raw forming volume 3 part 4 - 1965 february-april  work & days: a lifetime journal project

February 13 1965

Waking up to the knowledge that it is Saturday and nearly noon, and then having a huge breakfast, and then stepping outside into a miracle of white sunshine, irresistable, and the lurking joie-de-vivre pounces out like a demon and drives you to the lakeshore with a large bottle of Coke, ice cream, bananas, a sandwich, Billy Budd by Melville, and Olivia's transistor, feeling a part of it all because of moss-green stockings and the brilliant colored A-line skirt, and my midwinter extravagancy (for which I was harangued by motherly roommate) a bright yellow sweat-shirt, lined and hooded, with a funny front muff-patch to hold books or warm your hands in.

Sat on the rocks in the sunshine watching skaters and an ice boat. Came home and listened to all four acts and three hours of Aida, admired my two tulips and my new record - the Easter Oratorio of Bach (you'll get it later on) (both celebrations of my loan coming through). And then cleaned house and then had coffee with Rasheed and now am getting ready, amid books on Romanesque Medieval art, to go out tonight. Sky is a six-o'clock and past-twilight variation on royal blue - moon already high and very white, squashed, with a reflection in many colors misted on the window pane. Our cherished Saint Mary's is hulking with most of the details obscured, yet not massive because its spires and towers are almost like trees, light. Olivia is moaning about mistreatment (exaggerated) at the hands of Donald J Carmichael and I am unkindly smirking about well treatment at the hands of Anthony C Tugwell. We four had a dinner party last night at Tony's because his roommate shame on him had gone to the formal. Tony roasted roast beef rare and juicy with potatoes hard and raw and clam chowder as entrée, and some bitter red wine, and we were all delerious with joy at having a real meal with place mats and wine glasses - and I trotted out with the chef-d'oeuvre of the evening, my strawberry shortcake, a "for 6" batch stacked "for 4" and rather a small mountain. A great deal of fun-conversation, snarking and baiting. Sprawled on the floor afterwards and listened to the Moonlight Sonata and Bolero.

February 15

Monday of a spring-like February, it's nearly pre-exam cramming time, essays and term papers due, am writing an essay on Romanesque art, a term paper on Moby Dick. I think another essay on the lovely Gothic cathedral at Chartres. Next weekend is a two-day SUPA conference at a woodsy farm north of Toronto which I may not be able to go to because of International House elections. (Olivia, Don perhaps, Tony perhaps, are going too - also Peggy etc - hope to be able to go because I've been in Kingston since Thanksgiving and need a change - restlessness - oh hills and trees and streams o'er which to leap!) Some work for the student summer project on poverty in Kingston (more of that later - quite exciting). Enclosed is Olivia's editorial for the Levana Journal - I'm not published in it at all - Cheryl had much more material than she needed - so here is the Simone de Beauvoir review, Judy - and I edited instead of writing.

We gave Don and Tony twin valentines - a tulip each, in a wine bottle, with a home-made card - each with a pointedly relevant cartoon and verse. Tony had this: across one corner of a card a wavy-lined stream in which float a Queen's scarf, a beer bottle, a football, an army cap, a couple of Levana formal tickets, "rah-rah," an absurd mathematical formula, and on the bank a mass of fly-wheel pulleys and smokestacks labeled "political machinery." A crooked wall with barbed-wire and spikes on it separates this stream, labeled in large letters the "Main Stream" (Tony's derisive term for rah-rah peoples' cherished institutions), from Tony who is curled up on his typewriter clutching paint brushes and a copy of "Night of the Iguana" and a SUPA sign and eyeing, between hanks of his long forelock, a dragon labeled "for slaying." And a verse:

You can't be detached all the time -
Be our involved valentine.

Don's cartoon showed him as his three selves, all with wildly curly hair: Politics brandishes a sword called "principles" in a dispute with frail, large-headed Philosophy who fights with a hammer (called "therefore" and useful for driving home a point). He has just dropped a book labeled Hegel (a German philosopher Don is studying) and a pair of spectacles. Between them fly expletives and above them hovers an angel with a head that looks like a SUPA symbol [peace symbol] crowned with an olive wreath and labeled Peggy (SUPA president, remember). Around the battleground are scattered scraps of crumpled paper labeled with all the causes Don has espoused this year; and in a trophy cup is stuffed the scrap labeled "debate." Sitting and watching is the skinny Don called Humanity who sprawls under a tree with flowers growing between its roots, with a plump bird on a branch above him (the balloon issuing from its mouth contains the cryptic explanation "song"), and also dangling from the branch is a frilly valentine. Coming toward him from the opposite direction are wavy lines with notes on them labeled "Beethoven's Seventh" in curly letters and explained as "wafting." Humanity has an expression labeled "anxious." The verse is thus:

O arrogant savant
Don't malign
Be our Absurd

And is written in the box on which Humanity perches leg-swingingly.


We are joyously celebrating the fact that we have an apartment for next year - if we're both here and still want it by then - it is on West Street, house 63, number 3 at the back of a short hallway. There is one more front apartment on the first floor, above us are Peggy's apartment and another; on the top floor there is a large studio apartment with two ranking Queen's poets (and a balcony). The apartment is a two-bedroom, large living room with fireplace, bathroom, kitchen and dining alcove, unit with one feature that caused us to fall in love with it, immediately - a strange slanting little passageway between the kitchen and the back bedroom. Plan: not exactly, but approximate. [sketched floorplan] The very idea of such a place makes us teem with creativity (all-colored little ants crawling and tumbling over the squishy grey matter of our minds!) and we can hardly wait to be there - hammering and nailing, sloshing buckets of paints in gaudy colors, stitching curtains and screens, hanging paintings or painting paintings.

Speaking of creativity: 1. made a novel book and note case from small, Portuguese, wood, stickleback fish boxes this afternoon; 2. wrote another poem for the Levana Journal, enclosed. You'll find it peculiar. I do too. What it is about is an imaginary situation - two people, same sexes or different, become so close that they "bare their souls" and are disillusioned because either they are not able to meet the ideals of the other or because they find they are still unable to really know each other:

It was only to each other that we dared to raise the masks
(not so much dared as needed I admit)
and I know of you what you know of me:
our faces are as smooth
and speckled as the delicate round egg.
Despairing in the everlasting shell the bright yolks move.

