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.





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April 20, 2009

Cutting, clearly

Recently, now that the weather is warmer, whenever I can, I've been fiddling around the yard, pulling up little shrubby trees and planning the garden. I’ve been wanting to expand my vegetable garden but not quite sure how. For the past few years, my vegetables haven’t been doing as well as they did. A friend suggested cutting down the trees surrounding the garden. Vegetables don’t like any shade when growing. At first I was hesitant, was going to cut down only a few, just to let in more light. But then it seemed to have a mind of its own and I trimmed the woods so that now the land is exposed and spacious.

My neighbor Mike cut down a lot of the tall but ugly trees that stood behind the garden. There must have been at least fifty scraggly trees back there. Mischievously, I love to tell people I’ve been clear cutting my land, but really, it’s definitely a necessary improvement in many ways. It's strange, having been here over twelve years, enjoying the feeling of living in the woods, the seclusion, but now wanting to open up the landscape, let in more sunshine.

It feels like an outer manifestation of what I am feeling inside. A desire to move out into the world. It’s reflected in my artwork as well. I’m not sure what other people see, but I feel there is a stronger expression, more need to take chances, try new possibilities. I’m having photos taken tomorrow evening. That always gives me a better opportunity to see what I am actually doing. With his bright lights and focused camera view.

Meanwhile I have a lot of landscaping to do. I will have to build more rock walls to contain the dirt for the garden. Then buy the dirt and plant. The back of my house, the studio side is now exposed and I’ll have to do some landscaping there as well. Paint the door and maybe build an arbor over it. Many possibilities.

Posted by leya at 11:29 AM

November 09, 2008

Why we think the way we do

My friends often give me materials to use for collage. Most of them are women’s magazines and I enjoy reading them as well as cutting them up. Recently I came across an interesting article in O magazine. It talked about the one percent difference between male and female brains as explained by Louann Brizendine in her book The Female Brain.

When we started studying the skull in my drawing class, I brought in the article and amused the students by reading it to them. I’ll relate a few of the ideas here:

A baby girl’s skills in eye contact and face studying improve more than 400 percent during the first three months of life. Making eye contact is “at the bottom of (the baby boy’s) list of interesting things to do.”

Men use about 7,000 words a day, women about 20,000.

Connecting through talking activates the pleasure centers in a girl’s brain, providing a major dopamine and oxytocin rush, which is the biggest, fattest neurological reward you can get outside the big “O”.

The areas of the brain that tract emotion and memory formation are larger and more sensitive in the female brain.

Men have two and a half times the brain space devoted to sexual drive as women do, as well as larger brain centers for action and aggression.

While men notice subtle signs of sadness in the face only 40% of the time, women pick up on them 90% of the time.

That little one percent makes a big difference!

Posted by leya at 08:15 PM

October 31, 2008

It’s Halloween and I’m holed up in my darkened house.

Yes, the Scrooge of Halloween hides again. Usually I go to dinner and a movie with my friend Yoko, but this year I just didn’t feel like getting into the car. It’s been a busy week and the busy-ness is going to continue all next week. So I am enjoying a (very) quiet time keeping the little beggars away. I used to love Halloween when my kids were young, when I was young, but now it just seems like too much candy.

As promised, the sun came out strong this afternoon and Lila and I took a walk in the woods. At the other end of the brook a friendly neighbor came out to chat with us. We commiserated about Halloween. He too said he turns out the lights and hides in the back of his house. He’s thought of handing out toothbrushes and toothpaste. Then he wouldn’t feel so bad about the event. Good idea!

Posted by leya at 08:16 PM

October 28, 2008

How to break (in two) bad news

On the Maritime Noon show (CBC radio, of course), they were talking about how to tell someone they had a terminal illness. The Dalhousie Medical School has had a program for the past ten years using simulated patients with the medical students to give them practice in the art of breaking bad news. It's been very helpful in teaching them how to relate to patients' emotional needs.

At one point in my varied career, I did a lot of patient simulation. I was arthritic for physical therapy students, violently angry (I don’t remember why) for paramedics, helping my aging parent get the right medication for medical qualifying exams, and many other roles.

One of the most memorable roles I played was with a medical student. She had to tell me that, due to a possible error in judgment on her part, my elderly husband had died. She was visibly upset in telling me this. My reaction, without planning at all, was to put my hand on her knee and say “That’s all right, dear. It must have been his time. He had a good life. Don’t worry. It’s okay.”

She didn’t know what to say after that. I’m not sure which of the two of us was more shocked.

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July 13, 2008


The weather has been lovely lately. Not too hot, not too cold. The skies are clear, the water warm. A couple of days ago when Lila and I went in for a swim we were the only ones in the water. Except for three loons swimming together about fifteen feet away from us. They watched us approach as we watched them looking at us. Then they dove under water and swam away.

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June 06, 2008

Imagine this

If you wake up feeling old and tired, here's some inspiration:

Britain's oldest man, thought to be one of three surviving UK World War I veterans, is celebrating reaching his 112th birthday. . . Henry Allingham, who was born in London on 6 June 1896, is also the last surviving original member of the Royal Air Force - formed 90 years ago.

"People ask me how I've done it, and I just say that I look forward to another tomorrow."

Now partially deaf and almost blind, Mr Allingham, who was born in Clapham, London, now lives at St Dunstan's home for blind ex-servicemen, in Ovingdean.

His life has spanned six monarchs and has taken in 21 prime ministers. , , , He has joked that the secret to his longevity is "cigarettes, whisky and wild women".

I'm not personally fond of cigarettes and whisky (much prefer beer) but I can relate to the wild.

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May 22, 2008


I may not be of the “Facebook generation”, haven’t yet found it much fun, but I do greatly enjoy the way people connect on the internet. I love the “accidental” ways people come across my artwork and similarly, the “chance” meetings on blogs. Recently I received a comment from Mary Ann on the West Coast who “found” my blog and has just started her own. Her artwork and writing is well worth taking a look, both sensitive and thoughtful.

In addition, my friend Jackie who lives in Ottawa saw a video of me on TV (the one on BRAVO where I was paired with a musician from Monitoba to create work from each other's work) and contacted me. She lives in Ottawa now but about fifteen years ago was a student of mine at NSCAD U. I always liked her artwork and was delighted to renew a friendship. She too has started a new blog. This one is about her explorations of a gluten free diet. Her recipes are well worth trying. When visiting her in Ottawa two weeks ago, I had a scone she made and it was delicious. It’s great: she does the research, I get the results!

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April 23, 2008

Musing on memory

Last weekend when Lila and I on our walk through the woods, we stopped at a neighbors’ house. They had a stove on their porch and asked if I knew anyone wanting it. They were giving it away. I told my friend Suzanne who said she did indeed want a stove. So I called my neighbor. But it was the wrong neighbor. I couldn’t remember where I had seen the stove. A few days later I did remember. But it made me think about memory. Forget my past phenomenal memory: perhaps I should now write down everything I do each day so I will have a record when I need to check on something. A good idea but I haven’t yet been able to overcome the feeling that it would be a tedious exercise. Maybe if I drew little pictures as well as wrote my daily diary it would be more interesting.

I did once, for a couple of years, write down everything I did that was art related. It was an interesting record, done mainly for the T-man. But then my suitcase was stolen from my car on Greene Street in Manhattan when I was unloading some paintings for an exhibit after driving down from Halifax. I wasn’t out of the car for more than a half hour. But that was more than enough to get the book and my inspiration for writing details. Of course the thief wasn’t interested in the diaries or my slides or clothes, or even my passport, all of which were found strewn across the streets. He did keep my plane ticket as I was on my way to California after New York. He didn’t get anywhere anyway with the ticket. I got a new one. And a lovely woman retrieved my passport. When I went to pick it up, she made us some tea and told me I should always keep it on my person when traveling. I had a very pleasant visit with her.

And then a few days ago I came across an old journal, one I hadn’t tossed. It wasn’t about what I did that day but about what I thought, felt that day. It too was memories and it too could help me find something. Feeling things, learning things. Where I’ve been on the path to where I’m going. What remnants are in the clothes of my life.

I don’t write that kind of journal much anymore either. It’s hard to overcome the feeling that someone someday will read it. Not to self-censor, make it honest. I think, maybe, I am just enjoying living each day without thinking about it too much. Maybe.

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April 21, 2008

First signs of spring

It’s been sunny and warm for a few days now. I spent the afternoon with my hands in the dirt, turning it, weeding, getting ready to plant. Lila lay on the cool soil and helped by just being there. Bliss!

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March 03, 2008

House and home

Since last Tuesday when my car window was smashed, I’ve been pondering how close, how interconnected my car, my house, my body are. I wasn’t in the car; I wasn’t hurt. Nevertheless my body seized and I was physically in pain, just as if I was physically attacked.

After getting the window fixed, having some acupuncture and a couple of hours in my tai chi class and I’m feeling fine. But it’s been interesting.

Posted by leya at 08:28 PM | Comments (1)

December 31, 2007

Resolution tidbits

Okay, so it’s New Year’s Eve, a day of endings, thoughts of beginnings. I’ve never been into New Years resolutions very much, but I did keep last year’s—to drink from my good glasses and not wait for company.

Today I’ve been listening to New Year’s Resolutions on CBC, as made over the years. One woman said she’d like to see the emphasis not on the equality of women with men, but the differences between men and women. This was back in the ‘50’s. It led to a lively discussion. One man said he’d like women to be more like women. Another said, face it, women rule the world as it is. A women replied, if they do, it doesn’t show.

I heard, also, Margaret Lawrence, in 1978, say she wanted to spend less time answering letters and more on writing. It turns out she was writing a series of children’s books. She also wished our country hang together. It has, so far.

In 1982, some children were asked for their New Year’s wishes. One wanted her parents should make sister stop picking on her. Another hoped dad would stop working so much. Another hoped mom would not make him eat squash (or another one, broccoli). Others: hope the parents would let her quit piano lessons; stop being so over protective (i.e., let her go downtown alone); that the parents would stop smoking; raise allowance to 50 cents at least; and let him have a stereo.

A 1987 resolution by Ted in Cambridge, Ontario was to save all the junk mail that came to his house. By January 1988 he had a 75 POUND box of JUNK! Remember when we thought computers would eliminate paper?

1990 a fitness gym owner told Peter Gzowski that January is the best month for gyms, the most income from New Year’s resolutions. Gzowski said he was in great shape, didn’t need fitness advice. And laughed, of course.

I heard a couple of days ago that after one week, 75% of resolutions still stand; after six months, only 46% are left. If I were to make a resolution this year, it would be to tame the paper tiger that stalks my house: those piles and piles of paper I don’t know what to do with, have trouble sorting and tossing so just put aside for a “better” time. But I’m just not sure I’m up to it, yet.

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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.

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December 14, 2007

Fancy the dog

Yesterday I went for an acupuncture treatment. Dr. Robin Wu and his wife Jenny moved here from Taiwan about a year ago. He’s working on his English. But sometimes I have trouble understanding him. And he, me. Jenny's English is a fair bit better; she took a three month immersion course in Arizona before moving here.

Yesterday Jenny was recommending I go see the movie Milarepa. It was here for only a week. Apparently it’s very inspiring. I said I couldn’t; I had to go to a dog make-up class. (It had been canceled once because of a snowstorm.) They smiled. And then I realized they thought I was saying I was going to a class to learn how to put make-up on my dog’s face.

I laughed so hard Dr. Wu could put the needles in without my even feeling it!

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December 13, 2007

Reading and watching and more

I went to a play Saturday night. (I won’t mention the name because I found it didn’t satisfy. No point.) It was neither here nor there, neither comedy nor serious. The one-person skit started out with energetic farcical energy, very funny. It went on too long in that vein but wasn’t funny any more. Then it became heavy, ponderous and ended flat. The friend I went with said afterwards she can suspend belief in the theatre but not in the movies. She was willing to give it more respect than I did. I almost fell asleep in the middle.

So what does it take to make you suspend belief? I can get totally involved in movies, books, TV shows, plays. Often when I am with someone watching TV and am getting visibly upset by a story, by the way people are acting or things that are happening to them, the person with me will say: Leya, it is only TV! Sometimes I don’t answer the phone when I am involved in a show. At least in a movie it’s dark and my reactions are more my secret.

Books are another story. Sometimes I get so involved in what is happening, I must read it, even if it keeps me up most of the night. Other times I find I have to put it down before I get to that point just because it is so overwhelming. Then, sometimes, I just can’t relate to the story or the characters; it puts me to sleep. With a book, at least, there’s the option of putting it down. Walking out of a theatre is more dramatic.

Last year was the first time I can remember when I actually didn’t finish reading a novel once I had started it. It was liberating. To admit a book just wasn’t for me. So maybe I will walk out of a theatre production—someday, maybe.

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December 10, 2007

Just musing

As a birthday gift, a few friends got together and gave me a facial. What a luxurious gift, I must say! It was lovely, being pampered for an hour, coming out with my face feeling like velvet, and my body like a marshmallow. When it was finished, I asked the esthetician how often she recommended having this done. She said every four weeks. I said Four Weeks! If I made it in four years I would feel fortunate. But apparently some people do. I wonder if it is covered under MSI, as health assurance.

Then I looked up the number “four” in Wikipedia. Among many many other things, many of them being mathematical, it said: “Four is the only number in the English language for which the number of letters in its name is equal to the number itself. This is also true in several other languages.” Interesting. A very sturdy number.

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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 07, 2007

The story of a purple ribbon

Yesterday standing around in Seaview Park on the cold frozen snow talking to a couple of other dog owners while our pups romped around, we saw a navy ship coming into the Halifax Harbour. It seemed all the passengers were standing on the deck eager to pull into the dock. It was very tender sight. The two other people said they were carrying the sailors home for Christmas. The servicemen knew they’d be leaving again soon, they said, going back to the war zone. But then, one person said, they knew when they signed up that’s the way it would be.

I very proudly told them my daughter has a Support Peace ribbon on her car (I think it’s a purple one). Both the other (freezing) dog owners seemed unimpressed. Assumed, it seemed, that we all support peace so why say it.

But from what I have heard on the radio, those servicemen and women who signed up thought they were going on a peacekeeping mission. Not going to war. They support peace.

How many reminders does it take?

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November 02, 2007


And happy to be here. After a long and wonderful journey. Lots of walking from one end of Rome to the other, walking through the narrow winding streets of Venice, walking through Zurich, walking and taking pictures. In fact, sometimes I took so many pictures I felt like I possibly didn’t see where I was, except through the camera’s eye.

