Friday, March 31, 2023

Close & a Clean Front Lawn

I’ve been invited to eat and to enjoy a night of games with wonderful friends Kris, Steve and Nancy. We’re getting together on Saturday night. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, as predicted, was another glorious day. When I got home from dropping Sheba off for her grooming session with Sara, I started cleaning up the front lawn. Now that it has been cleaned up, only the backyard and edible garden area remain to be done—plus all the gardens must be cleaned and tidied. 

My tuned-up pacemaker is clearly working well. I have the energy I need to do the work, but I rest after every hour of exertion because I’m so bloody old. I need to rest because my back gets so sore from raking. The constant bending to pick things up really bothers my lumbar region. But oh, how much better Pinecone Park looks now. It makes me very happy to see my sanctuary looking like someone cares about this home and yard that I love so much.

I was outside working on the front yard from 11:30 until 4:00. No coat, no cool wind, no sweating; it was a perfect day. And I kept thinking about how none of the yard work that I’ve taken up in the past few days would have happened were I still involved with the Foundation. It is much more fun to be outdoors and doing yard work than it is to be at the computer writing and doing graphics.

When I finished the front yard, I cleaned the hot tub. Again, it felt very, very good to attend to a task that had long been ignored. Plus, I called the well maintenance people and arranged for my filters to be changed today. I earned my rest and relaxation time in front of the television last night after so productive a day.

I watched the movie, Close, last night. I got it on pay TV. It’s a Belgian film. The characters speak in French. To my taste, it is a perfect film. It’s an exquisite film in every way. The lead is on screen almost all the time. The film is his story; he’s 12 years old. The actor is believable in every frame. He does an extraordinary job. The story is gripping.

What I really liked about the film, though, is the editing. They are harsh, in-your-face edits. There are no teases in the dialogue either, no verbal leads into the next scene or time. Very suddenly we’re in another scene, always carrying the action forward. The way it’s edited, affects how we take in the story. The hard edits are jerky, and by the end of the incredibly poignant film, as I thought about the edits, I thought of a mother, curled up on the couch with her child, and she’s got a stack of photographs that she’s showing the child.

That’s how the film hits me, the scenes feel like photographs in an album. And we fill in the gaps, we are engaged by the film as we orient ourselves in the new scene. I really liked it.

The remarkable young lad who plays, Leo, is radiantly beautiful. He has enormous and expressive eyes and, of course, a very smooth complexion. The character is 12 years old. The camera is constantly on his face. He’s Tadzio, in Death in Venice. He’s brilliant, everybody’s brilliant, the writing is brilliant. 

A commandment of good character development is, “show, don’t tell.” Close struck me as particularly well written. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Just Happy!

Wednesday was another glorious day. Temperatures reached 17° in the afternoon. I revelled in my work cleaning up Pinecone Park at a comfortable pace and in such fine weather. There are Croci, Daffs, Hellebores and Azaleas abloom all around the yard. It felt very, very good to be outside all day.

I started on my driveway—it’s a big driveway. I could park a dozen cars on it. There was a ton of stuff to rake up and then load into the wheelbarrow and dump in the forest—it’s all forest fall, there is no garbage, so dumping it in the forest (on my land) is fine. Also, I broke apart an old fence that was rotting on the side of my property. 

My stamina is nothing like it was when I moved here and landscaped the entire yard. I was thoroughly beat by the time I finished. So, I had a lovely long quiet soak in the spa before coming inside for a bit of reading, then dinner and then a movie. 

Today’s goal is to clean up the front yard, run my lines lots of times, and to ferry Sheba to her groomer to be washed, clipped, and lightly scented with l’aux des anges.  

I’m over feeling bad about quitting the Foundation/clinic. I am so relaxed that my speech is getting quite good again. I loved being active today, and I love having nothing to do all day every day. Spas are back in my life, as is resting, reading, and best of all, I don’t think about the clinic all the time anymore. And I hardly get any emails. It’s wonderful. 

So, today will me more yard work, and then, tomorrow, when the rains return, I’ll work hard on the blocks of my monologue.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

From Monologue to Fringe Show?

Perhaps you notice that I avoid discussing current events/politics/religion etc. It’s because it’s pointless to vent about the epidemic of stupidity we’re currently living with. But I have to say this: the American people must rise up: every mother, every child, every student, teacher, and educational employee and strike for the abolition of firearms in the US.

Why do these insane psychopaths choose school children as their targets? Why innocent people? Why children? It’s time to hold politicians responsible for the carnage. They are culpable for these deaths for having not taking any action. With each school shooting, it seems the odds go up that there will be more deaths of innocent teachers and students. Nothing says more about America that its school shootings. America, you are a pathetic and despicable nation. Fix yourself.