What does it mean? I see an image of the two people with bizarre heads like eggs, after they have raised the many-colored masks that have their external 'faces' painted on them, featureless, mute and deaf and blind, helplessly enclosed in themselves - yet the egg shell has a translucence; you can see something dimly ­ the "bright yolks," the vital consciousness, moves, enclosed everlastingly but real and alive. And as dimly as we can sense the contents of the egg through the shell (when you hold it up to the light) we can sense the reality of people we love! They say that the main characteristic of poetry is the compression of a long explanation into a tight, short, form.

A good party last night (yes there are a few) after the revue - a 'cast party' for performers and backstage people, director, producer, etc. The revue was horrible, a drastic script and no good singers, but Gordon Gosse's music was excellent and I liked most of the performers ­ you can't boo your friends, even if their revue is lousy.


The date with Gordon Gosse on Saturday was peculiar because Gosse is brilliant in his way, sensitive especially to music, 'upright' morally, precise and dedicated to medicine, and yet somehow a 'dry stick' and somehow weak - this is an impression. I am puzzled by him and he seems quite interested in me, but there is the problem that always comes up with this sort of man: they insist on considering one a 'fairy child-woman' and they push you into this preconceived mold, interpreting you always according to this - and if they discover in you the natural human capacity for weariness or melancholy they are disillusioned and feel betrayed. So many men are like this - one begins to resent it because you feel that it is their idea of you and not you yourself which is valued. Eventually you recognize this type of man almost immediately and tend to cut them off as soon as they show any interest - in a way you tend to despise them as weak because they seem to depend on their image of you, ultimately the way you act when you are with them because of what they expect from you, for any liveliness in themselves. They become almost pathetically wistful.


Later, sitting in the coffee shop, I gave this comment to a friend (Tim) to read, and his remark was "What a strange thing to write to your parents!" Olivia broke in to explain, "She thinks of her letters more as documentaries on university life than as letters."

This is all longhand because Underwood 18 has a cramp in one of its arms.

February 17

Such a glorious afternoon that when funny pink Professor Newell came for our two o'clock class we protested that the class should be cancelled and everyone should go skating, as a direct experience of Emerson and Thoreau's (in our course) theories of Nature. This was before most of the students had arrived. And when he began his lecture, Professor Newell wrinkled his eyes at me and announced "We'll have to stop early today. There are some people who want to go skating!" Now he is droning on about Poe, "... in councils of literary criticism, you realize that ..." but I think he is itching too. Madame Tonge, in French this morning, was bubbling with private jokes. Danny Noffke, lunching in the Union, showed me a poem he had written in English class and we exclaimed through an architecture book. Alison Gordon too was enthusiastic about a ragingly argumentative politics-international class she had just come from. "Hawthorne's tales criticized" - oops, that was part of my lecture notes written on the wrong page in doing two things at once.


Caledon Farms. Waiting for lunch after a sequence of events that began to slide by fantastically sometime Thursday afternoon - at art studio, Peter Fraser talks to Ralph Allen in a corner - Peter comes over to where I am smudging away at my stained glass madonna - "Ellie do you want to go to New York tomorrow morning, 6:30? Mr Allen is going, has room for both of us." "Peter, oh! I've got to give my nomination speech for International Club, I've got this SUPA conference over the weekend, essays! But I've got to go, sure, I'm going!" Says Peter, "We're absolute fools, you know," in his high-water Scottish accent.

Go home to pack. Run around, get money, sew up suit - all packed, sitting exhausted in a chair talking to people - in break Bob Schwab, John Cooper, Mark, "Ellie, Frank Nabotete is running against you, he's campaigning madly, we have to do something." A sudden campaign meeting. John and Mark agree to be campaign managers. We're scribbling program notes crazily. Mrs Hepburn screams up the stairway, "It's not a weekend night, you'd better get those boys out!" Down and out, Lino's restaurant, pizza and lists of plans - "Oh, I have to be at that nominating meeting because Frank will be there, must show up, can't go to New York. Oh, only an idiot would give up New York for an election."

Home by 2:30, alarm set for 5:30, must wake up to let Peter know I can't come. 5:30 a.m., there's my suit, my new alligator brown shoes, my flight bag packed, must I really tell Peter I can't come, what a fool. "Peter, something has come up." Back to bed, sleep until 1:30 p.m. making up for all those five-hours-of-sleep nights when Olivia came in at 6:30 a.m. and woke me so that I got up to study.

To Peggy's to say goodbye to Olivia and Tony, leaving in the afternoon for the SUPA conference. Heck, I can go to the SUPA conference tonight! "Tom, if there's anybody going out to the farm from Toronto tomorrow morning, can I take the 3:30 a.m. train after my electioning tonight and go with them from Toronto?" All set, speech planned for the evening, tense effort to look as good as possible, it might help. Frank giving a suave lawyer-polished talk and me giving mine, enthusiastic but highly unpolished. A party afterwards with wild music and good talk - pizza - home at 2:30, pack again, phone taxi, phone Don C who is coming along, take taxi to station at 3:30, pick up Don with his knobby huge Europe-traveling knapsack, excitement mixed with extreme fatigue - the train arrives, find a seat, collapse with a pillow and sleep through five hours to a vague blue and orange sunrise, then Toronto glimmering through a mist - station, and there is Tom Hathaway to meet us, breakfast - forty miles of countryside and an icy road to an old farm with two houses, a stone barn, several ponds, ski slopes, caves, fields, dogs, woodpiles. (I've been piling wood for the sake of sentiment, stoking the fireplace like a type of New-World Vestal Virgin). And then conference:


I'm sitting in the laundromat trying to read my Chateaubriand but it is the Monday after and I keep chuckling suddenly about things remembered from the conference - at this particular moment, Tom Hathaway, what a phenomenon, big bony hands and big bony feet in dirty white sneakers, legs jack-knifed to fit under the chairman's table (he's regional director for Ontario), shoulders and arms suspended loosely from some pivoting joint in his neck, bleached hair already receding, jutting lower lip and those pedantic round glasses - Tom is so beautiful, I've never known such an ugly beautiful ugly man! He chairs meetings with his dry Boston accent and his dry Boston wit, lounges during breaks, talking lazily to someone or poring over schedules, darting oblique remarks to passers, singing badly or whistling; he is such a peculiar figure in his huge long black coat - the Toronto SUPA group had a demonstration in front of the American consulate, protesting US policy in Viet Nam; someone overheard a spectator remark, as Tom happened to walk by, "That must be the American consul now." A rather big joke on reactionary [wrong word] Tom who is plotting ways to draft dodge! Anyway, a delightful person - he is coming to Queen's next weekend and has spoken for Friday night, joy!

Well, the conf'rence was actually for purposes other than what Olivia calls promoting personal relationships - we spent a fascinating Saturday morning on what is called T-grouping; f'instance: one group of 5 or 6 people is given a topic such as "What are leadership qualities?" to discuss, an outside group of about the same size watches without comment. Then the inside group watches while the outside group discusses what actions of the first group helped or hindered the discussion. Then both groups get together to discuss what general types of actions and which people contribute most to effective discussion, and what hinders or distracts. The purpose of T-grouping or group interaction study is to make us self-conscious about our discussions so that our conferences, our meetings, etc, will be as efficient as possible. We discovered things about ourselves - Olivia that she has a logical, clear ability to direct a discussion - and that I, in my usual fence-sitting way, can often see both sides of an argument well enough to pin-point and even reconcile the differences. We spent all of Saturday morning on this - lunch - everyone ran away for walks toward the back fields, in blowing snow over patches of ice, and along the edge of a deep wooded ravine that must be beautiful in summer - afternoon spent on reports of summer projects by various branches, a 'keynote' address by the national leader, Art Pape (a laconic Jewish boy with huge black medieval eyes and pinched dark face), many coffee breaks, dinner and talk around the fireplace, evening on discussion of summer projects again, then a breakup as people went to bed, talked, ate, walked - I curled up in front of the fire with Tom, and thereby missed the mixed nude sauna - you've heard of the Finnish steam baths, where the steam temperature rises to an amazing figure as the people perch naked on wooden benches and sweat - then they run outside and jump screaming into a hole chopped in the ice covering the lake, then run back into the sauna shack for more steam. I'm told it is highly purifying, invigorating, and psychologically healthful - they say that after initial coyness, there is neither embarrassment nor lewdness, that there seems a great deal of innocence and naturalness about nakedness - I like the idea and wish I hadn't been so lazy. (Olivia and Tony were favorably impressed by it.) Next time! I'm hoping to shock you all of course, but I'm not joking. I have always thought that to feel sinful about nudity is absurd - it seems perfectly clear although I know you disagree.

Feb 25

It's long past time to gather up all these tatters of letter and send them to you in some logical order - it must be weeks since sending you a letter last! Enclosed a very rough draft of the de Beauvoir book review for Judy.

IH Club elections tomorrow, will mail this before I get the results so you'll have a letter sooner next time. Have been phoning madly, campaigning, etc, etc. Will be glad to be able to talk to friends again without them glancing sideways through slitted eyes and muttering, "Is she campaigning, or what?"

Birthday party for Don Carmichael, Peggy's roommate, and me on Saturday night. Olivia is even double-plus more busy because she is organizing summer project and NDP party politics as well as swarms of 'relationships'!

Last night, to save the $1.50 admission charge, I went to the dress rehearsal of the drama guild production for this term. While sitting and waiting for it to start, the director, who is experienced and rather brilliant (has worked at Stratford) [Fred Euringer], came over to ask what I was doing and very nicely told me that I could take notes for him as he dictated them while I watched the play, to pay for my admission, as t'were. So I had a chance to watch the unseen hand of the director - the details he picked up were minute, but important. Watching his mind work was a particularly fascinating way to learn about the theatre. And then during the intermission break, we went downstairs by a gruesome curving iron staircase (more like a spiral ladder) for coffee and shop talk - acting's a pretty exciting business. It is most exciting to see people you know playing roles. David Glassco, a third year boy, blond, intelligent, keenly aware of all sorts of people, has a good part. He lives on West Street, is one of my new and potentially good friends, gave me a ride home on his bicycle over the icy streets, very much like riding a horse.

Owellowell, this is enough and bad enough as it is, you'll have election bulletins soon, such as they'll be. I'm worried and not very confident.

March 1

You'll be under stress, waiting to hear the outcome of the elections; I was. I lost by five votes to Bill Quartel, who is (I say this without sour raisins) a rather stupid and unimaginative third year engineering student. He was a dark horse! No one expected him to win. Everyone was, if not aghast, at least shocked, to hear of his election. But he deserved his winning, by superior campaigning techniques - he got the membership lists and conscientiously looked up and made friends with all the names (at least 50% of the membership) who never have and never will appear at House functions! Frank Nabotete, the Kenyan opponent I was worried about, was lost in the contest - Bob Schwab, counter-of-votes, tells me there was a constant up-and-down classical election-excitement as one or the other, Bill or I, was ahead.

I am disappointed, I was disconsolate (and Don Carmichael cheered me up by pointing out that without exception, in all popular elections this year, the worst candidate has won! So, logically, it would have been an insult to win) and then became elated as I realized the implications: I'm free of responsibility; can, and will, go to Europe next year.

I was, typically, working off my disconsolation by scrubbing the kitchen, after having scoured the living room, when a large chunk of icy snow skidded over the floor into the hall, through the open window, and there was Tony, who had said he wanted to work - "Hey Tugwell, why aren't you working?" "Because you're coming for a walk." So we ran down alleys (Tugwell knows every alley in Kingston (I think, hyperbolically) and sneaked through the quiet moonlit backyard of a convent (stopping to say hello to the marble Virgin with its pretty hands) and slid down a high pile of dirty snow in the dockyards, tumbled into drifts, picked our way apprehensively through a meeting of policemen and shadowing working men (strikers I think).