At the airport in Halifax, I was so tired from the long trip home that, when going through immigration, I put down the wrong date for when I left on my trip, said it was the 18th, when it was the 17th. Then the officer asked me what I had bought abroad and, thinking what else would you buy in Italy and Switzerland, I said “Clothes and candy, you know” and he replied, “No, I don’t know or I wouldn’t be asking.” Oh.

I have tons of photos and stories of my trip I hope to post soon, but now we are awaiting the Big Storm Noel.

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October 11, 2007

I talk, therefore I am

I’ve been going to lectures given by my friend Sean at the Public Library on Wednesdays at noon. He teaches Irish Studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. The lectures are part of his classes and also open to the public. So it is a mixture of the young the old and the curious. He’s talking about the culture and society of Ireland. It’s been fascinating. I’m learning about history, how it changes from different perspectives, how many different views there are of the same “event”, how “events” have many layers.

Yesterday he was talking about language: how the Irish are trying to establish identity (as distinct from the English) through the Irish language but it hasn’t taken root. He was required to study the Irish language in school but it was never spoken in his daily life. Sean read a poem in Irish to us. Then he read the translation. The Irish language is very beautiful to hear, very lyrical.

At this time, it is more the upper classes who are pushing the language, making it a more elitist experience. There are some writers who write only in Irish. Some allow translations, others don’t. But they don’t have the broad audience as not many people actually speak the language. There is even a town in Ireland that is only Irish speaking. As a result, tourists can’t find it from a map because the English name is still in print.

It made me think of Israel. How the Israelis resurrected Hebrew, once dead, now the national language. But in that situation, they were people coming from many countries to a new land. Bringing their disparate cultures and histories to form a new one.

When Aaron and I first moved to Canada, we lived a half an hour from Halifax where he was going to high school. We would spend much of the car ride into town practicing our “Canadian”. There are differences, however subtle, between Canada an the U.S. Some I’ve been able to adopt, some not. I am, after all, “from away”. Yet I do feel very Canadian, most of the time. Language is a powerful identifying marker.

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September 11, 2007

A favorable farewell

It's been raining hard most of the day. After a few days of lovely sun, it seems like a necessity. A reminder we are in the Maritimes.

Lila didn't want to go anywhere today. Couldn't get her to leave the house much. So we spent a quiet day at home. I also did a lot of cleaning. It's mostly the papers that pile up. Even cleared out my old journals. They were just gathering dust in the bottom of my closet. Don't even want to read them. Just toss. Didn't realize I had so many (over a dozen) until I bagged them up for the trash!

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August 30, 2007

A Musing

A friend came over for a swim today. The water was perfect. It was my second time in today. Lila was in heaven. When we were drying off, I mentioned I have a hard time with other people often wanting a piece of the pie. Now that I have sold a few paintings and received a grant, I can pay off some debts, catch up and fix a few things around the house that have been waiting for the past year. It feels good. But even today, someone wrote me that, although we had agreed on a trade of services, now that I had sold some paintings, she would like money instead. It reminded me of the time I sold my loft in Manhattan and received a call from a casual friend asking me if she could borrow $4000 to pay a tax bill. She said: “There is no one I would rather borrow from than you.” Compliment?

My swimming buddy told me of an article she had read recently. It described how boys tend to pick on the weakest amongst them whereas girls pick on the most successful. She had experienced this in the grade school class she was teaching. The girls bullied another girl whose mother was successful, with the bully’s mother encourageing her daughter.

So somewhere in there is a balance. Balance between being successful, feeling good, and allowing other people to enjoy that in you/me.

Posted by leya at 08:24 PM | Comments (2)

July 20, 2007

I saw a strange thing in the park yesterday.

I was walking with Lila yesterday afternoon in Point Pleasant Park. The park is now, after all the rain we have had in the past few months, very lush and verdant. The underbrush, berries and wildflowers are about to burst. A lovely sight. To my surprise, I saw a man walk past us, quite briskly, reading a newspaper. He didn’t miss a step and didn’t take his eyes off the paper. I saw him later on another path. Still reading.

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February 04, 2007

Hello to Nova Scotia!

Yesterday I clicked on Linda Fairchild’s blog and was surprised to find a photo of me staring at me. She (my gallery owner in San Francisco) tells the story of how we met and tells it very well. Almost all of the gallery connections I have made have been by chance, coincidence, serendipidy. It’s enough to make me believe in (I’ve spent several days trying to figure out the right word here, so I’ll just settle, for now, on) destiny. Although I know it’s not that easy. There’s a lot of work that needs to go into making that destiny (if you can call it that) happen. So then, is it really destiny. Linda calls it serendipity. Perhaps that is a better word.

The great thing about Nova Scotia, mentioned by many who live here, and more who come to visit, is the laid-back atmosphere. Yet everyone I know works hard at whatever they do. People here, as far as I can tell, the ones I’ve met, are just as driven and highly motivated, intelligent and talented as anywhere else (even Manhattan). Yet that drive still allows room to look around, enjoy the spaciousness of the landscape, of the people. (I guess this turned into a tribute to Nova Scotia!) I don't know why this happens. Maybe it's just that there isn't as much to do here as in big cities (good movies don't stay around long; I've walked from one end of Halifax to the other more than once), and so we can relax at the same time as we pursue goals, work on our ambitions. When I first wanted to move here, I was told there are more artists in Nova Scotia than any other province in Canada (I don’t know if they meant per capita or total). Fortunately I was able to convince the beurocracy they needed another artist. Yes, even with the erratic weather, I like it here.

(By the way, that great photo of me was taken by my friend Heidi. I do love her photos! but my hair is not blond, it's just the light on it.)

Posted by leya at 11:40 AM

January 03, 2007

This is it

I made a New Year’s Resolution this year. The first time in many years. And I actually think I can keep this one.

I resolve to use my good glasses for myself every day, not save them for company. So far, I’ve been successful.

Posted by leya at 04:51 PM | Comments (2)

December 18, 2006

Random thoughts (about the senses and the pursuit of happiness)

I went to a bar yesterday with a friend I haven’t seen in a couple of years. He had a beer; I had some Perrier but that’s not the point. Behind him, over his head was a TV showing sports event. There was also one behind me, a couple over the bar and in every other corner (and center) of the room. Although neither of us was interested in what was on the TV, being genuinely wanting to talk to each other, catch up on our lives, I couldn’t help but glance occasionally up at the moving images on the screen. And I also noticed him doing the same. It was very distracting, disconcerting. When I came back to the apartment and mentioned this to Aaron and Jessica, Aaron said when he was studying dance and theatre at Concordia, he was told that any time you put a moving image of any kind behind you, attention automatically goes there; you become invisible. The only kind of light-image that can work is a slide show where the images change slowly.

The party Aaron, Jessica, Shaya and I went to Saturday night was a potluck. There were a lot of delicious dishes: cheeses, salads, casseroles, dips. The food was good, went quickly. Then the desserts came out. It was fascinating watching the faces and body postures of people approaching the elaborate dessert table. There was an eagerness, a ripple of joy running through the bodies, people eager to indulge. No longer the sensible adults enjoying a good meal, everyone became an excited child. Happiness from the taste of forbidden pleasures.

Often here either Aaron or Jessica ask me what I am saying and I realize how much I talk to myself. Lila doesn’t mind, but also notices. Now I am really noticing. My mother used to talk to herself a lot. It’s normal, right!

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September 01, 2006

What's up, what's not

It seems my blog has taken an unplanned holiday. Where did it go? As far as I can tell, it’s just been thinking. So. . . to catch up:

1. The weather has been beautiful—mostly sunny days and cool nights—but it has also cooled the lake water so swimming is not as easy.

2. I had been negligent spraying my garden with rotten-egg-water and the deer had a picnic with my lettuce. The day before that I had thought I would never be able to eat it all. Now I don’t have enough. At least they left the squash plants.

3. I had some photos taken of my latest paintings and I’ve been writing up a grant proposal—a very absorbing task. If only the paintings could talk. That’s what I really want. But the granting process wants me to do the explaining.

4. Applying for grants is a crap shoot. So now I have to forget about it. Until it’s time to apply for the next one.

5. I went to a magnificent dance performance a couple of weeks ago. Jacinte Armstrong is by far my favorite dancer.

6. I’ve ordered more blending sticks with drier. At the moment I have some canvases ready to roll but don’t want to put paint on them until I have the sticks. Otherwise they take too long to dry. So I’m trying to be patient. It’s hard.

7. Speaking of hard, I’m still practicing my jazz piano every day. It seems the more I play the more I understand what I am trying to do. Basically I’m just growing more brain cells. Exercising the brain muscles. Someday it may sounds like music.

8. I had Lila spayed yesterday. It was strange being without her all day. I did things I usually don’t do: like going to a mall and browsing through stores. After a while it was boring so I went home and worked on my photos. Then I was eager to pick her up. She was very groggy and confused. During the night she seemed to have some pain but this afternoon she acts like nothing happened—wants to play ball, swim, run, jump, but I’m not supposed to let her be too active for a few days. That may be hard.

9. I took up Jian Ghomeshi’s challenge and started reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’m on about page 137 as of last night. I’m actually enjoying some of it. I’m still working on figuring out the rest of it.

10. The thinking part is still being digested and not for public consumption. So I guess this is about it for now. The long weekend is ahead. Then school starts again (the week after for me). The summer was far too short.

Posted by leya at 04:59 PM | Comments (2)

July 10, 2006

Summer, finally!

Summer is just beginning here. Finally, we have some decent weather. Because of all the rain (three times the usual in June) my dock couldn't go in. The water was too high. But tomorrow is the big day summer begins for me. My neighbours are putting the dock in. We decided to move it to a better location, build a stationary platform with one long ramp down to the floating dock. This way I can leave most of it in all winter, not have to go through this again if we have another rainy spring (hope not!). So summer is just beginning here.

When I got home from teaching Friday, the scaffolding was down. At first I felt disoriented. It's been three months. Interesting how something unusual can become so familiar it seems normal. It still feels a bit strange, but it is nothing to complain about, for sure. With the new big windows facing the lake, everything is fine.

Posted by leya at 09:01 PM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2006

I'm impressed!

Fifty-five people came through my garden this afternoon! Even though it was rainng hard most of the morning and some of the early afternoon. All in all, a very successful event. And I am very tired (happy and relaxed) now!

Posted by leya at 06:59 PM | Comments (2)

April 02, 2006

After three years of thinking about it

I read on a Honda Element Owner’s Club site that 75% of Element owners have dogs. So first I got the dog. As of yesterday, I have the Element. Now all I need is the IPod!


Not much in my life these days is well planned. I think about things and suddenly they happen. Last week a friend said she saw my car (the one I’ve been talking about maybe buying) in the lot at Colonial Honda. So we called them; the young man who talked to me made a sweet offer; I looked at their cars and now I have mine.

The same with Lila. I was thinking about a dog but wasn’t ready and I certainly wasn’t going to get a puppy in the middle of winter. But then, my dentist told me about a breeder of Portuguese Water Dogs (the breed I had been thinking about because they are hypoallergenic) in Chester; I went to look and fell in love with Lila’s (then pregnant) mom.

And again, I’ve been thinking about putting more windows (facing the lake) in my studio, talked to my favorite builder (on and off over the past year). Now he says he can start Tuesday. So . . . it must be the right time!


Posted by leya at 06:34 PM | Comments (4)

March 15, 2006

Seven down

Last night when leaving the building after my dance class, there were some flashing lights and fancy vehicles up the street. We looked and I wondered: “Are they shooting a movie or is it a fire?” So many movies are being shot here now that we take it for granted. Like it was when I was living in New York City.

But it was a fire, unfortunately. The restaurant Seven (a very good place to eat) had a kitchen fire. I think the difference between here and NYC is that it was big news on the radio this morning.

Posted by leya at 08:32 PM

January 01, 2006

Another day, another year, another thought

I don’t seem to have any resolutions this new year. Just want it to be good—for me and for everyone. When I have (rarely) made resolutions in the past, it has been too painful to see what has and hasn’t come to pass. But if I just have a general feeling of what I want to accomplish, it works better for me. Most of the good things in my life have "just happened." I didn't "plan" on moving to Nova Scotia. Things just fell into place. The times that I received grants have been when I almost (and at times actually) forgot that I had applied. When I put all that “positive” thinking into receiving the grant, then it seems to pass me by. I need to find a middle point. My aspiration for this (and every) year is—letting go of hope and fear. So I prefer to “live and let live,” so to speak. AND put a lot of energy into doing what I do.

So, to the world, to people, to my friends and family, may 2006 be a year of peace and prosperity and productive, outrageous playfulness.

Posted by leya at 02:10 AM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2005

Time flies when you're having fun

With all the “excitement” in my daily life lately, I seem to have missed the two-year anniversary of my blog. Two years ago, on December 18, 2003, visiting Tamar in Los Angeles, she helped me set this up and since then it’s been an interesting exploration of thoughts, feelings, places and people. Although my work needs an audience (paintings have no life if they are not seen), I was never a very public person and I have surprised myself with the pleasure I have felt in putting my experiences out there, revealing the meanderings of my mind, not even knowing about where “there” is. And I have surprised myself even further by starting another blog, one that is only about my experience in my studio. I’ve never been a steady “personal journal” keeper just like I never kept a sketchbook. (Well, I did as a young teenager and it hurts to read what I wrote in those tender years.) I love writing letters, knowing that someone would read it, that I am passing “information” along. Email is a delight for me: easy to write and send (no envelope to find, write out, icky glue to lick, no stamp to locate, use). Just write, click and send. Although a “little” more complicated, a blog is similar, for me, to writing letters. It is communication; I feel like I am talking to “someone.” So maybe that’s why I enjoy it.

And now Tamar is stopping, for a while, after six years of (almost) steady writing on line, making many lasting friends, trying out different ideas and approaches. It will seem strange not to log on to her writings but we do (I must admit) tie up the phone lines frequently. I will miss her writing in her blog.

Posted by leya at 08:59 PM

December 01, 2005

Sick, sick and sick of being sick!

New research shows that, just like mothers always knew, wet cold feet can lead to a head cold. My trip to Montreal was really great, had a wonderful time, but it was freezing cold, snowed, and my boots leaked. Walking around Montreal with cold and wet feet did the job.

