving home, as I was packing, I heard her off in the corner chomping away on what I thought was her big knuckle bone. When I turned around to look, she had chewed a hole through the internet cable! Fortunately, she hadn’t cut the wire. Yet. So Eastlink is coming tomorrow to fix it. While I am traipsing around Manhattan.

There is still work being done on my house while I am away. But it is progressing, getting near the end. Last evening when Lila and I got home from errands in Halifax, we found the wall of plastic was down. Finally. Even though the floor still needed washing, the layer of dust was still visible and the furniture was not back in place yet, it was so peaceful. As it is to be here now, in a clean, orderly home, with Tamar and family (but missing one dog). And tomorrow I go into Manhattan to check it out. See what’s happening there. But right now, some much needed sleep. Good night!

Posted by leya at 10:13 PM | Comments (3)

May 11, 2006

House saga. . . on and on and on

My building project goes on and on and on and on. Both Lila and I are worn down. She enjoys the workers but doesn’t enjoy that our home is still torn apart. Last night I moved back into my bedroom. I was tired of sleeping on the floor in my shrine room. The blue tarp is still covering the end wall where my bedroom is; the wind blows hard at night and the tarp responds. But I just didn’t care any more. I needed my bed and was able to shut out the noise fairly well. At least that outside wall is repaired and now we are waiting to decide how to finish it. Originally it was stucco but that seems to be too expensive now. I’m looking for an inexpensive alternative. With building prices so high these days, that’s hard. I’m tired of the whole thing, look forward to the end.

Next week I’m going to visit Tamar and Company. At first I was hesitant about leaving Lila. She’s just six months now. But she will be staying with a wonderful woman who completely understands how stressful this domestic upheaval can be for a sensitive puppy and will give her a good home for the week. This will also give Lila a chance to forget about it. (At least she doesn’t have to pay the bills!) And when I get back, our house should be back together and we can resume our usual routines.

Posted by leya at 05:16 PM | Comments (1)

April 15, 2006

House report

My life has turned upside down (again!). This time it's my house. What was supposed to be a little renovation job (putting windows in my studio and living room on the lake side) turned out to be a major catastrophe! When they opened the living room wall, we discovered rot. The windows weren't calked properly, if at all. One-third of the wall is rotten and needs to be replaced. And the house is only ten years old! I had a lousy builder, to say the least. So it's been a bit absorbing.

Lila has loved it. Lots of company; lots of excitement. The workers love her too. I think I am doing it right this time. The workers are concerned about how I am, being careful to ask me what I need to make it easier, keeping things clean. When they asked me how I was still smiling with all this chaos, I told them I am enjoying the company! Expensive company! So far, I’m not worrying too much. It has to be done. It’s that important. They are working their way up the wall. It seems there are several sources of leaks, so the new windows won't be going in for a while yet. All the windows on the lake side of the house are now boarded up so falling siding (chunks of stucco) won't hit them. From my living room I see plywood and tarp. No more lake-view for a bit.




Meanwhile, I’ve cleared a enough space in my studio to continue painting—through all of this!

Posted by leya at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2006


My friend Robert died on April 1. A fitting day, for a man who saw the irony of life and little of the joy, yet had a wicked sense of humor and sharp perception. He called himself “philosophically challenged.” He did not have an easy life nor an easy death. But with the help of his compassionate caregiver, Cynthia, and her team, it feels like he made peace with himself, with his life and death, at the very end.

As he instructed before he died, Cynthia is going to pack up and send a pile of books he left me. He’s famous here for the books he sends me. They are almost always one’s I enjoy reading and I also enjoy passing them on to friends. I will miss our phone calls, our conversations and I will miss the boxes of books he sent. But I am very glad he is not suffering any more.

I feel his presence at night. We still have some thoughts to exchange. It’s not painful. But very very sad.

Posted by leya at 04:31 PM | Comments (6)

March 26, 2006

A surprise package


With the arrival of Lila in my life, everything turned upside down and inside out. I knew it would be different, having a dog again, but this is different than I expected. Lila has not been an easy pup. I've worked weekly (and sometimes twice a week) with a wonderful trainer, Susan Jordan (of PAWS for Family and Friends). And now I am reaping the rewards. Now Lila is a normal puppy and I am so very very happy. My trainer, Sue, is totally excited. It shows how her methods work. She said the training process is easy with an easy pup. But to see it happen with one who has "issues", it's very confirming. And she says I should be very proud. Ultimately the bond between Lila and me will be that much stronger for having worked together so intensively. I well up with tears every time I think about, or look at, my wonderful puppy. It is such a big change, like I exchanged her for another with the same markings. Can hardly recognize her, she's so normal (most of the time)!

More than one person suggested (or outright said) I would be better off exchanging her for a calmer puppy. Suggesting that I picked her for all the wrong reasons: her looks--she is so beautiful, has exquisite markings. She is also very intelligent and strong-willed. A “pushy pup.” It is common knowledge that the middle temperament puppy (in a litter) is an easier dog, one that is not aggressive, not shy—an easier dog for a pet. But she was the one for me. The one who felt right, right from the beginning, when I saw her at four days old. She's right for me In so many ways.

Training Lila has not been easy. She came to me with a “mouthy” temperament. Until about two weeks ago the back of my hands were covered with scratches from little puppy teeth and the back of my legs were covered with bruises from little puppy ramming into me with her sharp little puppy teeth. Sometimes, when my back was to her, she would take a running leap at me—with her mouth open. I was a standing snack attack(ed). In the realm of "diagnosis," she had little impulse control (what puppy does, you might say, but this was over-the-top) or ability to self-regulate—she wasn’t able to relax, settle. She would get over-stimulated easily and couldn’t calm herself. I didn’t talk to too many people about it because I myself wasn’t sure how this would turn out. But as Sue told me today, my “quiet determination” is showing rewards. (Although I wouldn’t say I was always quiet when working with Lila. Sometimes I would really lose it. At this point, I can just say “I don’t like you when you are like this” and that helps me to stay calm.) Lila now listens, learns quickly, usually obeys, tests me constantly in a normal, bright little puppy way, and is very affectionate and loving as well as playful, exuberant and adorable. There are no wounds on my hands. She still has occasions of ickyness but they are very brief and infrequent. You would never know from looking at both of us the journey we have taken together.

And the interesting part (for me) is how much it has affected the rest of my life. I'm much more clear about things, more sure of my own feelings and thoughts and decisions. And too, it has affected my painting in the same way (which is very exciting). So--there are many surprises in having this particular little puppy! My baby's come a looong way!

Posted by leya at 06:38 PM

March 21, 2006

Christmas 1949


My first childhood friend, Carol, sent me this photo taken of us (her brother Jimmy on the right, next to me) at her house (next door to mine) before what must have been a Christmas party for the dance class we were taking at the Women’s Club. (She says she still has the picture of Santa and brings it out every Christmas season. I have some important things from my childhood too--the clock that was a wedding present to my parents in 1931, some hand-carved bookends, the print of a Rembrandt self-portrait my dad had in his basement work-shop and I now keep in my studio, and most important, my piano, all major additions to my home.)

I remember the dance classes well. We were in the seventh grade and most of the kids in the neighborhood were taking them. Before starting the classes, my dad waltzed around the living room with me. He was a wonderful dancer—a great sense of rhythm, a strong embrace and knew his steps—and taught me well. I’m still dancing!

Posted by leya at 08:30 AM

March 03, 2006

The big Coronation Street Event


Heidi and I went to the Street at the Westin Hotel last Tuesday. Six hundred enthusiastic people were seated in the ballroom to see and talk with Shobna Gulati (who plays Sunita Alahan, the corner store shopkeeper, Dev's wife from the Street). She answered questions and later came into the audience to meet everyone, she said, but by that time, it was so late, Heidi and I left. (School the next morning. Heidi also teaches. )

Sunita is a beautiful charming lively woman who answered questions with directness and humor. A few of the interesting points she made were about the cast. Everyone on the show, she said, is acting. No one, not one person, is how they are in their lives as they are on the show. Shelly would never let anyone push her around, Craig has a beautiful singing voice, Charlie is really a sweetie, as is Tracy, and she herself, she said, is a bitch from hell (hard to believe, that one!). She also said she thinks the reason Coronation Street hasn’t caught on in the States as it has here is probably because it is so real: just real people in real situations, no gloss, not sheen. It definitely is a different kind of program than Desperate Housewives or Grey’s Anatomy. Not the “pretty people” here. She also gave us some spoilers, which I won’t pass on, but you can, I am told, find them on the net (if you want to know what happens before the nine months lag we have in Canada).

The Westin will never be the same again for me!

(Photo courtesy of Heidi)

Posted by leya at 05:06 PM

February 22, 2006

four things

A meme. From Tamar.

Four jobs I've had:
1. Doing intake in a blood bank in Baltimore. It was part of a clerk typist job (there must be a fancier name for that position by now) I had during the summer while in University. Many many many typing jobs. I’m an ace typist (but don’t tell anyone, please!) and could have had a career there! But . . 2. Selling Christmas cards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in October! One of the first jobs in Manhattan and probably the first that fired me! They said my attitude wasn’t good. It was kinda hard to work up enthusiasm for Christmas cards in October!
3. Walking dogs in Manhattan. I liked this one a lot. Mostly it helped keep my dog, Miranda, happy.
4. Head of (meditation) practice at the Shambala Centre in Halifax NS. This meant setting up and administering meditation programs for the Buddhist community (which at the time grew to about 500 people and is even larger now) and the public here in Halifax. I enjoyed this for about four years but then felt it made me a Sunday painter and I didn’t enjoy that. Not at all! It was great to be in the center of things, yet liberating to quit. And definitely better for my painting not to be an administrator. But it did get me over my fear of the telephone. I had to call a lot of people and request volunteers for programs.

Four movies I can watch over and over again:
1. Antonionni’s L’Aventurra is one of my very favorite movies. I took it out of the school library a couple of years ago. One of my favorite parts is the beginning. For about ten (or more) minutes the main character moves around her bedroom, fussing with her makeup and hair, saying nothing, no music, and it imparts so much emotion, portrays her despair without any words. I was looking forward to seeing it again. But, some people don’t like inactivity any more, it seems, it had been cut from the video. Darn!
2. When Sally Met Harry. Fun.
3. The Wizard of Oz: Yes, Dorothy, there is a Santa Claus!
4. La Strada, by Federico Felini. With the magical Giulietta Masina.

Four places I've lived:
1. I spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, Maryland. We lived in a sweet Dutch Colonial house on a quiet street. There were a lot of empty lots that over the years grew houses. At first the street had no sidewalks and was bordering a dairy farm. The cows would come up to the barbed wire fence and eat the honeysuckle off it. We played in the fields until the farm burned down and was later sold (or maybe it was the other way around). Two hundred little track houses were built on the land. Now they have matured into real houses, some with lots of renovations and plantings.
2. We moved to Richmond, Virginia during The War (then back to the same house in Bethesda where my Dad lived until he died at ninety). I liked it there in Richmond just fine but my parents, who were more aware of the social situation, were upset by the prejudices, both against blacks and Jews.
3. I spent one very interesting year in New Haven, Connecticut, when I was in Art School. I can’t say I really got to know the city but I’ll never forget the few blocks where I feasted on the succulent course of education I was being offered.
4. New York, New York. Twenty-four years in Manhattan and I don’t miss it at all. I’m glad I was there; I’m most glad I am here in Nova Scotia now.

Four TV shows I love:
Well, I really don’t watch much TV. Especially with my intense schedule this semester. But I do occasionally watch
1. Coronation Street whenever I am home on weeknights. I really enjoy it, especially since I can’t watch it every night. (It can get a bit predictable at times and I do get annoyed with some of the characters staying in character so willingly.)
I would watch, if my schedule allowed,
2. Grey’s Anatomy. I really enjoy it (when I see it). All about sex. What could be better!
3. Sue Thomas, FBEye. I know, it’s a bit transparent, very sticky sweet, predictable, but I love Eli, the Golden Retriever (hearing dog for Sue) and I love watching and listening to Sue’s speech (she is deaf and has a beautiful way of talking).
4. I’m having a hard time thinking of a fourth. I did enjoy LA Law years ago, and Joan of Arcadia for a couple of years. I really don’t watch much TV.

Four places I've vacationed (only four? Give me an excuse and I go!):
1. Mexico: I spent a month there in 1977, traveling from the Yukatan to Mexico City and beyond, mostly by myself, and at times, meeting friends in various places (prearranged).
2. In 1973 (I think) I went to Europe with two young children (Tamar was eleven, Aaron five). We stopped first in London for two weeks. They were great travelers, enjoyed the museums (I think) and feeding the pigeons in Trafalger Square. Then their father came over and we took the boat-train to Paris, stayed two weeks, rented a car and drove to Rome, with fascinating stops on the way. My marriage ended in Rome. Not a bad memory. The trip was great, very liberating in many ways.
3. Santa Domingo: I was there in November once. The poverty was quite upsetting but the beaches were beautiful, the weather perfect for a winter holiday, and I did meet some nice people.
4. Amsterdam was a lovely holiday, staying with friends, seeing lots of art, the best. A wonderful city.

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. My first thought was lemon meringue pie (if it’s really good, and actually, this must just be a fantasy, because I haven’t had a good piece of (any) pie in years). Actually I like a lot of lemon dishes: roast chicken stuffed with rosemary and lemon, Armenian meatballs with lemon sauce, lemon and yogurt soup, lemon zest in vegetable dishes, lemonade.
2. My mother’s chicken soup (she would blend the vegetables after cooking them, making a delicate, lovely dish).
3. My mother’s apple pie (with cheese!), It was Heavenly which is jut where she must be right now, and eating apple pie! (She always said “Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.”) Come to think of it, any pie my mother made was the best! (She’d let me do the lattice tops.)
4. Crème brulee!

Four blogs that I visit daily:
1. Well, actually, I don’t read blogs every day because of my very erratic schedule, and also because I find reading on the computer not as much fun as reading on paper. So when I go to a blog I might read a few entries, catch up, rather than be an every day visitor. But I do keep up with a few blogs, especially the one’s on my sidebar. So I’m going to wimp out on listing four blogs. Sorry.

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Here is just fine. It may be cold, windy, snowy, but it is, always, so very beautiful and peaceful (except that the wind was so fierce (but musical) last night it was hard to sleep).
2. Someplace warm? How about Southern France? Or Southern Italy? Brazil? Or Greece? Yes, Greece will do. I’ve never been there! I’ll go there!!!
3. Mexico visiting my Nova Scotia friends who have a new place in San Miguel.
4. Amsterdam! In Rembrandt’s house. I would love to go back. Right now!

Four bloggers I'm tagging:

Posted by leya at 06:47 PM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2006

Lila's world (and mine)

It’s been a great joy taking Lila out on the road. I haven’t met many new neighbors since Katie died five years ago. And Lila is really easier now that she’s expanding her world. (She’s asleep now at my feet, under the computer table, as I type.) We met three beautiful Labrador Retrievers this noon and she had a wonderful time stalking them! (They also put her in her place if she stepped over the line with her puppiness!) Their owner moved in four years ago just across the road and I had never met him. My world is expanding as well!

Later in the afternoon we went for our third walk (it seems the walks are as much for me as for her needs! And they say it is going to turn very cold tomorrow) and met a neighbor who moved in just before I did, almost ten years ago. It was the first time she had met Lila; it was great catching up on our lives.

I am constantly surprised to realize that I actually lived five years without a dog. And survived!

Posted by leya at 05:52 PM

February 03, 2006

It’s a good thing she's so cute!!!

I feel like I am playing doggie interruptus or is it doggie interrupts us? I’ve set up some bells on the door for Lila to let me know when she has to go out. So now when I am on the phone, or she decides I am not paying enough attention to her, she rings the bells. It works. She gets my attention. At twelve weeks, I’m not sure if it is a genuine need for relief or for attention.

Yesterday Yoko came over and we played duets. The first time since October, I think. And Lila interrupted us. We played through the Dvorak piece three times. The first time my playing was really really awful (bad), the second time just not too good (bad), and the third time not too bad. It’s great to get back to our duets. With travels to Montreal and then two weeks in New York and then four weeks of Lila, I haven’t touched the piano much. And Lila was, at first, afraid of the sound (much different from the radio). I tried putting her in her kennel but her protest made it hard to play. So then I tied her up near the piano where I could see her but she couldn’t get to us. It worked. She calmed down and I think I will be able to practice so next week my playing will be better (okay).

Posted by leya at 04:47 PM

February 02, 2006

Next week she’ll be reading

I took Lila to the vet for her twelve week checkup this afternoon. She’s doubled her weight, from 7.8 pounds to 15.2 pound. No wonder it’s harder to carry her around! She’s a handful. In more than weight. Even Dr. Evans said she is the most inquisitive puppy he has seen in his office. And (a little bragging rights here!) she learned the down command with hand signal in less than five minutes! I’m impressed. The down side of all this intelligence is that she is a handful. She is constantly testing me to find out what she can get away with and right now, not much, but it keeps me busy!

Some pix from this morning in the snow. My little black snowball with a red tail—the leash.




Posted by leya at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2006

Carol and me

I still haven't figured out how to use my scanner, but Yoko very kindly did it for me. I love these photos.

Carol used to wear her dark brown hair in braids across her head. Years later, in my forties, I did the same. When my hair had turned brown. In these photos, I'm the blond with curls.

In the photo in the sandbox, I'm wearing a Puritan dress my mother made for our dress-up box. Usually one of us would be wearing a dress and the other overalls. We both have many of the same memories now. It's been a great pleasure to reconnect so many years later.




This picture is of all (or almost all) the kids in our neighborhood. Reading from the left, is (I think) Barbara Bradley, my sister Diane, holding my cousin Missy, Carol's brother Jimmy, Carol, myself, Donny Haller, and my cousin Billy (Missy's brother). I remember my dad posing us on the fence. I had to pee in the previous picture (as you can see!) but my dad took the picture anyway.


Posted by leya at 12:38 PM

January 27, 2006

How to have my pet and enjoy it too

I love Lila. She’s one of the best decisions I have made. She is work but she is delightful and learning fast. It’s exciting to help her learn how to be in a people world. She’s healthy, high-spirited, very intelligent and it seems, very willing to learn. She reminds me of my last dog, Katie. Only this time, I want to do a better job of training and socializing her, allow her to be a welcome addition to my world.

But I lost a friend, a long-time friend, a friend of almost thirty years, because I got Lila from a breeder. I find this very upsetting. But I don’t regret my decision. This friend believes that breeding dogs should be outlawed, that people who “order” (her word) pets from breeders are selfish and insensitive because there are so many pets in shelters needing homes. And there is an enormous amount of purebred pets in shelters. So why would I “betray” her passionate need to save all the dogs in the world by choosing to have my dog come from a breeder.

From what I have been reading, there are so many dogs in shelters, so many discarded dogs, because so many people do not train their animals. Only about 3% of dog owners carry through with the much needed training. This leads to frustrations and aggressions that would probably not happen if the dog was taught how to coexist in a human society.

Dogs come from a different social structure than we do. They need to learn what is expected of them. Probably 75% of my friends have rescue pets. It just didn’t feel right for me at this time. Maybe next time. But I intend to give Lila the best life I possibly can. I can see that if someone didn’t work with her, help her to learn people ways, she could have ended up in a shelter. She has so much puppy energy. It’s a thrill to see her learning. She’s very sweet and wants to please (as well as challenge me along the way!). And I’m enjoying what she is teaching me.

And on the thought of outlawing breeding, perhaps it would be a good idea as well, if people had to apply for licenses to have children. Just a thought, a good one, from my friend Rowena. But a good amount of thoughtfulness in any kind of caring situation, be it dog or human, is so valuable.

Posted by leya at 03:56 PM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2006


It’s been very hard to call Rhode Island to find out how Robert is doing. I kept planning to call but the right time always seemed to slip by. Then finally Tuesday morning, with Lila quietly in her kennel, and me in my studio, I took a deep breath and called Cynthia, his main caregiver for the past five years. She was, as always, very forthright, direct, told me exactly how he is. And it was such a relief to be able to talk so openly with her.

Robert is still alive, fading rapidly. The infection is probably still spreading in him. But what is blossoming is not what I had expected. His emotions are walking in quicksand right now: totally unstable. He is treating Cynthia with hostility and aggression (as aggressive as someone who is paralyzed from the neck down can be: verbal abuse, his forte). She said she only goes to the nursing home once a week. It is too painful. She pays his bills, takes care of his affairs, and listens to his attacks. She can be very direct and I am sure lets him know how unpleasant and unfair he is being.

But he is not changing in a positive way. I had hoped that he would soften as death approaches. But, as Cynthia said, “People don’t change and shoes don’t stretch. You have to buy the right size.” And “he’s lost that lov’n feelin’.”

So for me, it was sad to hear that he is being so difficult but helped me let go of any fantasy I might have of his being different, learning, softening. He just cannot let anyone love him. He has to push them away. Even now. When time is so short for him. It is very sad.

Yet talking to Cynthia about Robert was, for my own life, like opening a window, letting in some fresh air. I can let go of wanting more from him. I’m glad to have known him, glad I’m not with him now. The wind closed the pages of that chapter.

Cynthia and I ended our conversation talking about Lila and wheat-free breads (I had sent Robert some Irish Soda Bread from Tamar’s and she had tasted it even though she avoids wheat, as I should as well). She asked Lila’s size and plans to make a winter coat for her. That will be fun in the snow! And she will send me some recipes. So something warm and friendly, along with the sadness, came in the window.

Posted by leya at 10:53 AM | Comments (2)

January 22, 2006

Past, present and future

On my birthday just passed, I received a wonderful present: an email from my next door neighbor, my first friend, the one I played with from birth until our paths separated. We had both been trying to find each other for a few years. I found her name on Classmates.com but when I decided to join in order to contact her, she had taken her name off the site. Then my high school had a 50th year reunion in November. I thought of going, wanted to, but the logistics were too complicated. So reconnecting has been exciting, catching up on so many years.

I think perhaps the last time I saw Carol was at the Memorial service for my mother, forty years ago. Tamar was four and Aaron wasn’t yet. Carol was visibly upset by my mother’s premature death. That was very moving to me. (It took me ten years to make peace with it myself as my mother and I didn’t have an easy relationship.) Carol and I had experienced death as teenagers. Her brother Jimmy, two years older than us, died when he was eighteen. In the same month her grandmother died and my uncle Harold, the one I felt so close to, died. It was a hard January. After that I think I closed down. I broke off with my very good boyfriend and turned inward. Where I tend to go often under stress.

Carol and I used to play with our dolls, one named Sheila, the other Phoebe. I think Carol’s was Phoebe, but I am not sure. We played in her sandbox in our dress-up clothes, played on the monkey-bars and swings in my yard, made up fantastic games together enjoyed many sleep-overs. As we got older, the games turned to baseball, basketball, volleyball, badminton (in her yard) and then poker and dances. All the neighborhood kids would gather at her house for games. She was a cheerleader at school, always friendly. My mother really liked her, wanted me to be more like her, which didn’t help me as we grew up. But that is all in the past and the present feels good.