Yesterday was great because the self-loathing was gone, thanks to nice letters from three former colleagues. And I have time to do house and yard work now, no dread of who’s calling, clinic and anxiety about things to do/not done. It’s like a second retirement. I completed my duties with the clinic by dropping off a lot of material to the clinic staff yesterday afternoon.

It was a positively glorious day yesterday. It was the nicest day yet this year, reaching 16° in the afternoon. It was wonderful to do the little bit of yard work that I did. I hope to do more today.  It’s thrilling to see the yard go from disaster zone, to a source of calm and pride for me. Two branches fell that are too heavy to lift. But I have my chain saw for that. And a small forest of branches, cones, twigs, needles and do droppings.

I experienced sporadic ‘rushes’ of good feeling through the afternoon. Last night, in twilight after a spectacular day, I rose from the sofa, and I felt it then. Something brings to mind, in a flash, that I am free of the clinic. I keep re-realizing in scattered moments that I have no more responsibilities. I have time for yard work, and I feel this joy of retirement or the last day of school.

I had ambitions for medicine until I learned how much more schooling it takes to become a specialist. After that, I did not know what to do. My favourite thing was theatre, but I never once considered it as a profession. I had no career ambitions. I was going to UBC because that’s what everyone I knew was doing, and it was expected of me. 

I took two more courses each year than was required, and I saturated myself in arts courses: literature, linguistics, creative writing, and every course on Shakespeare that the university offered. With no career ambition whatsoever, I thought it wise to take a one-year program to become a teacher. When I graduated, I accepted a contract offer that required me to teach for a minimum of two-years. I told them, after my first six months of teaching, that I would not be extending my contract.

I was justifiably proud of my academic achievements. My brain was brilliant at regurgitating what I was taught in books and classrooms, I could mix in decent analytical conjectures and I could write well. But I had no vision of being anything. When I quit teaching, I was starting at square one on a voyage with no destination.

My teaching job was theatre, and I loved the job and every minute of my two years teaching. But I did not want a lifetime of being a teacher. I have rich and vivid memories of those years. I knew fuck all about theatre, I just loved it passionately. When I took the job, I had to create two shows a year for the school. 

I approached my job, not to create actors, but to use theatre to teach my students how to present themselves, not characters, to the world. To do that, I wanted the group to conceive a production with me, in their voice, and then create it with me. I also taught them how to have emotional impact on people, as much as for the board room as for the stage. When I quit my job, I left my students awash with praise from the school, their parents, and major media for our take on theatre as a classroom for successful life skills.

When I left, I still had my passion for theatre that is still alive in me. (Monologue.) But now I had some experience in the discipline. I was entitled to a year of employment insurance when I left teaching, so I wandered into the offices of the Arts Club Theatre, just as it was about to explode with a production of Jacques Brel, and made the director an offer. 

I proposed to work for free, days and nights, for a year, if my jobs and duties were many and varied so that my year of experience would be a cross-department training course. My unemployment officer was happy to authorize payments for a year while I learned new skills, if the Arts Club agreed to hire me as an employee at the end of my training year. And the theatre did agree. I got the bi-monthly unemployment payments for a year, and Jacques Brel was my first show (front of house and assistant stage manager).  

Boom! New career and much more than that: A family.

Adequate intellectual skills and all my education gave me no direction. I was born with two intense passions: animals and theatre. My passion gave me my career, and a magnificent series of huge emotional highs all my life.

Do you know where this is going?

It’s Springtime, and as we came into the season, I looked at the work that needed doing everywhere in this huge yard I have, and I saw the coming year as having a fraction of my time due to the workload that was coming with our move to fundraising. Yes folks, a Come to Jesus Moment.  I chose Pinecone Park. 

Cleaning up and maintaining the yard is my active season. I bank good-weather action so that I can slouch through Winter without guilt. I can have at it, then rest, and repeat that cycle through the day. When I clean up after the Winter season, I feel like I am cleaning a beautiful face that I touch-up through the Summer. I wanted lots of this kind of work, I did not want to be bound to my computer and in meetings all Summer.

Choosing to work in the theatre was about following my passion, making decisions with my heart not my head. Quitting the clinic was an emotional decision, and the right one.


I found a great line for my script that might get a laugh Here’s what was in the script.

About how my world was changed the day

Mother one gave me away. 

To the church, where all the nuns would say

the Virgin Mary was my mother. (I grimace here.)

And then eventually, there came another.

Connie was my mother two…..

