Sunday, June 30, 2013


photographer: Heather McHugh

Hey, it's June 30th!

I'm sitting in the Victoria Airport, waiting for a flight to Seattle and then onward to Los Angeles and home. I have been reflecting about my week here -- how enormous, how fantastic, how very restful it was. I still can hardly believe that I had this opportunity -- that it was given to me by a poet and a person who seems to understand -- profoundly -- the needs of caregivers. I realized, today, that I learned of Heather and Caregifted through Jeneva, who I learned of through Vicki, who I learned of through Stephanie and Andrea, who are all writers and most bloggers and that this community projected me toward this week in Victoria EXACTLY FIVE YEARS AGO, TODAY, that I began blogging.

So on this day, June 30th, I send up thanks for blogging, for that seemingly innocuous day in 2008 when I started clicking away here and met you and you and you and this.


(And now I'm off to walk outside onto the tarmac and climb aboard one of those very small planes. One just came in and people are wandering around all smiley and happy that they're in Canada. This place rocks.)

P.S. My second blog post, on July 1st, 2008 is one of my favorites. I'd forgotten all about it.

'Bye, Canada!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Respite, Day 6, Solo Drinking and Walking

So, I woke up today and spent it alone. I walked all over the city, did a little shopping, ate a little pizza, drank prosecco at lunch, staggered to a spa where I had a scheduled massage, possibly the best massage I've ever had by a guy named Carey (maybe the best massage I've ever had by any guy named anything), walked over to the Empress Hotel, elegantly and almost absurdly colonial, sat in the famous Bengal Lounge, ordered first a drink called the Empress 1908, consisting of Empress tea-infused vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white -- my god, it was good and totally not sweet but perfectly weird and tart. It came with a tiny little scone because of the tea thing, and I ordered a pint glass of tiger shrimp and cocktail sauce and then a beer! Oh, and the waiter brought me a finger bowl while I ate the shrimp. I finished at around 7:00 and since Javier couldn't meet me, I staggered home in the bright Victoria sunshine (it's the first day of sunshine and for these Victorian folks it was as if the heavens had opened and Jesus himself had descended such was their joy), and now I'm waiting for the sun to start going down which will be in another couple of hours (north country fair) so that I can walk over to the water and offer up my gratitude to the universe that made Heather McHugh for this week.

Yesterday with the Poet

I have yet to wake up from this dream because each day dawns and there is something new to marvel over. Heather took me to Butchart Gardens yesterday. They're famous -- world famous -- but I admit to feeling jaded about gardens when she told me where we were going. I live in southern California. I know some pretty wonderful gardens.

Well -- these were some amazing gardens, unlike any that I've ever seen.

Over the top.

Where's Javier? you ask.

Ridiculous, right?

Heather is very beautiful.

Here we are. It would only be cliche to say that Heather not only writes poetry but actually lives it -- her care-giving of caregivers is -- well -- I don't know what to say.

Enough? That picture right above is where the gardens end -- right at the Pacific. Outrageous.

Did I tell you about the food, yet? Heather and I both love it.

What a coincidence (although there are probably no real coincidences --)

We left the gardens sated and tired, but the skies were finally clearing up so she took me to her tiny apartment up in the sky where we looked out over the water, at the snow-topped mountains that had suddenly appeared.

I know, enough. Too much. Uncle.

Are you breathing heavily?

I'll save the ones of me and Javier for another day.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What respite looks like

Respite looks, for the first couple of days, like a reluctant walk to a rocky beach, a mussed bed behind you. It sounds like a nag, a whisper, a wheedle to put down the book, stop playing words with friends, go outside. It feels like a gray and heavy blanket, thrown over you with your troubles and despair, your marriage and your children, your bitter edge not sharp enough to poke through the weariness. You are naked, true, but heavy, your softness, irritable, folded over onto itself. That is the first two days of respite, maybe even the third, the spite. You know the rest. On the third, the fourth day, respite looks like a mussed bed around you, books, a computer, a binge of television drama, a gray day outside. It sounds like a lover, a whisper, a tendril of words to read that book first, and then this, then write, then climb back into bed and read that, close your eyes, listen to the birds for a moment, the drone of a saw, close your eyes, do that. It feels like hot water in a bathtub, perfumed with soap, not quite covering your bitter edge until you slide down further and let it. You are naked, true, but light, floating, your softness languor, amused. That is respite on the fourth day, the breath, the respir.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Things I've seen