Tony is next year's Journal editor, did I tell you? Clipping enclosed shows him looking like a ten year old waif held by the police for running away - the picture isn't actually a lie because he does look like this most of the time, especially because of all that thick hair over his forehead and his sleepy eyes, his rather ragged corduroys and shaggy sweaters. He has a sort of earnestness and innocence which is very young too, and yet he has an amazing strength - although he writes passionately that he refuses to be a crutch for anyone, there is a flood of hysterical females at his house every party night wanting to be taken home or comforted! And he has a terrific integrity, a moral intensity and responsibility which makes him unhappy too often - like all these over-honest strong-weak men I'm most attracted to, from Frank through Peter to Tony and Don and so many others.

My birthday present to myself is a pair of strange (Olivia says "quite ugly and quite beautiful") gold earrings, round swinging hoops in the shape of a very delicate serpent-animal biting its tail - it is a copy of some very old museum piece, Egyptian perhaps, or Cretan; I haven't discovered yet. From Don, a ticket to Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning done by the Kingston theatre group at the Domino Theatre (the warehouse theatre I've told you about first term) - one of my favorite-of-all plays, full of long rich sentences, words, words, eccentric personalities appreciating each other and understanding each other as real eccentrics and non-eccentrics never do, fairytale and yet often true. Do you remember The Dark is Light Enough, Mother? That was Fry too.

Father, is the veteranarian you get from Grande Prairie called Summerville? Do you know him? Ian Summerville, whom I met this weekend (and spent part of it with, mostly Saturday birthday-party night) is his nephew and was wondering if you did.

March 2

A student government meeting which goes on for hour after tedious hour of quarrelling over details - we are 'packing the meeting' (ie filling the meeting with friends we have especially asked to come) because there will be a vote later on to determine whether the Summer Project gets a $1500 grant from the student gov't. This is very important - and although it is 11:30 and we've been here since 7:00, we'll hang around until Don gives his speech and we vote. Much later.

Am spending the dusty hours dreaming - plans seem to be solidifying - if possible, Strasbourg University next year studying French and German - Strasbourg is in Alsace, just inside France, but near the German border, in the Rhine valley (le Bas-Rhine) - I can get full credit there toward a degree from Queen's - many people already have. It will be studying, living, eating, sleeping, writing, thinking, in French and in the German dialect called Alsacienne. All that remains is to be accepted by the university - and to write millions of information letters.

12:30, we still haven't arrived at the important vote!
1:30, still no vote but at last they're discussing it.
1:35, vote taken, motion passed, we have the money!

March 4, Thursday

Lying on the floor, ten in the morning, beginning the day listening to side 3 of the B Minor Mass, my favorite side because it has the alto Qui Sedes aria on it (you have this on the Maureen Forester record of arias that I left with you) followed immediately by the Quonium aria for bass. (Are you still hoping to come East in April? If you do you can take back all my records.)

Outside, sun on the tower - suddenly the quality of the light has changed, it is spring sunshine, the puddles are warming to it, even the snow is warm under bare feet, the trees stand out against the sky more insistently, darker because the sap is running, but the tips are still ash-white, by the lake, bushes are red (do you remember last year, I had a bundle of red twigs in my room and suddenly they burst into tiny green leaves?) and the line of islands is a smoky blue. I sat reading by the lake yesterday, couples went by holding hands, men whistling (I am becoming an accomplished whistler, it is a great satisfaction to break into a whistle when walking along a street to class - whistling is especially effective late at night when the air seems hollow and echoes from every building add resonance to the tone) (Rasheed disapproves - he and Basil have a proverb which they insist on - fruitlessly - quoting at me, "A whistling woman and a crowing hen are an abomination unto the Lord.")

Come lie on the floor with me, share my coffee, and listen to the record once more before I have to go to work.

After sitting by the lake yesterday, stopped in to see Florence O'Donnell, you'll remember, the Levana president Queen's graduate of fifty years ago. I brought her a red twig and a bit of youth I suppose, and she gave me anecdotes of early Queen's girls, showed me their pictures all with their earnest faces and academic gowns, a small class, but most of them distinguished themselves. She spoke for a long time and very affectionately of a little French girl, Cécile, who was too poor to buy a graduation dress but walked off the platform in her borrowed patent leather shoes and donated flowers with gold medals in both English and French, the first to get two medals and one of the first women ever to beat a man for the English prize. Those days are so real and so pleasant to Miss O'Donnell, it is sad to see how they've passed and she is just a bony figure with a hairy face and watery eyes, and a mind full of vanishing images. So many people have died this year, Grannie Atkinson, Mr Hamm, the Luddingtons (I'm sad to hear that Effie Luddington is dead; I think she felt that even in paradise her pudding-headed Ed would be thumping his stick asking for her, so off she shuffled after him - she was a very gallant, cheerful, stubborn person, full of affection and humor, and sharpness when necessary).

If you come to Kingston (I am hoping very much that you will, my friends are too) and if you want to come to classes with me, it has to be before April 6 when my classes end - exams begin on the 14th, end on the 26th. It will be beautiful here in April, it is beautiful now, so come if you can, and you will have a royal tour. And for the people who stay at home, you can take back all my books and records ­ I'll save having to ship or store them, and the kids will feast -

March 11, Thursday?

No, Friday, morning before French lecture and the sun has been very bright on our tower since early this morning.

So Frank has a girl? That makes me a bit sad in spite of myself.

I have an appointment today with a photographer - passport photographs.

It's eleven - off to class on the bicycle.

Noon - I'm back, have just been walked home by Mike, Peter Fraser's eccentric roommate, who found that he had to push Beowolf home for the privilege, but Beowolf is limping because a few of its spokes are out; he is an incredible wreck. Olivia doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to bequeath my Beowolf to her for her birthday present - she'll be here working on the summer project and will need him.