Posted by leya at 09:22 AM | Comments (2)

November 26, 2005

When I grow up I wanna be an old woman

Last Saturday a friend (who is about ten years younger than me and whom I haven’t seen in a while) came over to look at my work. She wanted to pick a painting to rent while she put her house on the market to sell. As I was sorting through and hauling paintings around in my studio, she asked me “Leya, how old are you?” I told her, proudly, “I will be sixty-eight next Saturday.” “And you’re still going at it!” I said “Why not!”

This little interchange is replete with admiration for the process of aging as well as the suggestion that sixty-eight is old, and perhaps it is amazing I can still move. To her credit, I think coming into my studio can be overwhelming to people who are not used to it. I do a lot of work and most of it is very large so my studio is quite full. So there is definitely an exciting energy in the room itself.

Most artists do mature well. Like conductors where the physical and mental activity keeps them active, the act of painting is energizing. I think, perhaps, it is the childlike mind that is a generator for artwork. In many ways, painting is play. Intelligent play. Demanding openness to unlimited possibilities. Challenging.

I know I am fortunate, come from a family where youthfulness is common. My one hundred year old (almost 101) aunt is still full of piss and vinegar. My dad didn’t slow down (at all) until he was eighty-four (and lived until he was ninety). My lively, vibrant mother died an early, very untimely death from DDT poisoning, at sixty-five. There are no guarantees.

I do color my hair, but so do 99% of my students (even, especially, the eighteen year olds) and most of the women I know. I’m a fairly active person: paint, teach, dance, read, exercise, play, think, etc. Basically, enjoy my life, live. I was told a quote yesterday: “There is a difference between living and dying and being alive and dead.”

Youthfulness is considered an asset but my greatest pleasure is in the wisdom and calmness that blossoms with age. When I was reading some of the comments on an entry by Ronni on her blog, Time Goes By (whose main theme on her blog is aging) where she was asking people how they felt about proclaiming their age, one man said (and I probably am slightly misquoting, but the idea is right!): “Hell, no. I don’t tell my age. I would never get a date if I did!” I would like to lie about my age. Maybe then I would be able to “get a date.” But the date I would “get” because I lied wouldn’t be the one I wanted. I want to be wanted for who I am, not some number attached to my entity.

I’ve been told I should, when someone tells me I don’t look my age (which I do hear often), say: “This is what sixty-eight looks like.” So………..



Today is my sixty-eighth birthday and this is what sixty-eight (holding a four day old puppy with a two year old mom) looks like!

Posted by leya at 07:29 AM | Comments (6)

November 21, 2005

Running on empty

Just when I think I have a gap, some space in my otherwise very busy schedule, I come down with a lousy head cold. What a bummer! I can’t paint because wearing my mask would be (very) uncomfortable with a runny nose. So yesterday I stretched up a canvas, then ran out of canvas, then started working on a quilt I am making for Aaron and Jessica (hoping to finish it before I go to Montreal Thursday to visit them) and ran out of a particular (very necessary) fabric. All I can do (have the energy for) this morning is clean up the (many) stacks of paper I usually neglect (because of my busy schedule and because it's not fun and if I'm home I prefer to paint) and lie around and read how to train my puppy books. (Definitely fun!)

Posted by leya at 08:24 AM

November 05, 2005

If I had to, would I?

Thursday at lunch Hiro said he had read in the local newspaper that Halifax is first in a survey on ideal retirement towns. Vancouver is tenth. The only two cities in Canada on the list. I don’t know about this. I mean, I do love it here, very much, but I also have no plans to retire. Ever.

What would attract a retiree to this place? Bingo seven days a week? The wicked weather? A short hike (a five or six hour drive) to Prince Edward Island to play golf? I suppose if you like to curl up in front of a fire, it’s a great place to winter. Or if you like to travel, it’s a great place to winter, that is, a great place to get a way from in the winter.

I googled “retire Halifax” and came up with the CBS site recommending Halifax because it has beautiful scenery and a large beach (if they mean the ocean, you’d have to like to swim in cold cold water). There are lots of amazing lakes here and the water on the North Shore is warmer. And there is lots of good sailing opportunities. The CBS article recommends, for retirement, choosing a college town (Halifax has five universities) because you can then find cheap entertainment, food and cultural events. Students generate lots of cultural activity. And, CBS says, you can usually find a major teaching hospital and low crime rate in university cities. We do have all of this here.

Halifax is nothing like it was when I first moved here twenty some years ago. Besides more and better stores and restaurants, the most noticeable difference is the traffic. Rush hour was fifteen minutes then. Now it starts at 3:00 and goes to 5:30 or 6:00. The roads definitlely cannot accommodate the increased population outside of Halifax. The commuters (that includes me). We need a commuter rail. (I’d be the first one on the train!)

We have lots of interesting restaurants and stores here now, good shopping, good eating. The best music scene, some good dance and theatre. Before I moved here I was told to buy everything I might ever need because I wouldn’t find anything here. I actually like that about Halifax. I have no desire to spend a lot of time shopping so I usually know exactly where to go to get what I need. But I think the best part of living in (near) Halifax is the general spaciousness of life I find here, the kindness of people, the courtesies of people living so close to the weather and the land. A good place to live.

Posted by leya at 04:05 PM

November 04, 2005

A day not to remember

I don’t know what was happening in the heavens yesterday but they certainly arranged a difficult day for me! The morning was good. Did some work in my studio and then Yoko came over to play duets. Hiro joined us for lunch. That was nice.

But then, not so nice. I had loosely arranged a meeting at school with another instructor. My intuition told me she wouldn’t be there. And there was a note on her door saying she had to pick up her daughter. Understandable. My plan was then to go to the hospital to have some routine blood work done. My intuition nudged me to think I’d probably spend the time more wisely at the grocery store. I had not enough fresh vegetables or fruits in the house with no plan to go into town again until Sunday. But the afternoon is usually a time when there are fewer people waiting so I went to the lab. I was told I probably had about a twenty minute wait. After a half hour I asked how much longer as I had an appointment at 4:15 and it looked to me as if the technicians were taking a break. I was told I was next. After another half hour I retrieved my forms and left. Without the lab work done or the groceries bought. Later I went to Pilates and, in the process of doing the usual exercises, strained a muscle and had to leave, hobbling to my car, eager for a bath in Epsom salts.

Today I am fine, but wondering about intuition. There are many times when I don’t trust what I feel in my gut is right. Sometimes you have no idea what might have happened if you did the “other” thing. But sometimes you do. Sometimes not trusting is so dramatic that it is impossible not to know that you could have avoided a difficult situation. (And to be fair, sometimes good things happen because you go with an hunch.)

One of the best examples of my not trusting my instincts is when I was driving from Cleveland (after my nephew’s wedding) back to Montreal with Aaron (about twelve years ago). We were about an hour outside of Montreal and I had a feeling, very strong, that I should pull over. But there was construction on the highway and I not only couldn’t find a place, but couldn’t understand why I felt that way. Then two teenagers, coming from the side road, decided to make a u-turn in the middle of the highway, hit my car, we swerved, rolled and luckily survived. The kids’ car went off into a field. They weren’t hurt. The paramedic, when he helped me to the ambulance (just a fractured breastbone) said “I guess it just wasn’t your time.” But it would have been a better time if I had trusted my intuition.

This morning the sunrise made up for the hard day previously:


Posted by leya at 06:15 PM | Comments (1)

October 16, 2005

Why do we have flowers?


Saturday night I went to a party. This one was a birthday celebration for a friend turning fifty-one. The gathering was all women�except for an eleven month old little boy. So inevitably, at one point, the conversation turned to babies and nursing. One mother of a now grown boy told how she had nursed her son until he was twenty-six months, then told him that was it, the milk was all gone. During his second year he frequently asked for a baby brother or sister, then his request disappeared like the milk. When he was seven, he asked again for a sibling. His mother asked him why he wanted a brother or sister. His reply: �Then I could have a drink!�

Another woman who teaches fourth and fifth grade apparently has a sign up in her room at school that reads: "Why do we have flowers?" Apart from the existential question of existence, I think about the beauty of flowers. And then today on Jonathan Goldstein�s WireTap (CBC radio, finally), there were various people of various ages and interests talking about what beauty meant to them--one, a woman who valued her beautiful hands so much she never washed a dish but felt proud to share these beautiful hands by being a hand model. And there was a young teenage girl talking about how beautiful her boyfriend�s hair was, and how beautiful she found people and her words were very beautiful.

In the classroom, my friend, the teacher, annoyed with the tittering about the male and female parts of flowers, told them very directly that yes, they would be talking about sex and it is a normal part of life so they had better get used to it and that was that! And then they calmed down and had some very interesting, thoughtful questions and conversations. But I don�t know really why we have flowers. Maybe we are just lucky.

Posted by leya at 08:39 PM

October 13, 2005

Teenage dogs

By chance (coincidence) I happened to hear a rebroadcast of Stanley Coran being interviewed (How Dogs Think, the book I am currently absorbed in) on Bob McDonald�s Saturday program, Quirks & Quarks. Dr. Coran said dogs have the intellectual development of about a two and a half to three year old and the emotional life of a teenager. And this can lead to some very interesting behavior: with the vocabulary of a two year old (150 to 250 words) yet the socializing needs, the pack mentality of a teenager. Interesting indeed!

Interesting, also, is that regular CBC programming has resumed. Although the substitute programming was excellent and appreciated, I am happy to have my old friends back in my house. The lockout is over. Management and Union have agreed. Just in time for hockey season. A timely coincidence!

Posted by leya at 11:58 AM

September 27, 2005


On my feet again (more or less). Hope my strength holds out. Definitely would prefer a few more days of rest. But part-time teaching doesn�t allow for sick days (or vacation pay or a dental plan). A good, rewarding job nevertheless.

Posted by leya at 08:48 AM

September 26, 2005


I�ve been sick. Sick enough that I only turned the computer on to contact my amazing (and extremely helpful) homeopathic doctor in New York City (who also officates weddings and loves dogs). Every system in my body has been effected over the past few days. I used up two full boxes of Kleenex and, when I wasn�t blowing my nose, slept for a couple of days. Fortunately it�s been the weekend and I should be up and running for school tomorrow.

Posted by leya at 09:05 AM

September 06, 2005

Take me out to the ball game

I keep thinking about the movie we saw last week, Wedding Crashers: would I want life to be as easy as a romantic comedy? Not on your life! Its the grit and grind that makes our moral fiber. But we are led to believe that the fantasy can be real. After visiting a rug-hooking supply store on the north shore of PEI, my friend Valerie and I went for a walk along the boardwalk of the local beach. Shortly into our walk we saw a large van pull up and unload one after another handsome manten in all. They grouped themselves together along the hillside and began taking photos. As we approached they asked us to take their picture so they could all be included. I said I would if I could take one with my camera as well. They were a group of friends visiting from Germany, who play tennis together in tournaments, and usually win.


It was a highlight of the day. And I could continue to write a romantic comedy from there, but I wont. We just walked away with pleasant memories and a fun photo!

I am not actually much of a tennis player. Never was, although my dad and sister played. I like activitydancing, swimming, walking, but have limited desire for team sports. While on PEI, along with the usual beach sports, Valerie and I went for a game of miniature golf. I made two hole-in-ones. I think it is a testament to my artistic training that I am good at that kind of gamewith all the hand-eye training I have had. Ive also won at billiards.

I recently finished reading an interesting memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin titled Wait Till Next Year. Next year is THE YEAR the Dodgers will win the World Series Pennant. Her interest in baseball games began as a young girl, four years old. She, her family and friends followed the games through the many years of the Brooklyn Dodgers almost winning against the NY Giants.

Goodwin also tells of the local and world events happening at that time. she being just a few years younger than me, it was fascinating to connect again to the times before television, when radio was King, when people gathered around the radio and could see in their minds the activities portrayed. I remember all play stopping at 4 pm for the children in the neighborhood (it was Richmond, Virginia for me at that time) to go in and listen to our fifteen minute programs: The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, etc. And mothers ironing, as Goodwins mother did, to the noon hour soaps.

I saw my first television when I was about nine years old. It was at a friends house. We didnt have one until I was about twelve or thirteen. It was all black and white then, no such thing as color. (I still love black and white movies.) At that time, the shows started at 7 pm and went on until 10 pm. We would gather around the set, watching I Love Lucy and The Ed Sullivan Show. Then the TV screen would show its familiar pattern and go blank until the next evening. It was a major family event, watching television. But I still had my radio programs and my 45 rpm record changer.

When I was in the sixth grade and one of the major World Series Games was playing, one of those famous competitions between the two New York teams, school stopped and we listened on the radio every afternoon. I was never, on my own, interested, but could easily get caught up in the enthusiasm generated by the radio announcer and the other children. We even had some betting going on (outside of class, of course). I dont think I really cared who won, was just glad to have the regular school day interrupted.

I was not much of a baseball player. When we moved back to Bethesda after The War, my next door neighbors had a playgound in their backyard, with a tree-house, sandbox, and a flat space to play basketball, badminton or baseball. We had the swing set and monkey-bars. Often the games spilled out onto the street but there was little traffic on that road. As we got older the games changed to monopoly, then gin rummy and poker. But I think my favorite game was lying in the hammock in the summer with lemonade and a good book. Although I still love badminton, ping-pong, swimming and other gentler sports that I enjoyed when I was young, I was never a big game player. Once I caught a fly ball with my bare hands flat open, astonishing all the boys (and me, I must say) who were playing that game. In fact, they were so annoyed, they made sure I struck out when my turn came at bat. It was a lively suburban neighborhood, but not nearly as active as the one on Long Island described by Goodwin. But the book brought up a lot of memories for me. And a reminder of how much things have changed.

Posted by leya at 07:29 PM

August 31, 2005

Now to get away from it all!

I�m off to Prince Edward Island for a few days. I�ve never been there before and am very excited about this trip. I�ll be staying with some good friends on the north shore.

It's raining. A perfect day to get away.

Off now to pack the car!

Posted by leya at 06:19 AM

August 27, 2005

Watching the breeze go by

Yesterday, sitting (and reading) at the Toyota dealers� while getting my car serviced, the man next to me was greeted (fondly, it seemed) by one of the car salesmen. The man then turned to me and said �They think I live here!� And then he went on to tell me he brings five cars in for service: his own, his wife�s, his daughter�s, his aunt�s, and another family member. He seemed to want to chat, so I put my book down, and heard about all his other cars, his �78 sports car and his big Chevy truck. We talked about cars for a while (a favorite topic for me) and then, as he changed the channel on the ever present TV in the waiting area, on to TV shows. He wasn�t interested in the news. It is too depressing. He watches some game shows, one of which was on the television at the time (�So You Want to be a Millionaire�) and he explained what the routine was to me.

