December 31, 2012
“For 2009, I make no resolutions, because things will be changing whether I will them to or not, and certainly, I am no longer (as) in control of it all.” Which is a thing I wrote exactly 4 years ago, supposing myself to be so brave and open-minded, but what I didn’t know then was how unhappy it would make me to lose control of it all, that I’m really not the type to go with the flow. Having a baby made me more aware of the fixedness of my limitations than anything else I’ve done before, except perhaps for that summer I spent alone adventuring in Europe and crying in phone booths.
So really, my most important resolution for 2013 is not to break. That I employ every bit of my minuscule store of patience. That I’m able to weather the difficult days with an awareness of where they’re taking me, which is to a place where I belong. To face forward, even with all the terror, that terror that is so inextricably mixed with the most enormous joy.
Happy New Year. May 2013 bring you fantastic books, a glorious summer, topped-up glasses and so so much clafoutis.
November 21, 2012
Of everything we’ve ever received in the mail, the Scaredy Squirrel gingerbread house certainly takes the cake. It’s not just any gingerbread house kit, you see, because it comes with a building permit, and special instructions by Scaredy Squirrel on building the house right to code. Further, the gingerbread is completely delicious and has filled our entire house with the redolence of Christmas (already). Perhaps reminding us that there are only 30-some days left in which to come prepared for the holiday, and in accordance, we’ve also been equipped with the brand new Scaredy Squirrel book, Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas. With instructions to wear a hockey helmet (in case of falling ornaments), and to avoid candy canes (might shatter!!!).
The kit arrived yesterday, and Harriet insisted that we build it while her little friend Iole was visiting. It occurred to me at this point that 3 year-olds are far better are being agents of destruction than construction, and so this might be a terrible idea. It also made it quite possible that I’d end up swearing at Harriet in front of Iole’s mother.
Fortunately, the girls were very helpful, and we did the windows, and put the walls and roof up. I figured the instructions to wait overnight before decorating were only optional and we got started on that too, but then the house collapsed in on itself over and over again and I realized that maybe Scaredy Squirrel knew what he was talking about with his instructions. So we let the house dry, and Harriet finished decorating it this afternoon. We love it, and don’t know how long we can wait before we eat it– that smell! And the best thing is that I didn’t even swear once.
June 18, 2012
“They would talk of such questions among books, or out in the sun, or sitting in the shade of a tree undisturbed. They were no longer embarrassed, or half-choked with meaning which could not express itself; they were not afraid of each other, or, like travellers down a twisting river, dazzled with sudden beauties when the corner is turned; the unexpected happened, but even the ordinary was lovable, and in many ways preferable to the ecstatic and mysterious, for it was refreshingly solid, and called out effort, and effort under such circumstances was not effort, but delight.” –Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
December 24, 2011
Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the holidays, and with yesterday being a holiday too, it’s like we’ve had two of them. But with Christmas Day nearly upon us, it means it’s time to get down to the holiday reading I’ve been saving. It is by coincidence only that all these books are blue, but I like the connection. I’ll be reading ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which I bought on clearance ages and ages ago and am finally getting to because I’m at P in my to-be-read pile. And I’ve been looking forward to this one. The Louise Penny book I tried to read in the summer during that time when the temperature was 50 degrees celsius, and it just didn’t work for me. With the cover so wintry looking, I’m thinking now is a better time to try it, and don’t mysteries just seem somehow more December-ish anyway? And finally, I’m going to read A Family of Readers by Roger Sutton and Martha Parravano (in fact, I’m probably going to read it first), which was a gift from Nathalie Foy (and this is the part where you get to envy me for not only having Nathalie as a friend in my online life, but also as a friend in my neighbourhood).
I hope you have a holiday just as lovely. xo
October 31, 2011
Harriet was Tilly Witch for Halloween this year, which was a grand success, except for the blip around 4:30 when she decided that she going to wear her Easter Bunny ears instead of the witch hat, and I had to go upstairs and have a moment to myself in order to avoid murdering her. By the time I’d calmed down, the bunny ears were abandoned, and the rest of the evening was splendid, resulting in a bucketful of treats.
Over at Canadian Bookshelf, I’ve written “I am Not At Peace: Ghosts and Haunting in Canadian Fiction”, exploring the spookier side of CanLit. And if you’re not subscribing to the blog, you should. There’s great new stuff up three days a week.