You ask, am I solvent? Indeed, very much so, my loan more than covers me to the end of the term, plus the way home.

Birthday - besides the Saturday-before party with Don and Cheryl, that I mentioned last letter, this is what happened. March 6 was Saturday: I was home studying on Friday night and Olivia was away somewhere. Soon it was 1:30 a.m. and the telephone rang. Olivia, "Happy birthday, roommate - I'm at Tony's, why don't you come down for coffee and a study break?" So I did - opened the door, and was grabbed from both sides by Olivia and Tony, who marched me to a throne along a rug they had spread across the floor, to the Moonlight Sonata. Gave me coffee in a large mug, set a present (in a shoebox) at my elbow, and sat down at my feet! The present? On top, a Watchtower pamphlet, and then something knobby wrapped in paper towels. Tony's present, a brass cowbell that he got when he was in Germany as a child (his father was in the army), one of his most cherished souvenirs. On the front of it is a painting of mountains and a red-roofed Alpine village, and the name of the place, Kitzbühel.

Then we had a poetry reading, all sitting around and reading our favorite bits aloud - all sorts of people dropped in, a West Street custom, although it was after two, and stayed to read their favorites. Alison Gordon came, and David Glassco read Shakespearian sonnets in a well-modulated self-consciously dramatic voice that made me grin a bit. This went on until dawn, and then we went home to bed. Twenty years old, bicycling home at dawn, many good friends, good times of poetry remembered, plans and as many dreams as sixteen had, some concrete realizations of those dreams already begun, much learning past and future, a sort of confidence that is still idealistic and due for some knocks from reality, but already reinforced by reality as well, changes, but not many, still in many ways a child, alternately in many ways an adult, glad that it is spring, glad for you all at home, glad for your remembrances and Grandma's CARE package, hoop earrings and a cowbell, frequent flights of madness and frequent deserts of alienation, incredible people, a form of faith in life.

On Sunday night Rasheed dressed up in a suit and took me to dinner (wore the lace blouse, Judy, it is gypsy and rather wanton with the earrings!), then we went to a Cliff Richards (British rock and roll star) movie and hooted all the way through, then had coffee and played the jukebox like kids.

Wednesday afternoon I fetched Carol Dresser (my Sunnyside pet) from school (had Miss Detweiler's permission) and we both played hookey to run downtown and see a ballet movie by the Covent Garden Royal Ballet of London. It consisted of scenes from four different ballets. We bought a large package of humbugs, took them upstairs to the balcony, sat in the front row with our feet up, and waited. The balcony was almost empty - curtains up, humbugs crackling, eyes wide - and it was excellent. Every once in a while, Carol who 'adores' ballet, would be carried away and mutter, "Oh gee - ." And when, in the last ballet, she recognized the music of The Sleeping Beauty as music they pretend-dance to at home she hummed along.

We were both so elated afterwards that we ran half the way home, then we picked up my bicycle and she rode while I pushed, up and down curbs with éclat, through puddles, roaring Dites-moi pourquoi (the French song I taught her this summer) on the tops of our voices!

This letter seems full of exclamation.

And yesterday, overcome by a craving for movies, O and I phoned all our friends and we went back to the Odeon for the five o'clock showing of the opera Der Rosenkavalier. There is something slightly silly about opera, but much of the music was glorious, the sets and costumes were certainly sumptuous, and sitting in the balcony eating doughnuts, with our feet up, we enjoyed it, snickering often! We are going to another five o'clock showing on Saturday, The Pumpkin Eater. Isn't it peculiar that college people, after all the adolescent insistances on going steady and early dating, and in spite of their liberal view of sex, seem to prefer group dates. True, there is a difference in the groups - whereas a high school group is often no more than teens who travel around together because they are in the same school, college groups are made up of people with the same interests, who have tastes for the same things, who have a peculiar understanding of each other. Also, at least among the non-conventional people I know, there is little steady dating. This sounds like a commentary again; I'm so eager to tell you about the tickings of the whole university system that I tend to sound like a Royal Commission report sometimes. Sorry -

Tonight, am going to the drama guild's production of two one-act plays tonight with Jim White, the bright-eyed Londoner I spoke of often last year - I feel a certain amount of ownership toward one of the plays, because Danny, Peter and I painted an op sun for its set - "op" art is the art of optical illusions. Ralph Allen is doing some excellent work and we borrowed a design from him for the sun - it is a series of black lines converging to a centre, on a stark white ground, and when you look at it, it seems to shimmer, to give off vapours, to draw you into the centre; the illusion is very powerful. The sun is to be on a desert, and the effect should be just right.

It has been a whole week of birthday.

Must get a new ribbon.

Olivia has just remarked, "Ellie never stops talking about what a good life she has." Just because she is not having such a good life - Don is being difficult and perverse and so on.

13 March Saturday

Bright, windy afternoon, just got your letter, have spent the morning reading a German play and eating huge triple ice cream cones - something about spring wakens a passion for ice cream EVERY YEAR, heavy banks of brilliant white clouds are rrrolling across the sky.

Am typing downstairs downstairs because it is Saturday morning afternoon and Olivia is sleeping - spoke too soon, she's up.

Ian Summerville? Not 'nice.' Isn't in university at all because he hasn't the gumption to get a few final grade thirteen subjects I think, wants to go into medicine if he can ever collect himself sufficiently, acts in some of the drama guild projects if he doesn't decide to 'fink out' at the last moment, works as a bartender downtown now, has periodic bouts of drinking himself; still, is in a way brilliant, in a way a very lost little boy, in a way beautiful - I don't bump into him often: when I do I am alternately charmed by his effervescence and frightened by the intensity of his lostness. What is his uncle like?

Yes, Peter mentioned his plans for study in France in his Christmas letter; he has been dreaming for a long time. Hope I bump into him there every once in a while, he would be good exploration company.

Beowolf spent the winter in the courthouse [basement] because, wracked with rheumatism as he was, some vagrant stole him from his homely bicycle rack.

