floating picnics…magic forest hikes…dreamy rowboats… gelato twilight…breezy backroads…ferry me away…what are you waiting for?
And the benchmarks.
Paying attention is harder these days. Our eyeballs are begging for relief. I found them in the faces of graduates, paired off to be presented to the gowned academics smiling at each one with genuine encouragement.
We live in an age of terrible global truths; here there was nothing but hope. The graduates faced the audience for a few seconds before descending the steps. Each bore grins I’d like to string up on kites to sail high over the gorgeous University of Toronto campus. Some gave modest waves, no different than iterations a few decades earlier at the kindergarten door. Others bowed with grandiosity; a few sported swagger I’d like to borrow on one of my less than shiny days.
Earlier in the day, we were invited to an awards ceremony ahead of the convocation. Need some inspiration in your routine? Pop in to one of these events and douse yourself in a little wonder. Honours degrees with wide ranges of major and minor combinations: all weird and wonderful. Kinda like our newest grad. A devout curator of street fashion, new music and ideas, our eldest has wonky sleep patterns developed since reading late into the night as a skinny kid. Her paintings dot the walls here; her mess, as considerable as her kindness, dot the floors where she once practiced ballet, over and over, those slippers tracing patterns in a life sure to hold beauty. This year she will cross the globe to pursue a career in public health.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
( I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, Leaves of Grass
Thrilling for this writer was the thoughtful address given to the awards participants by Professor William Robins as he encouraged this group to engage in communities throughout their lives, especially local ones, and to be compassionate towards themselves.
You are here at this ceremony because you are extremely smart and keen individuals. Your families and your teachers expect, and have probably always expected, great things of you and no doubt you do too. I bet most of you have deeply internalized these expectations such as your own sense of identity cannot be easily separated from the marks of success that are recognizable by others. There is a lot of pressure to succeed and there will no doubt be disappointments and setbacks. These can often lead to feelings of inadequacy and doubting your own worth. At such moments, I encourage you to find compassion for yourselves, to take a moment and think about what it is like when you bash yourself, when you judge yourself and find yourself wanting. Think about what expectations lead you to be harsh on yourself. What would it be like if you could remove that judgemental criticism? So I encourage you to practice a generous kindness not only towards others, but towards yourselves. Because there will be times when you need it, and because you’re worth it.
Prof. William Robins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, University of Toronto
Back at home, we drank sangria and, as is our way in these parts, toasted the long line that came before: Kate knows well enough hers is a family that values learning almost as much as chocolate.
All over the map in June right now appear dots now connected as one jump of joy at completion: WE DID IT, said the chorus of gowns.
But wait, doesn’t this mean leaving a posse behind? Yes, it does. Sort of. That cosy group will disband. Others will form. Be assured of the terrific possibility of newness again. And if your facility with goodbyes is poor, take a shot, as my fine young friend (and 2017 grad herself) Alison Chang did, to say goodbye to her university friends in song. Her ode to her USC university friends is one I’m going to borrow for my own cherished smartypants. It’s not goodbye. It’s just see you later.
June. We love you so far.
This guy, one of my kindred spirits, will get you started.
Or go for drive to see all the spring blossoms around the city before all this rain brings them down.
Two thoughtful longreads:
Brad Pitt on becoming a better man, listening to Frank Ocean, and starting therapy in this month’s GQ. Favourite quote?
I wish I could just change my name
Photo credit: Ryan McGinley
All things mango
Baked Maple French toast
Here’s one place to donate.
I grew up surrounded by classical music in this house. These days, unless I’m driving, I find classical music to be a balm when my soul is weary. Here’s a great list of summer concerts where you can drown in classical music.
It was an April morning like any other in Toronto when my parents pledged to take care of one another in front of friends and family at a midtown church. Sixty years later, the front of the church stands yet; behind it, an enormous hole where construction has begun on new condos. Change is a constant in this city. To become attached to any one pile of stones is sure to bring heartbreak.
Attach instead skin to skin.
Today my dad reaches under the table for my mother’s hand at an intimate family lunch in their honour. Beside me, my mother giggles. For a second I allow myself to be her University of Toronto chum, pondering the merits of this very tall suitor, who courted her for more years than he would have liked before she said yes. He would have to promise first to have many children for this only child was resolute about wanting a brood. That we would be unwieldy and prone to spontaneous outbursts was likely not what she imagined. Yet here we are, doing that celebrating thing we can’t seem to give up, and here’s Dad at the head of the table once again, reeling out the first chapter.