August 8, 2011
“I wonder if ever again Americans can have that experience or returning to a home place so intimately known, profoundly felt, deeply loved, and absolutely submitted to? It is not quite true that you can’t go home again. I have done it, coming back here. But it gets less likely. We have had too many divorces, we have consumed too much transportation, we have lived too shallowly in too many places.” –Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
I don’t get home very often, hardly ever. I’ve never lived in either of the houses where my parents live now, my grandparents’ houses were sold and gutted long ago, the woods behind the house I lived in until I was nine are now so grown-up that you can’t see the house from the road, and I rarely find myself on that road anyway. Wallace Stegner was right. Like Joan Didion, my parents may have wanted to promise me that I would “grow up with a sense of [my] cousins and of rivers and over my great-grandmother’s teacups, would like to [have pledged me] a picnic on a river with fried chicken and [my] hair uncombed, would like to [have given me] home for [my] birthday, but we live differently now.” Which I don’t think is an inconsolable loss, but it’s a loss still, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve been awash is nostalgia this last while. I keep wanting to write essays about how I spent the night of September 11 2001 in Kos at College and Bathurst eating fries with my friends. This comes on because that night was ten years ago, a nice round number, and because I’ve been listening to Dar William’s The Honesty Room, which I bought around the same time. I keep wanting to write essays about riding our bikes in Japan, and our house in England with its dirty lace curtains and the park across the street, and these wouldn’t be essays, really. They would be diary entries, which, according to Sarah Leavitt, are differentiated from memoirs in that in memoirs, the role of the self is to serve the story. In my story, the role of the self would only be to serve the self, pure indulgence. Basically, I’d like to go home again. Which is as impossible as: Basically, I want a time machine.
I try. Sometimes I walk down Dundas Street between Bathurst and Manning, where I lived for a pivotal year at the turn of the century, except that the Chinese herb shop we lived over is now a store where you can buy a $2400 ottoman, and the restaurant at the end of our block burned down last summer. Sometimes I walk through the university campus where I lived when I thought that a push-up bra and blue eyeshadow were key accessories and where the snow fell so high once that the army came and shovelled us out, but it’s too altogether the same and different. We’ve been replaced by new students who sleep in our beds and imagine themselves to be the centre of the universe.
My family has a thing for nostalgia. A favourite pass-time has always been the Driving By Where We Used to Live game, or the Driving by Where We Lived Before You Were Born game. I sometimes still play this, except we don’t have a car, and so we settle for Pushing Your Stroller Past the Old Apartment whenever we’re in Little Italy. My husband thinks this is weird. Partly because he has lived in none of these locations save for one, and so the game to him is a little bit boring. I keep trying to take him home to places he’s never seen in his life which are inhabited by strangers who have painted the garage door and redone the siding. Besides, he grew up in a land so steeped in its history that he was eager to shed the concept entirely with his new life in Canada. He’s had enough of trodding on Roman ruins. He also thinks it’s funny that any Canadian building one hundred years old is worthy of a plaque.
Anyway, the point is that the cottage we’ve stayed at the last two summers is also where the summers of my childhood were spent. Or not the entire summers, but a few weeks of every one, which, interestingly, have gone all metonymic and become the only bits of those summers I remember. So that last week I did get to go home again, to a place so utterly unchanged, but then I am so changed that it’s a new place altogether and I am happy with that, because I certainly don’t want our summer vacation to be one of those drive-by games that makes Stuart exasperated. I want the cottage to be a place for Harriet to discover for herself, just like I did, and she doesn’t need to know that the dock used to be broken and sinking, so slippery that you couldn’t run, where our fort was, and that the beach was wider once upon a time, but the minnows are the same, and so are the leopard frogs. It is easier to walk barefoot on gravel than it used to be, or maybe it’s just that the soles of my feet are just hard.
No one needs to know about the two salient selves I remember from there. The seven year old girl with a side-ponytail performing a choreographed routine to the theme from Jem and the Holograms on top of a picnic table, and the other one even more awkward, if you can believe it. She’s sitting on a swing dreamily, listening to “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” on the yellow Sony Sports Walkman tucked into the kangaroo pocket of her baja jacket. She’s staring at the sunset sparkling on the lake, and she’s thinking of profound things, like boyfriends, and breasts, and one day being so far away that she’ll be able to refer to herself in the third person.
February 14, 2011
December 31, 2010
In every way, it’s been a pretty wonderful year. We began it still pretty shell shocked from the chaos that having a baby created, but it was also when I really began to enjoy the shape of our new life with Harriet, and the pace of our every day lives together started improving in leaps and bounds. Harriet has become more fabulous with every passing month, and these days we never threaten to throw her out the window more than once or twice a week. I also continue to adore her dad a whole lot, and note that he is pretty much the key to everything good.