All seems well at Sunnyside - Sherry has gone to a new home, Kevin has one arranged, with HORSES (the greatest symbol of desireability that any home can have). Peter Hagedorn is on several weeks holiday in Holland. Carol is sad because she still hasn't got a home.

How did Paul come to midwifery? Was it an emergency? I've always wanted to see a calf born, but Father never thought it was a good idea to have us hanging around. And when we crawled onto the top of the barn and tried to look down the hay holes, we couldn't see anything, it was too dark.

The plays last night were excellent, our "op" sun seemed to radiate heat on the all-white set - the play was by Tennessee Williams, stark and shocking, so the set was good.

Do you want to hear about yesterday afternoon, as an example of what happens because of spring? Rode downtown on Beowolf (sloppy, new sneakers - sneakers make one want to run - green stockings, one of Tony's big black sweaters, pigtails) for the passport photos in the studio of Wilfred Higgs. I've talked to Higgs' wife before about some of the photos he has displayed. When I remark to him that I think his photo of New York seen mistily through branches in Central Park is excellent, he exclaims "You must be the Queen's student my wife was telling me about," shows off his Hasselblad camera, lets me focus it, shows me lenses, digs through piles of old photographs for his favorites, shows me German photomagazines, talks about the time he met Margaret Bourke-White in Bermuda where he grew up, talks about watching Steichen (the real Founding Father of American photographers) work New York, talks about techniques, lovingly pats his Hasselblad, reminds me to look up some of the excellent German photographers, sets me on a box, tells me to turn slightly left and drop my chin, eyes a bit left, flash flash flash, reminds me to come for them on Wednesday, tells me to come by any time and talk - then I run across the street to Cooke's Store, the oldest store in Canada, founded in 1868 - through the large wooden doors that have been there since the store was built, long oiled-wood aisles like the ones in the old school houses, here comes Mr Cooke himself, plump, a warm face, old, with wrinkles of skin in round folds, long soft white hair. He talks about the store, "You see the sign there painted over, the shelves, Italian Warehouse? It means that we handled products from the Mediterranean, olives, cheeses." He shows me the line of luxury chocolates from Holland, Drosges. "Drosge himself has been here, invited me to come to see him in Holland, he'd show me a good time!" I ask him, "I'm sure you haven't been here since then?" He tells me the long long story of how he bought his way into the business five dollars a week, he tells me about the days when trolleys rolled through City Park, when you could take your girl out on a great evening for thirty five cents: thirteen for bus rides out to Ontario Park for both of you (eight tickets for a quarter), buy two dishes of ice cream (10¢), see a show (10¢), and have the last rides for the evening on the merry-go-round, two pennies. I bought three chocolate Easter eggs with a liquer in the centre, wrapped in beautiful shiny paper, then was wobbling down the street again on Beowolf (people are always smiling) when a very handsome Queen's boy whom I didn't know called across the street, "What's the matter with your bicycle, pull up a minute and maybe I can fix it." So he kicked it a few times, I gave him an Easter egg, we talked for a while on the corner, and as he sailed away on his bicycle, I found that Beowolf was not improved, but if possible, twice as crippled and clanking too! Hm.

This is just a demonstration of how friendly everyone suddenly has become.

I'm going to Ottawa tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately. Because I should be working - but suddenly, we have to attend the demonstration for civil rights that SUPA and SNICK are staging. It is a march protesting the US handling of Selma Alabama, you've heard of what happened there, and supporting the civil rights workers. We leave by bus tomorrow morning, meet students from all the other Eastern universities, and amass as large a group as possible - Olivia and I have been systematically going through Who's Where pages assigned to us, inviting people, mostly hedging people, to join us. Everyone can't afford the time, but we believe that this is important now - student protest -

March 14

An exciting day in Ottawa today, perhaps you've seen the front page news stories or the television news: I wonder if you heard about a student group from Queen's and wondered if I was in it.

I was impressed and excited by the bright blue sky above the Parliament Buildings, the black tree branches so sharply outlined, the line blocks long of people walking, walking, with their protest banners, to the long grassy slope in front of the House of Parliament, between the West and East Blocks - by addresses from two Selma, Alabama negro civil rights workers, Tommy Douglas, a feeble message from Pearson, an unfortunately stupid prayer by a Reverent Paul, the applause and cheers of the crowd of students and adults, the rows of feet and legs moving steadily and slowly and silently past the US embassy - by Olivia who carried the other end of our "Queen's Marches for Freedom" banner with her hair blowing and her blue coat flapping (later she rushed up to Tommy Douglas impulsively to tell him how wonderful she thought his speech was, she glowed up at him). Don says she is like a "damn monad," a monad being according-to-definition an "original unit of life," a simple-complex person that life seems to race through electrically, storming and crying and shouting and singing and dancing and swearing and carressing and defying - by the freedom songs we sang all afternoon and on the bus home, by many of the people there whom I love and am reluctant to leave next year, by Peggy's face lit obliquely by the red exit light on the bus, by a queer skinny boy named John who had a ratty beard and brown child's eyes - by this response of people here to the problem in Alabama, by the thanks of the Selma representatives, by the fact that all the five thousand people there were there because a few students in Toronto took the responsibility of organizing, the fact that a student Idea can grow and snowball and increase in velocity until something changes and part of the stubborn 'impracticality' of its originators is justified.

The bell tower of the House of Parliament is especially beautiful: tall, reddish-brown bricks, fine details in the delicate Gothic style, the green copper roofs, the bell chiming the hours and quarter hours over the long slope to the high buildings across the way, songs speeches and the bells echoed back from many sides.

This year again, my red twigs burst into leaf!