Carol sent me the reunion book. As I read it, the images of high school become vivid. The past is walking in front of me, saying hello again. And again. It’s fascinating to see where people have gone, where they are, who they are with, how their lives have expanded, contracted, changed. High school (school in general) was never a happy place for me. It was a mixed bag. I found classes boring, the social stuff strange. I never felt completely comfortable. (And now I’m teaching; very ironic.)

At the dance class last weekend, I was again reminded of high school. It had been that long since I had danced that close. In itself, dancing close led to much more friendliness between dancers, even if we weren’t “in love.” It was very nice. It’s funny (strange) how the past keeps coming up in my life lately. Making itself present in ways that remind me of where I have been and how I have been traveling.

(I’ve have been trying to scan in some wonderful photos my dad took of Carol and me when we were children, but having upgraded my system, I can’t seem to make the scanner function. Yet. Will keep working on it. It will probably take a phone call to Aaron! So stay posted. . . )

Posted by leya at 09:45 AM | Comments (4)

January 20, 2006

More on puppy care

Puppy care is definitely getting easier by the day. My conversation with the trainer Susan helped immensely. I finally feel there is something I can do to stop her pulling at my pant leg, etc. So now I can really enjoy her. And she is very sweet as well as playful.

When I talked to Susan yesterday, she pinpointed the origin of the problem. Lila’s mom was quite young, and although she was a very calm, sweet dog and a caring, warm, clean mother when the pups were born, once they were out and about, she played with them very rough, with true puppiness. So Lila comes to me thinking I want to play with her in the same way. And I don’t! I don’t have the protective hair on my hands and my clothes are not fair game for puppy teeth! And I’m not a tall (to her) two-legged dog. It's a big adjustment for both of us!

Yesterday when we were visiting Cassie and Susan, Lila was doing her puppy-play and Cassie growled at her, told her to back off. It was good for her to see that even other dogs have limits!

Here’s a couple of pix from Lila’s first playdate. First, Lila in friend Susan’s arms.


And Lila and Cassie getting to know each other:


Posted by leya at 10:59 AM | Comments (5)

January 19, 2006

Revisions on puppy care

After a few days of trying the trainer Bonnie’s ideas of how to work with Lila, I realized it wasn’t working for me. It just wasn’t how I want to train my dog. Allowing her to pull at my pant leg (and having it ultimately ending in biting), just wasn’t acceptable to me. I don’t see how the puppy will be able to discriminate that it is okay to pull and chew on my leg but not on the table leg and then magically stop pestering me in a month (if we both live that long!).

Today I took Lila for a playdate with Cassie, a two year old Brittany Spanial. Cassie is a lady now, has outgrown all that puppiness. But I remember her lively antics just two summers ago. I like the the way she has matured. Her mom, Susan, had recommended the woman she worked with for training (also a Susan). I called her, asked her how she would work with the jumping, chewing, biting that has been so frustrating for me. Her answers were more in alignment with how I feel. It’s a “three strikes your out” approach: on the third (firm but quiet) reprimand then she goes into her crate for time out. I tried it. It works. And I don’t get upset. I asked my friend Susan how often it’s okay to put the pup in the crate in one day. Enough to keep my sanity, she said.

I asked the trainer Susan about collars and “halties.” I don’t want to use a choke collar nor “halties.” When she said she uses buckle collars and no “halties” I said “You’re hired!” So she is coming here on Tuesday.

Posted by leya at 07:56 PM

January 15, 2006

Welcome help: new puppy tricks

I had the trainer, Bonnie, here Friday afternoon. She is absolutely wonderful. And she rescues dogs. She also has two from a breeder for the same reason I got Lila. She wanted something warm, soft, loving and easy in her life. Meanwhile she has eight dogs, six of them rescues. She works with dogs from shelters that are aggressive, rehabilitates them, if possible, and finds homes for them (also, if possible, which is the reason she has eight dogs now—six were not adoptable).

The main area she helped me with was the biting, chewing, nipping. Basically she said to freeze, not look at the pup, wait until she stops (which she will out of boredom, not getting the attention she is looking for), say “thank you” and move on. Of course, if she bites, a simple “ouch” stops her. Amazing, her vocabulary at nine weeks!

In the meantime, Lila’s beginning to get a bit cheeky: not coming when called. Just looks at me with a “ya gotta be kidding” look. So I’m going to get a long line tomorrow and other training paraphernalia (a cheap lead to put on her to drag around the house, get her used to the idea of it). Bonnie is coming back next Friday. It is such a relief to have someone help me.

We go into Halifax this afternoon. School tomorrow. Two classes, actually. My adult painting class is meeting again Monday afternoon. It will be a long day for both of us. Lila seems to have adapted easily to my peripatetic lifestyle. And crating her gives me enough freedom to appreciate the time I have with her.

Tomorrow I will talk about something other than my puppy!

Posted by leya at 07:50 AM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2006

Dog play

Lila loves her dolls. Does this make her a real girl? Or am I stereotyping? I heard on the radio (CBC of course) some scientists did an experiment with monkeys (I don’t remember what kind of monkey) in which they put out dolls and trucks for a group of mixed sex baby monkeys. With no social pressures, all the female monkeys chose to play with the dolls and the male monkeys took the cars and trucks. Interesting, eh!

So . . . here’s to Lila and her dolls!



Posted by leya at 08:01 PM | Comments (1)

January 12, 2006

Days seven and eight: nine weeks old today

Lila and I spent Tuesday night at Inge’s again. Lots of people were there (I’m not the only one who stays there; I share it with a couple of other people). Lila enjoyed showing off her puppiness, entertaining everyone with her sweet high energy. We were both worn out by the end of the evening and she slept nine hours through the night. What a surprise! And delight!

Wednesday morning was school again. She really likes the doggie bagels I got at the House of Dogs, so leaving her in the crate is much easier. Now when I come back a few hours later she is quiet even if awake. I need to find some recipes for puppy treats. She could go through the bagels too quickly for me to keep them in stock!

This morning I put her in the crate for her nap and actually had time to exercise and work in my studio. It was a productive morning except that the hectic schedule (and trying to figure out how to travel through it) of the past week has worn me down a bit and I couldn’t paint as long as I would have liked. My mind just stopped working! I’m beginning to try to get her onto some kind of schedule so that I can either teach or paint in the mornings. I know consistency would be the best for both of us.



(Because she is so black and moves so much, it's hard to get a good, focused picture of her. But it's fun trying!)

Posted by leya at 02:19 PM

January 10, 2006

Days five and six

Day four ended with what became a series of mishaps: my car alarm would not turn off by the gadget. I didn’t want to set off the alarm in the small Halifax community I was staying in so I kept fiddling with it. Finally it worked and I was able to get Lila’s things out of the car. We had gone visiting in the afternoon. She was a little nervous at first, but warmed up quickly and enjoyed meeting people.

Monday morning, with an early start to school (thankfully) my car wouldn’t start. I walked quickly to school in a light snow falling and was glad that I was in Halifax, not home. When the CAA man came to start my car in the afternoon, he had no trouble. It started right away. Perhaps (probably) in my anxiety about getting Lila fed, exercised and settled into her crate before leaving, I hadn’t pushed the clutch pedal in (which is necessary in this car). Who knows. After all these years, I would think I’d know how to start the car! Since it might have been the battery (which is only a couple of years old), I took Lila and went to The House of Dogs, got some supplies and excellent advice. Then I had the car gadget battery fixed. Finally, we came home and I think both of us are happy to be here.

Today I called a trainer recommended by my vet. With all my reading and all the variety of opinions on the subject, it was such a relief to talk to a humane human being about how to work with my puppy. (It’s a lot like parenting: so many opinions, almost one for every person and it’s only one little puppy!) Lila and I have a date on Friday with her. She’ll come here. I’m looking forward to it.

As of this morning, I am working on come and then sit. Discipline seems to calm her down. She is definitely a puppy with excessive energy that I need to direct down appealng paths. I want a very well behaved dog that can go visiting easily. It's work for both of us and so far, we are both benefiting.

Posted by leya at 11:19 AM

January 08, 2006

Day four

It’s been a whirlwind few days. I’m exhausted! A friend came over for about an hour yesterday, early afternoon. It seemed to get Lila over-stimulated, and her chewing and biting needs increased. She almost seemed frantic. I didn’t want to create negativity by scolding her (after all, puppies do chew and she wouldn’t understand), so I finally started pulling her away sharply by the scruff of the neck or squealing like a hurt puppy. One book said at this age to use “Ep, ep!” and it seems to work. All of it. Today, so far, she is much better.

And so far, she still goes to the door when she needs to eliminate. I had read the night before last that somehow puppies think concrete floors (I have polished concrete on the main floor) are a great place to pee, so I had started playing with her more on the rug. Maybe that’s what did it. I thought I might be in for the long haul, but it doesn’t seem so (fingers crossed!).

I had an errand this morning and had to leave her for the first time. She was asleep in her crate when I left and awake but quiet when I returned a couple of hours later. I give thanks to crates, to crates and treats! This afternoon I’m going to take her visiting. That will, no doubt, be interesting. Then tonight I sleep at Inge’s in Halifax because I have to teach in the early morning. I am hoping it all goes smoothly. But this is my life. The treadmill starts again tomorrow.

Posted by leya at 01:34 PM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2006

Day three

All my reading and vigilance seems to be paying off. I still have my fingers crossed that it is really true, but it seems that Lila knows she is supposed to go out to “do her business.” Three times this morning she ran to the door and so far, no accidents today. I am overwhelmed, honestly. Sebastian, my third dog (the one who died at three), was housebroken in four days, and he was a week younger. It was in the middle of winter (he was also a November puppy). But we had snow that winter. And I had sprained my ankle just after I brought him home. So I could only put him onto the deck. After that, every winter, that was his favorite toileting spot.

When I take Lila out, she loves to romp around, still bouncing like a kangaroo. The only big problem at the moment is the chewing. She does like to chew! I need to get some Bitter Apple spray to protect the furniture (and my clothes!). If I squeal like a hurt puppy, she stops attacking my hands. But still, her little teeth are sharp.

She woke up twice again last night: at 1 and 4 am. The second time she didn’t want to settle down after I took her out to pee, but I was gently firm, and finally she did. She does go into the crate easily at night, but not too fond of it during the day, unless she is totally wiped. So I am learning to calm her when she goes in. I need the time to do other things than watch (and play with) her! I was even able to work in my studio for an hour this morning. Life will get back to “normal” soon, but it will definitely be a different “normal.”


Posted by leya at 02:56 PM | Comments (4)

January 06, 2006

Day two

The first night with Lila went easily. She slept in her crate in my room. I took her outside to pee a couple of times, so I’m a little tired today. She’s a handful, for sure. She loves all her toys and often takes them all under a chair or the table. But she also loves to chew chair legs and my sweater and pant legs. She even tried to chew on the images in the carpet! So we have some work to do here! Her statistics: she’s eight weeks old, weighs 8.6 pounds, a Portuguese Water Dog.

Meanwhile, I need to sing praise to Jane Bond, the woman who made it possible for me to have Lila. She (Goldwater Kennels) boards, grooms and breeds both Portuguese Water Dogs (nicknamed Porties) and Golden Retrievers. And her puppies are the best! She makes sure that every puppy is handled and played with every day, knows the personality of each pup, and is very careful in her breeding. These puppies come well socialized and very healthy. She uses my vet (who practices wholistic medicine) and he told me everyone loves Jane’s puppies. After visiting her five times in the process of getting my pup, I can well understand why.

She has a new litter born just before Christmas. They are adorable, as all puppies are. If you are interested in one of her (wonderful!) puppies, she can be reached through her website: www3.ns.sympatico.ca/bond.



Posted by leya at 12:43 PM | Comments (7)

January 05, 2006

With and without boundaries

Recently I have felt like I have been digging up my life by the shovelfuls, turning it over and seeing the creatures crawling out. Discovering the healthy and unhealthy soil, feeding it, re-evaluating it, seeing what I can plant next, what will grow well.

I would have liked to visit my ex-husband but I know it would have interfered with my children’s visit with him, made them uncomfortable, concerned about how their parents might interact after so many years of estrangement. It was more important for them to have this time with him. I don’t need it. If he is still alive when I visit NYC again, I will try to see him. It was more important to me to see Robert. But that also made me look carefully at my life, see the events and feelings that created them, think about where to go from here, what the focus of my life is.

On the plane coming home, as I was reading (the second book Tamar gave me) Katz on Dogs, tears were streaming down my face. (I was glad no one was sitting next to me!) Katz was relating how he had been contacted by a woman who needed help training her Golden Retriever. Either the dog had to be better behaved by the next Thanksgiving or he would need to be removed from their household. Apparently her husband had not wanted a dog but when he relented and allowed her to get one, he also undermined any positive training, thinking crates were cruel and rewards wussy. As a result, the dog’s boundless energy was turned into destroying the house and people in it, jumping on visitors, chewing up the furniture and generally uncontrollable. With Katz’ help, the woman, who realized she had been very passive all her life, learned to take her role as leader with the dog, trust her instincts on how to train him, and in the process, developed a stronger sense of herself and changed her role in the family, with her husband and children, and at work. I suppose this story affected me so much because I am going through a similar process, and it’s a process that is, in part, or rather symbolized by the puppy that is coming into my life (today!).

One of the stories in The New Work of Dogs is about Betty Jean, a woman in Montclair who devotes her life to rescuing dogs from shelters. She has a day job that supports her obsession. Her need to rescue dogs has overwhelmed her life to the extent that even her children and grandchildren didn’t see her. She didn’t have the time or energy for them. So they moved into her life, spent a day or two a week helping her out, cleaning the dog cages, walking dogs. There seems to be no compromising when the need to save dogs is that intense. Her family learned to live with her, not against her.

I recently had the opposite experience with an old friend. She is dedicated to rescuing dogs and is devastated that I am getting a dog from a breeder. In her mind, there is no justification. As far as she is concerned, any one who gets a “designer dog” is a “bimbo.” I knew this would be her reaction and had thought of not telling her I was doing this, but it didn’t seem appropriate for my own life. And I plan to give this dog a good home. To me, that is the most important part. Maybe another time I will get a rescue dog. But right now, that doesn’t feel right for me. I am looking forward to something, this dog, coming easily into my life. This morning!

Posted by leya at 08:44 AM | Comments (1)

January 03, 2006

Happy birthday, Aaron!

Today is Aaron’s birthday. He’s thirty-eight today. I was with him on my last birthday; we were with Tamar on hers recently. It would be right to be with him today. But our lives, although physically closer than last year at this time, are still miles apart. Apart in geography, but my thoughts are there in Montreal. I read once that if you think of your children as your best friends, there is a problem you need to face. But it is hard not to like these people. A LOT! Here’s to YOU, Aaron. Happy Birthday!


Posted by leya at 08:00 AM

January 01, 2006

Back in Nova Scotia

This is the first winter holiday I can remember where on my return home I didn’t have to shovel my car out at the airport or drive home (in 4-wheel drive and third gear) in a blizzard. It is mild here, around freezing, and apparently the weather has been quiet for the two weeks I was away. The maritime winters are not always as severe as the last couple of years. But it does feel strange to be home and not cold at this time of year.

Last night, New Year’s Eve in Montclair, was magical. At around 10 p.m., Tamar, Damian and I walked from their house to the center of Montclair for First Night Celebrations. There had been an intense but not deep snowfall earlier in the day. Listening to the crunching of our footsteps in the snow at night as we walked in the dark, the houses sparkling with lights, a light blanket of snow everywhere, we felt we were in a picture postcard. Dan had preceded us, gone to some earlier performances, and joined us at a jazz concert. Then we gathered with other celebrants for a spectacular fireworks display at midnight: 2006 came in not with a whimper but with a bang!

Posted by leya at 07:12 PM

December 30, 2005

It’s ChristmasTimeintheCity

Like standing on a dock ready to jump in—to the waters of the past yet being in the present—the last couple of days have been invigorating—creating new memories. When we were in the (very large, crowded) dim sum restaurant in Chinatown yesterday, around a (very large) round table seating all eight of us (Tamar, Dan, Damian, Jessica, Aaron, Myself, and Leah & Pedro—friends from when we lived in SoHo), Leah turned to me (after surveying the group) and said: “Now we are the old people!”

When we met first Leah and Pedro, Tamar, Aaron and I had moved into a rental loft in a co-op building on Spring Street. The neighborhood was still young—few shops, long walks to buy groceries, and some factories still functioning. And we (the “adults”) were still young—in our early thirties. After leaving my marriage and nine years in a (very) large apartment on West End Avenue, I had first moved with my two children, two cats, two fish tanks and lots of art supplies, to 13th and First Avenue—a sublet that had at one time been used as Claus Oldenburg’s studio. Patty Oldenburg lived next door with a big black cat. We moved in with two Siamese. A few months later we had nine black kittens. It was a fourth floor walkup (with high ceilings in the lofts) and I remember carrying bags of cat food up the (many) stairs for a few weeks. As well, the painter Larry Rivers lived upstairs. There was no insulation between the floors and when he came home at four in the morning, with friends, wearing cowboy boots, we were all awake. I got back at him by playing children’s records in the morning.

On Spring Street, my upstairs neighbors were also playful and I was curious. One day I met Leah in the elevator. She invited me to come up for coffee. From then on we were good friends. Besides the dinner and dance parties, trips to galleries and movies, Leah and I used to henna each other’s hair. There were six lively people and two dogs living in their loft at that time. I got my first dog, Miranda, while we lived there. Then we moved to Broome Street—a loft that became co-op and gave me the resources to move then to Nova Scotia.

So in the past couple of (very intense) days—seeing Manhattan from the point of the where we have lived and who we know there, we’ve visited some of the most important people in our lives here. Our first stop, on Wednesday, was Aaron’s best friend, Gillie, and her mother from when he was nine months old until we moved away from Manhattan. We met in Riverside Park and the children, even as young as they were, became good friends immediately. The two children went to Ireland together when they were nine. Gillie’s dad still lives there. We were all very close and helped each other in those early, painful post-divorce days. I have stayed with Harriet often over the past twenty plus years on my visits here. When we left, we poked our heads into the lobby of the building we had lived in on West End Avenue. It has become a co-op and been upgraded, enhanced. From there, my children visited with their father for a couple of hours while I visited a friend (whom I also met through Aaron when he was nine years old). Then we all gathered together again before returning to Montclair to get some sleep before beginning a second day of visiting the past.

Yesterday after enjoying the dim sum and the friends, we went to Leah and Pedro’s loft. They still live on Spring Street. Walking into the building was replete with memories for my children. I have stayed there too on my visits to NYC so I was aware of the changes—new elevator, nicely painted and restored lobby, beautiful front doors. On leaving, we also passed by where we lived on Broome Street, another place that has been upgraded. When we lived there, we had an antique elevator that serviced only our floor (the top) and held about two people and a dog, an intricate metal cage that operated by pull cords. It had caught on fire when being serviced and was removed after we left. Broome Street was still Boom Street to us—very noisy and possibly even more clogged with traffic to the Holland Tunnel.

Then we went for dinner with my sister’s son, Rob, who is now living and working in Manhattan. He’s two years and one day younger than Tamar. It is always a delight to get together with him. He’s working in an architectural firm and painting in his (hopefully more) free time. So we had a lot to talk about—family, work, travels.

And from there we returned from our trip down memory lane. Today we will be happy to stay here in Montclair.

Posted by leya at 10:29 AM | Comments (1)

December 29, 2005

Happy birthday, Tamar!

Today is Tamar’s birthday. Forty-four years ago, after a fitful night, I stumbled to the car, was whisked to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., and gave birth a few hours later to a beautiful baby girl who has now become a beautiful woman with a rewarding family of her own. This is the first time in many years I have been able to be with her on her birthday. After one winter storm several years ago delayed my return trip to Nova Scotia from LA, I’ve been traveling home before New Year’s, trying to beat the weather. So this year, with her being so close—only one plane ride away—I decided to be daring and stay for the new year celebration in Montclair, with a major bonus of being here on her birthday.

On her fortieth birthday, I was doing a solitary retreat (one that happened to be a very difficult one) for three weeks. But I felt it was important (irregardless of protocol!) to call Tamar on her birthday. After that, the last few days were much easier. Family is very important to me and I have been blessed with two wonderful human beings as my children. I am always grateful for their presence in my life.

Today we are going to Chinatown for dim sum. It’s been a tradition for Tamar & Co. for several years. This time we will be in Manhattan, joined by Aaron & Jessica and some friends from our SoHo days. It continues to be a couple of days of connecting to the past and laying a path for living in new places with new and old friends.

I think we often feel that our birthday, the way we spend it, how we feel, how people treat us, is a marker for how the next year will be. Happy birthday, Tamar! I hope all your wishes and dreams are fulfilled.

Posted by leya at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

December 27, 2005

It’s been a lazy day

None of us felt like doing much today. Too many late nights and early mornings for all of us for various reasons—school, work, friends, talk. So we took a walk in Mills Reservation where all the dog owners go. I’ve been reading about the Montclair people and their dogs in The New Work of Dogs by Jon Katz (one of the books Tamar gave me). It’s an amazing book that I will talk about more when I am finished—very soon. And we did see many dogs and their owners—right out of the book! As we walked along the paths of the idyllic wooded reservation, Tamar took many many many pictures. She has a new upbeat, happy camera and is in love. (I have lots of pix in my camera but neglected to bring my card reader or cable so they will have to wait until I return home.)

Tomorrow we go into Manhattan to visit with old friends and see the city, show Jessica our old home, the places we’ve lived and things we remember, and of course, take more pictures. That will be interesting.

Posted by leya at 06:28 PM

December 26, 2005

Happy days

Now that the Merry MishMash is over (gifts here in the morning and dinner and an evening of gifts and gab at Dan’s parents, all enjoyable in its holiday kind of way), the merries and happies have really begun. After sitting two and a half hours on the tarmac in Montreal (because of freezing rain, a lineup for the de-icing bay and runway backups), Aaron and Jessica arrived this afternoon. This is the first time in Three and a Half Years that We have All Been Together. This is my Family. And I am a very Happy Camper!

So far, we haven’t stopped talking, catching up, getting to know each other in new ways. It’s going to be a very busy four days, touring Montclair (a lovely town that reminds us all of various places we have lived—Halifax, Great Barrington—only nicer, more beautiful big houses, more interesting shopping areas with small stores and intriguing restaurants), going into Manhattan to taste the past and the changes that have happened since we all lived here and also to visit with friends. There are not enough hours in the day or days in this week!

Posted by leya at 08:42 PM

December 24, 2005

Tis the season

Holidays are madness. I don’t know why we have them. Well, really, I do. And really, we need them. We need time away from our daily tasks, away from work, time to be with friends and family, time to play. But holidays can very easily turn into madness.

