Written On the Body, 2. May 10, 2019

So this is the 5th day of chemotherapy treatment. This first round is (so far) “chemo-lite”: I had one IV injection at the hospital on Monday, and started a regimen of taking another medication in pill form for 14 days — so I can stay home in my bathrobe, if I want to, and still be on treatment. The one major side effect is fatigue — and being home means i can nap when I feel like it. And the gray rainy days are conducive to that, and to reading. On the other hand, the doctors and friends who have been through this encourage me to walk and get light exercise, and I do feel better when I walk. I had a good walk on Wednesday, when it was sunny, although cool and windy. I am still eating well, which is important. Thanks to various friends for tips about mouthwash, hand-cream, diet, etc. Around our co-op, the trees are finally coming into leaf, and daffodils and tulips are emerging into colour. I planted pansies and a bleeding-heart in our small garden, and I think they have taken root.

Reading, as I noted, is important, and I am drawn both to mysteries and science-fiction and to journals and biographies about women artists and writers. Here are some recommendations in the second category. 1. I am re-reading the three journals by Anne Truitt, U.S. sculptor (1921-2004): Daybook, Turn, and Prospect. I first discovered Daybook in the late 1980s, when I was about 42, and wrote Ms. Truitt a “fan” letter to which she responded with words that gave me hope and encouragement: something to the effect that “a woman’s creativity is most powerful from her 40s to her 60s, if she can ride the crest of that wave.” She writes about her art, her family (children and grand-children), about being a woman and woman-artist, and thoughts about the wider world — even to the Antarctic explorers who fascinate her — and who also talk about the “waves” they encounter. Prospect explores aging, which is more relevant to me now than when I read it a decade or more ago. 2. Middlemarch and Me, by Rebecca Mead: a study of George Eliot’s life and work, and also Ms. Mead’s relationship to this novel. She travelled to various places Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans) lived, and also writes about her long relationship with George Henry Lewes (I knew about this, but learned much more from the book). I have loved George Eliot’s work since university classes taught by the wonderful Naomi J. Diamond, so this book — discovered at the local library — was a real “find.” 3. Another library discovery is Jane and Dorothy, by Marian Veevers, a study of Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth and how both these women dealt with lives of “genteel” poverty, their own writing, family restrictions and dependencies (and how they tried to free themselves from this), and being unmarried at a time when marriage was considered the sole purpose of a woman’s life. The book has interesting insights on the Georgian period and its views of women — but omits discussion of one reason neither Jane nor Dorothy ever married: their (perhaps unconscious) sexual/romantic attraction to women, not men. Jane was “in love” with a man at 20, which ended abruptly, then rejected a few proposals later in life; Dorothy was devoted, perhaps excessively, to her brother William, with whom she lived for much of her adult life (even after his marriage, to her good friend) — but the question certainly arises in my mind. One wonders what their lives would have been like today. It is interesting that George Eliot, about 40-50 years later, formed a deep and satisfying relationship (as companions and lovers) without the sanctity of official marriage, a relationship which nurtured her own writing (rather than interfering with it).

That’s all the medical and other news for today. Have a good weekend, and happy Mother’s Day. We’ve all had mothers (and grandmothers), even if not mothers ourselves. I celebrated Mother’s Day last Sunday when my son was visiting, back in Ontario on vacation from his work in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. It was good to see him.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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