Saturday night March 21

Tonight has been sharpened by the rare, fluctuating realization of what it is to be alive, myself upon the earth, focused at one intense moment in history, with the anxious consciousness of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria, the dim mystical humorous world of the Medieval cathedrals, the subtle subtle intelligence of Beethoven's Emperor, all co-existing in one room here with us - as immediate as our own world where we are both sitting with books in the yellow light and the smoky air; the sky is dark, without detail, like a coating on the window pane; on the floor are spread pictures cut from a magazine - a wooden figure of an old man playing a lute with his head slanted backwards in the foreground of a dark cathedral nave, a green-tinted photograph of the thirteenth century Eve of Autun carved in stone, floating sideways in a newly created world of bushy leaves. We have been looking curiously at the reflections of our faces in the mirror. Olivia is reading the Aeneid of Virgil and instead of Lawrence Durrell's modern Greece, she is half absorbed in the ancient archetypal Greece where Jove and Juno are quarrelling over the fates of heroes. Now, with these other worlds behind our white door (with the fragments of poetry, many worlds and mind-worlds, on it) there is a consciousness of your world too, the living room (where at least Beethoven's world is part of your focus too) (an overlapping of worlds, Beethoven here and Beethoven with you, and somewhere years ago Beethoven himself) with its blank wide window, all of you. Other people, Grandmother, Peter, molecular memories as tangible in a way as the photographs on the floor (are photographs more than a memory actually?). All this - I wanted to tell you because I want to remember and because I wanted you to realize all your worlds too.

March 27

A day so bright and clear, and so full of the necessity of working, that when I sat down to write to you and discovered the feebleness of the black on my ribbon, I leapt up and ran downtown to get a new one, you can guess how glad for the excuse. Now the afternoon is still outside the window glimmering at me, but here is the new ribbon (vigorous isn't it) and I'm tapping to the tune of Falla's Sorcerer's Apprentice. There seem many sheets of your letters to be answered, Mother.

Do you know about my vice? I don't smoke, drink, sear, or make love, BUT on days when it is beautiful and I'm excited, I buy books! Yesterday I went to Pickwick's and bought three: a two-inch-thick sociological-literary history of mythology and religions called The Golden Bough, another novel by Durrell called Clea, and a volume of criticism of Robert Frost. To read during the summer I suppose! If you arrive in Kingston with the truck (I'm still frightened something will come up) I can send my books and most of my stuff home with you so that I don't have to expensively ship it by train, and in the stuff will be both the for-the-summer books and all old textbooks, with permission to open and browse.

How would you like me to bring home some company? I will, as long as you have no objections - and I'm sure you don't. Rasheed Mohammed has some time to spend before summer school begins and so I have tentatively invited him home with me, after the examinations. I know that the first thing which just now has leaped nimbly into your collective parental minds is "How nice - but we haven't accommodations." Don't give that a thought, Rash has lived most of his life in a shanty in Jamaica [Trinidad], his father, remember, is a subsistance taxi-driver, so Rasheed is no snob. He has some money left over from his exceedingly generous scholarship allowance and wants to see part of the rest of Canada during the summer. His roommate Basil will be back home for a holiday, his other boy-pals have got work, and since I'm his best-big-or-little-sister-friend, I'd like to have him along. You would too: he is friendly, gay, intelligent, and interested as well as full of stories about Jamaica. Anyway, you'll meet him when you come. He has just now received permission from the External Affairs office, and is quite thrilled with the idea.

Don is playing stern father to Olivia now, making sure that she works. Two nights ago, for instance, he told her that if she had her term paper done for two in the afternoon of the following day, and got an affidavit from me to verify the fact that she was actually finished, he would take her out on Friday night. And so she stayed up until five a.m. and finished the paper. When she woke me to tell me, I was wide awake and composed Don's affidavit for him. Here it is (you've had sample of my other poetry, do you like this better?)

For Don - an Eppic in the Manner of Pope and Milton
I feel the poet in me stir
(Still half in stupor as it were)
And sit me down this break of dawn
To sing you of a paragon.
Now herewith do I sign and seal
To set my hand in witness
That Oliv'ia Howell cursed with zeal
And slavered until dawn - and witless
Tumbled into her chaste bed.
But robed in glory, bathed in light,
Lies the essay, finishéd.
Through half the day and half the night
She moaned and muttered, scratched and bled,
Splashed and choked through pools of sweat
And tepid coffee. No regret
Could keep her from her storied fate.
Now may she slumber deep and late.

You mentioned that my last long letter was "like last year," Mother. What was mainly different about last year's letters, besides of course their greater frequency? This year has been different, perhaps it seems sluggish and less-interesting to you - in some ways maybe it has been, but mainly I think it has been the different and essentially much less solitary life that has perhaps drained some of my lyricizing and emotionality into an immediate and present relationship rahter than the long-distance one with you. But you do realize how good the experience of a close everyday-wear-and-tear relationship has been for me.

Norman is still planning to be at school in Beirout, and for the summer he has an interesting job as a teacher-labourer in one of those railroad classrooms in a lumber camp or some such place, you've read about them in the Family Herald. He doesn't know yet where he'll be sent, but he hopes it is as far from Ontario as possible, Alberta or BC.

I've just written two excellent essays for Art, about Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, but they were unfortunately a month and a half-month late, respectively, and after Professor Findley gave them both A's and then knocked them down ten marks each for lateness, he wrote at the bottom of the last page, "You have a remarkable grasp and you will do very well in art history, Miss Epp, but you need to heed deadlines!" In studio classes we have finished our stained glass 'windows' and now are working with clay - I've done a copy of a little Danish eleventh century bronze Madonna, and it is really lovely.

Olivia's whole family is coming to see her tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, and they are taking me and Don out to dinner with them!

Olivia went to dinner with Don's parents in Ottawa last Sunday afternoon: she is terribly impressed with them, and Don's twin sisters love her madly, to the extent of taking Don aside just before they left and telling him sternly NOT to neglect Olivia's birthday, and they wrote the date on a piece of paper for him! He is very sweet, a 'catch' I rather envy, and is doing O a great deal of good.

April 3, Saturday night

Study break, it must be about ten thirty and O and I have done about seven hours plus of work since one thirty, have about three to go. We give each other five minute breaks every hour, and once every three hours or so we take off an hour or a half to go and see Don or Peggy, or to walk, or now, to dance to some good beaty Cannonball Adderly saxophone jazz that Mark lent us. Sometimes we have an ice cream cone or some cashew nuts or a philosophic-psychologic-literary discussion just for a treat: both of us are concentrating heroically and very proud of ourselves - and now we are fantastically interested by all our courses again and wish we had done more work during the year. I can hear Olivia clapping and stamping in the next room and am trying to type to the irregular drum-thud myself. We do welcome these breaks ­ by now you'll have an answer to the last letters in the mail, and I hope you'll tell when you're coming or if you are on the way now.