Yesterday afternoon, while standing in the grocery store, at the deli counter, I overheard a man irately telling another man: “Some people have a lot of nerve, butting in. They should wait their turn like everyone else.” He claimed he’d been there first and the other man said simply: “No you weren’t” and calmly proceeded with his order. The first man replied something to the effect of: “Get out of my face!”

Then a woman near me said she needed to get to some items just behind me. “Get out of my face,” she joked. “Happy holidays,” said I, as we both laughed.

Posted by leya at 09:27 AM

December 23, 2005

Catching up

So now I am safely (and happily) ensconced in Tamar’s beautiful home in Montclair, New Jersey. It took very little time to get to know where things are—where the glasses are kept, the silverware, where to put my clothes and toiletries, how to keep my bedding out of everyday sight (I’m camping on a very comfortable living room couch and the main floor being all one room, it is important to keep it clear in the daytime). I get to walk with Tamar and Damian in the morning to the school bus stop, meet the other mothers, walk back up their steep hill, go back again to meet the bus in the afternoon, enjoy the pleasures of being a grandmother. Damian has grown incredibly in the past year. Tall and lanky, smart, capable and feisty as usual. I like it here.

Yesterday I went into Manhattan. The atmosphere was rushed, but leisurely as well—people walking who would have taken the bus or subway. (The strike was settled while I was there and the trains are running again this morning.) Shops were empty. Not many non-Manhattanites were traveling into the city. I wasn’t there to shop.

First I had a tango lesson with the magical Rebecca Shulman of Dance Manhattan. I had seen an instructional video she had done with Daniel Trenner and was mesmerized by her bearing and her footwork. She taught me about embellishments: what I need to enjoy the dance even more. The dancing experience with Rebecca pulled me out of my somber mood, helped me to realize that I am very much alive. It’s hard to say this without feeling I am trivializing or dramatizing my feelings. My grief for Robert is very real, but I can still enjoy my life as it is now. He is still very much a part of my life, my history, and always will be. Nothing can change that. I have been surprised by the depth of my feelings for him. It was hard coming back from Rhode Island after visiting him. It is hard to talk about being upset about something but still being able to enjoy life. But I do think I have a better perspective now—on all of it.

After dancing, I went to visit my friend Lynn. We have known each other since our sons were nine, both at P.S. 3. They became friends; we became friends. We had dinner in Gobo, a great restaurant where we often meet on my visits here. Hardly anyone was there. The transit strike had definitely affected businesses. We talked about the past, the present, things we’ve shared, places and people, new things in our lives. And aspirations for the future.

While sitting there with Lynn, I could easily understand how Tamar wanted to come back here. To her roots. I have roots here too. It feels good to be with old friends, to be with someone I’ve known for a long time. We’ve both changed; we’ve had some rifts; we still understand and appreciate and enjoy each other. And I have other friends in the city. But I know I am still, at heart, a country girl. And it will be fine to go back to Nova Scotia and the big change about to come into my life: my pup—my new companion, a warm body in my house.

Posted by leya at 12:00 PM

December 20, 2005

A major side trip

I went to visit Robert yesterday. I went with his friend Jim. We took the train from Penn Station to Providence. Neither of us felt up to driving but in the end, Jim kept saying he wished he had rented a car, then we could have stayed longer, wouldn’t have been dependent on Cynthia to drive us around, could have done more to help Bob clean up his belongings.

Cynthia met us at the train station, shuttled us from there to the nursing home, to a restaurant for lunch, to Bob’s apartment, back to the nursing home, back to the train station. She is a tireless, generous, insightful, compassionate person and I (as well as Jim and Bob) am so grateful to her and her agency, Access. She said that Bob has talked about me often during the five years he has been in her care. I’ve been very much a part of his daily life. This helped to hear.

She asked us both if we were shocked by seeing him as he is now—pale, immobile, a white beard (no one had shaved him for a few days, maybe because they knew he might yell at them if they didn’t do a good job), and slightly groggy from the pain medications. Both of us had expected worse. He was still Bob. Still fretting over details of his care, his belongings, not wanting to be a burden, but not being able to do anything for himself. Not able to feed himself, take a sip of water by himself, not even able to ring for a nurse himself, hold a phone, change the TV channel, comb his hair, wipe a tear away. And having been a very independent, resourceful person, this is a very difficult situation for him to be in. And being a very demanding, impatient person, this is hard for some of the people taking care of him.

He was glad to see us. Being a captive, immobile (impatient) person (stuck here all the time, he said), we were a welcome addition to his day. Bob has begun eating again. Sunday they served pizza and Bob wanted some. It was good. The first time he had eaten since Thanksgiving. So Jim had brought a tiramisu cake from Fennelli’s. And the meals served him were good. I was happy to feed him.

Finally, towards the end of the day, both Jim and Cynthia left the room and gave me time alone with Bob. It was a wonderful, peaceful time. I massaged his head and neck. We didn’t talk much but there was profound communication. The unspoken, important, lasting kind. And before leaving, we kissed and I caressed his face and told him I love him. He smiled. A proper good-bye.

On the train ride home, Jim and I talked about Bob’s condition, how hard it is to see him, how sad, what an amazing person Bob is and how little luck (as Jim put it) Bob had in his life. How difficult everything was for him and how difficult he was as a person. And how brilliant and enjoyable he could be. Jim also said he didn’t think he could have lived knowing the prognosis. I don’t feel that way. I think facing death is a heightened and immediate part of life: it gives you the opportunity to make amends. It’s like opening a door to a cluttered closet and you can see what you need to clean up, sort out, purify. Death is inevitable for all of us. You have to do it anyway, so you might as well do a good job of it. I know that those last moments with Bob were priceless for me. In many ways, the intervention of the antibiotics, which prolonged his life for (maybe) a couple of more weeks, was a blessing. It gave everyone involved in his life, and hopefully himself, a chance to be more available to his life and death process.

I have an aunt who was paralyzed from the neck down at twenty-one. She was stricken with polio, lived for twenty-five years in an iron lung and she said often she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her. She lived a full, generous, rewarding life, enjoying herself and helping others. She was a powerful, self-directed person. She made a beautiful life from adversity. So yes, I think it is possible to take an illness and make it a learning, growing, beneficial experience.

Bob is mostly concerned that there not be too much pain when the time comes. Cynthia is making sure that this will not happen. I came home with some books and CD’s he wanted me to have. It is unlikely he will live more than a week or two longer. But I am so glad he is in such good care and that I had a chance to spend some time with him now.

Posted by leya at 05:18 PM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2005

Travelling again

So it’s off to below the 49th parallel. My bag is packed and my house is clean. It always amazes me how much cleaner the house is when I leave it than when I live in it! What am I cleaning for: the dust bunnies who will conference here while I am gone? But I must say, it will be oh so nice to come home to a clean house. I’ve been too busy lately to put all those papers that pile up into a better place than my horizontal file—the dining room table and chairs. I always prefer to paint than clean. But there comes a point when I am grateful for a day set aside for making amends with clutter.

I’m looking forward to seeing Tamar, Dan and Damian in just a few hours! It’s been long enough.

Posted by leya at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2005

How to be a dog

There seem to be only two main thoughts in my mind these days: Robert and my puppy. Meanwhile I go about my daily tasks, prepare to leave for two weeks, even paint some, sew, clean house (more or less), read, enjoy friends and very much look forward to being with my children. School is finished for the semester, grades are in; I’m free for three weeks. Just me. Me and my family and friends.

Meanwhile, I give you one more interesting section from How Dogs Think. It’s about anthropomorphism. As described by Stanley Coren anthropomorphism is rooted in the human “ability to use knowledge about our own behaviors and feelings to try to understand and anticipate the behavior of others.” He continues: “Viewing the world and estimating the reactions of others based upon the assumption that they act and think like we do is not unique to people. I have often heard people say, ‘My dog thinks that he’s a person.’ This is not true. The dog really thinks that we humans are dogs. We may be strange-looking dogs who walk upright instead of on four paws, and we might not be very bright dogs, since we don’t respond or engage in the full spectrum of canine behaviors, but we certainly act enough like dogs so that they can get along with us by assuming that we will react and respond like dogs.”

So it makes me think about those long hot days of August, the ones we call dog days. Because we think they are for lazing around, like a dog. But actually, it’s that Cirrus, the dog constellation, is high in the sky. Or people who misbehave, the ones we don’t like and call a “dog.” Or the expression, “Dog gone it!” That’s a strange one. From a dog’s point of view, we’d better shape up quick!

And in three weeks my whole life will revolve around that point of view as I turn into an Alpha Dog. Woof!

Posted by leya at 12:41 PM

December 16, 2005

No answers; lots of questions

I haven’t yet figured out what makes you love someone and not another. Someone plays music with your heartstrings; by another it is cacophony, dissonance. I have spoken to Cynthia who is the main caregiver for my friend Robert. She says he is doing well, back in the nursing home, alert, not eating, and preparing to die. He is also eager to see me, as I am to see him. I’m off to New Jersey on Sunday to visit with Tamar & Co. for two weeks. Aaron and Jessica are coming down from Montreal for a few days after Christmas. But first I will take a trip to Rhode Island to visit Robert, to say a proper good bye.

Tamar and Aaron will be visiting their father who is also not well. If he wished, I’d be happy to see him. I probably won’t see him. Maybe I will. I don’t know. But I feel more resolved with him at this point. We made two beautiful children and that’s very important. That’s enough for me.

Taoist saying: Number seventy-four. If you understand that all things change, constantly change, there is nothing you will hold on to, all things change. If you aren’t afraid of dying, there is nothing you can’t do.
Posted by leya at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

December 14, 2005


One of the (many) things I am realizing through the process of losing my friend Robert is that it is okay to feel, to have whatever feelings you have. When I was sixteen, my uncle Harold died. He had lived with us for a while. I was very fond of him. I loved him. He gave me a royal blue cashmere sweater for my sixteenth birthday. He taught me to play chess; he took me out to dinner; he was a loving uncle. He served in China during World War II and it seemed to have broken his spirit. He was only thirty-seven when he died of a heart attack. My parents didn’t tell my sister. She was at University and they didn’t want to upset her. I learned early that grief was “upsetting.” It was not okay.

I was interested in the books Tamar is reading to Damian, the one’s that describe life as it really is, with all the difficulties, the darder side of human nature, laid out along with the beauty of human enterprise. I had to be an hour late today (it was planned because of a previously made appointment) to a painting class I teach to a small group of adults. Apparently they had had trouble getting started without me there giving directions. I had told them to set up their own project to paint. When I walked in, they said how hard it was, they were missing something. “The motivating factor,” I said. I also said that’s what it’s all about, the rest of your artistic life, making decisions about what to do. In painting, as in life, so much of the time the experience is groundless, open to so many possibilities. Being tuned in (and not holding on too tight) to what is actually happening with each brush stroke, letting them happen, that’s what it is all about. My Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche used to say it is like walking a tight rope holding a spoonful of water.

Posted by leya at 08:19 PM

December 12, 2005

Wanna play!?!

First, there is a pumpkin to carve:


Then winter comes and there are snowballs to make:


And throw: So you want to take my picture, eh!?!


Aw, let’s kiss and make up!


Bob used to say Katie was Scotch Guarded. The water ran off her back, didn’t penetrate her fur, but she was still hurt by words.

We were living in a wretched little house in Seabright at the time. The basement flooded every week. I had to ShopVac it weekly to keep the mold down. It was a losing battle so we then moved into Halifax for a year where I stayed three more years until I built the house I am in now. This house has lots of stairs, perhaps a way to keep me from inviting Bob back. Besides, I do like stairs, separate levels for separate activities.

There's been no more news yet. So now, I’m off to visit my puppy. My soon-to-be new playmate.

Posted by leya at 09:18 AM

December 11, 2005


It was raining hard today. Eight degrees centigrade. Flooding the streets in Halifax. And they say it will be minus ten by Thursday. After the recent news of my friend Robert’s imminent death and the heavy snow a couple of days ago, this feels right. Fickle, difficult, sad.

I found myself drifting into “what if” scenarios all day. What if I had, as a friend suggested, taken Robert’s insults like water off a duck’s back, what if I had been different with him, what if I was someone else, what if he had learned from his anger earlier. Those poisonous thoughts, the "what if's," that keep you locked in the past.

He did try to make amends recently. He was being very nice. We had some good, gentle conversations. Ironically, he wanted to buy me a generator. It would have helped Saturday when the power failed. But it never happened (because of government regulations on how he used his money, being on disability and assistance). At least he knew that he had caused me much unnecessary pain. That in itself helps me. Helps him.

I once titled a painting: “What If the Moon Were Blue?” My university logic professor would always use the image “what if the moon were made of bleu cheese?” when talking about probabilities. If the moon were blue, then life would be different. If it were made of bleu cheese, the astronauts landing there would have had a very different experience. Depending on the temperature of the cheese, walking might be quite difficult. And smelly.

I’m going to visit my puppy tomorrow. (She's a month old now. I bring her home in January.) I had sent Bob some photos of her, wrote a letter to tell him I was getting a dog. He was always waiting for me to get another dog, knew I would eventually. He had been with me when Katie was alive. He knew Miranda in New York. My letter may arrive too late. I could have mailed it sooner.

Once, early in our friendship, he went with me to what had been “our” country house in the Berkshires when I was married. It was (and is) now my husband’s property. We had gone there to pick up a few pieces of furniture that I wanted to keep. Especially a beautiful old chest of drawers I had found at an antique store. I remember walking around the house, saying over and over “I should have (done this)” and “I should have (done that)” to the house while it was still part mine. I “should have” put in patio doors to the back deck, decorated the house differently, made other decisions for the future of a house that was no longer mine. Bob just said, “Leya, don’t be so hard on yourself!” Then I was able to relax and enjoy the weekend.

Could I have influenced him to take better care of himself, to go to doctors, try alternative treatments, eat better, exercise? Would we have been able to stay together? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because it didn’t happen. This is the way it is.

By now I have very few regrets about things in my life. It’s done. I can’t change those mistakes. I can learn from them. I can try not to do “that” again. I was recently thinking of titles for paintings and thought: “You are what you are.” Then: “I am what I am.” Then I shortened it to: “You Are; I Am.” And I can’t go back and change things. It’s just learning from what has happened and moving on now.

Posted by leya at 08:35 PM | Comments (1)

My friend Robert

We called him many things. Aaron called him Bobby-Boy. He’d introduce himself on the phone as TallDarkandHandsome. Then we nicknamed him TDH. When we met he was called Bob. When he moved here, he wanted to be called Robert. He’s still Bob to me, although to people who met him here I refer to him as Robert. When I speak to him, or write, I address him as Robert. It’s what he prefers.

I don’t know what to say. My best friend is dying. He was my best friend—we shared a lot, did many things together, enjoyed similar interests. He was my worst friend—he was not nice, he could be cruel and demanding, relentless, mean. When we were together, he would tell me emphatically that he was “Not Nice.” Recently I sent him a card that read “To a nice boy.” The woman at the homecare agency who has taken care of him for the past five years called me yesterday and said, when she read it to him, he laughed.

He was a very perceptive and very dense person. He was a mass of contradictions. The best and the worst of people. Well educated by his own efforts, independent and very proud. He has kept his penetrating wit right to the end, charming and befriending everyone in the nursing home where he was this past month. The service people who have cared for him over the past few years think of him as family. Apparently his primary caregiver, a large Nigerian man (needed to be able to pick him up) was devastated when Robert was taken to the nursing home from his apartment. As trained caregivers, they know how to relate to difficult people. They know he is difficult. And they love him.

Bob was diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis twenty-three years ago, when he was thirty-five. It has been the slowly progressing kind. Just getting worse in slow increments. Recently his friend Jim called to tell me Bob is paralyzed from the neck down and in a nursing home. I had been trying to reach him but couldn’t get through. As of yesterday he is in a hospital, gravely ill, but being kept alive a little longer (against his wishes, although it is hard at this point for him to express himself) with antibiotics. He had stopped eating, a good way to die. Except that now it will take longer.

As long as I have known him, he has been talking about suicide. He would go through periods of intense depression, bleak dark days. Then recover. Be lively, enthusiastic, productive, enjoyable. I told him once, if he died, I wanted his jaunty walk. I haven’t seen that walk for many years. When he first had trouble with his legs (he told me it was like walking through a bowl of jello) he would use an umbrella, a beautiful black one with about twenty spokes, so that people wouldn’t think he needed a cane. I’ve since used that umbrella for my students to draw (not an easy assignment).

We met in Manhattan when we were both ending bad marriages. The first time I saw him, he was putting the plumbing in for their kitchen sink. We were immediately attracted to each other. I was renting a third floor loft space next to the one he and his then wife were living in. Mine was to be my studio. My home away from home. I later called it my halfway house—halfway between my marriage and not-marriage. Bob and I talked one rainy afternoon in the stairwell of the loft building, chatting about movies and books and art. He said he liked rainy days; he liked Bergman, Miles Davis, Eva Hesse. He was mostly self-educated, broadly read, very intelligent and we shared so many literary and artistic affections. And then we arranged each week to spend time together, to go to art galleries, coffee shops, movies, walk around, talk. He was a painter, a master with collage. I respected his work and his opinions about my work as well as other art. It was romantic. And innocent. At most, we played footsie under the table. The attraction was obvious to both our spouses. But when, at the end of our respective marriages, we tried to be together, it was too difficult. Although I know he loved me, and I him, his harsh ways with words were too unpleasant for me to sustain a relationship with him. Nevertheless, we remained friends. He was always my Friday night movie date, whether we were together or not. We tried to be together many times, but it never worked. It was too difficult.

Then I asked him to come live with me here in Nova Scotia. I foolishly thought my love for him would break through his stubborn anger. We had a three month honeymoon. After that it soured. He was tortured by his increasing physical limitations and was not nice. After a year and a half, a friend asked me what if my son Aaron were five years old and living in my house, what would I do to protect him. Suddenly I saw the verbal assault I was experiencing every day as intolerable. And I forced him to leave. That was thirteen years ago.

He is the one who sends me boxes of books every few months. First I have to air them out. Rid them of the cigarette smell before I read them. I treasure these books. Usually some become my favorites and I enjoy passing them around. Sometimes he would ask me how a book ended. He knew I always finished a book. But he could definitely put one down if it didn’t sustain his interest.

Our friendship has spanned more than thirty-three years. It began with that sudden attraction, the one romantic movies are based on. What makes us love someone? Is it hormones, chemistry, a matching of minds, of bodies, of fluids, of desires, values? Robert, I do hope we meet again in another life and do it right. Next time.

Posted by leya at 07:32 AM | Comments (6)

November 23, 2005

So I’m off to Montreal

For four days, leaving in the wee hours of the morning. I’m really looking forward to this trip. I haven’t seen Aaron and Jessica’s new apartment yet or Mr. Higgins, their new cat. I’ve also scheduled a couple of dance classes with a visiting instructor from Germany, Brigitta Winkler. And I’m sure Montreal itself will be a good host, offering many interesting enticements. I’m all packed and ready to go!

Posted by leya at 09:05 PM

November 12, 2005

How I came to decide (actually) to get a dog, and other stories

Yesterday morning, while painting, I was listening to The Current. Robert Sapolsky, the author of several books including A Primate's Memoir and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers was being interviewed. He's just written a new book called Monkeyluv: And Other Lessons on our Lives as Animals was being interviewed. Two things stood out to me (before the phone rang and I didn’t hear more of the program). First, in mating, male apes naturally look for females that are younger than themselves and ones who are healthy and fertile. Female apes look for males who are older and stable. Secondly, when courting, a female may be taken with a macho male ape but when his back is turned, she will run off and mate with a male who is kind and gentle. We humans have a lot to learn! From the little I heard of his interview, I am very interested in reading his book.

A lot of my life seems to revolve around CBC radio. I bought Stanley Coren’s book, How Dog’s Think after hearing him talk on the radio. I suppose that started me on the path that led to my eventually stepping over the blocks I had built up about having another dog (the expense, the responsibility, the vacuuming and of course, the inevitable death). I found the book fascinating, gave it to a friend for her birthday, lent it to another friend who was dog-sitting, have promised it to another friend who has a dog and hope to see the book travel well.

My phone call yesterday was from a friend who wants to go with me to see my puppy. She is planning on mating her dog soon and would like to talk to someone who has experience with breeding. Of course I will be delighted to have her come along. And someone else to talk dog with.

When I was at the dentist about a month ago, we started chatting about this and that (as we usually do), and I asked him how his dog was. (We had both experienced the loss of our beloved old dogs at the same time five years ago. His was a Sheltie, mine a Golden.) He said he now has two, a Sheltie and a mixed breed. But that if he were to get another dog, it would be a Portuguese Water Dog. I told him I had been thinking about them, had even written to a breeder in Cape Breton, but hadn’t seen the dogs so I didn’t really know what they were like. And I wasn't planning on getting one soon anyway. He then said there was a breeder in Chester. So I got her name, called her, went to see the dogs, didn’t think I would want one (they are not Golden Retrievers), went home and couldn’t stop thinking about Wave, the one who gave birth to a litter of ten pups (five girls and five boys) a couple of days ago. (And I know the breeder’s closest friend—we used to do obedience training together and she took care of my Katie often when I was traveling.) So it feel like I fell into it.

I’ve had dogs for most of my adult life. Often people, when they see me after an absence of a few years, ask me how (or if, depending) is (are) my dog(s). And they are surprised I didn’t get another dog after Katie died. But this was the first time in forty years that I didn’t have anyone to take care of and I wanted to experience that as fully as I could. And I have. And I do want another warm loving creature in my house. So—that’s the story.

Posted by leya at 05:10 PM

November 11, 2005

Born yesterday!

My puppy is born! She is now one day old. I’m going to visit her on Monday. Yes, the wheels are turning. I am probably most likely it seems for sure (the way it looks) eventually maybe if it works out getting a pup. A Portuguese Water Dog, in January!

I’m now reading the Monk’s of New Skete’s book The Art of Raising A Puppy, arranging my thoughts (and eventually schedule) around puppy care and training. I am both incredibly excited, can hardly wait, and anxious about the major change she will bring into my life. I had hoped to wait until summer when I would be home more easily, but I fell in love with her mother. It seems the time is right.

Posted by leya at 07:29 AM | Comments (3)

November 07, 2005

It's contagious!

A few of my friends have recently started blogs. Elin in Denmark, John in the far North, and Jessica in Montreal. Fascinating, interesting, beautiful sites. An easy, rewarding way to travel into the recesses, the terrain of their lives and minds without leaving my computer.

Posted by leya at 08:05 PM

November 01, 2005

How I didn't do Halloween

Once more I have successfully avoided the Halloween beggers! Yoko, Hiro and I went first to her piano lesson (she has ten students at this point, and one more to happen soon), then to dinner at an interesting (new) Turkish restaurant in Halifax and then to a movie, Wallace and Grommit. Cute. By the time we returned home, there were just a few people out walking dogs.