Then he mentioned �Coronation Street� and even the man sitting next to him perked up, put down his book and joined in the conversation. I too have been enjoying watching it and I�m not much of a TV person. It took me a while to get into it, but I do enjoy it�s quirky people and their stories. Although sometimes I get tired of their continuous problems and turn it off. Isn�t anyone in a TV series allowed to learn from their mistakes? My (new and brief) friend explained to me what had happened in the few shows I missed last week, that Sunita had been released from jail (thankfully). Someone, at least for a while, could be happy, maybe. He thought it was just great, now, that CBC is running a full hour of Coronation Street daily. When he and his wife went away on holiday for a week, they taped the shows. On return, they spent the first day catching up, watching Coronation Stree. Sitting there waiting for our cars to be fixed, we all agreed that it is often hard to follow the accents, know what they are saying. He said his wife turns up the volume when Ashley is speaking, and the topic turned to accents. He mentioned that even if you lined up people from all over Nova Scotia he could tell where they were from because of the wide variety of localized accents here.

I really do miss the programs on CBC Radio. Now, with the labor dispute, the lock-out of personnel, I�m listening to repeat programming most of the day. Sometimes it�s programs I�ve heard before, sometimes one�s I�ve missed. Usually interesting, nevertheless. But I miss the commentators, people�s whose voices have been in my life for twenty-one years now, voices I�ve begun to know well, voices of people I feel are my friends. They are in my home (and car) almost every day. I sincerely hope this labor dispute is settled soon, although it doesn�t seem like it right now.

One of the issues is contract employees� status. I�m one of them, a contract employee, at the Art College where I teach. It seems that�s the way employers save money. With all the insecurity in the world at large these days, not having secure jobs is a big problem. For me it means not having vacation pay, sick leave, a decent salary and most important, a dental plan. Sounds lousy, but it does give me the time and mind to be with my true love, painting. And I have seen how hard it is for the full-time faculty to spend time in their studios. I don�t have to be on committees. That�s good. I�m not good on committees; I�m too impatient. I love teaching and I love painting and I do appreciate my schedule as it is. But I wouldn�t mind more fringe benefits--no, not at all.

Posted by leya at 01:51 PM

July 27, 2005


I went to the dentist this afternoon. It took an hour for the freezing to work and four minutes to fix the tooth. In the meantime we chatted about this and that. Im a bit of a sissy with the pain of needles and drilling. Sensitive, my dentist says kindly. That led me to ask him if he had heard Richard Wassursug on the radio recently. He had. I told him my connection; I had taught with him, knew his family, and was very moved by his actions. And Dr. Haas was impressed as well. I heard another interview with Richard on Sounds Like Canada this morning. He was interviewed by Kelly Ryan, who had also known him in Halifax before he developed cancer. She asked him if he could (that is, if he had a choice), would he go back to being a man. Richard answered no, he really is enjoying his new body and emotions. It is fascinating to him as a scientist and in his daily life, experiencing a new relationship to himself. He is enjoying having greater sensitivity.

I had read a few months ago, in Organic Style Magazine, I think, that women who have had a mastectomy, whether they had reconstruction surgery or not, were (statistically, by an impressive amount) much happier, content with their bodies than women who havent.

What does it take for us to be happy with ourselves?

Posted by leya at 06:54 PM

July 25, 2005

About passionate men

Went to see and hear Kenny Werner Trio Saturday night. Watched his fingers caress and challenge the keys! Although very different in its overall impact, being much faster, changing pace and mood frequently, often loud and exuberant, his playing reminded me of Thelonious Monk. The obvious absorption with the keyboard and the music, the percussive sound. I had the good fortune to see Monk a few times in the early 60s, at the Blue Note at Third Avenue and St. Marks Place. I can still see him as if I was just there. The smoky dark room with Monk huddled over the piano, becoming one with his music. What both men expressed as they played is a deep love of their instrument, so that it becomes part of them.

Walking along the waterfront after the concert, I saw Richard Wassersug, a man I had co-taught with many years ago. He is a scientist, had taught the anatomy part of the class and I taught the drawing. We nodded to each other as we passed, were both with other people moving in opposite directions so the moment to talk was gone. But there is more to this story. I had heard him on the radio during the week. He is often on the Maritime Noon show, answering questions from listeners on science. This time, though, he was introduced as having advanced stage prostrate cancer. Due to the drugs he is taking, he has experienced a change in his sexuality. He still has his facial hair but has lost his body hair, developed breasts and put on flesh around the hips, and also become more emotional, is able to cry easily. He is being public about his condition, calling himself a eunuch, explaining the etiology of the term and the history of the condition. Hes developed feminine characteristics yet also lost his sexual desire and ability. His intent now is, as a scientist, to study his condition and also, as a compassionate human being, to help other men like himself so they wont have to feel shame and embarrassment. On Saturday he marched in the Gay Pride Parade. I heard him again Sunday on the radio and also his daughter (who I have met several times) talking about the experience, the camaraderie, the real pride they felt by being with the Gay community. The daughter said she was proud of her father and she hoped the scientific community would accept him because that means a lot to him, is very important to him.

I feel deeply moved by his actions. His outspoken defense of eunuchs, to me, expresses so much about the beauty of human generosity. I had wanted to say more to him as we passed on the waterfront, to tell him how sad I am that he is ill yet how much I respect his decisions. There is so much dignity in what he is doing. A very brave man.

Posted by leya at 05:07 PM | Comments (1)

July 08, 2005


Yesterday was not an easy day. It was hard to hear about the bombings in London, hard to think about what might happen as a result of those bombings. I had a hard time concentrating on my tasks. I had lots of memories of past shocking events.

This morning on the radio they were saying that London theatres were closed last night, a decision that was difficult for them to make because of their history of continuing performances during the War. When the air raid sirens went off, the cast and audience would go into the shelters, returning when the all-clear signal was heard. The spirit of respecting the creative life is strong there.

I remember vividly the day the World Trade Center crumbled. I was teaching that afternoon, had been at Pilates all morning and somehow had not turned on the radio (Im a radio-fan so that is very strange indeed!). That afternoon was warm and sunny here and I took my students up to Citadel Hill to draw. One student went off and seemed upset but didnt talk about it. Another student told me planes had flown into the Towers and the five cruise boats in the harbor were stranded. She wanted to go down to the Maritime Museum where she sold her beautiful drawings, a job that supported her art school education. It was only later when I picked up Aaron (who was visiting from Montreal, deciding whether to move back here, which he did, for a couple of years) that I realized what had happened. He immediately told me to turn on the car radio. Then I knew. Something I perhaps didnt want to know.

I remember when President Kennedy was shot. I was working on a red painting, one that had some strong, almost violent black and yellow marks on it. A friend called to tell me the news. That night we went to an off-Broadway theatre production. I think there were about six people in the audience. But the show went on and it was good. Good to feel that life and creativity were important and must survive.

Posted by leya at 04:14 PM

June 06, 2005

How to tell the deer to leave your flowers for your own pleasure

About four or five years ago I was hanging out at the vets, waiting to pay (or something like that) and complaining about losing all of my tulips and most of my new peony buds to deer. They love them just before the flowers burst into bloom and I had unwillingly provided breakfast. Another woman at the counter said she had just the cure for deer. Rotten egg water. And it works.

Take about a half dozen eggs (she said eight but I use six, its easier), put them in a litre of water, blend well, let it sit for a week, then put it in a large sprayer bottle, add water to fill and spray onto the flowers and bushes, especially after a rain. The smell lasts quite a while to the deer but not at all to humans. And the plants love it. Its amazing.

Another system that works well (if you have it available) is the early morning urine of the male species. My female dog scent helped a little but she is no longer with me so, until I get another dog (which is a constant question in my mind) the egg-water does the job.

Posted by leya at 07:01 AM

May 07, 2005

Home sweet home

After a couple of weeks of excitement, the thrill of being in other countries, seeing new places, exploring other cultures, I�m home. The return trip overall was easy, if long. All connections were smooth. I left Amsterdam with the sun shining and found the same here, thankfully, after three days of what my Dutch friends call �Dutch weather�, which means cool and drizzly. Yesterday was beautiful, the lake was still, reflecting the cloudless sky and bordering trees like a mirror, and the loons sang in the night. I was greeted with a fluff of yellow daffodils when I came home, very nice. One beautiful fawn was on the road as I drove in. It didn�t move for a while as I stopped and admired it. So it is fine to be here.

There is still a lot to digest from my trip, photos to download, things to put away. But I will give you a brief outline of my travels. I definitely had a wonderful time, especially enjoyed traveling alone. Didn't really care to start conversations with strangers, just enjoyed the solitude. When I first arrived in Switzerland, I went for a walk in the hills and woods with Evelyne (gallery owner) and then poked around the village. And of course, took lots of pictures.

The next day it was raining so I took a train to Bern, the capital city, where most of the streets have covered walkways. I explored the museums, buildings and bookstores. The next day I went on a two day excursion to Lugano, the Swiss Riviera, where it was warm and sunny. The museum there had an interesting exhibit of Jean-Michel Basquiat�s paintings. I especially liked the earlier work, before either fame or drugs took him over. I also went on a boat-ride around the lake there, then returned for the opening of my exhibit.

The show was well received, with a good review in the newspaper. Except that it is in German and I can�t read it. Evelyne told me it says, basically, that first you see the color, then the more you look, more is revealed, more layers of images and experience. (I will have to have a German friend translate it for me soon.)

The train ride across Germany was fascinating. The countryside was
beautiful, of course. Yet I am still amazed by the "generous" amount of graffiti everywhere. I sat there with a guidebook and read about every town we went through. A real tourist!

I arrived in Amsterdam on Queensday--a drunken brawl, no trams, the city strewn with litter and smelling of booze and urine. And masses of people going into the train station just as I was leaving. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it! (I was warned, but am stubborn and wanted to spend as much time in Amsterdam as possible, so there I was, stranded at the train station, with no public transportaion working, until I could locate a taxi�quite a distance away).

In Amsterdam, I stayed at some friends' house, a lovely,
quiet place. We went to the countryside on Sunday to visit a friend of
theirs, walk around the dunes, then to a party that night.

I really "did" Amsterdam! My hosts called me the
super-tourist! I went to the Van Gogh Museum (saw an excellent Egon Schielle exhibit), the Rijksmuseum and then a tour of the canals on a boat. The next day it was the Rembrandthuis, the flea market, lunch in the red light district and then to the Stedlijk

After the first day, the weather turned chilly and drizzly part of the day, then warming up and sunny in the evenings. But the rain comes down straight and light (not like in Nova Scotia where it rains
horizontally) so it was quite refreshing. (Although I would prefer warm sunshine all day right now. Winter was long enough for this year.)

On Wednesday I went to the Anne Franckhuis. It was very well done, very moving, and very crowded. Then I walked and walked and walked (and I must have begun looking very comfortable in Amsterdam; at least six people stopped me to ask directions) through the Jordaan and other neighborhoods�and then got into a hot tub. In the evening I took my hosts out to dinner at an amazing Moroccan restaurant in their neighborhood. A fitting end to a wonderful visit.

It�s cold and raining hard now. I�m back in Nova Scotia, for sure!

Posted by leya at 09:05 PM | Comments (2)

April 03, 2005

Looking (around the corner) for the fountain of youth

Last night I saw the movie Monkey Business. It�s an old one, (I love black and white movies!) with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and (that great beauty!) Marilyn Monroe. The storyline was about a very serious and brilliant scientist (Cary Grant) experimenting (at first) on monkeys (and then on himself and inadvertently on others) to find a formula to restore youthful energy. The antics that follow are funny, for sure, but also underline the ridiculous thoughts and behaviors that result from trying to be something other than what you are.

When I went into the Art Sales and Rental Gallelry at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to deliver a painting this week past, I was greeted by someone I�ve known for a long time. She had actually been a student of mine many years ago. Her first comment was �Leya, you look so much younger every time I see you!� And when I left, the same comment. I hear this a lot. Reminds me of Max Tivoli, who actually grew younger as he aged (in The Confessions of Max Tivoli). Maybe someday I will write an addendum to that book: What It Feels Like to Look Much Younger Than You Are! Max�s mother gave him one rule to cope with his condition: Always be what they think you are. Not good advice. Very confusing advice for him, especially when he had the emotions and desires of someone his actual chronological age. It is so hard just to be who you are without trying to fool everyone. But maybe that is what so many of us try to do anyway. And that is what made that book so endearing yet sad to read. The pretense and avoiding made it so that everyone was like magnets being rubbed together on the wrong sides: no real connect.

It is nice to look youthful and great to feel it, but most of all, I appreciate the experience age has brought to me. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the shock value of looking so much younger. When I got married at twenty-three, I looked twelve. The Justice of the Peace mistook my then pregnant (and older) sister for the bride. When I was pregnant with Tamar, later that year, I must have looked about sixteen. People stared at me with such pity in their eyes. In my early thirties, I was taken to be eighteen. Shortly after that, with the stress of divorce at thirty-five, I aged to look twenty-four for quite a few years.

Sometimes I get annoyed hearing �you look ten years younger each time I see you.� With the same person saying that it would make me be in the minus age group, not existing at all! When people ask me the secret of my youthful looks I usually say �Stress.� Actually it is a combination of heredity and attitude.

But does that mean there is something wrong with aging and showing it? I once took some (what I thought to be) beautiful photographs of my eighty-five year old step-mother. It was at the beach and the sharp summer sun enhanced not only the wrinkles on her face but the peacefulness of a full life. When I sent the photos to some family members, they found them unattractive, unflattering, too many wrinkles. Just goes to show!

Posted by leya at 06:34 PM | Comments (1)

March 31, 2005

Oh, deer!

I almost ran into a deer tonight on the road near my house, on my way home from Pilates classes. It was a big buck, a beautiful animal, but not one I would want to hit. Now that the snow has cleared revealing the juicy new leaves on the bushes, I will have to be more vigilant to protect my plants from hungry animals.

Posted by leya at 08:40 PM

March 02, 2005

Busy here, busy there......

The sun is shining on the snow making beautiful shadows and I�m off to NYC in a few hours. My suitcase is packed, I'm eager to go, but first I have to pack up the paintings to Edmonton and take them to the shipping company. And then I�m off to the airport! I�ll be back late Monday. Much more later, no doubt!

Posted by leya at 09:46 AM

January 26, 2005

No Soap; Radio

Radio is special. I love radio. Always have. When the power was out for five days in November I was so relieved to have my windup radio to let me know what was happening, to keep me in touch with the world outside my snowbound home. Sometimes I turn on the radio before getting dressed in the morning, to bring some sound, another person (so to speak) into my house.

