Written on the Body, #24 — September 10, 2020: Anniversaries and Changes

September already! The summer has “hurried slowly” (in Margaret Laurence’s words) past.

But I want to talk about anniversaries of events that happened right at the end of August — August 31 — and a few other times throughout the month.

First, and very happily, Aug. 31 is the second anniversary of my moving to Toronto (from Hamilton, ON) to live with my partner Roger Gilbert. We agree it was a good move for both of us — and I am glad we did this freely, before knowing my diagnosis of cancer several months later, or the COVID-19 pandemic that would start sweeping the world a year later. Our townhouse at Oak Street Co-op is a good place to be: I feel at home in this place and in this relationship.

August 31 is also the date of my mother’s death, at age 91, in 2009. And other dates in August mark other family events: my maternal grandparents’ wedding anniversary (Aug. 19, I think), and my parents’ wedding anniversary, Aug. 25 or 26. And my father’s death, on August 10, 1993, when he was 86. This year, my mother’s only sister also died on Aug. 10, age 98 — after a brief illness. Sad memories, but also loving ones. My parents and my aunt were all ready to leave — to “go to spirit,” as my friend, poet bill bissett says. (Aas anyone who knows his poetry is aware, lower case is right for his name). Also, August was the month, in 1972, when I left the U.S. for a year or so of study and travel in England. That extended to almost seven years, until I moved to Canada in July 1979 — and this country has been my home ever since. Did I know when I left New York that August day that I would never live in the U.S. again (though of course I went back for visits — in the pre-Covid-19, pre-cancer, pre-Trump days). Maybe, or maybe not…. but it is a move I have never regretted.

On the treatment front, chemotherapy continues, and as I said in the previous post, I am glad the new medication is working, in combination with the chemo pills I have been taking for a while. One odd side-effect of the pills is something called “hand-foot syndrome,” in which the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet become red and burning. This usually just lasts a few days, but is uncomfortable. (As I told my son, I feel like the creature from the Red Lagoon.)

So. on to September. September 11, of course, is the anniversary of 9/11. So much has changed in the world since then. And this year, September 18 is the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Many of us will be celebrating at home, with services on line, so we need to feel the strength of our virtual communities. So I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year. (one tradition is to make honey cake and eat apples spread with honey, to bring sweetness into our lives).

I also am feeling the strength of the writing community through all the on-line events and readings I have attended and participated in over the last few months. Special thanks to the Lit Live series in Hamilton, which worked carefully to move from live readings to a Zoom format. I was glad to be one of the readers in their first Zoom session, on Sept. 6 — and loved the connection with other writers and the audience, even online. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to invite friends and fellow-writers from all over Canada and the U.S. to this reading — extending the community.

And on Sept. 13 and 22, I will participate in 2 readings for Voices Israel journal, Thanks to Diane Ray for organizing and hosting the Sept. 13 reading for U.S. and Canadian contributors to the journal (email me for details about these readings).

And a final piece of good news: we have a forest of tomato plants on our balcony that grew tall (almost 5 feet) but didn’t flower because of the dappled light through the trees in our courtyard. We have one flower this morning — but will it become a tomato? Stay tuned!

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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