Speaking of dogs, I went to see some Portuguese Water Dogs last week. Two were pregnant and one about to be (maybe). One of them really took my heart (the one on the far right). But I just don’t know. I have a soft spot for Golden Retrievers, having had three beautiful, loving, special ones of their kind in my life. But given my sensitivities to the fur and their health problems due to over-breeding, I really must be practical here. If possible.

Posted by leya at 09:01 AM | Comments (4)

September 22, 2005

Crossing the great divide

It�s been fascinating for me to read Tamar�s account of their travels across country. I made the (more or less) same trip two times (in the summer before air conditioning was common in cars): once with my cousins (one of whom Tamar & Co. visited in Minneapolis on her trip; and I went to the Science Museum with the same cousins when they lived in Chicago when we were young) when I was sixteen, the next time (when I was, maybe, twenty-one) with my parents and sister. What I remember most of the first trip was traveling through New Mexico and seeing the strange (to me) landscape of dry red uprisings, the mesas and plateaus. And also the Beaver Dam in Colorado. I also remember enjoying the company of my cousins, looking for and following the alphabet on road signs and eating chocolate covered donuts for breakfast in the desert.

That summer, when I was about sixteen, I stayed with my cousin Deedee in Van Nuys. We were about the same age, both played the piano, and both loved my uncle (my father�s brother) very much. He had died in January, a young, handsome, loving and lonely man of thirty-seven. It was a deep loss for me. It colored my life for many years. Deedee and I spent the summer playing gin rummy often. She was excellent at math and almost always could figure out what cards I had in my hand by what I picked up and what I discarded. I was amazed that she could do this. But I played by intuition, sensing what might happen, and usually won. And this totally confused and irritated her.

On the return trip, after my LA cousin�s wedding several years later, I remember visiting San Francisco with my parents and sister, eating fish soup at a communal table in some restaurant (my mother complaining, as usual, about the food, as she could always, really, do it better) and the steep hills. I don�t remember much more, other than that I was probably brooding most of the time and probably not happy to be with my family.

And now I am so happy to have my family, both Aaron and Tamar, on the East Coast, almost in the same time zone, just a hop away, and we plan to all be together for the winter holiday!

Posted by leya at 10:44 AM

August 12, 2005

Definitely summer

I had company this past week. The best kind�the kind who are so enjoyable you don�t want them to leave. It was Tamar�s best friend and roommate, Cathy, from University, her husband and twin seven year olds. In a whirlwind few days we rode the Tidal Bore on the Schubenacadie River in Maitland, went to the Citadel, the Busker�s Festival in Halifax, toured Peggy�s Cove, swam, went out on the paddle boat and picnicked by my lake.

What I liked so much about being with Cathy and her family was that they treated me not as Tamar�s mother but as a friend. We shared activities and thoughts. I hadn�t seen them since Tamar�s wedding and we have all made big changes in our lives�moves, children, careers. It was an interesting and full adventure, getting to know them better. I hope they come back next year, maybe even when Tamar and Company are here. It�s nice to have a houseful.

It�s quiet now. I worked in my studio this morning, went for a swim with a friend this afternoon, a long swim in my lake. It was very refreshing. And comforting to have company for a swim after almost a week of constant companionship. Not to have too fast a withdrawal from all that excitement. Everything is back to normal, more or less. I�m going to sleep well tonight.

Posted by leya at 08:44 PM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2005

Into the room the . . . come and go

(In the opinion of one) Im a certified crackpot. Sitting on my dock with some friends the other day, one asked me how long the lake had been there. I said at least a couple of centuries. When I first moved into my house, I had some spooky experiences, the kind you read about in books. Lights would go on and off without my touching them. I felt a presence in the rooms, especially in my living room. Then one night when I was lying in bed, just before going to sleep, I saw a figure float into the room. It was a young girl, around eighteen, in a long wedding dress, with a large bouquet of flowers (dead, of course). She was eerily transparent, obviously not substantial. I sat up in bed and said, very loudly: What are you doing here? and she left. Never returned. Before the houses around here were built, mostly in the past fifteen years, this land was woods; no one lived here for a long time, several centuries.

Then I told my friends about the ghosts I saw when we lived in Richmond, Virginia. Thinking back on it, they must have been from the Civil War. Always at night. I would see a long line of ghostly figures, mostly just bones, walk into my bedroom in single file, over and over, for what seemed like hours. I never told anyone. Just watched in terror. It was only much later that I thought about them as ghosts, lost, disembodied spirits.

Of course, one of my friends didnt think these were stories a rational, grounded person would relate (or experience). He told his partner later that he liked me, respected me, but couldnt accept that I saw ghosts. So I am now labeled a kook. But this was my experience, the ghosts, that is. I dont believe or not believe in ghosts. It just happened. I didnt ask for it; I didnt look for it. And I dont mind being considered a crackpot. I know Im okay.

Posted by leya at 12:01 PM | Comments (3)

July 21, 2005

Thinking about Dante��.

One of Tamar�s cats died suddenly Sunday morning. Heart failure. He was a beautiful, stately eight year old man with long soft orange fur. It is always, for me, a hard time when a family pet dies, whether it be mine or one of my children�s. After my last dog, Katie, died, I didn�t think I could go through another doggie death. And maybe I can�t. I am still dogless. The empty space the animal�s absence makes is so big. I never quite stop grieving for my pets. It is strange that we keep getting more�dogs, cats�knowing full well that they have a limited life span, will die, in the scheme of things, sooner usually than we will. But the joy of those few years, the intense companionship they give, must be worth it. We keep doing it over and over. I'm still thinking on it.

Posted by leya at 07:49 AM | Comments (2)

June 28, 2005

Friend of Bambi meets friend of Bambi

My peonies are blooming. No breakfast for deer here now. The rotten egg spray seems to have kept them at bay. (The red peony bush was a Mother's Day gift from Aaron and Jessica last year. The intense color is startling to see when the flowers burst open.)



And now I use some incense to offend (politely) the deer. I learned about the incense in an interesting way. After posting my use of rotten egg spray to keep away the deer, I received an email from Elin Neumann in Denmark, telling me she had come across my blog while looking for something to "Tell the deer to leave my flowers for my pleasure".

Strange to tell (I will paraphrase her email here), but she realized I was the same Leya Evelyn, who exhibited at the Agnes Bugera Gallery in Edmonton, where she will join a group show in December to exhibit her very beautiful abstract landscape paintings!!!

An interesting coincidence, she told me. She lives in Denmark, and had never been closer to Canada, than in April 2005 when she flew to New York, and looked down at cold Nova Scotia (the three-season provinceautumn, winter and summer)!

It's a small world.... but it's not a small Internet, so it's strange, we think!

Back to deers! Elin told me she "has been using incense sticks! Indian scent sticks not used. Just stick them in the ground beside the flower you want to save, and you will not see a deer around it any more. I don't know how long it works, because I just got the idea 2 weeks ago, but before that I had the deer in my garden nearly every night, but now they are gone. (I kind of miss them, I guess.) But I also love roses a lot!

Hope the Nova Scotia deer have noses the same as Danish Bambi's!"

Then, a few days later, she sent me some photos (below) of her beautiful gardenwith deer visitors! So it seems the incense needs to be near each flower. At this time, Im still using both. Deer are nice, beautiful, but can do so much damage to a domestic garden!




Posted by leya at 05:05 PM

June 16, 2005

Five questions from Rachel

Rachel sent me some very interesting, thoughtful questions that I have been mulling over for the past week or so. In the spirit of this provocative game, I think I have my thoughts together now and will answer here.

1. What thing about your life has surprised you the most?

This is the hardest question so I will leave it for last!

2. Do you have something that someone in your family or life passed down to you that holds particular significance? What is it and what's the significance?

After my father died, and then, shortly after, my step-mother (my father had remarried after my mother died and had a twenty-five year, happy second marriage), we (her son and two daughters and my sister and I) were cleaning out the house where my sister and I had lived as children, and my father had continued to live until he was ninety. I remember it was September, a warm sunny day in Bethesda. I was in the driveway near the garage and my step-brother came up to me with something in the palm of his hand. He said he had just found these in his mother�s closet, that I could do whatever I wanted with them, tell my sister or not, but he would give them to me. It was my parents� wedding rings. A very precious gift. I have made my father�s ring smaller and wear it on my left index finger.

As for my mother�s, I had always loved it. It is a carved gold ring of flowers. When I was married I found one similar so I bought it and wore it. When I left the marriage, I had the ring made larger so I could wear it on another finger. My first dog, Miranda and my mother shared the same birthday and they had somewhat similar personalities: very friendly, outgoing, vivacious, sensitive, intelligent (well, I think so, but Aaron used to call her a dumb blond, the dog, that is; my mother died two years before he was born and she was not blond!). The night Miranda was dying, I felt the ring being removed from my hand in my sleep and the next morning it was gone. I never found the ring, even when I moved from that house and searched in the empty room. I don�t wear her ring. But it sits on a special ring holder on the chest of drawers in my bedroom. And, almost fifteen years later, I still haven�t told my sister.

And then, there is my grandfather�s watch chain, a beautiful piece of gold chain. My parents had it cut in half and gave part to my sister and the other part to me. I used to wear a gold watch piece (one my parents bought in Venice) on it, but when the watch stopped working, I had the chain made into a necklace and bracelet and wear them every day.

There is also my mother�s cameo. That is a piece of jewelry she wore almost every day, on the lapel of her very well tailored suits, when she went to work as administrative assistant at the National Institutes of Health. My grandfather bought it in Africa, I think, and gave it to my grandmother when he saw her again, after bringing her, with my then six-year-old dad, over to the U.S. from Latvia in 1908. When my mother died at sixty-five, my dad gave me that cameo (and another one to my sister). I hardly wear it because I am in jeans and a tee shirt most of the time. But it is very special to me.

So I guess I would have a hard time choosing which piece means the most to me. I�ll just say I would like my children to have my familial jewelry collection.

3. What one place that you've not visited would you most like the chance to see? Why?

That�s easy: Brazil! I want to spend time with my granddaughter and see where she lives, explore the country with her. She�s been living there for the past seven years. I saw her last January 2004. It was as if no time had passed since she was two, since she moved away. Even though I don�t speak Portuguese, we could communicate, through drawing and doing things together. And of course, Aaron, her dad, was there to translate, so perhaps I will need to take him with me!

4. Both of you made significant moves in your life. What do you like the most about your new location and what do you miss the most about the old one?

I love the feeling of peace and space I find here in Nova Scotia. Even though the weather can be fierce (as it is right now--cold and raining and windy, no summer yet!), the general tone of life here is very considerate. I live only a short distance from the largest city in the area, Halifax, and yet I am in a rural setting, not visible to my neighbors, although I know they are close by and available. I have privacy and community. And it is visually very beautiful and interesting all the time!

What I miss most is my family and friends, especially my children. I have good friends here but I do miss my New York friends and love to visit there. I don�t miss the speed of the City but I do miss the readily available culture, the many museums and galleries, the big choice of movies and plays and concerts. We have some of everything here but not the excitement of so many choices. So I guess it is the cultural life of the Big City that I miss along with the friends I left there.

5. What one piece of wisdom do you wish to pass on to your daughters?

This is another hard question. There are so many things I would like to say (and probably do, my children would say!) but especially, most important, follow your dreams. Do it for yourself, don�t worry what other people think. That is what makes you so unique and paradoxically what makes other people notice you. So�be true to your dreams.

And now for question 1. What thing about your life has surprised you the most?

I am still surprised at how much I�ve changed over the years. The only thing you can count on is change. But it can still be a surprise. And this has happened and keeps happening, despite it being hard. It�s not the physical change that I am talking about, but the internal ones. Although the physical changes do reflect the inner ones. It�s been about transformation, allowing what is on the inside to happen on the outside. I do things today that I never thought I could or would.

When I was younger I would go so far as to try to mold my handwriting to the person I thought I should be. At one point I even tried a backward slant because I admired people who were different, left-handed, and wrote that way. Then I made my writing be straight up and down. And then small even though my natural tendency was to write large. Now I write as large as I want as a reflection, not a statement.

I think I brought up my children to embrace change as growth, as what life is about. But my parents were trained to put their children in categories and keep them there. So labels were frustrating and limiting and basically useless words to fight against. My fur can still get ruffled when someone tries to put me in a box that doesn�t fit or one that I have outgrown, left behind.

I was always a very shy, reserved person in public. And often quite loud at home, much to my family�s dismay. I remember once a friend assessed me quite accurately: that I carried myself very carefully because I felt like a bull in a china shop and was afraid of breaking something. The other morning I did break my favorite mug, one that is irreplaceable. Maybe it was a symbol of what�s happening in my life, but it was just a mug. I�m in the process of cleaning up my house, purging my closets and shelves. Changing, once again, how I think about myself, my life, my choices, my inner and outer home. And I am still surprised by how pervasive the need to change, grow, transform is in me. Lately I keep telling my friend Ed, a chiropractor, that by the time I die I will be in perfect shape. (Well, maybe the day before, he says!)

So these are my answers. This was a really fun and challenging way to look at my life. I really enjoyed thinking about these questions. If any one else wants to play, let me know and I will send you five questions to answer on your blog!

Posted by leya at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)

June 12, 2005

Just around the corner

Just to let you know what it is like to live in Smalltown, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday evening, when I went to the concert at the Music Room (Aiyun Huang, percussionist), the friends who invited me arranged to meet some friends of theirs at the concert, their names not being familiar to me. So after the introductions, one of the men said he remembered me. He had worked on the renovations of my first house in Nova Scotia. That was twenty years ago. In addition, I had given him my old futon, and he remembered. (He doesn�t have it anymore!) Then I asked the two women with him, his girlfriend and her sister, what their last name was because they looked very familiar. It turns out I know their mother from school.

When I go to an event here (or even the grocery store), it feels more strange not to see someone I know!

Posted by leya at 02:11 PM

June 04, 2005

On the move

I was going to put up more pictures of Amsterdam (there are still more I want to show you) but they can wait their turn. Tamar posted pictures of her house today and (tears aside, on my part, for the memories and such that have gone into that particular house and the joy of the next step for her family) it stirred up many thoughts.

Two years ago, when I was visiting over the winter holidays, Tamar and I were hanging out in her living room. I think she had a head cold and we were chatting about this and that. Damian was at school; Dan at work. Tamar casually said �I wonder how easy it will be to remove the wallpaper in this room.� (Damian�s room and the guest room had already been done with much hard labor.) So she tweaked an edge of paper; it came off easily and then I joined in, both of us giggling and saying Dan might not be too happy about the mess when he comes home, but we continued nevertheless. By the time Dan did come home, three-quarters of the wall was stripped (well, maybe I exaggerate; I�m a Sagittarius after all!). And Dan was not in the least upset.

Every time I went to visit more work had been done. The transformation has been inspiring. (I�m now working on my own house, but I hope I won�t be selling!) Over the four years Tamar and Dan and Damian have lived there, I have often wondered if I was wrong to encourage them to buy that house. It felt so right at the time. I was visiting. It was late April, I think. Warm and sunny. A welcome relief from the long winter we have here. Tamar saw the listing (they weren�t actively looking at the time, just a casual glance at what might be available) and we walked over from the house they were then renting. It looked enticing, although definitely needing work. When we saw the inside, the beautiful moldings were magnetizing. And having a yard was very appealing. (I liked the lemon and avocado trees especially.)

But Tamar was never really happy about being there. I do know that they would never have bought it if they hadn�t known it was ultimately right. And really, I never could talk Tamar (or Aaron) into doing anything she (or he) didn�t believe in. And now selling it is so right. Especially since they will be moving closer to me, only one (two hour) plane ride away.

Of the three of us, Tamar, Aaron and me, she is the most stable, having lived in only four places in the seventeen years she has lived in LA. Aaron and I, on the other hand, move more frequently. It surprised me recently to hear Aaron recite the many addresses he has had. More, in fact, than me. Until I moved here almost nine years ago, I would move on the average every three years (and that includes the nine years on West End Avenue in NYC). (And each time I moved, with children, pets, studio supplies, paintings, plants, etc., I told Tamar and Aaron that this would be the last time. They stopped believing me. Now I don�t say anything about what might happen!)

So I hope Tamar and Dan settle in to their new environment easily and quickly. And don�t have to move too many more times.

Posted by leya at 05:24 PM

May 24, 2005

A little side trip

I am going to take a little side trip here from my journey through Europe and tell you another story, a completely different one. Last night my phone rang at 11:30 pm. I answered it to hear the voice of the current wife of my very ex-husband. She wanted the phone number of my daughter, said my very ex-husband was in the hospital, had been for a year, and was much worse, extremely ill. (I have since found out that most of this is exaggerated, which is her style.) Apparently he didn�t have his daughter�s phone number so I gave it to her. The phone rang again at 12:30 am. This time the current wife of my very ex-husband said the number I gave her had been disconnected. She had, actually, written one of the digits down wrong. So I gave her the right number and hung up. Then I had a terrible stomachache. Today I feel very angry and at times want to scream and/or cry, I�m not sure which, whenever I think about him, the very ex-husband.

What I have come to realize today is that these are my feelings; they come from long ago, were charged up, heated up and spewed out like a volcano with the thought of this man dying, finally, after all these years, taking with him some of my unresolved feelings. (We haven�t spoken in years, by his choice, and probably never will again whether he lives or dies.) What I realize is that these feelings are not �about� him. They are just my feelings charged up because I expected something different. My marriage was not what I expected. I never expected it to be as bad as it was. �He� did not disappoint me. My "expectations of him" did. And that is what the anger is about, what has to blow up and burn with the volcano. At least I am beginning to see the landscape more clearly now.

Posted by leya at 09:59 PM | Comments (3)

April 01, 2005

Memories of foolishness

Today, April 1, always reminds me of my mother. She loved a good joke and every year without fail she would substitute salt for sugar in the sugar bowl and every year my father would fall for it and be furious with her. But she would just laugh and do it again the next year. (I know, I wrote about this last year, but it continues to amuse me, like it did her, every year.)

It reminds me of her also because the plants are just beginning to push up out of the ground. I see some tulip and maybe some daffodil and hyacinth leaves just barely visible. (I don't know yet what has happened to the crocus.) She loved her garden. I once wrote a circular poem, one that could be written in a circular form and read from any point. If my memory serves me, it went something like this:

my mother who was secretary to chrysanthemums and planted the hyacinths to bloom after the daffodils in her garden they were my mother who was secretary to chrysanthemums in her garden

Posted by leya at 08:42 AM | Comments (3)

March 28, 2005

Katie again

I went to Point Pleasant Park yesterday. It was a gloriously warm day (a few degrees above freezing is a blessing after the long cold winter) and the sun was causing everyone to smile. I hadn�t been to the park since Hurricane Juan passed through and took thousands of trees with him. And it was just as hard as I expected it to be. Not just that the place looked like the end of the world had come, such painful devastation. No more the heavily wooded park where it was easy to get lost amongst the trees. There were not enough trees left to hide the paths. But what was most hard for me was not having my dog Katie with me. During the four years we lived in Halifax, Katie and me, we would go there several times a week for long walks. Katie, being so frisky, would often wander way ahead of me. Once I thought I had lost her forever and was hoarse from calling for her. But she came back eventually, with that silly grin saying �Fooled ya!�

Yesterday I saw her ghost everywhere. I kept thinking �Katie and I were here,� noting various paths she particularly enjoyed, remembering her antics, where we would stop to admire the scenery. I�ve taken many drawing classes to the park during the summer semesters. One group wanted to draw a moving object so I brought Katie. Then they complained: �Doesn�t she ever stay still!� When she slept, yes!

Katie died four years ago on March 1. After sixteen eventful years with her, it is still a painful anniversary. Maybe it�s time to get another dog. I certainly think about it a lot. But I know I am not ready. I still miss Katie. I�ll just keep borrowing other peoples� dogs.

Posted by leya at 12:55 PM | Comments (3)

March 09, 2005

We should all live to be a hundred

My trip to New York was the best, just too short. Lots of good social encounters with family and friends, not enough time to see good art (saw a lot of bad art!). The highlight of the visit was of course my aunt Marcella�s 100th birthday party. I saw her the day before, in case the party would not give me an opportunity to talk with her. She has some major short term memory loss and is wobbly on her feet, but other than that, she is still very much a spicy lady.

When people ask me the secret for my aunt�s longevity, I usually say: �Piss and vinegar.� She has no hesitation saying what is on her mind, whether it be pleasant or angry or critical. At one hundred years of age, she can still recall with vehemence how her mother preferred one of her older sisters and how terribly cruel that sister was to her. (That sister has been dead for at least twenty years, but that doesn�t seem to matter.) And my aunt Marcella was able to complain (repeatedly) that one of her nephews gave her a stingy (in her mind) present. (I would have been delighted if someone had sent me a box a popcorn for my one hundredth birthday, a delightful, thoughtful gift in my opinion, but not in Marcella�s; but in fact, it turns out, that nephew was sending a present every day until the actual day of her birthday, each present escalating in value, but Marcella would listen to no explanation. Just enjoyed her anger.) So it seems, expressing feelings, thoughts, emotions is not such a bad thing (expect for those who have to hear it�over and over and over).

The party to celebrate her one hundred years was perfect. We were told it would be for two hours; more than that would be too hard on her; she would space out from all the conversations around her. But, in fact, the party lasted for five hours and she was totally present every minute. It was exciting to be together as a family on such a pleasant occasion. I saw cousins I hadn�t seen in many (maybe ten, fifteen) years, since my dad�s death. There were about fifteen people there, not too many, just the right amount to be able to enjoy every one.

Marcella�s 90 year old cousin (my grandmother�s brother�s son) was there. He is a tall, elegant, slender man, at least a foot and a half taller than Marcella. Elliot needed to bend over to talk to his diminutive cousin. So Marcella warned him (vociferously): �Elliot: do me a favor! Don�t slouch! Stand up straight or you�ll get osteoporosis!� She never stops! An EverReady battery.

In the words of my aunt Marcella: �Everyone should live to be a hundred so they can have a party like this!�

Posted by leya at 12:52 PM | Comments (2)

February 28, 2005

New York, New York, New York

Im going to New York City in a couple of days. Im really looking forward to it. At this point everyone here in Nova Scotia is tired of winter and anything above freezing would be a relief. And it is always good to get away at the end of a long winter. Spring in New York is usually quite nice. Of course Ill only be there for five days, not enough to experience good weather but probably enough to be glad to go home. Usually after three days I am ready to leave the hectic pace of the city. I guess I have become a country girl.

When I lived in NYC I never thought I would leave. Then one day I was done with my life there. And I moved here. It felt like I was being sucked up by an unknown pull, a vacuum cleaner straightening up and sorting out my life. It wasnt like I had any great revelation. It just happened. I had bought a loft in Manhattan for very little and sold it for enough to leave easily. So I did.

Before that, New York had always been the center of the universe for me; anything I could every want was there. The excitement of the city, the culture, the people I knew, the pace. Now its a great place to visit, but I wouldnt want to live there.