“I was suggested by somebody that I should run as as a Member-at-Large in first year so I went to the meeting and there was this good looking blonde who got nominated as the woman head of the year. I went out to Charles Street on the first football game and here came the blonde with her friends and I said to myself, I better sit by her because we’re going to be on the executive together: this was the beginning.”
We’ve heard this one before. Indeed, we’re arrogant enough to think we know all the chapters, one spectacular constellation to guide us in the fog. Of course we don’t. It is theirs alone, inside every embrace.
But we do have the main, the heft, the long thread of this gorgeous narrative weaving through all of us.
Today, I had the immense honour to toast this couple and what I told them was this:
Your story is unending. It is in me when I wake up and when I close my eyes at night. It is the story of us, and lives within your five children and eleven grandchildren. It will be the story their children and all future generations know. It is the story of devotion and strength, of tremendous commitment and good humour. It inspires me and sustains me; my own marriage exists on the shoulders of yours.
“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Diamonds really are forever.
“Mother of all bombs” dropped this week. Did you shake where you stood as I did hearing the terrifying physics of this first-ever weapon deconstructed on a radio programme? I was in my kitchen, chopping carrots.
Far away is right here in 2017. There is no far away.
Be relentless about peace where you stand if you’re lucky enough to live in Canada.
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Millennial pink has reached the zenith of zeitgeist gushing. Didn’t know pink was a thing? Me neither. The Friendly Greek wore pink shirts decades ago; in my closet are several pink purses.
On at least two occasions, I wore a large pink hat.
None of this makes us anything remotely on trend. How can you be hip in a red blazer fit for a tour guide?
-Laurie Pressman, Pantone Colour Institute (more from Bloomberg here)
Running out to purchase things in hot colours never works much for me (who has time?) but some manage to pull it off.
Around here, some pink is year round.
And other pinks show up when it’s their season to strut.
Easter brings out the shine in pink, and my mother’s gorgeous pink candles.
I’m not fussed if pink is out of fashion decades from now (or how about next week, thanks to the Trump green invasion), certain as I am of the longevity of Anne’s Seasonal Kitsch that keeps me from
losing my mind cued up and ready for the uncharted curves ahead.
Pink is not about the feminine or the frivolous.
For me, it’s the pucker up* we long for…
…and in the eyelids of sleeping babes. I’m for those forever.
*photo credit: Jane Langford
If today is a day for parades, and pubs with green beer (dumb-no such thing exists in Ireland), then let it too be a day to toast a country of my ancestors. What I took away from a 2011 family holiday to Ireland was a great affinity with mist and magic.
Another visit is surely ahead for us. Until then, I snuggle down into my Irish woolies (purchased on the Aran Islands, easily a favourite spot on that incredible trip) and let my mind drift into fairy realms. That’s my St. Patrick’s Day: convening with dead writers.*
The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas
To possess Aran. Or did Aran rush
to throw wide arms of rock around a tide
That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash?
Did sea define the land or land the sea?
Each drew new meaning from the waves’ collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.
–Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
Another good way to celebrate is making this.
We found versions of this date pudding with whiskey sauces across Ireland and I have loved it ever since. Want a recipe? There’s one waiting for you in my book. Hope you have your copy.
* Irish fiction is flourishing. Read more on the writers of the new wave.
**Bringing treats. Duh
Forgive me, readers, for neglecting you
January is the month to clear out
my brain the house, staring back at me in spartan disbelief. It’s breathing room time.
I like soaking in the bath in January. The rest of the year it’s shortcut showers. Indulging comes easily as the new year dawns, for January is the month of the always anticipated getaway with my book club, an event we dub the Favourite Things weekend. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts just because?
Also in January, my birthday, and too, an anniversary of the day we chose to get married twenty five years ago.
Silver anniversaries deserve some sip and sizzle. Gather the bridal party and toast an imperfect union that endures yet, mostly because of a sustained diet of laughter. Rooting out the good and setting it to the applause setting appears to be our recipe. Then again, it could just be called fuck the flaws, you’ve still got mojo. That we still impress one another more than hurt one another is evident—the capacity for the latter lingers unless we pay close attention. We get excited together easily about things we love. Thankfully, not all of them are caloric. I am still unsure if I should be flattered or concerned that, after watching our wedding video, our girls (home for the occasion) remarked: you know, you guys haven’t changed at all. Note: they were NOT referring to our outward appearance. Let’s do all pics from waist up, shall we?
I am still a kid, despite attempts to pretend otherwise. All the adult posturing falters when splendour is about. Finding it yet is the secret to living.
Here is the list that has me excited this month:
What’s popping in your January ? Please share. Inspiration comes from all corners.
I am going for buoyancy this year. What about you?
2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.
We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016: Read More