Other keys to everything have been joining a local writers’ salon with a wonderful group of women who are extraordinary in both talent and generosity of spirit. Our meetings have been a source of great company, conversation, ideas, inspiration, and friends. Concurrently, I have also been honoured to be a member of The Vicious Circle book club, and meetings have been along similar lines (albeit a bit more ribald in tone). Both have been the very best ways to spend my time-off from motherhood, and I look forward to them always. I also mark how far I’ve become this past year by remembering my first salon meeting in February, how I’d never left Harriet in the evening before, but how we all made it (including Stuart, who was tasked with putting her to bed solo), and how me leaving the house at night is no longer remotely a big deal.
I have been extraordinarily blessed by creative opportunities this year. I’ve had two stories published, and had a dream come true as reading as part of Eden Mills Festival Fringe Stage. I’ve written lots of book reviews, and published two essays on topics I care about deeply (and then there was the matter of that shout-out by the Utne Reader). None of this was on the cards one year ago, and so it leaves me hopeful for what 2011 will bring (though I looking forward to seeing my piece in the Sharon Butala Special Issue of Prairie Fire this Fall, which has been forthcoming for about two years now).
My goals this year are to finish the first draft of my novel, to finally read Great Expectations, and to not drive our rental car into anything when we go to England in March. I am going to try to get out to more literary events, although not too hard because there is really no better place to be than my house. I am excited to be teaching The Art and Business of Blogging at the UofT School of Continuing Studies in April. And I look forward to finding new and creative ways to live frugally in the city, while concurrently exploiting the many opportunities that city-living brings.
I have read 149 books this year, which I’m pretty pleased with, mostly because so many of them have been wonderful. For this large total, however, I really only do have Harriet to thank, and her wonderfully epic nap times. Long may they live. It has been a diverse list of books read, male and female authors, a bit too heavy on the contemporary due to judging a book prize this summer, but otherwise I can’t see any major gaps. It’s worth nothing, however, just how much satisfaction I am getting from independent Canadian Presses even as I’ve become a more more demanding reader these last few years, and it was so exciting to see them get their due through the Giller long and shortlists this year. May indie presses outlive even Harriet’s naps (or they could both live on forever?).
And may 2011 be full of good things.
December 23, 2010
Not a perfect festive photo, but will have to suffice right now, even though it’s a bit heavy on the Miffy. We’ve got the tree though, and Harriet hasn’t shut her eyes (which she lately thinks is required when she’s called on to smile). I was just out in the neighbourhood dropping off banana bread (as you do) when I ran into some women from Baby Yoga, and we were reflecting on a lifetime ago when we were all new moms. And then I went on to the library, and we saw our friends there, and I thought about (like I always do) is how blessed we are by the community we’ve found in this big, big city. And on this big, big internet too– the connections I’ve made are such a delight. I am so grateful for your friendship, support and inspiration, and wish each and every person who turns up here (yes, even you who came googling “connect mammoth with god with us an a line mam” and especially you who came via “supporting breastfeeding mothers on the second night”) a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. xo
May 26, 2010
Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that there is nothing more boring than a mother marvelling that her child is actually one year older than she had been 365 days previous, I will sweeten the deal for you with a giveaway (see below). In the meantime, allow me to wish my favourite grass-grazing, scone-eating, bath-splashing, book-chewing, mommy-kissing, tea-pouring (imaginary), scream-uttering, world-charming, fast-crawling, quick-squirming, noodle-devouring, all-night-sleeping baby, Ms. Harriet (who is my prime distraction, main occupation, the one subject of which I will never, ever tire [though I will tire, oh yes I will, and I have]) a very happy first birthday. It has been a year that’s turned my pickled piglet into an honest-to-goodness person, albeit a still-quadrupedal one. It’s simply been an eternity, and it’s all disappeared in a flash.
There. Thank you. And for your patience, A TNQ Giveaway!
I have an one-year subscription to give away to my favourite magazine in the world, The New Quarterly. TNQ is fiction, poetry, features, art, profiles, creative non-fiction and more. TNQ is never the same, but always gorgeously produced, the work is always thoughtful and interesting, containing stories that have absolutely blown my mind. I read Alison Pick for the first time there, and Carrie Snyder, and Terry Griggs, and Amy Jones, and Zsuszi Gartner. I love the “Magazine as Muse” section. The Editor’s letters are always a pleasure to read, and full of treasures themselves. In short, four times a year, TNQ comes into my world and makes it a better place. And now you have the chance to make yours similarly enhanced. (Providing you’re a Canadian resident. So sorry, my international friends!)
To win a one-year subscription to The New Quarterly on the occasion of Harriet’s birthday, email me (klclare AT gmail com) and tell me who is your favourite literary baby. (You don’t have one? Come on…). Deadline is Saturday May 29th at midnight. Winner will be chosen randomly OR I will pick my very favourite, if one is so astounding.
And anyone who chooses Margaret Atwood’s “Hairball” is disqualified.