Im going to New York for my aunt Marcellas 100th birthday celebration. Marcella is a feisty old lady. Shes my mothers youngest sister. Although I havent seen her in a year (on my last visit to NYC), I hear she is pretty much totally aware with only a little short term memory loss and some physical weaknesses. She came to visit me here when she was 84. We went for a trip to beautiful Cape Breton, stopping at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck and then visiting the fortress and spending a night in Louisburg. She insisted on doing everything I could do, never admitting fatigue, always curious, enjoying the scenery but mostly the people, chatting with everyone. She has lived in the City in her own apartment all the time that I have known her. So when, on the last night of her visit, we stayed at a B&B in the country near the airport, the silence and lack of proximity to other houses and people made her feel very uncomfortable, even agitated. She is more relaxed in New York where you get run over by people if you dont move quickly on the sidewalks. (Ill have to practice walking faster in the next couple of days so I wont be surprised by the pace when I get there.)

It, no doubt, will be a lot of fun to be in New York again, good to see family, and a wonderful chance to see my friends again, the ones I left behind when I moved here.

Posted by leya at 06:50 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2005

Dog gone dog ghost

Mikka left his imprint in my house. I still expect to see him when I come into a room; I just put his food bowls away; I still think he is going to need a walk soon, etc.

But he�s back to his own home now.

Posted by leya at 05:53 PM

February 13, 2005

A shaggy dog story


Mikka is here for the weekend. I�ve borrowed him, a rent-a-dog. It�s nice to have a warm body in the house. To burn off some of his energy (and to take a nostalgic trip to my old home), we went for a walk in Duncan�s Cove yesterday with Suzanne and her dog. Although there are some new houses in the area, the village looks about the same. A quiet little gathering of houses waiting for something to happen, waiting for ships to come in, for storms to gather over the ocean.


I used to go for long walks along the bluffs with my dogs, Katie and Sebastian. When Sebastian died (at three of cancer), Katie went out that night into the brambles and howled at the moon until I was able to bring her in. As charming as Duncan�s Cove is, with interesting, friendly people living there (mostly in the arts), I don�t miss it at all�the intense winds from the ocean and the feeling of isolation that comes with it.

There were some interesting ice formations along our path:



Then today was another sunny afternoon and Mikka and I spent the afternoon throwing the object of Mikka�s affection, his Kong, into the snow for him to catch, dig and chew. He also chased squirrels (who outran him up trees).


Mikka's favorite toy:


It's indestructible, great to chew, fun to throw around, to toss in the snow, to chase, catch and dig up and chew some more.

He goes home tomorrow. I�ll miss him.

Posted by leya at 03:52 PM | Comments (1)

February 03, 2005

A gathering of many thoughts minds places moments


I took this photo looking down out the window at Pier 21 in Halifax, which once was the docking place for immigrants to Canada. This is where, this past week, over 300 people came to see and hear Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche give dharma teachings. People came from all over, from Holland, Germany, Brazil, Seattle, Vancouver and many other places. And fittingly the dharma teaching event was held at Pier 21.

About twenty years ago I had an exhibit in a New York gallery. Most of my immediate family was there and as my dad was an immigrant from Latvia when he was six years old, we all went to Ellis Island to see where he landed. New York City is beautiful in the spring. I remember it was a bright sunny day in May and we were enjoying being together as a family, a group of people who saw each other infrequently, living in various parts of the U.S. and Canada.

While we were walking to the buildings, my sister�s husband asked my dad what he remembered about the place. He said �I don�t remember a darn thing. Just that they gave us bananas. I had never seen one before and didn�t know what to do with it.�

Later, in the theatre where we watched a film made up of slides and stories by and about immigrants, an older man told a story of how when he came to America, they gave him a banana and he had never seen one before and he �didn�t know what to do with it.� Meanwhile my dad, then in his late 80�s, was dozing in the seat beside me.

Sometimes during the talks, I looked around the room to see people nodding off and sometimes, with the schedule being so intense and with the traveling back and forth every day (I don't know how my neighbors do it; I am so lucky to work mostly at home!), I felt like dozing off as well. But then I would remind myself that this moment would only happen now and I would wake up to it. And be glad I did.

Posted by leya at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

January 27, 2005

How to say it

Communication is often hard in the best of situations. We never REALLY know what is in the mind of another person. With so much new technologies, I am fascinated by the various forms of communication that people choose and how different the quality of communication is on each of these new forms.

When I got my first computer, I emailed Tamar every day. The computer was a hand-me-down from her, an adorable MacPlus that I learned how to navigate and love and later miss when I outgrew it. But after a stretch of emails and no voice, I missed the phone conversations, the sound of her voice. Ive tried instant messaging. Sometimes it is a blessing, an expediency, a direct form of communicating. But if I dont know the person well, I feel awkward. And then there is the wait for response and then also (the confusing at times) overlapping of replies.

There is more space around an email than meeting someone face to face. There is the time to think about each sentence, each word, each thought. There is little pressure to respond until you are ready, till the thoughts have emerged in full bloom, gifts of words. But it is a flat form of communication: there is no intonation, no subtleties of voice, no knowing the hesitation behind the words.

The phone is good because you hear a voice along with the words. But still, no face, no expression of a face. For Christmas, Tamar and Dan gave me a video cam for my computer, and iSite gadget that we can now see and talk to each other. A really cool little machine, lets me see who I am talking to and even shows a little view of myself while talking. It has a little time delay, nothing to complain about. Helps keep me in touch with Damian who is growing so fast. Makes living so far away easier. Makes me less of a challenged grandmother. Still, nothing really replaces the reality of face to face communication. Especially on these cold and isolating winter days. We are already planning our next visit.

Posted by leya at 08:16 AM

January 08, 2005

The frog who flew with me

Last night I was sewing buttons on some jackets I had made for Damian. (They, the jackets, had traveled all the way from here to LA and back because the fastenings that I put on them did not work so I had to redo them.) As I was folding one up to put away, I felt a bulge in the pocket.


One of Damians frogs came all the way back here to Nova Scotia with me! Im sure the frog missed Damian so I am sending him back with the jackets.

Posted by leya at 04:55 PM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2005

When the walls come tumbling down

According to most of the women I know, men dont analyze, they just act. Men want the factsand we (women) want whats between them, the interesting air circulating around them. (From The Dive from Clausens Pier by Ann Packer.) Maybe this is all true. Men certainly seem to be wired differently. But are we really that different? I do know some women as well as men who do not allow much air into their lives, who just want activity, some men who investigate the interstices of experience, who look and feel into every corner.

I was talking to a (female) friend at lunch recently about men and women friendships, how an infraction of trust, a betrayal is different when it is a female friendship, different than a male lover. In a friendship there is not as much at stake, usually, as in a marriage. There is not that foundation of intimacy that sharing a bed creates. But the same patterns can create a bad friendship as a bad marriage and mutual responsibilities.

She had been questioning her marriage. After a brief separation, she realized that she had been focusing on all the negative aspects, things that she didnt like about her husband. Looking at what she did like, what she missed about him when they were apart, having a better perspective from the distance of separation, she saw that the good qualities outweighed the bad and also that both of them could plan, schedule into their lives ways to enjoy each other more. Have a friendship beyond the structures of marriage vows.

Until recently, when I have needed someone to talk to, to chew over a problem, a situation, it has always been a female friend I turned to. Possibly just my history, maybe growing up in an era where there was so much separation of boy and girl. Maybe we, boy and girl, are really not so different and maybe my understanding is changing. Certainly the last time I had some good news to share it was not only my children I called (they are usually first on my list) but also a man friend. Lately my male/female (self-created) barriers in friendships seem to be breaking downand that feels good. After all, we are all people.

Posted by leya at 08:20 AM

January 03, 2005

Hey, kid, it's your day!

Today my youngest child turns 37. The one who lives in Montreal, Aaron. When I called him he said Where did the time go? It went through many somersaults and onto roller-coasters, traveled up and down the East Coast into Canada. Changed our lives, built new homes, created a child, my granddaughter Shaya, brought new friends, new thoughts, new insights. And it all goes by so quickly. Ive seen the little boy who couldnt keep still, who loved to play, to be silly, make jokes, who loved food from street-vendors, become a man, a responsible, self-sufficient man who knows how to love and be loved.

In many ways it is not easy to be a parent of adult children and see the tunnels they have to crawl through to get to the open air, to see the scratches on their knees and not be able to help, to let them make their own path, to know when to step back and let them fall down if they need to. It is, nevertheless, such a thrill to see them stand on their own, draw their own circles on the ground. It's definitely a privilege.

Posted by leya at 07:01 PM

January 01, 2005

Another day in the life


To be quite honest, New Years usually leaves me blank. New Years meaning only to remember to change the last number when dating checks. I went to a few parties years ago and found them stressful, everyone trying so hard to "have a good time," wanting to make it good, a special night, make it an emblem for the coming year. So I usually stay home with a good book and fall asleep before midnight, waking up to another day. As Doris McCarthy said (a couple of days ago in CBC radio), I enjoy my own company. We get along very well. We have a good time together. But of course, this does not negate the joy of being with people.

And so this year I was invited and went to a party I wanted to go to, with friends I wanted to spend the evening with, play with. It was a warm and friendly party, a good way to bless any evening. As for resolutions, I've made (and broken) them frequently, sometimes daily. But the best one I heard last night was Dont be nice, be good!

I think I have a stronger relationship with birthdays as markers, heralding the new, ushering in the next year that is about to happen. Birthdays are so personal. Nevertheless, there is always anticipation of what the calendar new year will bring. And I do hope that all wishes and dreams come true for you, that the gift of life be enjoyed and flourish with joy for everyone all over this beautiful, mysterious, strange and troubled world we inhabit.

Posted by leya at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2004

A good bath

Doris McCarthy, at ninety-four, only stopped ice skating two years ago. McCarthy is a painter in the Group of Seven landscape tradition, lives in Toronto but spends her summers at her beloved cottage on Georgian Bay. She talks about this in her new memoir, Ninety Years Wise. What was most interesting about Doris McCarthy was the joy she expressed about her work and her life when I heard her this morning (on Sounds Like Canada). When Shelagh Rogers asked her how she felt about aging, Doris said it was wonderful: how wonderful that the fear is gone, how wonderful not to feel so self-conscious, to be able to do things because you wanted to, not because you were expected to. Of course, the weaknesses of the body are not wonderful but the maturity of the mind and spirit is.

And then I had lunch with a young friend who wisely said she thought people misunderstood the Fountain of Youth. It is not something that gives you clear, wrinkleless skin but rather a clear and joyful spirit. Obviously Doris McCarthy bathes in the Fountain of Youth.

Posted by leya at 07:25 PM

December 29, 2004

The story of Tamar

Today is Tamars birthday. I remember vividly the day she was born. There was a little snow on the ground in Georgetown, D.C. After six months of craving peaches and cucumber sandwiches, I was about to give birth. My contractions were pretty intense and getting from the house to the car was difficult. I was only in the hospital for two hours before she was born. Not bad for a first child. It was an intense labor, an easy delivery. We had picked three names for a girl: Rachel, Shoshana and Tamar. I had to see her before I could decide but I knew that I wanted my children to have biblical names, some reference to their heritage, because I didnt think I could give them more than that, what was contained in their name. With my first look at her, I knew she was Tamar. And indeed, she has lived up to her name.

The story of Tamar is about a woman of great strength and a strong ethical sensibility. It begins with Jacob and three of his sons. The most important of the sons was Judah, the son of Leah, because, before he died, Jacob said that Judah would become the leader of his people and, indeed, the Jews of today have that name because they are of the Tribe of Judah.

Judah first had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. Judah took a wife for Er named Tamar. However, Er was wicked and, according to the story, God killed him. In those days, there was a custom that when a man dies and leaves a widow, his next surviving brother is supposed to marry the widow and become her husband. Accordingly, Onan was obliged to marry Tamar, the widow of Er. However, Onan did not want Tamar to become pregnant because she was his brothers wife. Onan disobeyed the will of God and spilled his seed on the ground. Therefore, God struck Onan dead, too. This made Tamar a widow a second time.

The third son was Shelah. However, Shelah was still a young boy, too young to be married. Judah was afraid that his third son Shelah would die, too. Therefore, he told Tamar to go back to her father's house and wait there and when Shelah became old enough, Judah would marry Tamar to him. She went back to her father's house and waited. Nevertheless, when Shelah was grown, Tamar had not been given to Shelah as a wife. Judah had not kept his promise.

Tamar then took off her widow's garment and instead put on a veil to cover her face. She went and sat by the road to Timnath. When Judah came walking by, because the face of Tamar was covered, he believed that she was a prostitute and he asked her what was her price for sex. She asked him how much he would give her. He said that he would send her a kid from his flock of sheep. She then asked him to give her his signet, his bracelets and his staff as security for this promise. Judah gave these to Tamar and then had sex with her. Tamar became pregnant. Three months later, word came to Judah that his daughter-in-law had been like a prostitute and was now pregnant. Judah ordered that Tamar be brought before him to be burned up.

When Tamar was brought, she said to Judah, "The man who has made me pregnant is the owner of these things." Then Tamar produced the signet, the bracelets and the staff which belonged to Judah. With that, Judah acknowledged that these things were his and said that she was more righteous than he because he had not kept his promise to her by not giving Tamar to Shelah as a wife. Therefore, Tamar was spared.

And I am so glad to have Tamar in my life. A person of great integrity, wisdom, intelligence and compassion. Im a very lucky mother. She's a peach! Happy Birthday, Kid!

Posted by leya at 08:11 PM | Comments (3)

Home alone

Loneliness. I once asked the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa about loneliness. I was a new meditator and was fortunate to be on the staff taking care of his household. (He was visiting and teaching in New York back in, I think, 1980). It was when I had first started meditating and had become acutely aware of how alone I felt. He asked me if I felt more lonely when I was alone or when I was with people. I said when I was with people. He then said, You are allowing your mind to wander in samsara. Creating my own sense of separation. That was it. That was what I had to think about for many years later. Compassion is the key. Compassion towards oneself as much as for others.

There is a big difference between being alone and lonely and being with someone and lonely. It depends on the walls we put up around ourselves, our various needs for protection. Most coupled women I know often say how lonely it can be to be with someone. Obviously there is a separation between people. We do not know everything about someone else nor do we really feel what they feel. But the physical presence of someone is real. A source of heat in the room, in the mind, in the room. A reminder. I think it might be self-absorption that makes us lonely when with people. Wanting confirmation from others. Wanting a witnesss.

Carrie, in The Dive from Claussens Pier, when thinking about not being with her fianc after his accident, mused:

There were things Id seen in him that perhaps no one else had ever seen or noticedwouldnt those things disappear along with my apprehension of them? Because we were caretakers of each others habits and expressions, werent we, witnesses who didnt just see but who gave existence? Our coming apart would erase all those tiny moments and gestures and looks from everywhere but our separate memories, until even there our history would begin to fade.

Memories, history, all dependent on the point of view. And the importance of their being a point from which to view, a point that comes from (or to) another body. Human beings are a species that need other people, just like other animals need each other, run in packs.

The Karmapa gave me a lot think about. But sometimes profound meals of thought take years to digest.

Posted by leya at 06:09 AM

December 27, 2004

.......and home

Tamar and I went for a walk along the beach in Santa Monica just a couple of days ago. The light was so very beautiful, the sun sparkling on the water, people surfing, walking, enjoying Christmas Day and family at the beach.

Then yesterday I went from the sunshine of Southern California:





to the many shades of grey of today, brought by a heavy winter storm in Eastern Canada:


They are predicting sunshine tomorrow. Sun and warm (above freezing) by the end of the week. Right now the wind and snow are creating blizzard conditions. A good day to stay inside, to tuck in, stay home. The snow plow has come to clear my driveway and he will have to come again later for sure. The snow hasnt stopped. My plane came in last night just before the wind picked up intensity, now closing the airport. I drove home in difficult weather. A solid winter storm. What surprised me was the big eighteen wheelers tumbling down the highway, passing cautious cars and blowing snow up, increasing the invisibility of the road. And some cars taking chances, speeding along and passing when it was hard to see the road. I called Aaron from the airport in Montreal and we both hoped my plane would be cancelled so I could spend the night there with them. But we came in on schedule and it is good to be home.

But even my home feels strange. Big changes here. I rearranged the furniture in my living room, something I rarely do, move furniture, or even change the color of the walls. But I decided to move my computer so that I could see the lake while working and that meant moving my couch which meant moving chairs as well and on and on. The couch is now facing the lake directly, making it a very powerful spot to watch nature unfold. After eight years of having it in one spot, rearranging the furniture makes the room so very different. The ceiling is finished in my studio and the paintings moved back in. It looks very clean and orderly. Of course, that will change soon enough, when I get back to work! But there is still a lot of cleaning, organizing, filling up the green files (garbage bags) before I can start the factory going again. But at least, as has happened before, I didnt get stuck at an airport.

Posted by leya at 03:30 PM | Comments (2)

December 26, 2004

Going home

When you read this I may be in the air over the Grand Canyon, or I may be going through Customs in Montreal, or perhaps I am driving home, almost midnight, to my solitary home by the lake in the woods, wondering why I am going to this home, why I live here so far away from the people I love most, my children, in another time zone.

Usually when I pull into my driveway I understand the pull of my life in Nova Scotia, the peaceful, quiet life, the beautiful landscape, the sounds of water rushing by my house all year round. When I walk into my empty house this time, the ceiling will be fixed in my studio, the paintings back in place downstairs, lots of papers and magazines to sort through, toss, clean up after a major renovation. Cleaning up from many years of pushing things aside. Another phase of my life in my home.

Yet it always makes me wonder what makes a home. A house, the people in it, the life that happens there, the choices. I chose this place after many false starts. This is the third house I have owned in Nova Scotia, my sixth residence in the twenty plus years I have been living there. I feel more at home in this house, maybe because I had a major say in designing and building it, maybe because the setting is so very beautiful and peaceful. But a home is only what you put in it, people and thoughts and activities.

I felt more at home living in New York City than I did growing up in Bethesda, Maryland. I would walk for hours through the streets of Manhattan at all hours of the day and night, never feeling the fear or strangeness that most people expect. Now when I visit NY I feel the speed of people rushing by, feel I could be run over by people if I stand too long on the sidewalk. A foreign, unpleasant feeling now after living in a slower environment. I love NY but have no desire to go back there to live. Nor do I have any regrets about leaving any of my other homes. I do like living away from noise and speed, waking up to trees and birds as companions.

After my last visit with Tamar and her family, in September, it was very difficult to go home. I wanted to turn around and go back to LA right away. I had to be where I was, to work, to plan, to associate, create and now that I have spent some more time here and some in Montreal with Aaron & Jessica, perhaps, maybe, it will feel more like home when I get back to Nova Scotia. Taking my memories with me, building new ones.

Posted by leya at 12:33 AM

December 21, 2004

The times they are a changin

Tamar and I went to the Farmers Market on Sunday. We stocked up on persimmons and Asian pears, enough to keep me satisfied until I have to leave next Sunday, until I have to go back to the cold North where one pear costs as much as a dozen here and persimmons are rare. But we do have them now in Nova Scotia; we didnt just a few years ago.




Damian and Dante helped us put the food away (well, more or less):


So much has changed from when I first moved North. Then people I knew would laughingly say that NS was thirty years behind the times. Nothing to buy there. I always liked the nothing to buy quality of the place. You start to see what is really important. Shopping is very time consuming. Better just to go out and get what you need. And when you think about it, that isnt really so very much. (There was a time, though, about fifteen years ago, for about four years when I had a part-time administrative job that was good and bad for megood for my public relations skills, bad for my painting mindand would stop at a mall to deposit my paycheck, meander through the boutiques and inevitably buy a sweater or something and eventually give it away because the purchase was more to fill an emotional need than a physical one.)

But now our shopping options in NS are so much greater. When Aaron was first deciding whether to move back to NS a few years ago, he told me he would if I could find choyote in the market. And I did. And he did. For three years he was there cooking and eating one of his favorite vegetables from his life in Brazil.

Nova Scotia is catching up with the times. Good food in the markets, good restaurants, more good movies that stay around longer, some good furniture stores. Now all we have to work on is the weather!

Posted by leya at 11:32 AM

December 20, 2004

Watts up! Not Watt I expected!

We went to Watts Towers on Sunday afternoon, a very warm summer Sunday in December. I had been wanting to go there for several years but there never seemed to be the right time for it. This was definitely the right time. And I was impressed with how much more amazing the structures were than anything I had seen of it in books. The intricate lacework of the towers. The transforming quality of the architecture, how I felt peace just being there. There we were in what felt like an island, or a boat floating in the middle of Los Angeles, a busy metropolis, a city that disappeared, floated away while we were there.






Simon Rodia, born around 1879 and immigrated to the U.S. in the 90s, built the towers, beginning in 1921 and continuing for 33 years. He used no machine equipment, no scaffolding, bolts, rivets, only a tile setters tools and a window washers belt and buckle. The nine major scuptures are decorated with a mosaic of broken glass and ceramics. He was considered a crazy man, an alcoholic with wild ideas. It is thought that he built the towers as a monument of atonement, a witness to the power of belief, a prayer of and to love.

At the end of the tour the guide gave Damian a stone heart and told him: May you have everything your heart desires. I would add: Take care of your heart.



Posted by leya at 03:04 PM

What you see is what you get.

A few months back, my friend Ray, after yet another disappointing blind-date where I had lots of hope beforehand, said to me: Leya, you have to stop kissing frogs! So on my birthday this year, Inge gave me the perfect frog, one that is just a frog, now and forevermore.


Frogs.because of an innate restlessness that for too many years told me there had to be something better than what I was given, what I thought at one time was what I had wanted. I remember too often hearing my mother say that poisonous phrase: if only or I wish. How hard it is to be here, to accept, to see what is offered, to take and give what is needed.

Shortly before she died she told my sister they treat their second wife better. Just wait and see. And he did. And I know he regretted not having given her more of what she, my mother, would have wanted. I know my parents loved each other in the way people did when they did not consider divorce an optionthere was respect, admiration, frustration, anger, all part of the decision to be married.

Damian understands about frogs. They are his favorite animal, his pals. He has a security frog he carries around most of the time. Just a mash of plastic that warms in his six year-old hand but he knows it is what it is even when he invests it with much more. Fantasy and reality blended into a pile of pleasure-loving-giving frogs. Just frogs.


Posted by leya at 12:53 AM

December 18, 2004

Fuckart, let's dance!

Today is the first anniversary of my blog. I was here in LA a year ago visiting Tamar and asked her to help me set it up. I had been reading her blog, her journal, looking at her photo-blog, reading some of her friends blogs, had wanted to write something for a long time. And so here it is, a year later, a testament to the fact that sometimes I am surprised by what I do.

I have a long history of being shy in public, not saying much, not saying things that need to be said, allowing things to happen when in fact I should have been more outspoken. Usually a lot more went through my mind than most people ever heard about, often things that would have been better said aloud. But I would often get contradictory feedback that I was blunt, outspoken, forceful. I think this might be related to that fact that I have felt, and acted, very differently around different people, in different situations and I have often been impatient with ignorance. At this point, I am more consistently able to reveal what was bubbling underneath all that shyness.