My line that might get a laugh, goes under the line above about the Virgin Mary. Here’s what I improvised while running my lines one day:

Does that mean Jesus is my brother?

I’m talking, at this point in the script, about the things my psychiatrist considers to be the origin of my neurological disorder. To me, it’s been the burden of my life. If people listen to my monologue, they will be seeing me memorize and practice a million times, a bunch of words, as many words as they use every fifteen minutes of their conversational day, so that I can be fluent with strangers (the audiences). It’s the ‘why’ part of the story of my change in relationship with the living. Levity lets me inform without self-pity.

With no boundaries to my life choices now, I have an idea. I bogged in the past about adding to the monologue. I’ve decided what I’m going to do for part two.

Part One is called Finding Voice. I deliver part one using rhyme and rhythm to achieve not only fluency, but fluency without a script. I want to look fluent.  

This is my idea about part two: It begins with me getting a quasi-Aussie look by putting on clothing or getting a prop (a kangaroo?) from off stage and doing the second half in my quasi-Australian accent. Speaking with the accent, I’d use cards I’ll make, as props. Each one will be an image that reminds me of what story to tell, and part two will anecdotes that pertain to the history of nervous breakdowns and their treatment.

I’ll improvise each of the stories. Having cards eliminates blocks. The cards will work as props with points in text on the back to cue me. I don’t have to memorize anything this way. I am perfectly fluent when I use my Aussie voice. The interesting irony is this: My total personality and total fluency is available to me in a voice that isn’t mine. In my authentic voice, life is mighty different. MIGHTY different when you live it.

Breakdowns have an interesting story. My condition would have had people think of me as a witch at one time. I like the witch story because I think it’s cool to be linked to a word with such mystery and misunderstanding in it. A good five minutes of part two will be about Oliver Sacks, but I also plan to kill the public misconception that there is a speech centre in one’s brain, talk about two of my closest and dearest friends dumping me because of my condition, and about how my changed relationships with doctors.

The audio tape, the monologue (without blocks), and an estimated 20-minute second part, that’s a 40-minute show—an acceptable length of time for a Fringe-type show. Just to be clear: This is a festival where, last Summer, I saw a show by an actor who did the show with the script in her hand. Our festival is a long way from slick. Act one reveals the norm (a tape of me talking with a bad stutter); in acts 2 and 3 I use two different adaptations to achieve fluency to tell a story that’s part theatre, part TED talk.  

My show’s subhead (for marketing) can be: “Three acts in 40 minutes.”

This show will end my story-telling career that began with The Flame in Vancouver. I did eight shows for The Flame. And I’m thinking of taking it to the annual conference of the Canadian Stuttering Association in the Fall. 75 years old, and on the road. All this is possible IF, and only if, the monologue goes over well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Open Mike Rehearsal

Laundry art is a thing! 

Nancy sent me three really lovely notes. It helped me feel less like a shit. Her grace really touched me deeply.

I was struggling with shame and a sese of failure all day. But it was a lovely day and I noticed, when I walked with Her Highness in the morning, how good I felt when I was outdoors, so I ran my lines a few times and then we went for another long walk in the brilliant sunshine.

It’s predicted to be beautiful all week, but Friday, the rains are due back. I got a little yard work done yesterday, and I’ll do more today. But my friend from high school, Barb, is on the island and we are going for lunch today to the Surf. I’m looking forward to our date and a relaxing meal with a friend.

Talk about great luck! Our library has started a noon-hour Open Mike reading series on the lasts Friday of every month, so I am going to see if I can do my monologue on the April 28th session to practice in front of a crowd of strangers. 

Today is day #2 of life free of the clinic. My sense of failure and shame is pretty much gone, thanks to the really nice notes from Nancy, Paula and Diane. I suspect there’ll be lingering angst for a couple more days, but I am getting over the disappointment of being unable to cope. 

Today is a brilliant and beautiful day. I’m back to having a spa every day now that I have so much free time. Yay! And I’m having lunch with a friend from high school today. We’re going to the Surf. 

It’s still really cool at night. When I get up in the morning, I go immediately to the shed to chop wood. I cana’t get a roaring fire going fast enough. And that’s what I did yesterday, but I let the fire out. For the rest of the day and the evening, I didn’t need heat. I was comfortable without the fire. And little bit by little bit, I’m getting the yard cleaned up. It makes me feel good to see the yard look clean and tidy.

I did a run through of my script yesterday and had only two blocks. That is pretty good. Every day, the script becomes more and more a part of me. I’m confident I will have is safely embedded by June 1 when I do my first recital for our tech rehearsals. I have lots of time to devote to it without clinic work competing for my time.