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February 15, 2016

Good things come


Sometimes the internet is portrayed as the opposite of the world proper, as the opposite of civility, and scapegoat for the end of all things ranging from bookshops to mail delivery, but my internet isn’t really like that. If it weren’t for the internet, I don’t know that I’d get much mail at all, and oh, I do get mail. Today, this most absolutely perfect object: a teacup! A gift from Jocelyn in Calgary whose manatea infusers delight me daily with her #TodaysTeacup photos. I am touched and delighted and overwhelmed, and so thrilled that this perfect object now has a home in my cupboard. happy! is exactly right.

(For me, Instagram is very much about happiness: I found a paragraph that articulated it exactly in The Republic of Love this weekend, even though Carol Shields wrote that book in the early 1990s, but then Carol Shields knew everything: “All morning there have been rain showers, but now a fan of sunlight cuts across the table and she stops to admire the effect. How fortunate a woman she is to possess this kind of skewed double vision. To be happy. And to see herself being happy.)

I do wonder if there is a direct correlation between happiness and being a person who gets a lot of mail. For me, the key is magazine subscriptions and ordering a lot of secondhand books, and being someone who regularly writes thank you notes and Christmas cards, thereby ensuring that I get a few of these in return. Yes, and also being publicly ebullient about the post in general, so that kind friends and strangers out there in online-land are inspired to reach out via the mailbox. After I wrote about Miss Rumphius last year, Theresa Kishkan mailed me a packet of lupine seeds. A few months ago, the write Jennifer Manuel sent me a beautiful card and a book by her late mother, Lynn Manuel, called The Lickity Split Princess, which I enjoyed reading with my family. I haven’t been in touch with my good friend Bronwyn for quite some time, although she sent me a lovely book called Ten Poems About Tea in the fall—and I sent the same book to my friend Melanie a while after that. I had a dream-come-true in December when my in-laws sent me a get-well cookie from The Biscuiteers (all the way across the ocean and everything!). I remember three years ago when I was very pregnant and also going through scary things like neck biopsies, the poet Gillian Wigmore mailed me a drawing of a unicorn her daughter had made. Recently we received an excellent package from our beloved Zsuzsi Gartner who’d heard about Harriet’s recent skating prowess and mailed her a copy of Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates that had been lingering in a Free Little Library in her neighbourhood, and we look forward to reading it soon.

All of which is to say that I am very lucky, and perhaps kind of spoiled, but more importantly that people can be wonderful, and sometimes it’s true that good things come. The last line from Jane Gardam’s A Long Way From Verona: “But like at the Novelty Machine, I just felt filled with love, knowing that good things take place.” (I read that line back when I was in the midst of neck biopsy panic, and I remember the simple perfection of that sentiment, how it shifted my perspective. Plus, there were drawings of unicorns, which helped too.)

Today is the strangest day of all the others, the one holiday (Family Day here in Ontario, though it’s not celebrated across the country) upon which we also receive mail delivery. Mail delivery and a holiday: “the universe conspiring to delight me” I wrote today, and it’s true.

7 thoughts on “Good things come”

  1. theresa says:

    I remember driving back from a research road-trip into B.C.’s Interior with one of my sons (a reason for being deliriously happy) and hearing that Carol Shields had just died. It wasn’t a surprise but it was, sort of. I knew her, a little. And I loved her books. I remembered, driving, a piece she’d published on writing (it might have been in Event) where she said, “I have all the time in the world.” And at that point, she’d been diagnosed with cancer and it was so moving to read of her optimism, of her practical common sense about the creative process and the discipline required to take an idea to a durable conclusion and I thought, driving from Yale to Hope, that there was absolutely no excuse for not doing what I wanted and needed to do myself. We do have all the time in the world. And to treasure that daily — by making a cup of tea a celebratory moment, by reading, by writing thank you notes (what a gracious act in itself), noticing the plain and beautiful details of our daily lives: well, what could be be better?

    1. Kerry says:

      I also remember where I was when I learned she’d died—I was sitting at my desk in Nottingham UK when I received the news via email from a friend, and I called Stuart and cried. Her work has meant so much to me—both in how I write and how I live. Rereading The Republic of Love, it dawned on me how much of her novels have been so foundational for me. She was the writer I always wanted to write like. And oh, how I love her collected letters with Blanche Howard. The line I remember was “Tempus doesn’t fugit.” She didn’t publish her first book until she was about 40, I think, and had five kids. Definitely an example of how to get it all done.

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    What a beautiful exchange, you two. Until reading Carol, I had absorbed the mantra “Marriage, children, work – women can have two of the three but not all three.” Like Margaret Laurence, who had children and books but no marriage, or many writers like Virginia Woolf who had marriage and books but no children.

    Carol Shields was one of the first women writers to have a longterm marriage, a big family, and a very successful writing career – an extraordinary feat, still not that common. I too loved her letters with Blanche Howard – though noticed that many of Blanche’s letters were about her volunteer activities, whereas Carol was always busy writing. Thus, Blanche did good deeds, and Carol wrote good books.

  3. Laura Frey says:

    I also jumped up when I saw our mail person coming up the walk on Monday. Didn’t get anything good, though.

    1. Kerry says:

      Maybe next year!!

  4. Shawna says:

    I love this post. That is all. 🙂

    1. Kerry says:

      Thank you, Shawna.

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