My first memories of radio are of when we lived in Richmond, Virginia during The War, those exciting fifteen minute programs that would come on before dinnertime, when all play activities would stop and the neighborhood children would gather around the radio to hear The Green Hornet, or The Lone Ranger. I had a fantasy then that when The War was over there would be no more bad news, just music. No more announcements of so many dead in this battle and so many in that battle. Just music and storytelling programs.

When I was around eleven, my next-door neighbor, Jimmy, was selling chances to win one. I wanted that radio so much I did the Machiavellian thing, I cheated (does the end justify the means?). To win, you had to choose the right name on a sheet of names and the winning name was exposed after Jimmy sold all the squares. I peaked very carefully, lifted ever so gently the cover to the winning square and put it back so that no one would know. The name was Olga, not one I would normally have chosen. So I changed what I had picked previously. I won that radio and it gave me so much joy. I never felt guilty. That little white radio belonged to me no matter how I won it. I had my special programs. Every Sunday night I lay on my bed listening to them, looking at that little white radio as if it were talking only to me.

These days, CBC is my friend. People tell me it isnt what it used to be. But thats okay with me. It is so much better than anything I had when I was living in New York. I listen to the radio when I am painting. They call it white noise. It helps me not to take my own thoughts too seriously. I once heard that listening to music helps you to learn concentration when reading. I extend that to other activities now. I know all the programming, switch between the various stations in order to hear what I want. (I hop back and forth between Radio One and Radio Two and the French station, depending on the programs.) I rarely watch TV. It doesnt allow the same level of fantasy mixed with reality, where I can listen and do my own activities. I do love radio.

Posted by leya at 04:56 PM

January 16, 2005

Traveling light

Not sure if I will be posting over the next few days. I'm on a busman's holiday. Actually I'm not sure what that really means but I like the sound of it. Actually, I am on a safari exploring unknown territories. Will keep you posted when I can. Stay tuned.

Posted by leya at 01:31 PM

January 13, 2005

Incidental moves

I said recently that I don�t usually rearrange furniture or change the paint on my walls, just put things in their place, pick colors and that's that. But then I realized today that I don�t usually stay in one place this long. I�ve been here eight years. That�s a record for me. Since I left my parental home at seventeen, I�ve changed residence an average of every three years and that includes nine years on West End Avenue when I was married.

And the strangest thing about all those moves was that (almost) each time I would say (and believe it): �This is the last time, the last move.� And then just a few years later, for some reason that seemed completely reasonable (and was in fact logical), I would pick up everything and move again.

Now, moving a house is difficult enough, especially with all the books I seem to have to have and the grand piano that is also a necessity. And moving children and assorted pets around Manhatten was very difficult. But moving a painting studio�not fun! So eight years here in one house, no wonder I�ve recently been moving all the furniture around!

Posted by leya at 06:36 PM

January 04, 2005

Upside-down house

Without the structure of school, time seems to have lost any meaning. I can hardly tell what day of the week it is. It doesnt really matter. And, because I moved my bed (to the other side of the room) before leaving on my last trip West, I am still waking up not being sure where I amin California, Montreal, my home? And yesterday I moved my computer table to be near the windows overlooking the lake and now I find myself still going to the corner where it was, behind the piano. What creatures of habit we human beings can be!

Routine, schedules all start up again by the end of this week. I think I wont mind too much this time. At least I know where my classroom isthe same as last semester so my habits will not be disturbed!

Posted by leya at 07:35 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2005

Wisdom from the cockroach

The tsunami disasters make me think that the earths upheavals are an expression of anger towards our uncivilized behaviors, our devastations of her natural resources. As archie, the wise little cockroach (of archie and mehitabal) said:

i once heard the survivors of a colonly of ants that had been partially obliterated by a cow's foot seriously debating the intention of the gods towards their civilization

there is always
something to be thankful
for you would not
think that a cockroach
had much ground
for optimism
but as the fishing season
opens up I grow
more and more
cheerful at the thought
that nobody ever got
the notion of using
cockroaches for bait

I wonder about the optimism of people whose families, homes, livelihood have been obliterated. Although I have heard that cockroaches can survive any natural disaster, who knows, maybe even cockroaches will be bait next.

Even though it is difficult in this situation, it is, as always, important to see the larger picture, and to work towards making that worthwhile. We are tenants on the planet, staying for such a short while. Perhaps the only real cheefulness that can be garnered here is the generosity that is flowing towards the survivors. Human beings, after all, need each other and need to be good to each other in every sense of the word.

Posted by leya at 01:44 PM

December 23, 2004

How old is old anyway?

If you saw my age on a piece of paper, would you think differently of me? If I told you I was 102 would you think differently than if I told you I was 99? Or 49? 29?

Ageism is such a crippling concept. It is everywhere in our culture. The most pronounced in my life is the acceptance of the Faculty Union at school voting to accept mandatory retirement (a trade-off for a slight wage increaseuntil forced retirement!)

We are visual artists, working with our eyes and minds, not ballet dancers where the body tells stories. The stories I tell are from experience. My experience has been one of slow maturing into the process of making art. And even more, a slow process of learning how to teach, to impart the knowledge I have garnered from years of experience. Ive been around the block and learned a few things on the way. You would think these qualities would be valued more.

They had a series about aging on CBC radio a while ago. What seemed to come up often was the realization that 80 is now what 60 used to be. With all the changes, innovations in medicine, people are living longer in more flexible bodies. A retirement age of 65 was originally set because most people died at that age and therefore wouldnt be a drain on the Pension Plans anyway. And then, our youth oriented culture has permeated how older people see their lives. And computers have opened up a whole new way for people to reach beyond their immediate boundaries of space and age. Even grandmas and grandpas are often computer savvy.

Like most of the single people I know (of any age), Ive tried a bit of internet dating occasionally and have come across a surprising phenomenon: even men lie about their age! A couple of men told me they were relieved to be honest about how old they were, this in situations where they were closer to my age. Most men state openly that they are looking for a woman who is at least five to fifteen years younger than themselves. I think it is the biological necessity of procreation that makes men think they need a younger woman where in fact, women, in general, outlive men, giving women, by this standard, too many years alone.

One interesting (brief) correspondence I had was when a man contacted me and said: You dont look your age; but then neither do I. (In this case I had tried stating my age as five years younger, mostly because my friends had been urging me to do it considering that I do indeed look many years younger than my age, and actually responses to my profile were then tenfold greater.) I responded to him by saying: Like you I dont look my age, dont feel it, nor seem it, so maybe Im not! I never heard from him again!

But really, I dont want to be judged by my age. I'm mature, I've done my homework, and I can go out and play now.

Posted by leya at 12:59 PM

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

December 19, 2004

Once upon a time

The other morning, Tom Allen (on CBC radio) said there is a new theory about Neanderthals, that the reason they became extinct was not that they were an inferior species but on the contrary, were a superior civilization. They had a larger brain cavity than Homo Sapiens and therefore possibly a larger, more refined brain. It was the more aggressive homo sapiens who, because of their warring skills, wiped them out. Ouch!

Posted by leya at 12:49 AM

December 18, 2004

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 12, 2004

Hey mr. sandman, send a dream for me

Seeing the pix of the sunrise over my lake, Yoko said she understands why I get up so early.


Im just a country girl, rarely miss the sunrise. Love the early morning hours. The trees, the lake, the brook that are outside my door. After most of my years in Manhattan and then twenty-one here, I dont think I could ever live in a city again. I cant say I enjoy the isolation, the loneliness of country living, the (sometimes long and arduous) drive into town, but I do enjoy the solitude and beauty that surrounds me, that allows me to relax into my own being. Yet I do not want Lonely to be my roommate.

Carries mother puts it perfectly in The Dive from Clausens Pier (by Ann Packer): Lonely is a funny thing, she said slowly. Its almost like another person. After a while, itll keep you company if youll let it.

These thoughts as I am about to take off for the warm embrace of my children and the big cities they live in now, Montreal and Los Angeles.

Posted by leya at 01:37 PM

December 08, 2004

The lady in the stump


For over a year now, since Hurricane Juan swept across my little piece of paradise, I have been looking at this lady of the stump and wondering how and when I could ask (make) her leave. She has been a reminder of the vicissitudes of weather here in beautiful Nova Scotia and a hindrance to my view. So, finally, I called a tree removal company and had an estimate today for the cost of her departure. It is high (expensive) but it feels like letting her squat on my land any longer is more expensive, robbing me of a broader view.

All this because I had a proper feng shui reading a few weeks ago and, since I am naturally a true believer (dont need to be convinced of the existence of unseen energy forces), I am, as rapidly as the depths of my pockets will allow, implementing the suggestions. There are lots of things to do, all making sense, both practical and visual. Besides hauling away the debris from the hurricane, I have to finish off the ceiling in my studio. Until now it has had exposed beams and according to feng shui principles, that means cutting energy which is very bad for both health and prosperity. It will also mean less fumes being able to sneak up into my living space. So I am currently cleaning up my studio, a job long overdue, throwing away outdated, unusable items, sorting and rearranging. Then all my paintings and supplies have to come up into my living room and the work will take place, thankfully, while I am away over the next two weeks.

This is a lot to do along with getting ready to go away (shopping, sewing presents, cleaning, packing) and still teaching, eating, reading and sleeping. (Cant paint, so that gives me some time I dont usually have!) Its going to be a very tired (and relieved) me who gets on that plane next Tuesday!

Posted by leya at 03:05 PM

December 07, 2004

Me too

Well, after reading Tamars entry saying she was joining the Holidailies and having seen her do it last year (which actually inspired me, among other things to start my own blog whose anniversary is coming up soon and I definitely have some thoughts on that!), I decided to join myself (joining the Holidailies, that is). So..I know already I cannot write an entry every day because I will be traveling and not have computer access a couple of days. My travel plans (this time) include two days in Montreal to visit Aaron & Jessica and then on to Los Angeles for ten days to visit Tamar, Dan & Damian. Lucky me!

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

December 04, 2004

Passing through and momentarily stopping traffic

George W. passed through town on Tuesday and roads were blocked off. Forty-five minutes waiting in a long line of cars. I turned off my engine and listened to the radio to hear where he was and what he was doing. Butwhy Halifax? Did he think we wouldnt protest? Ha! But then, he was brought in the back door and missed the 3500+ protestors outside. No incidents, just not open hearts and pockets. I heard there were only two pro-Bush signs; the rest were basically go home and take your war in Iraq and weaponization of space with you! (The students at school were irate that our school president attended the ceremony. He did offer an apology.)

Posted by leya at 11:39 AM

November 25, 2004

Up in the air junior birdman, up in the air, upside down


With the holidays approaching and people traveling, Tom Allen was just commenting (on the radio) that 24% of people hope that they will make a romantic connection when they board an airplane, will sit next to the love of their life for that average of a two hour flight, and a more realistic 14% hope to make a business association.

Wow! Hows that for fantasy in the air!

Posted by leya at 08:26 AM

November 20, 2004



Just as the storm was starting last Saturday, I was in Halifax (and Friday evening) for a Tango workshop. Tango fascinates me, has for quite a while. It's a very beautiful community dance and Margaret Spore is developing a Tango community here. (The photo is taken from her Tangonova.com site.) She had a visiting teacher, an Argentinian from Montreal, here for the weekend. The dance is amazing. Very precise, yet total improvisation.

The first thing we learned was how to communicate with our partner. By leaning into him/her, literally. Creating a magnetic field so that we could sense what was going to happen. Talking with our bodies in a very direct way. We changed partners frequently and as always, there were many more female than male dancers so I was changing from follower to leader and back to follower and found I enjoyed both places. (Usually I have preferred following, liked being pushed around, so to speak, but that seems to have changed.)

I had taken some classes with Margaret eight years ago and thought I had forgotten everything. But the sensation of the dance, the feeling, the flow of it, came back eventually. At one point, one of the women said something to the effect of confidence being the key. Without that it is hard to relate to the other person, to let them know what to do.

Because of the storm, I had to leave before seeing some videos of the dance and hearing more about the history but hope to continue dancing.

Posted by leya at 12:18 PM

November 08, 2004

If only.................

Yesterday a friend said to me the Republicans have it right, putting colorful, dramatically trained men as figureheads, letting the boat be steered by the advisors. Reagan, Swartznegger, not bad people, but their strong suit is in their personalities, a personality cult.

Kerrys face is too long. Perhaps a little plastic surgery would have won him more voters.

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

November 03, 2004

archy speaks again

It was a pretty sad morning listening to the news today. But as archy (the wise little cockroach of archy and mehitabel) would say:

insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat

But let's hope it is not eat or be eaten!

Posted by leya at 04:08 PM

October 31, 2004

The scrouge of Halloween


Halloween has become one of my not-favorite holidays. I dont know why. But now that my children are gone (years ago when I could participate either through my children or myself carrying a large paper grocery bag around the neighborhood with my friends all of us dressed up in our wildest fantasies it was fun--going around begging for treats, sweets that would be doled out for weeks to come) I just want to get away--so I am off to the movies and dinner out on the town with Yoko.

Posted by leya at 12:32 PM

October 30, 2004

Where did all the flowers go


Well, thats it. Summer is over. The screens are down and the dock is in. Thats it. A sad day at the end of October.

But the light has been so beautiful in the evenings. Everyone, even in Halifax, is commenting. And today the lake was like glass and the air soft.

Posted by leya at 07:07 PM

October 28, 2004

Which flavor/flavour will you have today........


There was an interview with three translators on CBC radio the other day. The main point was that there are often no direct word for word translations that make sense in another language. One translator said that because she didnt write poetry herself she would never be able to translate poetry. Leave that to the poets. It is a fascinating art, translating.

Last night (after our duets) Yoko and her husband Hiro (who joined us for dinner) started talking about the differences in our languages. It started with Hiro asking me why we (English speaking people) call someone cool as a cucumber. We think of cool in this case as aloof. In Japan, someone is considered like a cucumber when they are rail thin. If you think about some of our idiomatic expressions, they can seem quite odd. For instance: Its raining cats and dogs. Why cats and dogs? What a strange image, raining cats and dogs. In Japan the image is it is raining like a mud slide. Something they know a lot about in their country. But do we have cats and dogs in the air, sitting in the clouds waiting to come visit en masse when it rains?

