Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Where we live and work and love

We have squirrels or birds or something that chatters in our trees and sound remarkably like monkeys. Which reminds me - I have monkey mind this summer. My mind dances from one thing to another. My weeks dance from one thing to another. There are no two weeks alike this summer, when it comes to combination of people and activities.

Last Friday, Dave and I took our daughter to pick blueberries. While we picked, we overheard a conversation between the farmer and a local who was there to pick. Apparently someone had set up a vegetable stand outside a restaurant in the small blink-and-you'll-miss-it hamlet, selling vegetables that were available inside the store next door, which was owned by "Mary's son-in-law." The real kicker was that even though the vegetable seller advertised Local Corn, the seller wasn't even local -- he was from the town five kilometres away. We, who had driven twenty minutes from the city, snickered in our pails, even as we understood his concern.

Last weekend, Dave took us all into the new Perimeter Institute building and toured the kids around while I sat in the gorgeous restaurant, drinking cappucino and reading the newest New Yorker. I found a profile of Jaron Lanier. Interestingly, I had heard Lanier speak as part of a panel in the very same building, in the room next to the one I was sitting in, a couple of years before. He was the guy who popularized the idea of virtual reality and somehow he really fascinated me. The article gave me a glimpse of his peripatetic life and also informed me that he had a book out - one which really evaluated social media and the way it constricted and changed relationships. I looked the book up when I got home, and looked for ways to buy it secondhand. It was available at our local great used books store, Old Goat Books. (Cue: It's a small world...)

The next day, we hosted a wedding shower at our house. One of the guests is someone I know via the bride, but he doesn't know my family. Except that he commented during the shower that he felt he knew my son through my Facebook postings about him, the same way you might "know" a celebrity. Yesterday, walking uptown, I ran into a new Facebook friend who lives in my neighbourhood and we walked home together. We met as friends of friends on Facebook and we got talking about all that we had learned about one another through social media - even though we live only four blocks apart. Both of these encounters made me wonder exactly what will happen when I read Lanier's book, which is called You Are Not a Gadget.

I'm hoping to read the book - to savour it actually - next week when we're on holidays. Holidays! Holidays! But unlike most of our holidays over the last decade, we are not heading east past Quebec City to my beloved Gaspe. The combination of having to take a puppy on a 14-hour car ride through Montreal and my sister having enough to cope with in her immediate family meant that we have had to make other plans. We're going to explore New York state - avec le petit chien. (My family promises I'm allowed to speak French in private on this trip. But NOT in public, Mom!) The Gaspe is also where I've lived for the last eight years in my fiction. I've written three novels set in a fictional Gaspesian town. And now they are done. I would like to spend some of our holidays writing something new, but it's been extremely hard to start something new. My heart is still pretty attached to that place. I have three distinct writing ideas, all of which interest me, and none of which stand out among the rest. There are days when it feels like being drawn and quartered -- only I'm only pulled in the three directions. One day, I actually wrote the projects on three little slips of paper, folded them up and picked one at random to work on. And I did, but it takes me a while to get into a new fictional world and I miss the familiarity of being able to slide into my usual French village.

And so, monkey mind. Except, if you -- or I - look carefully at all of this, it really isn't just a jumble. There's an element to it that's a little Jackson Pollock -- and here the fractal patterns have to do with place and knowledge and where we live and work and love.


  1. ..."Have an intention, but also be open to surprise" I am reading "The Chairs are Where the People Go: how to live, work and play in the city" by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti and its a nice companion to your thoughts here. While he writes from a different context (of course!) it all eventually distills into relationships, place, making friends, negotiation...the common sense of living...well, "where we live and work and love"! Have a fine holiday!

  2. Susan, I just read your very generous review of 'Museum of Thieves', and wanted to say thank you. It's one of the nicest I have received. But also wanted to say how much I like your blog - having gone searching to see who this Susan Fish person was - obviously a woman of supreme intelligence :) A lot of what you say in this particular post really resonates for me as a writer. But I love the other stuff too. So - greetings from Tasmania, and from someone who really enjoys your writing!