Of course, writing this blog has changed me enormously, shockingly so. At first I would hesitate, can I really say this or that, to someone I may or may not know--will they take offense, will they challenge me. And even a few times I wouldnt sleep well after posting something I felt was very revealing. But now, less and less, do I question myself, my entries. This is my blog, after all. It is my record of what I think, feel, do, what and who I rub up against, where my mind goes, what makes my fire.

The other day Yoko and I played duets for a group of people visiting at my house. I think of myself as someone who doesnt like to play for people. But playing with Yoko over the past year (or more), and maybe because she is another person, I have come to enjoy playing for others. And not just for the quality of the music, sharing and things like that, but also the sheer exhibitionism of it. (Look what I can do!)

Then too, I find myself saying things in school that I would never have said, even six months ago. A big change. I dont really know why. Maybe you (I) just get (got) to a point where we (I) know that life is so precious (and so short) that it just doesnt matter any more. The important thing is to live and to live with enthusiasm.

When I was in San Francisco last September I bought a pin at the City Lights bookstore. It reads: Fuck Art Lets Dance. I wear it almost every day on my favorite vest. Damian asked me what it said. I told him first that it said Dont get caught up in unimportant things, enjoy life. Then I told him what it said literally, of course, explaining that fuck is not a word that is generally used in public but is useful in this context. On the airplane coming here, I found, once the flight attendants saw my button (I had forgotten it was visible), that they were warmer towards me. Everyone wants to enjoy their life, really!


Posted by leya at 12:42 PM

She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes

I love rituals: the rituals of foods, the everyday lunch, the rituals of friends, of books, the bedtime book, the schedule. I often wonder if my parents had not been immigrant Jews feeling the need to assimilate, be more a part of a Christian culture, blending all our special holidays into a puree soup, if I would have appreciated Judaism more. If we had had a real Hanukkah, exchanged gifts, lit the menorah instead of putting the gifts under the Hanukkah bush and opening them on Christmas morning like our neighbors. If we had not had Easter baskets along with Passover at my grandmothers house (with me usually the youngest child reading the Four Questions and always finding the hidden matzo with my uncles hints). If we had acknowledged Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur other than going to synagogue to kiss my grandmothers cheek. If I had learned more about the contemplative, inquisitive nature of Judaism and less of the aggressive, exclusive qualities that repulsed me.

I know it is partly the rituals that attracts me to Buddhism, and certainly what keeps me there, along with the intelligence I find in the teachings. I love the rituals of my practice, ringing bells and throwing rice, reciting liturgy over and over. Being a part of a larger body of thought and way of relating to experiences.

I also love the unexpected, the interruptions, the non-planned. Of not knowing what is going to happen, what will evolve. Because really, that is how it is..

Posted by leya at 01:29 AM

December 17, 2004

Musical beds

In the last five days I have slept in four different beds. Sounds enticingbut, nojust traveling. I had to leave my own bed early (Monday) to stay in Halifax at a friends because the fumes from my paintings (which are all now in my living room so that the ceiling in my studio can be fixed while I am away) were making me feel not-so-good.

Then two (blissful) nights on the couch in Aaron & Jessicas beautiful apartment in Montreal (and one heavenly day hanging out in bookstores and Chinatown with them).

And now here for ten days with Tamar, Dan & Damain. It was a very tired me who crept into bed (in Los Angeles) last night.

And of course I dreamed of school and recalcitrant students! But better a dream than the classroom right now!

Posted by leya at 01:02 PM

December 13, 2004



Im heading out this afternoongoing to where flowers like these are an everyday fact, not the specialty excitement (these are a birthday gift from a friend) that they bring here in the cold north. My first stop is Montreal (cold, yes) and then on to Los Angeles (ah, warm sun!). So..time to close up my computer and put it with my luggage. Talk to you from LA!

Posted by leya at 11:36 AM

November 11, 2004

Stacking up chutney for the winter

I made another batch of chutney, this time using cranberries, apples and pears.


So, here, finally (I did say I would), is the zucchini chutney recipe Jeanne asked for about a month ago. (Bear in mind that I improvise and am not precise in measuring when cooking.)


Zucchini (enough to make 6 cups when cubed)
Maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
2 tart apples
2 grapefruit, cut up into small pieces
1 1/2 cups raisins or dates
1 lemon, sliced thin and quartered
1 1/2 tsp wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Ginger, cut up into small pieces
White mustard seeds
1 t. Salt
fresh ground pepper

Place 1/2 pint (1 cup) canning jars into canner. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Let boil at least 10 minutes to sterilize jars.

Place all ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer until thick, about 30 minutes.

Prepare lids. (Check package for directions)

Ladle chutney into hot canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims to remove any spillage. Put lid and screw band on (fingertip tight), and place in boiling water canner.

Be sure all jars are covered with water. Return to a boil and process 10 minutes. Remove jars and let sit overnight.

Check seals. Sealed lids will be curved down. Store in a cool dark place.

The changes I made this time: I added some other spices--cumin, coriander, tumeric (I think) and used a little umeboshi plum vinegar (which gives a salty tange) instead of wine vinegar and added a lot of ginger.

Posted by leya at 12:43 PM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2004

There is music in the air

Youve heard of air guitar, no doubt, and Damian & Tamar play air hockey, but have you heard of air recorder? Last week Yoko came over for our weekly duet session (four hand piano) and after dinner I brought out my alto recorder. Since Yoko had left hers at home, she accompanied me on a tube of toothpaste. A new jumbo tube, so she also played alto. She even took the other part so we played a mean duet!

When I was in LA Damian, my drummer boy, accompanied me on his recorder while I practiced on mine.


Posted by leya at 07:08 AM

October 20, 2004

Up and running

What a shocking experience, to live without my computer. For FIVE DAYS! My normally quiet house was silent. Lost my main lifeline to the outside world. I found myself repeatedly going over to where my computer was supposed to be only to catch myself, again. Well, my once very sick little fellow is healthy, back in place and I have a lot of catching up to do.

Meanwhile now Im the one not feeling wella bad head cold that seems to be going around here. My nose feels like someone turned a faucet on in there. Used up two boxes of Kleenex in a couple of days! Not bad enough to stay in bed, not well enough to do much. But at least one of us is feeling fine now.

Posted by leya at 03:22 PM

October 13, 2004

What a pickle


My mother would spend long hot August days in a steamy kitchen putting up preserves: peaches, applesauce, tomato sauce, watermelon pickles, plum jam and more. She would enlist my help and I swore that when I had a home of my own, you would never see me doing THAT! And guess what I did this weekend! Just THAT! Zucchini chutney, with grapefruit, raisins, lemons, apples and spices. The zucchini was two feet long. The one that grew too big in my garden when I was in California. Every autumn it is a thrill to see the jars line up with the specialty of the day and I giggle, just as my mother did, when the lids pop as they seal. Very satisfying.

Posted by leya at 09:02 PM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2004

Now I lay me down with a lot of color

Tamar is amused by my idea of site-seeing in LA: Whole Foods, Ikea, the Beverly Center, all on my must-see list for visiting the Big
City. We didnt get to do the Beverly Center this visit, so I have to go back soon! I dont really buy much, just want to SEE and absorb a big city.

I had the worst ever case of jet lag this trip! Headache, no sleep, shaky! And I had to teach two classes yesterday. I was so tired (on one hour sleep the night before) that I was punchy, cracking the kids up with a loose mouth, lousy jokes and stories. It was fun although I dont think I want to get on another airplane for a few weeks!

One of the classes yesterday was a color workshop organized by some Buddhist friends (to run for four weeks). I expected six people and eleven showed up. At first I felt very nervous, knowing everyone from such a different context. But once I started talking and giving them work to do, it went easily. In fact it was very exciting teaching about color, something that is so close to my heart. And they also enjoyed it a lot.

I had them draw a grid of 36 squares (six across, six down) and fill them in with different colors. The only criteria was to have them bold, not pastel. From that they learned how the environment of one color effects the color of the ones next to it, how just changing a color, either in hue or intensifying, can effect the whole composition. It was fascinating to see the light bulbs go on in their heads, even if at times the dimmer switch was working. We even ran overtime. So I was happy to crawl into bed last night and sleepfinally.

Posted by leya at 05:49 PM

October 04, 2004

Am I dreaming when I am here or there?

Returning home last night after a loooooooong plane trip, amidst the sadness of missing Tamar, Dan & Damian, I was acutely aware of the softness and gentleness of the environment here. That, and the raw and wild quality that exists at the same time. A good place to have a home base.

Before I left, Damian came up to me unprompted and told me he would miss me. That when I come back at Christmas I should stay until the next Christmas, stay for the whole year because he loves me. Not possible, but not a bad idea!

Posted by leya at 03:57 PM

October 01, 2004

Things I want to know about

The past week has taken wings and is disappearing into a beautiful warm memory. And I havent even called home once for voicemail. This is all too quick a visit. I leave for chilly Nova Scotia in two days, but I will be back before Christmas. Last night I was so tired from all the excursions and activities, I couldnt even write a word here; I didnt think I had a word to say.

The warmest part of being here in LA is not the sun, the weather, but the people I am with and meeting. Slowly, slowly Damian and I are getting to know each other. Yes, I am the grandmother, that gives me status. But I can freeze when someone isnt immediately forthcoming and Damian is not always available. We are both glad that I will be back again soon.

Yesterday I went to the Getty Center with my friend Karen, who moved here from Halifax last January to take care of her mother who was ill. Her mom has now recovered and her illness has been a blessing for both of them. Karen has blossomed here, getting ready (in her mid-fifties) to run the LA marathon in March, renewed old friendships, and looking radiant. Driving through the LA streets she gave me a commentary on life as a teenager in LA. Then we toured the Getty from a Karens point of view: the stainless steel bathrooms with beautiful toilets, the flowers, cactus gardens, waterfalls, architecture, trams, the view.

The day before, on Wednesday, Tamar and I met Tiny Coconut for lunch. I immediately liked her as much as I had expected from reading her blog. (She beat me to writing about meeting people from on-line experiences but I will put my twist onto it here.) Growing up before these technologies were around, even before TV, my generation is only slowly learning to use the internet. (I have a friend who just started using email!) I was, and still am, an avid radio person. Although there are really good interactive radio programs on CBC, I havent called in.yet. But I do hear people I know talking on the radio, asking questions. In NS, I know only one other person who keeps a blog. Ive stopped telling friends. Most of them think its weird.

Tamar has close friends she has met on-line. I have, off and on, tried the on-line dating thingie but nothing ever materialized beyond some interesting (and strange) communications. One man was ready to pack up his van and move in with me, coming all the way from Calgary after only a few letters and a couple of phone calls, without even a first sniff. Ive had marriage proposals from young African men (looking for a way out of their country) that I have never said boo to. Mostly because I look so much younger than my years, if I put a photo up, I am contacted by far too much younger men. And sometimes I just feel too vulnerable. So I stop--this is not for me. But I have learned a lot about discriminating awareness and response from it. Yet I have friends who have happily coupled with men they have met on-line. When I first started looking into on-line dating services just a few years ago, I was severely warned that it was not safe, not a good idea. Now I hardly know a single woman who has not tried it, some very successfully. It no longer is a taboo. In this rapid transit world, where else does one goBut it is not just about meeting men. Friends are very important. And the community of blogs, which have a real-time component, an everyday glimpse into someones world (not just a one-time profile) is a very real way of extending my sphere. As an artist, most of the time I live inside a very active but singular world.

Before this visit my connections in LA were only Tamar, Dan & Damian and a couple of step-siblings that I enjoy visiting. Now that I have some friends here it will be even harder to go home. It was 90 to 100 degrees here last Saturday but cooling off now. And there was frost on my car windows the morning I left NS! It will be a shock, in every way, to return, no doubt. Ive been telling Tamar that she needs to renovate her house, put in a real second bathroom for me, that Im not going home. Wishful thinking. But not an unpleasant thought. Although it would be very hard to leave my beautiful home, weird weather and all, and the slow transit life I have there.

Posted by leya at 04:37 PM

September 26, 2004

Subject to changing change as change is the only thing that is constant

My exhibition in San Francisco is titled Subject to Change. And change it has, many times. First I was to exhibit with another person. Then she dropped out because she didnt have enough inventory. (Nice for me!) Then the location changed. From Linda Fairchilds usual gallery space (921 Front Street) to a new space (One Buxome Place), then back to the old space, then finally to the new space, which is where it is now. Because of the new space needing attention, the date was changed from September 9 to September 23 which is what happened. And here I am now in Los Angeles with Tamar, Dan, Damian and cats Dante and Cocoa.

And one further big change: Tamar, Damian and Dan were to come to San Francisco but at the last minute, due to Damian starting kindergarten and all the changes in his life due to that, they were not able to meet me there after all. So now I am at their house in Los Angeles, soaking up the warm sunshine of Los Angeles, storing it up to carry me through the cold Nova Scotia winter approaching, and enjoying being with them, if only for a short week.

More later. Now off to buy persimmons and Asian pears at the Farmer's Market, an LA Sunday ritual that is special for Tamar and me.

Posted by leya at 03:38 PM

September 21, 2004

Blue yonder

So I am off to San Francisco tomorrow morning for the opening of my exhibition at the Linda Fairchild Gallery, this Thursday, the 23rd. (Hope to see you there!) Tamar and Damian are joining me; Dan is coming on Friday. We will enjoy the city and then drive down to Los Angeles. I will stay and play in LA for a week. (I will be missing three classes but have them covered by very competent instructors and am really looking forward to this time away.)

Im traveling with my trusty computer and will be connected via Tamar and Dans technologies so will probably be posting from LA (where I started this blog last Christmas, with Tamars help navigating the templates). I havent seen Tamar and her family for almost a year. Far too long. And I think I will be going to school with Damian, at least for a day. See what its like to be in kindergarten again! (Oh, have I mentioned that I was a nursery school (pre-school these days) dropout?) So.......off to pack!

Posted by leya at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2004

Hey 'round the corner

I went out dancing last night. My intention was to have dinner and listen to music with my friend Inge. It was lively music in a neighborhood pub, friendly people, loud, irresistible music. Sodancing.

Then I came home and logged onto a dating site just because (well why not when all those pheromones are still racing around) and read a profile written by a 64 year old man saying it disturbs him when he goes to a bar to see all the older women dancing. Are they trying to make up for what they didnt have when they were younger, he asked. Well, geez no! They are no doubt enjoying the fact that the body is a great pleasure to have and use, especially when you are older.

Yet the only people on the dance floor were female. I saw only two men dancing, somewhat reluctantly. The women were having a grand time. It still surprises me. You would think that since men have all this Mars energy, the need to move, a physical restlessness, they would be the ones out on the dance floor. But they seem to have more self-consciousness about it all when it comes to social movements such as dancing. I mentioned all this to my friend Rita this morning and she said I should go to Greece; men dance there. Okay!

Posted by leya at 04:33 PM

September 18, 2004

Behind the door next door

Another instructor at school told me that yet another instructor lived in my neighborhood. So when I saw him at school last week I asked him about it. Yes, he has been living up the road for two years and I didnt even know it. He and his wife bought the house next door to Yoko (my piano buddy). So I told him he really missed out, I live on the lake side of the road with a dock and boats and great swimming. The other instructor with him was laughing but I think I upset my neighbor. He said they moved out here to get away. (But he was interested in possibly car pooling, if our schedules can coordinate.)

Then I start thinking about what it means to get away. Im not exactly an invasive neighbor. If anything I am alone far too much. I did not move out here to get away. I moved here because it is so beautiful, peaceful and I love the closeness to nature (bears, deer, slugs, ants included). I would like more people to visit, more people to experience the beauty here. I work alone by necessity. (It would be difficult to paint with an audience.) Most of my (social) life is in Halifax, a twenty-five minute drive (on good days, i.e., no snowstorm). Other people out here with children have a busy life with their neighbors.

In The Dive from Clausens Pier, Carrie asks her mother (who never remarried, much less dated, after her husband left) about loneliness: Lonely is a funny thing, (her mother) said slowly. Its almost like another person. After a while, itll keep you company if youll let it. Loneliness can be palpable, almost solid. A sometimes interesting, sometimes irritating, unwanted friend. Everyone relates differently to loneliness. Keeping busy or pulling back, avoiding or not. Sometimes I just sit in my living room and feel lonely, get to know it better. It is often hard to move out of that lonely state of mind. To call someone, make plans, move into a social state. I find it easiest to have last minute events, unexpected visitors, unplanned dinner parties, all easier than setting up dates when things feel so fluid all the time.

I once asked a Buddhist teacher about loneliness. He asked me when I felt it worse, with other people or alone. He said when it feels more lonely with people it is self-indulgence. Thats a lot to think about. So maybe it is okay to be lonely when you are alone. Its just part of being human, a social being.

Posted by leya at 02:42 PM

September 15, 2004

A day that passes and is still here

No, I have not forgotten about September 11. It is just too painful to talk about it and too painful not to talk about it. It was a turning point. A marker. An upheaval of the worst kind. Other than on the radio (CBC of course), I hear little about it here in Nova Scotia. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I gave an alternate homework assignment to use it as inspiration for a drawing. Most students said they were tired of hearing about it and did another assignment. Only one felt the way I did and she was a mature student (i.e., over 25).

But September 11 is also the birthday of one of my closest, oldest friends, an old boyfriend (hes not old, only 57 now), my first relationship after the end of my marriage. We are still good friends. I cannot imagine what it would be like to share a birthday with such a catastrophic event. Especially when his life has been and continues to be so difficult, being confined as he is to a wheelchair and slowly losing the use of his hands as well because of progressive MS. He is a very talented artist, a voracious reader (sends me books after he has read them), someone I still enjoy talking to, always perceptive, always slightly irritable. A tower that could crumble any minute. A very sad situation.

Posted by leya at 02:27 PM

September 12, 2004

If only every day was a summer day

Its been getting really cool at night, great for sleeping, but heralding the end of summer far too soon. Today was sunny, a precious warm day, a day to savor, a memory to save for the long dark winter so close ahead.


Apparently Kiku (the dog) will ride in any boat that comes along, even little ones. The parents and the girls came for one last sweet swim. I tried out my new wetsuit and was so pleased. It really works! My season in the water is extended!

Posted by leya at 07:06 PM

August 25, 2004

Sunny days

We are finally having a week of beautiful sunny days. It's supposed to stay like this through the weekend. What a relief from all that rain and cold! A friend came over to swim this afternoon. She brought her one year old Brittany spanial and five teenagers (two of her own and three friends).

The pup, Cassie, was a little shy of the water at first:


but she decided she really wanted that ball:


and it was worth it. "Look at me!"


The teenagers reminded me of the whales off Cape Breton:


They jumped (not dived, fortunately) off a big boulder in the middle of the lake.


Afterwards I told them the story of The Dive From Claussen's Pier. Not a good idea, to jump from that rock, in unknown waters. But they were okay. The adventurous spirit prevailed.

Posted by leya at 08:50 PM

August 24, 2004

Church & State

My good friend Lynn in New York sent me an editorial from The New York Times about the fact that evangelical thrillers, ones that portray the Christian God as vindictive, vengeful against non-believers, have become best-sellers in the United States. She is a High Priestess in the Wiccah religion. From what I have seen from knowing her and other Wiccah practitioners here, it is a contemplative religion focusing on understanding and helping oneself and others. (You cant complain about that!) Ive always been a part of some minority, in religion and in career choice: born into a Jewish family, practicing Buddhism now, full-time painter. It feels normal not to fit in to a majority rule.

The article she sent me was written by Nicholas D. Kristof, entitled Jesus and the Jihad, parts of which I have quoted below. Kristof says

If the latest in the "Left Behind" series of evangelical thrillers is to be believed, Jesus will return to Earth, gather non-Christians to his left and toss them into everlasting fire..These are the best-selling novels for adults in the United States, and they have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide.. It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety.

If a Muslim were to write an Islamic version of "Glorious Appearing" and publish it in Saudi Arabia, jubilantly describing a massacre of millions of non-Muslims by God, we would have a fit.......................People have the right to believe in a racist God, or a God who throws millions of nonevangelicals into hell. I don't think we should ban books that say that. But we should be embarrassed when our best-selling books gleefully celebrate religious intolerance and violence against infidels.

That's not what America stands for, and I doubt that it's what God stands for.

Canada was not founded on religious need as was the United States. Although there are pockets of intolerance which are scary, there is not the overall Christian-religious dominance here in politics. Physical survival is more a basis of the government contract. That gives us a free medical service (we pay, in taxes) and gay marriage rights and a growing depth of literary achievement. Not a bad state of affairs, for the most part.

Posted by leya at 08:23 PM | Comments (2)

August 20, 2004

Living with nature


There is a chipmunk who has been eating my peas. It pulls them off the vine, opens the shells, and pulls out the peas. It also leaves the husks for me to clean up. Apparently, chipmunks are rare and so I should be happy to have it's company. He or she certainly is tame. Hardly moves when I go out to ask it to leave me some peas. Im going to buy it a bag of peanuts.

Last year I had a couple of black bears in my driveway rooting through my refuse pails. I called the Department of Natural Resources. She said O yes, there have been sightings in your neighborhood and told me how to discourage bears (dont put out the garbage until the last minute and make noise when out in the evening and dont play dead with black bears, they will attack).

Then there are the deer (I use a rotten egg spray to keep them away. It works, so far). And the bunnies and the slugs. Now, the slugs are going too far! I am very squeamish about slugs (and a lot of other squishy bugs). A friend was telling me her husband picks them up with his bare hands and puts them in a carefully made bed of delectable garden trimmings and gives them a new home (in a yogurt container). What amazing patience. A real mastery of aggression. I have a long way to go there!

When I was in Cape Breton a couple of weeks ago I saw a fox on the road.


By the time I got out of my car to take a picture, it took off.


I was told that every year a mother moose brings her weaned and trained baby moose there and abandons it. Apparently it looks around frantically for mommy and then gives up and adjusts.

Sometimes I wonder why I am living in the country. Maybe I am not fit for this interaction with nature. On the positive side, there is no speed of a city to become absorbed in. The noise level of crows can be the biggest problem; the song of the loons the greatest joy. The constant prattle of the brook by my house a lullaby. Living so close to nature here, I see my own nature more clearly. And I can be my own nature more easily. So my fears of slugs and bears and my intense aversion to the yearly spring invasion of ants are small irritations in the larger picture.

Posted by leya at 12:17 PM | Comments (3)

August 15, 2004

Goodbye, fare well

My horse is leaving. Well, he is not exactly my horse. He was on loan for three years. Some friends were moving to Toronto and couldnt take him at the time so, knowing how much I loved him, I was offered the joy of caretaking.