I recently named a painting To Under Stand, but when I gave the image to the photo store to be duplicated with the title imprinted on the slide, the pun was lost: she printed it To Understand. To me, a big difference. Take the word understand: what are you standing under when you understand a concept? When looking it up in Websters New Universal Unabridged Universal Dictionary (who quoted Shakespeare: My legs do better understand me, sir, than I understand what you mean), the understanding immerged that you understand when you are emerged, surrounded by, and thereby standing in the concept. Understand?

Posted by leya at 08:56 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 29, 2004

From hearts on the street to bars without drink


So many people tell me that San Francisco is one of their favorite cities. I can see why now. When I was there last weekend, I was free on Friday to walk around, see the sights: Chinatown, the Italian section, browsed in City Lights Bookstore (bought a Sherman Alexie novel and a pin that says Fuck Art, Lets Dance), walked on down to Fisherman's Wharf and took a ferry to Alcatraz.


That was a real treat, a spooky, eerie, interesting site, a photographer's paradise. The audio-guide quoted prisoners saying the hardest part was that they could see the world they were missing--the San Francisco life was real, visible but unavailable to them.


Originally Acatraz was very strict with the inmates but in the 60's the looser hippie culture affected the routines and the less violent prisoners were allowed radios and drawing materials. Still, the abandoned building reverberates of frustration and the cobwebs of lost lives.



Posted by leya at 02:29 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

August 31, 2004

Good sports

So the summer Olympics are over. My life will change again. I am a CBC radio addict and really really really enjoyed the sports announcers, every hour all day every day for ten minutes before the hour. I often wondered what they were high on. They had so much fun, joking amongst themselves, making jokes at the expense of the athletes, conversing with players and local people. I loved their energy and enthusiasm.

One announcer (and I am so bad about remembering names, please forgive me; I tried to look it up but.) talked seriously about what sport is: playing a game for pleasure, the activity being more important than winning medals. There is so much talk in Canada now about how we can improve our performance at the Olympics. Do we really want our children taken away from normal lives, from families and friends, to train so we in Canada can have more medals? Are medals the meaning of sport?

Oh, how I wish he could come to my school and talk to the students about their career as artists. Its not about the product; its all process. Thats the mind that creates a good product.

Posted by leya at 08:18 AM

July 29, 2004

Just the facts

Did you know: 73% of people prefer to roll their toilet paper down from the top. It seems that many of those 73% think it is the right way and, I being one of the 27% who was brought up to have it rolled from the bottom and have been continuing the family tradition, find that people who come to visit me often change the roll so that it is their way. O well. So I just change it back.

Posted by leya at 09:29 PM | Comments (2)

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 09, 2004

Having a lovely time, etc.

I'm on holiday in Montral (till Sunday), hence the silence......................More later, for sure!

Posted by leya at 10:21 AM

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

June 24, 2004

No smoking.........

Before class Monday morning, I mentioned to the few students who were hanging out early that the room smelled like someone had been smoking pot in the room during the night. One student said there is often cigarette smoke in a room beside the painting studio. When she asked about it, someone said it was just the instructor, Joe Boss, he always smokes (even though there is a no smoking policy in the school). And no one says a thing, they just let him smoke.

It is all in the attitude. It reminded me of an incident a few years ago when one partner in a marriage was having an affair and subsequently left his wife (and two young children) for the other woman. The wife was devastated and began publicly accusing him of indiscretions with his children. Her manner was accusatory and anxious, whining and insecure. His new partner was proud and supportive. So the one who was seen as the problem was the wife, not the woman whom he left her for, nor the man who could quite possibly have been disregarding important boundaries with his children.

The one who smokes (against the rules) walks around the school feeling his importance, acts his importance and so no one questions him. (Not even me. Our paths dont cross and I dont seek him out.) Too bad. But it is a good lesson for all of us.

Posted by leya at 08:28 AM

June 11, 2004

Funny phone call

I just had a funny phone call. A man from some resort down on the South Shore offered me and my loved one a very inexpensive two days and eight meals (as long as it was before the end of June). Would I be interested?

I told him it sounded lovely, but the problem is, I dont know anyone right now I would like to spend the time with at his resort but if he could find me the man, I would be very interested.

He said he would keep an eye out for me, see what he could do. Cool!

Posted by leya at 06:55 PM

June 10, 2004

Mind pix

Here is a photo of my mind these days. Too much to do, too little time:


Well, really, these are the equipment we use in my Pilates classes at The Interlude in Halifax. I love the machines, the toys. They make me feel powerful, sometimes, that is, when they dont put up too much resistance.

Occasionally, my mind calms down a bit, a nice place to rest, but still a little work to do:


Posted by leya at 09:11 AM

June 06, 2004

Butterfly wings

Been out on the town the last few nights. Interesting. Usually I find it hard to leave my beautiful house and land and wonder why I am alone so much. But after a long cold winter and a spring that doesnt really want to happen, I feel like seeing what is out there, out beyond my known territory.

Usually when I look at the Nova Scotia landscape I expect to see dinasours, not dancers. But Thursday evening I went to an opening of a former (mature, i.e., not just out of High School) students exhibition of photographs. She has taken young dancers and placed them in the exotic settings of the Nova Scotia coast. The photos are very beautiful: large format, clear color, technically stunning.

Friday evening Wayne Boucher and Kay Stanfield had a duo exhibit of their paintings at the Secord Gallery in Halifax. Really good show. And out to dinner afterwards with friends.

Saturday dinner with a friend and a dance concert. Verve Mwendo. The dance company of one of my Pilates instructors. Always a real pleasure to see dance (or hear live music) in a small theatre space, especially when it has the energy and finesse of this group.

Today this butterfly is happy to be home with Aaron & Jessica here for company. And the sun is shining high in the sky, three days in a row: such a blessing!

Posted by leya at 03:39 PM

June 02, 2004

A man is

A man I met briefly once told me what womens expectations in a man are: he should be smart, funny, handsome, a fighter, good lover, good at sports, good dancer, and sing and play the guitar. This man was smart and rather good looking, and I found this funny, but I dont know if he can sing and play the guitar. And what does he expect from women?

Posted by leya at 04:03 PM

May 26, 2004

Night music

I wish I could give you the sound of the loons as they were tonight, singing loud on the lake into the cold dark misty air.

Posted by leya at 09:47 PM

Women (and men)

In order to improve my conversational French (which is not so great, believe me!), I am taking out videos in French (with English subtitles so I dont miss too much). The last three were two by Francois Truffout, The Bride Wore Black and The Man Who Loved Women, and Claude Chabrols The Story of Women with Isabelle Huppert. Lots of women. In every imaginable role. Wife, mother, prostitute, widow, murderer. And beautiful films. They were all, in their individual ways, about love and loss and maybe that is what women are about. We love we lose we love we lose and we love again. But dont men do the same?

I like being female. I like loving. I love loving. Ive learned, I hope, to live with losing. Its part of life, of loving. Perhaps men feel the same sense of loss in their lives, but I am not a man and cant really say. But I am always fascinated by what men see when they write about or portray in films their view of women. At least in a film, the woman acts the part and imparts feminine qualities to a woman.

Teaching figure drawing, I see lots of naked bodies, male and female. The physical structure is different. Besides the obvious, mens hips are narrower, chests broader, their legs set into their hips differently, womens arms hang from their shoulders to be able to carry babies and laundry.

I used to read a lot of self-help books: Men are from Mars, Men Who Hate Women (a very upsetting book), and such. Ive researched men in life and in books. I work in a profession dominated by men for centuries. Ive never dwelled there, think that the work itself will transcend cultural gender prejudice. Most of my female friends say there are few good men. I personally think that there are as many good men as there are good women. Good people. Maybe we act and react differently to some emotions and events. I do think men are wired differently, have different expectations and needs in certain areas, but we are both (men and women) people and we all want love and (at times) suffer loss.

Posted by leya at 08:48 AM

May 23, 2004

Garden news

This morning I was out by 7 am, planting my vegetable garden, hoping to outsmart the black flies who sleep later than I do. It worked, and now my seeds are in the ground (except for the beans and squash) and I can sit back and watch them grow.

I noticed that there are a few asparagus stalks poking up, a sure sign of spring! Tomorrow I will put in some flower transplants I have picked up here and there.

Its raining now. It always rains after I do some planting. It makes me feel so powerful!

Posted by leya at 12:48 PM

May 21, 2004

Blogs on radio

There was an interesting conversation on the radio last week about blogging. Sheilagh Rogers was interviewing three people with different relationships to blogs. One of them, Caterina Fake described the interview on her blog. She was on the program with (in words taken from her blog)

Tod Maffin, broadcaster and futurologist and Jim Elves, who created a site called Blogs Canada. We talked about Tod's moblogging, and Jim's site, which is an attempt to organize the blogosphere for Canada. I said that in the beginning there was a lot of backlash against blogging because people thought the internet was getting "polluted" by all these people writing about what they had for breakfast, but I pointed out that the intended audience for those blogs was probably just that person's friends and family. I also said that one of the things that we had discussed at the CAJ conference on Friday was the difference between bloggers as "citizen reporters" and journalists. Journalists actually have some accountability, the reputation of the paper to uphold, and a phalanx of fact checkers employed by their paper. Bloggers, Jim said, are more like "Letters to the Editor" or the Op-Ed page fo the newspaper. And I think the future of weblogging is what you see over on the right hand side there: photoblogging. And photoblogging just for your friends and family.

I dont agree with her. I do enjoy the photographs from different lives, but I also want to read what people feel about their lives. The directory of Canadian blogs is organized by region and category, with over 8,000 blog-sites listed. I havent had enough time to research it but am looking forward to looking into it.

Sothe blog is here to stayuntil it mutates into something else.

Posted by leya at 12:23 PM

May 13, 2004


Hope is a dangerous emotion. We live in anticipation. Miss today, etcetera. But.Black fly season started yesterday. That means not being able to go outside without protection from the vicious little buggers for the next month, at least, may even six weeks (unless it is a windy day and then they stay away).

Yoko told me she googled black fly and discovered that it is a kind of sunglasses, very popular in Japan. (Very expensive sunglasses. Our black flies are free!) So we looked together and found different styles of black flies (actually the sunglasses are called Black Flys) that you can get: Mile Fly Club black flies, Fly Candy black flies, Sex-E Fly (hmmmmmm!) black flies. Much better than what is flying around my garden making me wear outrageous costumes for the next month so they wont bite my skin.

And I hope their visit is only for a month.

Posted by leya at 07:54 AM

May 09, 2004

Darling deer

My garden is beginning to bloom!



So far, although I have seen deer crossing the road near my house, they have left my flowers alone. (Keep your fingers crossed for me!) When I was at the vets a few years ago, I was bemoaning the loss of my flowers to the deer and bunnies. Another woman there said she uses a spray of rotten egg water. For those of you in deer country, the recipe is: put a half dozen eggs in a quart jar with water, run it through the blender, let it sit for week. Then dilute it with more water into a gallon spray container. And poofno deer! I spray after it rains and any other time I feel deer-paranoia.

About five years ago, I read one of John Udikes novels (his books are some of my all-time favorites but this one was not, so I dont remember the title; sorry, Mr. Updike) wherein the major theme at the beginning of the novel was his becoming a deer vigilante, and of course, losing. (I could relate to that, but not much to the rest of the novel.) I probably should write him and let him know about the rotten egg-water.

Posted by leya at 02:32 PM

May 08, 2004

Me, blog

Whenever I tell a friend that I have a blog I get mixed reactions. Usually a blank stare, sometimes a giggle, rarely a mutual understanding. Partly I think it is because most people my age did not grow up with computers (or TV for that matter, or even turning signals on cars. Can you imagine shifting and at the same time putting your arm out the window to signal a left or right turn?) and it seems like an exposure, an invasion, or basically, an absurdity. (Dont you have your friends to talk to?)

A few of my younger friends have blogs and easily understand and appreciate the need for communication in this fragmented world. I was very excited when Yoko told me she, after reading my blog, has started one of her own. But I cannot read it. Its in Japanese and although she tried to translate it for me, it is too difficult for her. If you and/or your computer can read Japanese, go see. Do anyway: she has some beautiful photos up. (And I found it exciting to see pages of Japanese script on my screen!)

Yoko tells me that it makes sense to keep an on-line journal. In Japan, when someone retires, the person starts a memoir of his or her life. With a blog or journal, it is an ongoing record of your life as it happens, as it feels, as you react to it. And it is an invitation you send out to an unknown, an invitation to connect to and know a bigger world.

Ive read a few articles recently on the blog coming of age. How it is maturing into a respectable form of journal-ism, evolving from journals. The last article I read was more about political writing and discussions. The blogs I tend to read expand my view of more personal worlds. Living here somewhere on the edge of nowhere, it is rewarding to peek into the more intimate corners of other peoples lives, people who live in the center of their worlds, what they see and feel as they look out from that spot. Tonis very thoughtful essay on internet journal writing spoke directly to why I write and read blogs, the ongoing record, a new form of communication, or as she puts it so precisely, a short film, intimate communication on a global scale.

Posted by leya at 07:47 AM

May 07, 2004

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I had my hair cut Tuesday. I didnt really plan it. Wanting to look good for the opening reception in the evening, I went to get my hair trimmed and such in the afternoon. Sitting there in the chair I was so enchanted watching her nimble fingers, her scissors snipping away with a mind of their own, not seeming to understand that it was my hair that was falling to the floor. Usually I am like Sampson, fall apart when my hair is short. But now my hair is no longer shoulder length. It is short. And I havent collapsed in a puddle of tears, yet. In fact, I think it might even look good. At least I am getting a positive responseit is a noticeable difference. But I will probably continue to think of myself as a long-haired person and wonder why the comb stops, hits the air, so soon.

Posted by leya at 07:44 AM

May 06, 2004

Local color

Halifax is really changing. It is no longer the bottle of homogenized white milk it seemed to be when I first came here twenty years ago. We see more ethnicity on the streets along with the upscale boutiques and trendy restaurants. Its growing too fast for the narrow streets and limited downtown parking. But being a port city it has always had a strong though underground night life. And one of the best music scenes in Canada. Still, you can usually see people waiting for the walk sign to light up in order to cross an intersection, even when there is no traffic in sight on a sleepy Sunday morning.

And yesterday I was in the parking lot after going to a bookstore with my friend Suzie and she called me over to see the car next to mine: into a very dusty hood was written I wish my wife was as dirty as this car!