Last night, I went out to eat with The Poet at a strange and wild restaurant that I couldn't begin to do justice with words. Think stuffed animals -- not the toy kind -- antique zoological prints, a mantelpiece, strange and careful collections. Think Sigmund Freud's boudoir, as the Poet said. Think the aching and fussy decadence of Vienna with the mirth of Fellini. Two young men played music, one a trumpet and the other a guitar and then a saw. Yes, a saw. It sounded like a woman moaning and not in a good way. Who knew that scraping a bow through the tines of a blade could disturb the air? There were crows (stuffed) here and there. I do hate crows but laughed at one above my head. We shared a plate of meze -- tapenade and humuus on salty crisps. I had clams and chorizo in a spicy broth, sipped a glass of white wine and laughed.

It would seem that the zany atmosphere even changed what I looked like.

The new family slideshow (lots of photos of places that you might not care about)

I stood at the top of these stairs to nowhere, aptly marked in case people thought otherwise (the Canadians are polite) and tried not to make metaphor.

These huge pieces of timber float everywhere along the coast. I was told that they are from nearby forestry -- boats filled with felled logs sometimes lose their cargo, and the wood floats and bobs along the shore.

This sign warned passers-by from what looked to be a small fabulous junk-yard.

I have more photos and will post them later. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with The Poet. She charming and funny and wise, and I feel as if I've known her forever. We talked about poetry and art and music and family and men. Her drive and commitment to caregivers is truly awe-inspiring, and my gratitude overflows. I really can't believe that this is my third day of respite and that I still have three more to go! I imagine you'll have to steel yourself for another slideshow or two, more rhapsodizing about Victoria, and the possibility of an Elizabeth filled with contentment.

Are you still there? I guess you need a reward.

Come back later and maybe I'll post about me and Javier Bardem on the beach.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A walk to the sea

I turned left and walked to the ocean this afternoon. This is what I saw:

It was so beautiful -- rugged and lonely and really just perfect. I glanced to the right of that driftwood and noticed, quite suddenly, that two people were lying on the beach, and I peered a bit closer, looking much like this:

and realized that they were -- well --


Yes I said yes I will, Yes.

My Good Fortune

That's the view from my little tree-top apartment in Victoria, British Columbia and where I arrived last night and was escorted by the wonderful poet Heather McHugh. It would seem that my good fortune knows no bounds, as they say. The weather here is cloudy and I woke last night to the pitter patter of rain, but I slept naked (can I say that, here?) and woke to Canadian birdsong and green treetops. I've made myself coffee and two slices of toast. I've unpacked my suitcase and piled my books on the table beside the bed where I think I'll climb soon. Maybe later I will go for a walk, either to the right and see the town or to the left and see the ocean. Good fortune can come and go, has come and gone and come again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oh, Canada

So, I received a hilarious email from a reader today that I won't share here, but suffice it to say that it gave me an enormous laugh, and in lieu of a good-bye post as I leave for Canada** later this afternoon, I'll leave you with this song of Joni Mitchell's. To N who sent me the email, Joni is one part of the Holy Trinity that includes Bob Dylan and Van Morrison:

**I am going on a one-week respite trip, awarded to me through a grant from the organization I am beyond grateful.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


 A very cool event is held a few times a year in Los Angeles, where they shut down a main street for miles and miles and everyone comes out on bicycles and skateboards and just rides through our beautiful city. It's called CicLAvia, and today Henry and The Husband rode all the way downtown while Sophie and I strolled a few miles on Wilshire Blvd, right down the street from where we live.  Here's Sophie watching the folks roll by:

It goes on for hours and hours and hundreds and hundreds of people participate. Wilshire Boulevard is an historic street in Los Angeles, lined with palms. Many years ago we stood on Wilshire and watched the tens of thousands of protesters walk by during some of the immigration wars of GW Bush. But today, it was peaceful and a lot of fun.

Sophie and I shared a frozen lemonade. Sophie can't sip through a straw, so I sucked up the stuff, held the top of the straw with my finger and put it in her mouth. She loved it.


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