They have a place for him now and some mutual friends, visiting Nova Scotia, are coming Tuesday to take him away. Hes packed up safely in a box, waiting. He is a piece of ceramic sculpture, created by a visiting Chinese artist who taught at NSCAD University one summer. I always loved this horse and am very sad to see him go, but can never forget how beautifully he graced my home. I had him on a high shelf in my kitchen (which is actually part of the living room) so that he would be safe and visible from anywhere in the room. His presence will always be here.


Posted by leya at 06:54 PM

August 10, 2004

Travel report

Just when I thought the pressure would calm down for a few weeks, everything was turned upside down (again) by a phone call from Linda Fairchild telling me that she would like to change the opening day for my exhibit in San Francisco (from September 9 to September 23) The reason is good, the effect will be good. I cannot complain. She is opening a second space and would like it to be with my work and a big celebration. But.it means changing what was going to be an extended holiday visiting my children (and missing the first week of school in September) to a shorter, more efficient trip (with no visit in Montreal to see Aaron & Jessica and still missing a few classes) and the possibility that Tamar, Dan & Damian will not be able to go to San Francisco. But I will visit them in Los Angeles. There is no point in being in California without seeing them! But a stop in Montreal will have to wait. Darn!

The best part (for me) is that she is adding three more paintings to what we picked out (and I have already shipped to her) in July. And I feel these three paintings will definitely make the exhibit stronger. They are necessary additions.




Posted by leya at 08:13 AM

August 03, 2004

How I came to stay........

Ive been really frazzled lately. Too much to do in too little time. And the focus is mostly business issues: photography, shipping, customs clearance, exhibits, etc. AND painting. Fun and games. But lots of pressure to get it all done and to do it right away. Deadlines. I enjoy working under pressure, the painting part. Knowing that someone will see the work. Its the other stuff, the business stuff, that is more stressful. I have an intense panic with governmental issues, dealing with the clerical mentalities I often find there. (I had to go to Customs last week to clear a shipment from a gallery in Kentucky, returning work, wanting new work. It did go easily, but I was nervous, to say the least!)

When I immigrated to Canada, it was a lot harder than I had expected. All seemed to go well at first: application, interview, apparent acceptance, medical exams, then wait for the OK letter. I had already sold my loft in Manhattan, bought a house in Nova Scotia (in Sambro Head), and shipped my belongings, expecting to find a positive letter in my mailbox before I left. Instead I received a Thank you, but no thank you note. Apparently the man who had been working with my file was transferred to Jamaica and the new person decided to say no. I packed up my (new) car, put my dog Miranda in with me, and drove here anyway. (Where else was I to go?) Aaron was to follow later in the summer. When here, I had to get a temporary permit for myself and my belongings and then had to renew it several times. Aaron seemed to have good luck getting school permits.

And I reapplied three more times for immigrant status. I was told there are more artists in Nova Scotia than any other province and I had to prove that I was not just another artist (reference letters, proof of sales, gallery commitments in the U.S., etc.). The fourth time I was accepted, finally. (Maybe they were tired of saying no!) Just before that, on one of my return trips from NYC, I stopped at the border to renew my permit and was told by the officer that she would not let me in.

Obviously, she said, you want to live in Nova Scotia and you have to wait until you are granted immigrant status.

What to you want me to do? Go back to New York today?

Yes, she said.

What about my dog (Katie)?

Wheres your dog?

In Chester.

She didnt know where Chester was, which made her seem very dumb to me (everyone knows where Chester is, right!), but she gave me one month to go in and get my things. I had it extended to two months. Then when I was in Vermont waiting (and Aaron stayed here with friends), I received my papers and here I am (and Aaron is in Montreal now).

A couple of years later I received a phone call from Immigration asking that, since I have been so successful here, would I be willing to counsel new immigrants in my field. Of course I would, but they have never called again. Maybe it was a crank call, a bureaucrat amusing himself. I can laugh about it now, but I still dont enjoy anything to do with the clerical side of government.

Going to Cape Breton was a big change in the tone of my summer. It was all playmeeting people I hope to continue to know, enjoying, celebrating. For the Wedding Adventure I didnt take any of my business stuff with me, other than the beautiful cards Aaron designed for me.

And I came home and jumped in my lake. For the first time this summer. The weather has been so lousy and Ive been so busy, it was all so very refreshing. Now the pressure is off (I hope) for the next three weeks. Then I go to Montreal for a couple of days to visit Aaron & Jessica, to Los Angeles to visit Tamar, Dan & Damian, to San Francisco for an exhibit of my work at the Linda Fairchild Gallery (I hope to see you there, September 9!).

Posted by leya at 05:52 PM

August 02, 2004

Once in a Blue Moon

Saturday past was a full moon, a blue moon. I went to Cape Breton for the weekend, to a wedding, a real Cape Breton weddinglots of singing, dancing, drinking, food, fun.


The weather was, and has been, hot and sunny (whereas here it has been raining and cold for weeks and weeks, every day.) The couple getting married had a new kind of civil ceremony, a certified domestic agreement. Although originally designed to accommodate gay couples, any one can register. In essence there was no officiate, they designed their own ceremony, signed a paper, and, as the bride's mother suggested by the cake, the noose was tied!


The surprise event of the day was a whale watching cruise after the ceremony and food. Gulls watched from shore as a boatload of revellers pulled out to sea.


Ive seen whales from my living room window when I lived in Duncans Cove. But this was very special, magical. We were transported with eewwws and ooohs and aaaahhhs and LOOOK!!!! LOOK!!!!!!!! as the ocean came alive with pilot whales dancing around us. Many many whales, too many to count. (And too fast for me to get a good photo!)


I came back soaked from the ocean spray and soaked with wonderful memories. It was a relaxed, joyous Cape Breton party. The wedding experience was just ducky!


(P.S. The scarecrow's wedding was in Cheticamp. I didn't attend. I was in Pleasant Bay.)

Posted by leya at 03:30 PM

July 28, 2004


What makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl? At birth we look at the genitalia. As the child grows we expect certain behaviors (whatever our societal expectations might be) related to sex. Intersex is a term referring to people whose genitals have both male and female traits. I had never heard the word before this morning. It is one of the taboo subjects of the medical world and society at large. For such people the abiding wounds of shame and secrecy accompany them throughout their lives.

There was an interview on The Current (on CBC radio) this morning of Curtis Hinkle, a fifty-two-year-old living in South Carolina (who was in Montreal on a speaking tour). He is an activist lobbying to allow intersexed people to decide for themselves what changes are made to their bodies. Usually surgical intervention is performed before a child is old enough to become aware that their genitalia are different from what is considered the norm. In fact, it is a biological reality that 1 in 2,000 children are known to be born with an unusual sexuality, possibly parts of both sexes simultaneously.

This man said that he was surgically defined as female but he never felt that was right and was often reprimanded for obstreperous behavior as a child. (Translated that would mean he had the energy of a traditional boy.) He is now living as a man and comfortable with himself. (I missed the first part of his interview so I cannot fill in too many details but I think I heard that he has been married for twenty-five years.)

The question of gender identity is never black and white. There are many shades of boy and girl. Not all boys act alike; not all girls act alike. And thats what makes horse racing, as my mother would have said.

When each of my children were about a year old, I gave them the same toy. (I hope you dont mind my telling this story again, Tamar, even though you have heard it many times!) It was a platform on wheels with pegs and balls that could be stacked on top of each other on the platform. Tamar would sit there for an hour at a time stacking and restacking, fascinated by the different configurations she could make. When I gave the same toy to Aaron, at the same age, he immediately took his hand and pushed the toy as hard as he could to make it move. So he is a boy and she is a girl and they had standard boy and girl responses at that age. But that is not all there is to it, the boy and the girl. Ive seen both of them show aggression, assertiveness, competitiveness, vulnerability, sensitivity, compassion, irregardless of being boy or girl. People are very complex creatures, thats for certain.

Posted by leya at 05:09 PM

July 27, 2004

Taking the leap........

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about regrets. Do you/I have any regrets about your/my life? Yes and no. When I said I regret buying my first house here in Nova Scotia she said that was just material things. Perhaps what I really regret is the state of mind that led me to make that kind of choice. (It was definitely the wrong place for me to be living and I put too much money into trying to make it workable and it did have serious ramifications until recently because it came from a deep misunderstanding about myself and how to conduct my life in the adult world.) But, I suppose, I do not regret what I have learned from the experience (and I hope, will try, never to do something like that again).

I recently read Ann Packers The Dive From Clausens Pier, an exquisitely crafted, beautifully written, thoughtful story, told in the first person, by Carrie, a twenty-three year woman who, engaged to marry her high school sweetheart, is suddenly (when he takes a dive into shallow waters, hits his head on rocks, and becomes a quadriplegic) faced with a struggle (even though the relationship was faltering anyway) between her loyalty to him and the need to follow her inner passions.

Guilty, I said. I feel guilty. What does it say about me that Id leave? What kind of person does it make me?.. ..The kind of person you are, (her mother said)You do what you do. Not without consequence for other people, of course, sometimes very grave ones. But its not very helpful to regard your choices as a series of right or wrong moves. They dont define you as much as you define them.You could just as easily have stayed. But that wouldnt make you a good person any more than leaving makes you a bad one. Youre already made, honey. Thats what I mean. And whose fault is that I joked, surprisingly comforted. I take credit for everything except your big feet.

Carrie needs to learn the difference between walking away and moving forward. That she is not just the accumulation of the past but can be made anew over and over. Carrie wanted always to feel that there was something new up ahead. Her travels, inner and external, are intricately delineated through the details of her daily life and thoughtsfrom the details of sewing techniques to the observations of herself and people around her.

Carries friend Lane asked her Do you every wonder what your life would be like if your father had stayed around? If youd even recognize it (your life)?which left Carrie thinking something along the lines of how events are so powerfulhow they determine so much.

On the deeper level of experiences, I agree it is not possible to state simply that something is good or bad, it all can be looked at from so many points of view. Yes, my life has been good when you/I add it up, the different parts. Yet so many of the parts have been so painful--created pain for me and for those close to me. So if I were to say I regretted anything, it would be the pain I have caused to those people. But since I cannot change that (and hoping not to sound like Pollyanna), all I can do is try to learn from those experiences. Because I cannot undo events, emotional or material.

Posted by leya at 06:13 PM

July 20, 2004

But what makes a good life....

It is so interesting how different people deal with their lives, how differently people react to circumstance. In thinking it over, so much seems to be what we are born with, our natural resources, and then, beyond that, the will to make something good (or not) come from that.

I recently met a man in Montreal (a friend of a friend) whose wife had given birth to triplets a little over a year ago (with no chemical interference, an unusual situation in itselfthe dad was a twin, so that may explain it). He told me that the baby who was the smallest was actually initially the healthiest, didnt need any medical intervention for his survival even though his birth weight was about one and a half pounds while his brothers were almost five pounds. The explanation here was that in the womb he had become accustomed to the struggle for survival, had adapted, so he had a strength that belied his small size.

My friend Raymonds wife has a son who has always found life difficult. He was a troubled child who struggled with himself and others (even though he had a good, loving home) and has only recently, at twenty-six, begun to have any degree of stability in his behavior. On the other hand, Raymond and Lisa had fostered another child when he was nine, a child who came from a very troubled mother (on drugs). This boy was always cheerful and accomplished and even now, at nineteen, is strong and stable, coming through a painful childhood and adolescence with few apparent scars.

My dad once, late in his life, asked me how come things were so different for me than my sister, that everything seemed so much easier for her. I told him we were born different. That its been noticed that some babies in a nursery startle more easily, cry more, right from birth (that was me!). He agreed we were very different even as babies.

This leads me to think about my aunt Celia, my fathers sister, who had polio when she was 20, and was paralyzed from the neck down until she died of kidney failure at 45. She lived most of the time in an iron lung, one of those big old round body machines with only her head sticking out. Once, during a storm, the power went out in the hospital where she lived. Before the emergency power had time to be set into motion, she had gasped for enough air to realize that she was able to force air into her lungs in a way that would allow her to be out of the iron lung for what became eight hours at a time. She would go to the theatre, shopping, outings. Someone kindly rigged up some strings that hung down from a bar over her head so that when she blew on one, it would swing into her mouth and when she pulled it, had various responses: one was to turn pages in a book, so she could read (she also read aloud onto tapes for the blind and sold magazine subscriptions to help support herself), one opened and closed the door (her biggest fear was the door closing and no one hearing her if she needed help), another was for a telephone line especially for her, with an operator answering, hello Celia. She said she never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. She had a good life. The power of will. The power of a clear mind.


Posted by leya at 05:23 PM

July 19, 2004

Ya gotta see this!

Now I'm a dog lover, to be sure, and I almost brought a puppy home from Annapolis this weekend. Saw a sign outside a house on the way there that said they raised Golden Retrievers (I've had three so far, the last one died just three years ago, and I still miss her...but.....). But I retrieved my sanity enough to pass on by.......for a while yet.

Posted by leya at 08:46 PM

July 03, 2004

It's a strike!

It really was a strike! Tomo, Yoko and I went bowling last night. My score was not too bad, considering. Tomo and Yoko were better, for sure. But partway into the game, I realized that if I concentrated more on what I was doing, not just throw the ball and hope for the best, but really concentrate, as in telling myself to keep my wrist straight, to think strike (i.e., get the ball to go down the center of the lane, not into the gutter!) it really helped. Not very different from playing the piano, where so often I find my mind drifting and then the notes wander away from the music and go into the gutter as well. I think it is different in painting, where my mind is tuned in whether I realize it or not, my reactions sometimes feel outside of my body/mind. Maybe because I have been doing it for so long and it is so much a part of my body language. But then there are times when my concentration is essential to make the right choices. And thats where it counts on the scorecard.

I also realized after a while Yoko was doing so well because she used the shiny balls. That helped my game too!


Here they look like chocolate ballsgood enough to eat.

Posted by leya at 02:03 PM

July 02, 2004

Gone but never forgotten

Aaron & Jessica left for Montreal Tuesday morning. They, and Jessicas dad and step-mother, stayed here a couple of nights before they left. (I loved having a full house!) They drove and when they got in Wednesday night, Aaron called me, told me to look on my camera. Odile had taken this photo to leave me a memory of two very tired travelers.


After a couple of weeks of packing, the stress of moving, and a two day car trip, they sound, as of this morning, to be resting up and probably eager for their new life in Montreal.

I left my house before they did Tuesday morning because I had Pilates classes. One of the other women commented that I looked tired. I told her I was having an emotional day, that my son had just left to live in Montreal. Everyone was understanding. They were all mothers of grown children. That helped. And of course, they all said Montreal is their favorite city, etc.

When Aaron first moved back to Halifax three years ago, after eleven years in Montreal, I couldnt believe he was actually here. When he realized he was moving away again, he was extra attentive to me, calling, inviting me to dinner, to meet for lunch. It has made the move easier, those extra times together. One advantage of having grown children is that it doesnt take much to make a mom happy, just a little more attention. (But writing this, that they are gone, has been very hard.)

Im going to Montreal as of Sunday for a weekfor the Jazz Festand to soften the transition. They wont get that far away from me!

Posted by leya at 03:01 PM

June 26, 2004

Ginter Park


After seeing Yokos photo of her young self, I found this picture of my second grade class at Ginter Park Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. Im the third girl from the right in the front row, next to Amy Perkins on my right. At the end on the left is Twyla (we called her Trudy) Wily. I dont remember any one elses name except that a boy named Billy gave me my first kiss in kindergarten and also that I had a major crush on a boy named Dabny Stuart.

My parents were acutely aware of the racial and religious segregation and did not enjoy living in Richmond. I liked it there. It was warm and friendly. I had good friends that I still think about. (We moved back to Bethesda, Maryland after The War.) A sore spot is when my good friend Trudy showed me how to cheat on math, to write the answers lightly and then when there was a time-test, we could race through and win. Of course we were caught. And Ive never thought of math as fun since. I wonder if she did/does.

I went back to visit Trudy Wily a couple of times, once when I was in the fifth grade, and once when I was probably about 15 or 16. I remember getting on a bus with Trudy and starting to go to the back to sit and she quickly caught me, saying we couldnt sit in the back, that was for the colored people. (The term black had yet to surface.) Trudy also told me that it was good that I had left Richmond. I wouldnt have had an easy time because I was Jewish. I wouldnt have been accepted with the children who had been my friends. Ill never know. That decision was made for me. And prejudice wasnt quite so bad in Bethesda. I'm glad my children grew up in New York City.

Posted by leya at 01:06 PM

June 25, 2004

Yoko & Buddha's Birthday

Yoko showed me this photo the other day. She was four years old. The children in her kindergarten class were all dressed up for the Buddhas birthday celebration. In Japan they have an interesting mixture of Shinto and Buddhist rites, depending on the occasion. Shinto for weddings and Buddhist funeral ceremonies. An intelligent eclectic mix, taking the best of what is offered.

Posted by leya at 07:47 PM

June 19, 2004


Tomorrow is Fathers Day and there have been several commentaries on the radio about the changing roles of childcare, the reconfiguring of balance in families, how it is more common for dads to stay home and take on the role of caregiver while mom goes out to make and bring home the bread.

Andrea Doucette was interviewed (CBC radio) for her book Do Men Mother? She (and others) admitted that social acceptance of this role reversal is still an issue. A lot of the men who are doing the main childcare role also work at home or part-time, like women have done for the past 20 years. What was most interesting was the comments on the style men use as compared to women: men promote independence more easily, encourage the child to be strong on his own, take more risks, are more physical in their play, are oriented to a more outdoors style. Of course, the men are still men, operating under the influence of male hormones, yet (and) quite capable of taking on the nurturing role.

In my childhood, the feeling was that children were to be had, not played with. I dont remember my parents ever playing with me, either one. It felt to me as if a child was more a possession. One to be carefully dusted and groomed. These days I often see both parents more involved in their childrens lives than in my childhood (although I am sure there must have been some playful parents back in that dark age of parenting).

What kind of a parent I have been is for my children to tell. (And I hope you ask them on a good day!) They basically had an absentee father. And for sure, I could have been a more playful parent (and lots of other could have dones). Whatever lapses in attention I may have had in the past, the present is strong. They are wonderful people. (As in Japan, on May 5) we need a Hallmark style Childrens Day.

Posted by leya at 12:33 PM

May 11, 2004

Mother days

The worst part about being a parent is when they leave home. The best part is that they never really leave home. That is, they are always your children. Ive been very fortunate. My children are wonderful people and we are close. It hasnt always been easy (and I have done some terrible things as a parent that are too painful to talk about) but it has always been good.

In Ian McEwans book Atonement the mother muses, as her youngest approaches the end of childhood, that nothing between here and the grave would be as elementally important or as pleasurable as the care of a child. (Of course, she is talking as a mother who had lots of domestic help. And it is the only comment in the book, so far, that has moved me.) The sentiment of the comment is real, there is nothing that compares to being a parent. Nothing more instructive or potentially rewarding.

My father once asked me (about fifteen years ago, when he was in his late eighties) how come my sister and I were so different. We had both grown up in the same house, same family, same advantages. Things seemed to be much easier for her. She is still married to the same man after (how many, maybe 45) years, three grown children, grandchildren, big house, security. I told him then that we were just different people, that you notice in a nursery in the hospital that some babies startle more easily, cry more, some are more quiet even from the beginning. What I didnt say was that because of these inborn differences, we needed to be treated differently. The one thing I tried to do with my children was to see them as people separate from myself, with their own needs and interests.

I read in Vogue magazine years ago that if you consider your child your best friend then something is wrong, you are too dependent upon them. I was. But I am not now. They are my friends and I know what the boundaries are. I genuinely enjoy their company, exploring their minds, their worlds. But I also know that all friendships have places that you dont go into, things that are better left not said. That relationships are about being with someone, relating to them as they are, not trying to make them into someone more like yourself, more of your own needs.

My children have only left home physically. They are always with me.

Posted by leya at 08:10 AM

April 24, 2004

Tennis anyone?

I went to the market this morning with Aaron and Jessica. We met a friend whose mother had died at 96. I had met the mother at the granddaughters wedding about six years ago. A very lively woman, she was taking a walk in the woods by herself before the wedding (which was in lovely Cape Breton) and continued to play tennis at home in Colorado with her friends. So Aaron asked me just now how long I think I will live. I still have a bit of things to do before I go. I can only hope that I will be in as good form as my friends mother.

Posted by leya at 05:56 PM

April 19, 2004

Small worlds

I went to a birthday party for a good friend on Sunday afternoon. When I walked into the house, I looked around and realized I knew only one person there, the hostess (and then the birthday boy when he arrived). The next couple to come turned out to be my vet and his wife, people I was very happy to see again (as I have been dogless for a few years now) and renew a friendship. (He was part of a long-time poker group with my friend.) Then while talking to another woman, I discovered she was the sister of the husband of a friend (who had both visited me the previous weekend) and the connections continued until by the time I left, there were only about two people out of the 15 or so at the party that I didnt have a related storyline.

After everyone left, I sat out on the back deck in the warm sun with the hostess and we talked for a couple of hours. It was an unusually brilliant Spring day, the world growing smaller and warmer with every turn of the clock. Of course it is raining again today, but that doesnt change yesterday.

Posted by leya at 08:18 AM

April 13, 2004


I heard from Tamar that a hate group has gogglebombed the word Jew to their site. Their intention is to have their group at the top of the listing when you google Jew. Obviously, anti-semitism is not dead. Hate is not dead. Hate is deadly. The state of hate in the world is altogether upsetting.

Posted by leya at 08:34 AM


I went bowling on the weekend. It was a friends birthday party. I have known Norm and Nancy for twenty-five years. I knew them each before they were together. Now Norm is 53 and Nancy will turn 50 this summer. I've known them each before they had known (in the biblical sense) each other. Ive known them and a lot of their friends when we lived in New York City and here in Nova Scotia. We are all practicing Buddhist. And yet I could say that half of the people at the bowling party were not people I am comfortable around. I could say even that I hate a few of them. But that would be too strong a word. I just really dont enjoy their company because they act like they dont like me. I would imagine that if they were friendlier to me, I might like them, definitely more than I do now. And quite possibly, if I had been friendlier to them, taken more of an interest in their worlds, they would have been friendlier to me, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Then the other thing about friendship is that I know for myself how I am with someone can change radically from person to person, and even from day to day. It could depend on what I had been thinking or even what I had for dinner. Who I am is not solid, not a fact. I exist in relationship to what is happening, who I am with, what I am doing.

There are all kinds of friendship: casual friends, intimate friends, old and new friends. And every kind has its idiosyncrasies and rules. I, being a Sagittarius, call everyone a friend until proven otherwise. But actually sometimes feel I dont have a friend in the world. I do have a few very close friends, with whom I can talk freely about most things that happen in my life, in my mind. I treasure them.

But the other kind of friend, the casual friend, is a very important friend as well. Spending time with a friend does not necessarily mean intimacy. Talking about myself, whatever that may be on that particular day. I learn so much by what I dont, cant say in that situationlearn to listen, to appreciate how the other persons mind works separate from me, to see my responses without needing (or being able to be verbal), without asking for confirmation.