Posted by leya at 07:37 AM

May 02, 2004

Driving change

My paintings are now settling in to their new home for the next month in Lunenburg. It is a relief to have that part done. I kept changing what I was going to put into the exhibit right up to the last minute (depending mostly on what was dry and on the size restrictions of the gallery). It definitely has made sense to call this show Subject to Change although when I chose the title I was thinking more of my painting process: constantly changing, evolving, never sure where it will end, what the painting will become.

On the drive home (I took the long way, by the ocean), there was a concert of Dvoraks music on the radio. They played the duet that Yoko and I have learned, one of the Slavonic Dances. And then they played one of my favorite pieces of music, the Dumky piano trio. (I had bought the record back when I was in school.) I remember when radios were new in cars. I am certainly glad they have them now. Once, a few years ago, I drove home from a retreat in Cape Breton with no radio in my (then new) truck. It was very spooky; the vibrations of the vehicle were accentuated by my month of silence. And now CD players are common, and even video screens, although I wouldnt need that. The scenery is enough entertainment around here.

Posted by leya at 06:56 PM

April 30, 2004

The first day of spring!

Today was an absolutely glorious day, the first in a long long long time. After weeks of rain and rain and rain and cold and rain. Clear brilliant sky, the loons singing on the lake, AND it was warm, 24 degrees Centigrade (thats 75 F. for you other guys)! I was able to eat lunch outside, play in my garden, enjoy the sun. Winter is really over! (Well, keep your fingers crossed. It could still snow again, but we wont talk about that!)

Posted by leya at 09:17 PM

April 28, 2004

Don't kvetch yet.......

In my Pilates class, my instructor, Kim, likes to use something called a bosu. Basically, it is half a large ball with the consistency of a marshmallow mounted on a firm ring. It is supposed to help develop core muscle strength (as are all the Pilates exercises). And basically, I really really dislike it! The week before I had complained bitterly. I was told that one woman had, in another class, put one foot on the bosu, took it off, threw her keys down, walked out and never came back. I understand completely.

But this week I decided that I would give it a chance. That if I didnt complain, maybe I wouldnt dislike it so much. And that worked. I was able to find my balance easier, only fell off once (and did land on my feet) and could see the merit in the (wretched) toy.

Theres a Buddhist saying, one of the 59 slogans of Atishas (an Indian sage), that is one of my favorites: Change your attitude and relax as it is. Its a good one. In case you are wondering, Atisha was an Indian sage. The slogans are ways to train your mind in transforming difficulties into compassion. So I guess you could say I am developing compassion for the (blessed/bloody) bosu!

Posted by leya at 03:11 PM

April 24, 2004


The other day I was doing my morning Pilates exercises and decided to pay more attention to my instructors voice. She is always saying Squeeze the glutes. Squeeze the back of the legs. Squeeze the glutes. Squeeze the back of the legs. So I did. I squeezed the glutes. I squeezed the back of the legs. It did feel different. I discovered a new part of my body. Very exciting discovery. I almost called my instructor to tell her.

But the next day I was so sore that I could barely climb the stairs without wincing and I had to sleep with a hot water bottle under the back of my thighs. (I gave it a days rest and am more comfortable now.)

Posted by leya at 05:53 PM

April 23, 2004

Yet another weather report

There are some days when I dont really feel like talking to strangers. It is hard in Nova Scotia where it is rare to walk out of the grocery store without someone (usually the check-out person) wanting to start a conversation. Yesterday she commented on it being a rather nice day. It was only drizzle and cloudy, no snow, not warm but not cold. Etcetera. Another weather report. It was hard (from my end-of-a-long-day point of view) to make that into a conversation without sounding grumpy! I do, usually, love Nova Scotia because it is so friendly here.

Posted by leya at 02:12 PM

April 21, 2004

At home yet?

Reading what Tamar wrote about the apartment we lived in when she was young brought back many feelings and memories, some good, some I thought I had put away forever. But the past can not be put in a tidy box.

It was a beautiful apartment. I lived there for nine years, longer than I have lived anywhere since I left my parents home at 17. When I left that apartment, I left my marriage with it. I took two children, two cats, a fish tank and lots of furniture and art supplies with me. I never looked back, never regretted leaving. Perhaps I should have left all the furniture and started completely anew with only the children and pets.

I have moved frequently before and after that apartment. I dont think I have felt at home anywhere. Always looking for home. I love my house here, the land, the neighborhood. It would be hard to leave it. My average rate of move throughout my adult life has been every three years (and that is factoring in the nine years in that beautiful apartment). So, having lived here almost eight years, I am making a record. Every place I lived, I made it home, nestling in like I would be there forever, frequently actually believing that I wasnt going to move again.

People always ask me, dont you just LOVE Montreal. When I was in Montreal in March, I went to a chocolatier with Aaron & Jessica. A MUST stop, along with cheese, to take back to Nova Scotia, to give friends a taste of what cheese and chocolate really is. When the lovely, energetic, crazy chocolate maker discovered I was from Nova Scotia, he, like most people, asked me if I loved Montreal. I said no. I don't "love" Halifax either. I enjoy Montreal. Sometimes it feels dirty and unfriendly along with its many offerings of culture and pleasure. I enjoy Halifax. It's growing yet still friendly. I enjoy going to other places. I love my house, I love where I live, the people around me. I love my life here. I love coming "home" after traveling. But the future is an open book and a place is just one of many.

Posted by leya at 09:04 AM

April 18, 2004

The morality of art

When I was in art school, we would have long discussions about whether an artist, because he/she was looking for truth and beauty, was necessarily a moral/good person. I recently heard Wagners grandson on the radio trying to bring reconciliation to his grandfathers anti-semetic rhetoric. The moderator was commenting on how most composers, other than Bach, are not known for their upstanding, moral character.

I think it was this program where Wagners grandson (or someone, I dont remember who exactly) was saying that the arts are a reason to be alive. Not a life support. They show the potential of human kind. The product is not the artist.

Too bad. Wouldnt it be nice if all the wonderful art creations around meant that there were that many wonderful, good, moral people as well.

Posted by leya at 10:49 AM

April 17, 2004

April showers.....

Raining, raining, (and again) raining! The sun struggles to come out every few days but it seems to be losing the battle. They promise us sun tomorrow and again by Wednesday (with rain in between, of course). Never lacking in excitement, oddities and change--no wonder Canadians are obsessed with the weather!

Posted by leya at 12:11 PM

April 15, 2004

Taxes, YUK!

Boy, am I ready to pull my hair out! Ive been getting together my tax information! Every time I think I have it all figured out, I find more documents! BAH! I guess I dont need to say more! Toni said it best!

Posted by leya at 06:53 AM

April 11, 2004

First signs of spring

My first crocus:


and that leaf that has survived a hurricane and a blizzard is still on the oak tree outside my kitchen window:


The ice is finally receding on the lake and under the snow that is remaining new life is beginning to appear. It is strange to see garden centers being constructed on supermarket parking lots again, even when there are still large piles of snow (that could pass for dirt, they are so dark now with soot). I was out cleaning up my garden yesterday, getting ready to plant again soon.

Posted by leya at 09:30 AM

April 07, 2004


The first cruise ship came into Halifax Harbour today. A funny place to go for a Spring holiday. It is a few degrees above freezing (positively balmy!) and there is only a small dump of snow flurries each day, yet still large drifts of snow are on the ground. (Most of the people I know are heading south. Id be on the next plane to sunny California if I couldschool and exhibition commitments keep me here.)

The tourists took it well, according to the radio interviews. People laughed, said it is an interesting place. I like that. I like it here even with our lack of what I would call Spring.

One hundred twenty cruise ships are expected from now into November. Busy harbour.

Posted by leya at 04:09 PM

March 30, 2004

Lucy in the sky

One of my students (who will remain unnamed for obvious reasons) came in with an interesting drawing for her homework assignment this week. She said she was trying to represent her first experience with LSD. She also said that she had only taken two pills and it was a disappointing experience, no hallucinations. So this weekend it will be three pills. Previously she had been drawing her experiences taking Ecstasy. Obviously my role is to critique the drawing (not the draw-er) from an aesthetic point of view. I did however wander into telling the story of my experiences with LSD, which actually are far different from the usual.

When I was in high school, in the 50s, my mother worked as secretary (she actually ran the office, so was what they call administrative assistant these days) at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. At that time, NIMH was doing research on LSD, using conscientious objectors as their bodies. My mother was very amused by the stories of these young (mostly Amish) men from Pennsylvania farmland and often invited them to our house for dinner. So I heard many versions of hallucinogenic experiences at my dinner table (enough so that I knew it would not be something I could do, being close enough to the edge, enjoying an active imagination without it). But......an interesting way to serve your country.

Posted by leya at 08:27 PM

March 26, 2004

Back to School

One thing I neglected to mention about my student who is contemplating quitting school is that it is his parents, both of them, who have insisted that he go to art school. Now that is a real turn around. Rarely do I hear of parents one hundred percent in favor of art school. And given the statistics about graduates, there is good reason. I have heard (and forgive me if I have the numbers a little off) that ten years after graduating, 10% (someone actually said 2%) will still be in the field, making art, and of those, only 10% will make over $10,000 a year from their artwork (it used to be $6,000 but there has been some improvement, maybe). My parents didnt object to my going to art school. In those days the thinking was that Im a girl and would get married, right? But they also didnt object to my quitting. I had a B.A. in Literature and I knew how to cook and sew. But my history with school was never that I thought it a good place to be. (I even tried to walk out on pre-school at age four. It didnt work. I was sent back.)

I had a student once who was complaining constantly about how stupid this school is, how much better his old school was, etc. etc. So I suggested he quit. The next year he was president of the Student Council. Either he was lonely and wanted to fit in or else he found a better way to complain.

In that one year of art school that I had, I learned invaluable skills. It was a very good year, difficult, demanding and rewarding. I had the best of teachers, the best of instruction. I can teach because I have been making art for many years. But I also learn as much from my students as they learn from me. Different things, definitely. I learn how younger people see this ever changing world, how they view the ever broadening field of visual art. But more important I learn how to communicate what I see and to see from their point of view and to find ways to help them clarify and develop their skills and ideas. I am still learning.

Posted by leya at 08:03 AM

March 24, 2004

No Way!

One of my students was goading me the other day. Hes one of my better students. Very talented, bright. Does work that shows integrity and directness. But he doesnt always produce the work that is required, i.e. homework. And sometimes in class he seems inattentive. In fact, one day I had said to him, after he had told me he really wasnt the slacker that he appeared to be, You are too talented to be a slacker and he made a face that told me he had heard that before.

But back to his goading me. He said he was going to crew on a boat this summer, one that was going to the Bahamas via New York and that maybe he wasnt coming back. And what did I think about that. My reply was: You are talking to the wrong person. Im an art school dropout.

No way, he said. Cant be! And I just walked away. He can figure that one out on his own.

I did hear a jazz musician (on CBC radio of course) talking about education in the arts. As jazz is more improvisational than classical music (which is the way I feel about my painting process), he put forward the thought that if a person is going to do it, they will. No amount of education will change that. The important quality to have, besides intelligence and talent, is self-discipline. This is equally true in other artistic disciplines, writing, visual arts, disciplines where the heart/core of a person is the important quality that creates valuable work. I often wonder what my life would be like if I had stayed in school. It would probably be very different, but Ill never know and have no regrets.

Posted by leya at 11:23 AM

March 23, 2004


In Figure Drawing class on Monday, I had to ask a tall student to fix the lights on the ceiling, to adjust them to illuminate the model. One of the advantages of being short and old, I said. Of course, the young students immediately said: Dont admit to being old!

I have a couple of mature students in that class. This often raises the level of discussion. Living longer, life skills, older and wiser. I dont usually think of myself as old, really, but definitely older than my college students. And sometimes the body reminds me that I am not young (not as young as I used to be, of course).

I heard there is a law on Prince Edward Island making it illegal to use the word older in some situations. They must use the word elderly. I would prefer to be older, which references wiser. Elderly does imply elder (as in the Native American tradition), but in the Western tradition elderly sounds very old and weak. Today a person in their 80s is like a person used to be in their 60s. Such is progress. But to a young person, old is still old, and not the blessing it is to a healthy older person.

Posted by leya at 08:17 PM

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 17, 2004


Today I actually spent the whole morning cleaning up my living room. I had been so busy the last few weeks that I have neglected everything other than painting and related tasks. At such times, the dining room table becomes (affectionately) my horizontal file, holding slides, magazines, unsorted mail, all which needs to be pushed aside at mealtimes. Before leaving for Montreal last week, I awoke very early and found myself folding and putting away laundry before the sun rose and I had to leave the house for a few days (again).

I had an interesting conversation with my dear friend Rowena recently. She was saying how she lets her house get a little more untidy when her husband is away. That she always leaves something, perhaps a teacup, on the counter, perhaps as a token of companionship. What kind of a life would you think I have had, what kind of a person am I by the way I keep my house in order, or lack thereof.

Rowena was saying that possibly someone who has everything in order may have nothing else to do, may lack connections. Maybe we feel sorry for them as there is no sign of life and it is obvious that they are utterly alone. A clean and orderly house IS welcoming. Cleaning up is definitely showing movement. That something happened to make such a mess in my house is certain. But leaving it also shows a state of mind that is often seen as chaotic or what I usually feel, overwhelmed by all the presenting demands.

As a child (and I must admit, into my adulthood) cleaning up was never a priority. My mother would come into my room and empty the closet and dresser drawers and we would spend a day together putting things back with respect. I enjoyed our forays into order. Ive always kept my kitchen in order. It helps in cooking without thinking too much. But my studio..Id rather paint, any day. I do spend far too much time looking for something that I know is just somewhere.

But as time progresses and my life itself takes on more order, so does my house and cleaning up, putting things away, becomes easier. Usually. Cleaning up seems to be a way, in some sense, of making friends with mortality. I want my house in order when I die so that it will be easier on my children. I dont want to feel I might want to apologize for my life. But there are always a few items that just dont find a place. Like Rowenas teacup on the counter, a reminder of the importance of a life that is more than perfection.

Posted by leya at 05:10 PM

February 27, 2004

Another Entry On Weather

The Scandinavians have it right: they say there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.

Wednesday morning the sun was reflecting pink on the snow. The trees were covered with a layer of frost. I met some women waiting for their children at the school bus stop and we were all talking about how beautiful it was, we were all out early taking pictures.

It has been interesting this week, going into Halifax where the weather is not what it is out here in the country. There the joy of snow has, unfortunately, faded into frustration and complaints. It is different when driving conditions are so difficult. And everyone is exchanging traffic horror stories, like it is a competition to see who has had the worst experience.