But it is commonly (accurately and sometimes with difficulty) said that the best friend is the one that you spend the most time withyourself. If you don't like that friend, if that person is frustrated and angry, the world is not a pretty place. Maybe the hate mongers have no real friend.

Posted by leya at 08:16 AM

April 12, 2004

About nothing

This is not really about anything. It is, I suppose, could be called, a story about nothing, or not a story at all. Because we don't know about death. Only that it is happens, is inevitable.

I was driving into Halifax one day, when the sun was warm and the traffic was thick, and I suddenly thought about how much my daughter would miss me when I die, how painful it will be for her, and tears spilled down my cheeks. And when I think about Katie, or Sebastian or Miranda, my three dogs, I cry because I miss them. And sometimes I want my mother, I want to tell her that I am okay, she need not worry. But I am alone and my daughter will be alone without her mother some day. Not too soon. Time is to prepare. Clean the closets and sort through things that I do not want to leave behind. The teenage journals, diaries, petty thoughts, jealousies, spiteful games.

Spring breeds thoughts of death. New growth coming out of a cold, hard ground is only a reminder of how short the growing season is. Bittersweet. Seeing flowers that had been dormant all winter bursting with beauty, and newly planted vegetables popping out of the ground, brings tears, knowing it will be over so soon. Then that feeling leaves and joy follows like summer. Inevitably the leaves drop from the trees like postcards from summer. It will be winter again soon. Death is life and life is precious. Time is because death is near.

It is a death. Of was. Of is. Of boundaries. Of unknowns. Of a moment. Of course.

I have been close to death a few times. My own only once. When my truck overturned on the highway after being hit by a couple of teenagers trying to make a U-turn. Time did, as they say, feel like an eternity as we swerved and rolled over. And all I could think to say to my son was they hit us, didnt they. And I was thinking that this is a terrible way for him to witness his mothers death. Afterwards I couldnt go to sleep in the hospital until I could figure out why I was still alive. (I had put roll-bars on the side to act as running-boards for a friend who has MS.) And I wished that I had told my son how much I loved him.

I learned about death taking care of some friends, all younger than myself, who died of cancer and also my step-mother, who , like many older people, died soon after they lose their spouse, in this case, my father. I learned to stay out of their way, to anticipate their needs, to allow them the dignity of dying without my needs and sorrows.

My three dogs deaths were very hard. The first, Miranda, was nine and a half. She died shortly after I moved to Nova Scotia from New York City. I would love seeing her tail wagging in the woods as she found her first pleasures of country living. But she lived here only three months. I felt grief, but also guilt, that I had not been good enough to her, that she could have had a better life if I had only known. That she would die.

So then I quickly got Katie, a frisky puppy until the day she died, at sixteen and a half. In fact, her energy and independence were so intense that I got her a friend, Sebastian, when she was one year old. Katie never forgave me for what she saw as displacing her in my affections, but she loved him as much as I did. But then he died at age three of cancer of the nasal passage. Katie grieved loudly, going into the woods and howling at night. He had died at home and she smelled the death. To me the smell was like roses, sweet and peaceful. For six months before he died, I grieved. When he did die, it was a relief. Katie and I went for long walks together after that, getting to know each other again.

Katie died three years ago and I still miss her. But I dont think I can go through another doggie death. And this is the first time in over forty years I havent had anyone to take care of and it feels good. A new lesson.

When my mother died, I felt grief, but also relief. But not the same as when Sebastian died. We had not had an easy time with each other. But now, I would be so grateful for even an hour with her, not even to talk, just to be with her, let her know that everything is okay.

I spend most of my spare time writing poems to and about my mother. Love poems, I could say, considering that we never expressed our feelings. For ten years after she died, I had intense, burning dreams about my mother. That she was still alive, in a wheelchair, or crippled in some way, and I would say, in my own pain, why doesnt she die. When she did finally die for me, I missed her and longed for just one more time to be together.

Once we had a couple of goldfish. They died slowly. We watched as their bodies tired and slowly arched and then ceased. Inside the glass jar, death was not frightening, but still sad.

There is an expression, To die for. That something is so good, you would be willing to die for it. Another expression, that you are dying of a broken heart, or dying for love. And I have seen that happen. When a love affair goes wrong, and the heart breaks and lets in disease that kills. I had two girlfriends I heard say many times I am dying of a broken heart just two years before they did die, but of cancer eating away their unfulfilled loves. Watch what you say. Life is precious. Death comes without warning. Life is precious.

Posted by leya at 08:59 AM

April 10, 2004

Passing over

Passover is going to come and go and not even say hello. For the past few years some of my Buddhist/Jewish combo friends have gathered together for a seder. The first year I was invited was exhilarating for me. It was a small gathering. Three mixed (Jewish/Gentile) couples, their children, me and my dog Katie. We read the haggadah, ate, sang, laughed and talked about our relationships to religions. Each year the gathering grew until last year it felt like a farce, a comedy without meaning. Laughing at rather than enjoying the rituals. This year the seder is cancelled. Everyone is too busy or otherwise occupied.

When I was a child, we would go to my grandmothers for the seder. I was usually the youngest and read the four questions. My uncle would also hint where they had hidden the matzo so that I would find it. The ceremony was long and tedious, the food interesting. I loved the egg in salt water and the charoset, of which I could never get enough.

I grew up in an semi-immigrant family (my father was born in Riga as was most of my mothers family) that was trying to assimilate, be American. Being Jewish meant going to synagogue on the High Holidays and kissing my grandmother. As a child, what I studied about Judaism was frighteningwars with the Hitites, and wars with the Philistines and more struggles and more wars. Ive never been fond of war, fighting, arguments.

Being the only Jewish family in our neighborhood, I learned that we were different. I never made peace with being Jewish until recently. I read a wonderful book, God Is Not In the Fire (Ive since lent out the book and dont remember the authors name), given to me by a friend who felt it important that I embrace my spiritual past. It did give me new insight into and respect for the contemplative practices of the Jewish religion and a new pride in my heritage, which is why I wanted to have a seder with my friends. Maybe, if my parents had been more orthodox, I would still practice the Jewish religion. Probably not. I love rituals and am comfortable with my Buddhist practices.

Posted by leya at 09:06 AM

April 01, 2004

April is here already..........

Every year on April One, my mother would put salt in the sugar bowl and every year my father would forget that she did this and put salt in his coffee and then be very angry at my mother who would laugh and really enjoy her trick. Every year.

Posted by leya at 06:30 AM

March 28, 2004

Rethinking pain, delayed and otherwise

Ive never thought of myself as someone who ran away from pain. Although I wouldnt mind having less pain in my life, I find it a valuable lesson. I can often be very philosophical about it, especially after the event/fact has cooled.

I recently reread some of Tamars entries in her journal Hidden Laughter, about her son Damian, his diagnosis of (and recovering from) high functioning autism and how she and Dan have worked with him. I can't begin to tell you the effect rereading it has had for me. I don't think I have allowed myself to go through her experience anywhere near the level that she has. I have pushed away my own pain in the situation. Just enjoyed the excitements of his (many) accomplishments. I reread all the entries with tears running down my face, so many tears the words were often blurred. As if the numbness that I had encouraged was rapidly melting away, a bleeding glacier.

It has been the same with my granddaughter, who moved to Brazil when she was just over two years old. I hadnt seen her for five years until this last January. I could feel my son's pain, but not my own. Now the pain of separation is easily available. I cannot think of her without tears of pain and joy. Pain for her being so far away, joy for knowing her.

I hope I can use this pain in a way that can be helpful. Yet it is very easy to deny pain in a situation when you feel helpless. I can talk to Tamar often, visit some, be helpful to her during difficult times, but there was little I could do for Damian, who is 4,000 miles away most of the time. And less for Shaya in Brazil. I can joke about being Grandmotherly Challenged. But it is still hard.

Posted by leya at 09:11 AM

March 21, 2004

Playing It Right

Theres that mystical/magical place called The Zone. Im not sure what it looks like, being someone who slips in and out of staying in the present, having often lived in a very real fantasy zone. I dont think that is what they are talking about. This magical zone is said to be where things work, where work is not effort but smooth, the silk fabric of the mind and body coordinating. I know that feeling often when I am painting. I expect it, I nourish it, I enjoy it. When playing the piano it is more difficult to maintain. Probably because of childhood associations. When the music flows, that is where I usually then freeze, stumble.

This afternoon Yoko came over with her husband Hiro. My son Aaron was visiting. He had been here last summer when Yoko and I had first started playing duets together and she wanted him to hear how we had improved. So the two men sat on the couch while we entertained them. The first piece, a Dvorak, flowed perfectly. No mistakes. Very expressive. A real duet. At the end we spontaneously raised our thumbs to each other.

The two other pieces, by Grieg, were not so perfect. On the last piece I made a mistake on the second page and started laughing so much we had to start again. Once when I was young, my parents had ridiculed me in front of company when I made a mistake. I didnt laugh then. I cried and left the house, thinking I would never return. I often now have a hard time playing for people even though I want to. Yoko is more of a performer but I intend to learn.

A few years ago I read a wonderful book by Noah Adams, Piano Lesson. He had decided, at age 51, to learn to play the piano. He chronicles his various attempts over a year to teach himself, ultimately realizing that he needed a teacher and also, ultimately, learning to play. During that time he wanted to learn Traumerei by Robert Shumann and play the piece for his wife as a Christmas present. When he had hesitated playing for people in the course of his studies, one of his teachers had said, in a very memorable and tender passage, that playing for someone is a rare and special gift. This book is a true love story. His story often sits down with me when I play for someone. Its not just about playing it right. And that makes it right.

Posted by leya at 08:34 PM

March 19, 2004


Yoko and I finally were able to play duets tonight. On Wednesday, when my driveway was so thick with snow and we were trying to negotiate possible plans, through my window I saw her at the top of my (long) driveway talking to me on her cell phone, she beside her car on the road, me on my home cordless phone. What joy, these modern toys!

Tonight my driveway is clear (although there are walls of snow along the sides) and we played right through any mistakes either of us made, listening to each other and enjoying the flow of the music. It felt like a big accomplishment, not to be intimidated or misdirected by mistakes. I find it so interesting to notice when I make mistakes. Usually it is when I start thinking how good it sounds. Then oops, distraction/mistake. Sometimes it is just reading too far ahead, not being with the notes I am making. Tonight, once, I found myself playing without reading the music, suddenly not knowing where I was but playing along anyway. Like stepping off an embankment but landing safely on the ground. Music is real food for me. One of the necessities of life, like sleep and books.

Posted by leya at 10:14 PM

March 17, 2004

O no, more snow!

Yoko was going to come over this morning (which inspired my housekeeping need) to play duets (four hand piano). She was going to bring a couple of friends visiting from Tokyo. But we had another big dump of snow last night and my driveway was impassable except on foot, and her friends, coming from Tokyo, had only brought sneakers. So we will have to wait until Friday to play together.

Meanwhile, how much snow do we need for one winter! Really now!



Posted by leya at 05:55 PM

March 01, 2004

In Memory of a Very Special Dog

Today is the three year anniversary of my dog Katies death. I still miss her. I dont miss having a dog. I miss Katie. After many years of taking care of someonetwo children, three dogs, three cats, two fish tanks, an assortment of rodentswhen she died it felt like time to be without the need to think about another being for a while. But I still miss her.

Now I have a ceramic sculpture of a small red dog, about five inches long, sitting on my dining room table. Sometimes I pet the dogs head. I often talk to her and tell her about my day. After Katie died, I told a friend who had cared for her, who had known her from family walks along the cliffs in Duncans Cove where we had lived. (The children had always asked if that red dog would be there to join them. And she usually was, eager for their company.) A few days later my friend brought me a present. It was a ceramic red dog, made by her fourteen year old daughter when she was nine. The sculpture looks just like Katie. Has her inquisitive, intelligent, knowing and playful expression. I was (and am) very grateful for this gift. I still miss Katies warm body and quirky ways but she is still here, having meals with me every day.


Katie at fifteen, a year before she died.

Posted by leya at 01:39 PM

February 24, 2004

Shrek again

I just saw a Shrek for the second time and enjoyed it just as much. The beautiful princess finds her true love, turns into her true self, with their first kiss, and they live .you know the story. Sort of. The twist is that Shrek is an ogre, a big, ugly (albeit intelligent, witty, strong) ogre (with a beautiful, soft smile when he dares to smile). And she is..if you havent, do see it. Shrek never seems really ugly. He is such an interesting ogre, so much character and depth to his personality. A delight to get to know.

My mother used to say handsome is as handsome does. And Shrek is very handsome. As is Schmidt (in About Schmidt) at the end of the movie, where he exposes his inner heart. Then he becomes beautiful, a beautiful, big person, and it doesnt matter if his flesh is weak, tired, his heart and mind are pure at this moment.

Body image is such an interesting, challenging subject. Shrek thinks he is ugly. So he tries to scare everyone away. Thats his job. My mother was very slender but this brought her much unhappiness because she thought she was skinny. She had that porcelain skin, very light and transparent, which made her look fragile and delicate. I have the exact same body shape, size and height (and, although I did't want them, would have fit into all her clothes when she died) and even my face and facial expressions are very similar. My skin tone is darker. When I was younger, I wanted to be small, short. It was in. But now, everyone being taller with each generation, and the possibility of shrinking with aging, I have felt embarrassed being short. Until recently. A good friend, who is my size, keeps referring to me as little one and the affection overrides the size reference, lets me look at it differently. And one of my Pilates instructors is also my size and she looks good. So maybe short is good. It is what I have, so that is good.

Posted by leya at 06:33 AM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2004

The Magic of Music

My friend Yoko came over this afternoon. We play duets (four hand piano duets) together once a week, usually on Wednesday evenings, and then we take turns cooking dinner. But tonight she has to go into Halifax. As we were playing today, the snow started coming down in big flakes, very fast. It felt like we were in a movie set, playing Dvorak and Grieg and watching the trees around us turn white again.

We began playing together last summer. My house alarm had gone off by mistake and as she lives up the road, the monitoring company had called her (I had given them her number for emergencies). She came over later when I was home and we began playing for each other. It was delightful. We both knew a lot of the same music and she suggested the duets. At first I hesitated. I had played with my father, he on the violin, and it was not a lot of fun. My timing was never good and I had trouble sight reading. But once Yoko and I started playing together I started looking forward to our evenings. They have a special magic. The communication of listening to each other, sharpening our senses. We laugh when we make mistakes. And my timing and sight reading skills have improved.

Yoko brought over a small tape recorder today. It sounded like an old radio when we played it back. Very tinny. We sat and listened to ourselves playing while we watched even more heavy snow fall outside the windows. It's cleared now. More snow to shovel, but my driveway is no longer a skating rink for cars. The snow helps with traction.

Posted by leya at 06:42 PM

February 08, 2004

Are You My Mother?

As I roused myself to get up this morning, I remembered a snippet of a dream. That I was comparing my slender (thin) legs to my mothers, and deciding hers were thinner (skinnier) even though other people were saying they were the same. Thinking about this strange image, I remembered the phrase not a leg to stand on and remembered how I feel posting thoughts in an on-line journal, not knowing who will read it (or if) or if it is a thought that can stand on its own. And the thought: stand on your own two legs, i.e., not my mothers, that I am doing what I am doing, something new, something old, something borrowed, maybe blue/red/pink/green. And why should I care what other people say about my legs compared to my mothers, or is it just me (forever) comparing myself to what is out there.

Do you remember the childrens book Are You My Mother, in which a little bird falls out of the nest and goes around asking all the animals if they are his mother? Do we fall out of the nest and spend the rest of our lives looking for our mother, looking for reassurance? The little bird finds his mother at the end of the book (of course) and all is well (for him). But eventually he will have to fly off on his own.

Posted by leya at 09:00 AM

February 03, 2004

Spanking news

There has been a lot of talk on CBC radio lately about spanking children. The Supreme Court has ruled that it is okay to exert reasonable physical force when disciplining children, but not before age two or after twelve. This is very upsetting news, to legalize spanking. Although putting a parent in jail for spanking is also questionable. And how is reasonable force defined? Who defines it?

How can it be justified to hit a person smaller and indefensible? And vulnerable. Lets not forget the vulnerability of being small, young, tender. These assaults leave scars that are deep, fester and mutate. Granted children can be unreasonable, hard to discipline, but there has to be a better way.

And while we are at it, perhaps we can examine the scars left on children by verbal assaults: sarcasm, belittling, betraying, teasing. Oh, I was just teasing darling. I really am not going to leave you stranded in the middle of the highway just because you wont stop screaming for the toy you left at home. Would a two or three year old really understand the complexity of adult frustrations? Or "You want to run away? I'll help you pack your bags" instead of asking what makes the child so unhappy. How can an adult expect respect from a child if the adult does not respect the child's intelligence? (As you can see, I am pretty wound up about this topic of spanking children!)

So what makes a good parent anyway? Im not sure, being a fallible parent myself. I know that we do make mistakes, some that hurt very deeply. I am exceedingly grateful to my father who, at his 90th birthday party, apologized, in his dignified way, for doing things that hurt. We just didnt know any better. And thats the truth. We dont usually know better when we hurt children. But an apology goes a long way. As does kindness. And talking about what hurts.

Posted by leya at 07:46 AM

February 02, 2004

A Girl from Sao Paulo

What does a seven year old girl who has lived in Brazil for the last five years of her life do when she comes to Montreal in January?


Play in the snow


and watch the skaters


and then skate!


Eat in cosmopolitan Montreal restaurants!


Draw with her new pencil crayons in an upbeat cafe!


Go to the Botanical Gardens. It was so cold outside. Nice to be in the warm greenhouses.


Hug her dad.


Pose with the cacti.


Take a picture at the dim sum resaturant of the jello. (She took some really good photos all along the way. A budding photographer. Her grandmother just wanted to show you more of Shaya in Montreal in early January.)

Posted by leya at 07:48 PM

January 30, 2004

One of a Kind

I went to the dentist today. This is a big event in my life as the dentist I went to before this one had asked me never to come back. (There are certain kinds of pain for which I have a low tolerance, needles and drilling being the main ones.) That dentist didnt have the patience to have me for a patient. It upset him that I felt pain when he didnt expect it. I then found Dr. Haas and travel an hour to see him. At this point, I usually look like Damian in the dentists chair: apprehensive, yet willing. But that doesnt seem to bother this dentist. And I enjoy his intelligent, calm approach to his job.

Meanwhile, recently a friend told me that he too had had some bad experiences with dentists. If he saw a sign for a dentists office, he would even cross the street to avoid walking in front it. Then he was referred to the dentist he goes to now, someone he is very comfortable with and treats him well. I asked him his name and of course, it was the doctor who asked me not to come back. My mother would have said "that's what makes horse racing."

Today, during our usual discursive distractions from the procedures, Dr. Haas asked me to put him in my memoirs. Since I am not writing a memoir anytime in the near future, I will tell you about him here. First, he wants me to tell you that he is a mountain of a person. He is. He is very unique. Curious about how people feel about what they are doing, I once asked him if he liked being a dentist. He said he did most of the time, except in the afternoon when the office was chaotic with children. (Yet I know he is known for his patience and gentleness with children.) He also said that he had once been asked to come to Harvard University to teach, but had turned down the offer because he preferred his life in the country (in Chester, Nova Scotia). He likes to play hockey in the winter and go off alone camping in the woods in the summer. He has three children, a son and two girls, adopted twins. Instead of moving to Cambridge and University Life, he and his wife adopted the girls, not as infants, but young children who definitely needed a home. They have been a challenge. All three children are in budding adolescence now, testing his need and desire for peace.

His family roots are in Germany. He said his father was orphaned at fifteen during World War II and suffered scars that still exist into his eighties. He said that a lot of Germans emigrated to Canada because of the excessive taxation demands of the Church on post-war Germans who were already economically depleted.

As I cringe under the needle and flinch with every movement he makes, I flippantly said today Arent you glad you dont have more patients like me? and he said he actually does have more patients like me. In fact people come from all over the Maritimes, travel several hours to see him. People with various health problems who need more time. He said he has the time, hes not going anywhere.

There are a lot of wonderful, helpful people in my life. And my dentist is one of them. In his welcoming and careful, precise and friendly way, he is definitely a solid rock-mountain of a person.

Posted by leya at 08:02 AM

January 26, 2004

The Ties That Bind

I am not able to see my grandchildren often. One lives in Los Angeles, the other in Brazil. Yet I feel a strong bond and a deep excitement when I am with them.

My friend Joe told me an interesting story a while ago. He had received a letter from an old girlfriend, telling him, first, to be sure to sit down when reading it, and second, that he would probably be hearing from a seventeen year old boy who was actually his son. Eighteen years before she had become pregnant and not told my friend. Their relationship was over. She gave the child up for adoption.

When Joe did hear from his son, he decided to go visit. Apparently the child had been adopted into a good, kind family, with many advantages and loving support. The adoptive parents had kept three photo albums, one for themselves, one for the birth mother and one for the birth father, preparing themselves for the time when their son would want to meet his birth parents.

There were many similarities between Joe and his son. Both were excellent at math, the son was about to go to the same university that Joe had, and when seeing the two of them sitting next to each other on the couch, the adoptive parents said it was easy to see who the father was. Even though they had never met before, they had similar mannerisms.

The fascinating part of the story is that when the newly acquainted father and son were alone together, the son could talk to Joe about things that he could never tell his adoptive parents. And these things were very similar to what Joe had experienced in his life: an interest in drugs, jazz, an underlying rebellion against his middle-class upbringing.

The ties that bind run deep.

Posted by leya at 08:21 AM

January 12, 2004

Two beauties

I have the most beautiful grandchildren. See for yourself:




I just returned from a weekend with Shaya in Montreal (she was visiting from Brazil) and before that, two weeks with Damian in Los Angeles. I am too overwhelmed with emotion to write more now.

Posted by leya at 09:00 AM

December 18, 2003

A many splendor.......

Im in love, o yes, in love: in love with persimmons and Asian pears, with being driven around in the sunshine, picking up pebbles on the beach, being in the dry, salt air of the City of Angels, basking in the warmth of my family of angels. Perhaps we have ironed out the wrinkles of being so necessary to each other, parent and child. Learning how important it is to separate, be separate people, how to help but not intrude.

What am I doing on my winter holiday in Los Angeles? Stripping wallpaper, reading, cooking and washing dishes, exploring stores of abundant merchandise, being away from the cold extremes of Eastern Maritime weather. Learning about love, in its many guises.

And then, of course, the people. The cast: my daughter Tamar who I often mistakenly call my sister (although maybe not much of a mistake), her son Damian who is currently on an enchanting and stressful emotional teeter-totter ride, a five year old growing into his body and his feelings, and Dan, the dad, ever present and caring when with us or not.

And the cats. Good guys. Never thought I could love a cat again. (Almost time to get another dog.)

So there is still much to do, people to meet, parties to go to and probably some tensions to face. Nevertheless, I am putting memories of joys in a box to take home with me.

Love is a funny thing. It comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes and forms.

Posted by leya at 05:26 PM