Here's mine: Tuesday it took me two hours to drive into Halifax (usually a 20 to 25 minute trip)! It took me two hours again to go just across town (a ten minute trip, ordinarily) after school. A half hour just to get out of the parking garage! Grid locks, dirty snow, piles 12 feet high everywhere, one lane streets. Most drivers were very polite, letting people in, waiting patiently. But sometimes someone would get a little hot under the collar and do some stupid things, take chances. With the snow piled so high you cant see around corners and the roads narrowed and traffic so slow, it is a good thing that I enjoy CBC radio so much. And a good thing that it is the end of February and warming up. Maybe.

Posted by leya at 06:16 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 23, 2004

More on Snow & Plows

The snow plow came late Saturday afternoon. At times the snow was blowing over the hood of his truck so thick, it looked like he would be buried forever in this never ending snow. But he finished his task, leaving me to shovel (again) what he had put in the tunnel I had just dug the day before so I could get to my car.

Most of the people I have talked to in the last couple of days say they spent about four hours shoveling snow on Friday, and of course, a few more hours on Saturday. Massage therapists and chiropractors will be very busy this week!

The snow is worse in Halifax. At least here there is land for it to go to. Still, school is closed, along with most of Halifax, today. With my week of retreat, it has been about ten days since I saw anyone except the snow plow driver. Ive talked to friends and neighbors on the phone and that has been nice, but I must admit, I am enjoying the solitude. The busy schedule and desire to socialize will return soon enough. Perhaps tomorrow if the roads are clear enough.

Posted by leya at 01:09 PM

February 22, 2004

Absolutely Beautiful

With all the snow abounding here (and more coming today) I have been struck by how beautiful it is. No matter how hard to navigate and how long winter is here in the North, the scenery is unbelievably beautiful. I cannot stop taking pictures, trying to keep the beauty forever.

When I was studying philosophy as an undergraduate, I was fascinated by Platos idea of absolute beauty. I held it to mean that there could be some standard to which we strive to attain, some beauty that was truth. The perfect painting waiting to be painted. Something everyone would know when they saw it, that it was beautiful, perfect. I once asked my Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche about this. He had been talking about absolute and relative truth. His reply stopped my mind: that absolute beauty was not a concept. I think he meant that we see beauty in relative terms. Every culture has its ideas about beauty and this too changes.

I have a friend whose cat is named beauty. Every time she mentions her cat by name, I am struck by the affection that conveys. True beauty must have a quality of connection in it. Are we connecting to what we know or to what we feel, like loving a cat?

I prefer my paintings to sit on the cusp between crude and beautiful, that they have a rawness that gives them life; not perfect. When they do, I feel the mystery of their creation. I read once that there is no point in striving for perfection because perfection is boring. The excitement is in the places where things rub against each other, make sparks, possibly make fire.

Posted by leya at 09:02 AM

February 21, 2004

Into the Blizzard

Retreat ended with a blizzard! And this time not in my mind. The Halifax area was hit with 95 cm of snow (over 3 feet)! Lots of wind and blowing snow for what felt like days. So I spent a few hours after ending my meditation retreat shoveling snow and taking pictures. The sun was out all day, making penetrating shadows in the snow and warming my house. There was no electricity in my neighborhood for thirty hours which also meant lots of candles and no heat, no water (I am on a well), intermittent phone use, and no electrical entertainments. Being used to playing the radio in my mind from a week of retreat practice, the lack of connection to the outside stimulation was no loss. Lack of water and heat is more serious. And it is hard to read by candlelight. There is only so much sleep you can do, so when the refrigerator started making humming noises again in the evening, it was beautiful music. The first thing I did was make a cup of hot tea.

I am still waiting for the snow plow to clear my long driveway and hope to be able to get out before winter is over. There is school on Monday, that is, if the 20 cm we are expecting tomorrow do not cause much more obstructions to travel. Everything else seems back to normal now. Until next time. I really should invest in a generator.

Posted by leya at 11:00 AM

February 13, 2004

On Retreat

I am going on retreat. I have no idea what it will be like, how I will feel. I have done many retreats and each one has been different. Some have been painful, emotional, some have been boring, some just flat. I do know what I will be doing. I will unplug the phone, turn off my computer, lock the door and put a sign up: Do not disturb. On retreat until February 21. Im going to be taking a week off from everything. Sounds like a holiday. But it is not. Im not chasing bliss. Although I wouldn't push that away either. I have a specific meditation practice that I will be doing. Ill meditate, eat, sleep, read dharma, and probably be very glad when the week is over.

Ive been a practicing Buddhist for the past twenty-five years, almost to the day. It was a snowy day, George Washingtons birthday to be exact, in New York City when I first walked into the Dharmadhatu and asked for meditation instruction. It is now called the Shambhala Centre. But whatever you call it, I am very grateful to have connected to the Buddhist teachings. It is the meditation practice that has helped me get out of my own way.

So folks, Ill continue here with you next week..

Posted by leya at 07:42 AM

February 08, 2004

The Secret of Secrets

I frequently think about the question of how much to talk about, how much to tell other people, in conversation, in writing. The importance of secrets, secretiveness. Privacy. When I was a child, I used to wet the toothbrush so my mother wouldnt know I didnt brush my teeth that day. (Ive paid for that one!) Sometimes it is an act of kindness not to tell. Sometimes not talking is from fear, sometimes protective of the other person. I have a friend who is very open about his feelings, his reactions, relationships. I find it refreshing to hear about how he relates to people.

Secrets are important in Happenstance, Carol Shields 1980 novel about, as the cover blurb describes it, a marriage in transition. It is intended to be two novels, one from HIS point of view and one from HERS. Although interesting reading, Carol Shields writing is always somewhat removed from the emotions she writes about, and here it works somewhat to her disadvantage. Sometimes it feels like a writing exercise. A little more contemplation, less chatter, would have added some depth.

Always curious about the male point of view, I started with the husband. He was rather dull, stuck--in his work, in his friendships--but coming to a point of consciousness about it. She, on the other hand, was moving forward, moving out of familiarity. In the course of a few days away from each other, she thinks about and experiences situations and feelings about which she has not and probably will not talk to her husband.

Yet they are one of the lucky couples. Where little doubt has crept into their relationship, where, despite, or maybe because of, differences, there is still passion. There is still innocence. Relationship seems to be about respect. Good secrets also are about respect.

Posted by leya at 02:40 PM

Life is........

Taking a parenthetical break (some artistic chores demand frequent lapses of attention to survive) from the labor intensive task of priming canvases this morning, I thought I heard someone say (on the radio) that life is a comma. Better that life be a coma, a possibility of more to come than a parenthesis (an aside). And not a quotation mark (a comment, not an actuality). Often it just feels like a question. So,

Posted by leya at 02:33 PM

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 07, 2004

Wouldn't it be nice......

It is definitely exciting to hear about and see pictures of the exploration of Mars. Yet I can't help thinking, wouldn't it be nice if that $800 billion dollars be spent on the people needing help alive here on earth, or even some of it.

Posted by leya at 12:36 PM

Fickle Maritime Weather

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on my tin roof. And thought, how nice, the snow and ice will be melted in my (long) driveway. But when I looked out the window, I saw that everything was covered with more snow. The rain had even more work to do than I had expected. And the snowplows are out again. But it is raining.

Posted by leya at 08:32 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 01, 2004

Whatever the weather

The weather seems to be the main topic of conversation in Canada, especially here in the Maritimes, where the weather is so erratic. And indeed, this winter has been intense. Cold. Not as much snow as last year. But still snow. And cold. (-24 C. in the daytime sometimes and often at night. That's -10 F.)

When I was in school in Rhode Island, we had a little ditty that kept us going through the (similarly erratic, but not so cold) extremes of weather there:

Whether the weather be fair
Whether the weather be hot
Well weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not!


Posted by leya at 09:05 AM

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 29, 2004

Face-Lift, Literally

Now, I am not about to get a face-lift, nor am I recommending it. My fear of needles and surgery would be enough to keep me from the procedures. But I have had some second-thoughts about it. Last week I went to a new doctor and her first question was, as usual, what is your secret as my physical appearance does defy my age. Instead of saying exercise, eating well, meditation, etcetera, I replied heredity. And her response was, in a minor key and downward note, oh. In general I am proud of my well-seasoned age. I have had too many friends and family not live as long or with as much ease.

Sunday evening past I was feeling kind of down and turned on the TV for company (I dont usually watch television much, but that is long story for another time) and I dont usually do nothing (also probably heredity), so as I sat there knitting, I found I had tuned in to a program on cosmetic surgery.

The program followed two women in their forties. The first was getting Botox treatments to erase the sadness from her face that came after the death of her son in a car accident. Working from the outside in. To her the treatments were very successful. She said she felt better and could face (no pun intended) her life better. To me it did not erase the sadness in her eyes.

When I first saw the second woman, I thought why bother. But after the surgery, the change was startling. She definitely looked better and projected a joy that was infectious.

At one point during the course of the program, a statement was posted across the screen: research has shown that women who have face-lifts live on the average ten years longer. Surgery for the mind. Attitude. There are, actually, less expensive and less invasive techniques. But, whatever works.

Posted by leya at 07:44 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 25, 2004

A Thought

With all the genetic engineering that has been invented lately, perhaps they could come up with an egg that has a transparent shell so that you could see when it is cooked properly so there wouldn't be slime on your toast in the morning.

Posted by leya at 07:25 AM

January 23, 2004

On Sensitivity and Creativity and Housework

After spending half the day today stretching canvases and only fantasizing about painting tomorrow and actually thinking what in the world am I going to put on these canvases anyway (a new size for me, 30" x 30", small, I like to work big) and they have to be done by April for an exhibit I have commited myself to in May, I began thinking how I once could not have been so calm or so focused, knowing it will all come together in time, it does seem to, (years ago, when I first started painting, an invited critique from a friend would put me under the covers for a couple of weeks) and I thought about a friend who was telling me recently that, in her words, she is coming to recognize the importance of a certain (measured) amount of vulnerability/sensitivity. How exciting it is for her to meet or read about people who are tuned into (sensitive to) what their surroundings are and how this gives their work impact, power to effect other people. Yet there is still the need to balance the secretarial/custodial/housework with the creative work.

Being very sensitive is a blessing and a curse. It is not usually easy to make it an advantage, to find that balance of sensitivity and forward movement that is necessary to move, associate with life, even, sometimes, with the people who are important to reach. Too often it feels like a barrier in itself to communication even though the communication could be more insightful because of the sensitivity.

I was reading a book of poetry recently, On the Road Again by David McFadden and came across some lines that expressed this sensitively. In the last poem in the book he says:

give me the power to be sensitive
to the small flowers you cause to grow
in my head
and to the children and newborn lambs
that surround me


Sensitivity is a luxury the lucky
escape without abandoning

Posted by leya at 05:05 PM

January 07, 2004

School again......

School has started again. Yesterday was my first class. A small class, thirteen students, for a collage workshop. My other class, figure drawing on Mondays, will have the usual twenty students. A smaller class is definitely a delight, a bonus. All classes are a challenge--to meet the students where they need to be seen, help them see what they need to learn. The most important thing I can teach them is self-discipline, how to work, how to see, how to overcome obstacles.

In the fall I heard an interview with an award winning professor at Harvard (CBC, of course). When asked his secret for successful teaching, he said he taught by the three Ps: planning, preparation, and pseudo-extroversion. That about explains it. Most academics, and artists, are introverted. The work comes out of ruminations of a solo mind. Teaching is a performance practice. And most students want to be stimulated by the instructor, inspired to look over the cliff. So.another semester brings another challenge to get into the minds of students, find ways to stimulate and guide, and learn how to be a pseudo-extrovert. And maybe become a real extrovert, at least somewhat.

Posted by leya at 09:33 AM

December 27, 2003

On Cold Mountain.

So strange to be home, so quiet, so alone. I like it here, definitely. It is a beautiful place to live, to work, to play. It is just that I miss Tamar, I miss Dan, I miss Damian.

So strange that when I returned home, the clock on my computer read Los Angeles time! Time to get back to life in Nova Scotia!

It helped that last night my son Aaron and his great joy, Jessica, invited me to come to their home for dinner. Then we went to see Cold Mountain. Both Jessica and I had read the book and found the movie followed the book very closely in mood and tone and events. Both are excellent. It felt like ensemble acting in the movie, all the players nourishing each other, helping to develop character and story. With a backdrop of current events, the pain and futility of war was poignant.

Time to value being back home and the view at sunrise in my backyard:


Posted by leya at 10:08 AM | Comments (1)

December 26, 2003

Growing on

When I was a child, I thought that if you were not married by age twelve, you would never be, and marriage in my family (of two girl children) was the goal of growing older. Then when I reached sixteen and had my first true love, I knew that by twenty-one, I would be with my husband with plans for six children. Now when I think about age, it is still more about what is to come than what I have left behind. Yet it is not so much about the other person or persons who may or not be there.

If I had to choose a fixed age, one to stay at, be forever, it probably would be 45, not because 45 was such a great age for me, but because that is what I feel myself to be now and it feels good. For many years I felt as if I was 35, arrested emotional development. Or really, the beginning of my adult life. The age at which I left my marriage, became a single mother of two. (The other four will have to wait for another lifetime.) The body moved on year by year. Now I am 45; Ive matured.

By some peoples tape measure, I am already on the old side of life. They are talking about mandatory retirement where I teach. I am, I think, in a field where age is a positive factor. I am constantly learning more about my craft and I havent slowed down yet and probably will not for quite a while. In body and mind, still moving. Learning to be where I am.

Quite a few years ago I was taking a walk with a couple of other participants at an intense ten-day meditation event. One man, a doctor, said he was envious of my painting and wanted to be an artist in his next life. I said I was training to be a dancer in my next life. The other man, a scientist and photographer, said he was training to be okay in this life...............

Posted by leya at 01:02 PM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2003

Time is a funny thing

Time is a funny thing. I'm here in Los Angeles with Tamar, Dan and Damian. The only piece of me in Nova Scotia is the clock on my computer. We are so busy just doing daily things. The days are far too short and soon the clock on my computer will be reading the right time for where I will be.

Time has many aspects. There is the pleasure/pain aspect and there are the expectation aspects. Time takes a jet when you are having fun and often crawls like a turtle otherwise. Waiting to do or be something can be endless. Each moment is precious; I don't want to miss anything.

So now the days are beginning to get longer and I can start planning my summer garden. And the snows havent even begun yet.

Posted by leya at 02:48 AM