7, Wednesday night

We have just discovered that Mr Shurtleff of Shurtleff's Milk Bar just around the corner (fount of all good milkshakes and tomato-bacon toasted sandwiches and salads) is descended from a stout Norman who was knighted by William the Conquerer after the Battle of Hastings, 1066, and can trace his ancestors all through the intervening time, one of 'em married that Wesley guy, you know, who started the Methodist business, and one of them sat on the prow of the Mayflower going across to America. And then his wife breaks in, "I didn't know about that one, Jack, you know they didn't come over until fourteen years after." But Mr Shurtleff just winks at us and goes on about the UEL who swum the Lake across after the War. (UEL? And what war?) "Y'mean you don't know what a UEL, United Empire Loyalist, is?" But I'm from the Prairies an' we don't have any history there. "Holy cow!" and he shakes his head at me.)

Shurtleff's is almost a focus of this year in the same way that the cathedral tower is, they know us well, they see us in all conditions from haggard at eight a.m. after an essay night (bacon and eggs) to bristled with rollers at 6 p.m. before a date (milkshake and a comic book borrowed from the rack). They have many other regulars, one of them is Don, a tall thin too-well-groomed fairy-looking young man who always has about three library books with him when he has supper, who sits and talks for hours, who is faintly related to Mr Shurleff's Royal Family Tree. One evening - he always shares his books - we both became very excited about brilliantly colored butterflies in a book of his and soon had crowds peering over our shoulders.

Mr Shurtleff looks more like a squire than a knight, and when he talks about Guillaume le Conquérant I see him in tights and a jerkin with all sorts of leather pouches hanging from his belt and his stiff grey hair still falling forward over his forehead under a leather cap with a feather in it. He has a large, intelligent face with many lines although he is still only about fifty, his eyebrows are archetypally either kind or humorous (rather Robert Frostian) and he always has a gay word for the kids who come in: "Hi gum-digger, you've got another three cents to spend, hurry up." And when we ask for an ice-cream cone he reaches for the double-size cones and gives us just a bit extra. Usually cherry-vanilla, raspberry-ripple and pineapple-orange, very elegant. Mrs Shurtleff is thin and nervous with a narrow mouth and hard blue eyes and a disposition to match it - she disliked both of us when she thought we were flirting with 'her boys,' Rash and Basil who live with them.

A bit of documentation about study-time here: phenomena observed are, intense urges to eat Burnt Almond chocolate bars and watch television, the absolute necessity of going to movies (very unfortunately, the Odeon downtown chose study week to have a Bergman festival, art movies for three days, and we've gone of course! Yesterday, when Don and Olivia and Peg and I were standing blinking after The Magician, Dr Campbell came over to buy a ticket and exclaimed, with his Scottish-leprechaun ears quivering with fiendish glee, "Why Miss Epp! I am surprised to see you here!")

The main spectre of exam time is naturally NERVES, O and I alternately love each other elaborately and fight shouting-fights. A few nights ago she came in at two thirty and announced "That really finished our friendship as far as I'm concerned, I'll try to make it as easy for you as I can for the next two weeks" - she didn't make it any further than that because I welcomed the study break and shouted back, "Well if you think after the way you've behaved that you can just come in and make your little announcements without telling me what I'm supposed to have done and without asking what MY side of the story is, you can . @**!" and so on at the tops of our voices, with me getting up and pointedly closing the door to the hall just when she reached top volume (nevermind MY top volume!) and so on back and forth until I was just thundering some climax, waving my arms, flashing thunder at her - and she giggled. And I giggled. And we ended up howling with laughter, the misunderstanding cleared up, and said goodnight very affectionately. I believe in fights! Hey, are you coming? If so when? I keep waiting for a letter from you, are you going to let me know or NOT?

Will you already have the garden in by the early or middle of May, or can I do it? Peter tells me that the rites of spring to Woden require that cattle be driven through blazing hoops and that the naked natives bath in the dew - but if I leave out those two aspects can I have my rites of spring on Webber's Folly? Do we still have Buck, I can't remember. I don't know yet when I'll arrive. Peggy is inviting people to her summer cottage in Algonquin Park for a while and I'd like to go, as well as spend a few days here saying goodbye to people.

I'm anxious to have you formally okay Rasheed's visit so that I can reassure him.

See youse soon.

April 18, Easter Sunday

Suddenly the Salvation Army music is the choir song George Block taught us years ago for Easter - what was its name, "The lambs were weary and crying." I miss the choir, Mr Block's lovingness, and sometimes faith as well.

Norman phoned me at six thirty this morning, to wake me and tell me to look out the window because it has snowed slightly during the night, the sun was bright on the trees and wires and roofs, glinting on the snow, against a clean pink and blue sky, birds' sounds. He had simply wanted me to see it before the snow melted ­ he is a good friend. When I woke again at noon, the snow, the sun, the birds, the glory, was gone.

But about five, ironically or at least strangely, because or when, Norman came to see us, the sun came out again. I went walking, found grass green, willows red, white flowers pushing through, branches silvery from the sap. I'm happy that my worst exams are over, that it is almost summer, that I'm coming home. I'm sad to say goodbye to Tony, Don, Olivia, all the others, and to leave Kingston just as it becomes beautiful again.

I'm going to take Carol out to dinner and to see Mary Poppins next Wednesday, I'm excited as she'll be when she finds out!

Worst exams - written, only art and German, neither of them a real problem, are left.

I bought a pink tulip downtown, long-stemmed and stuck into a wine bottle with a fern - in the little brown brandy bottle, a thorny twig with orange leaves. Die Welt ist so gross und grün.

I'll see you soon, but don't expect me until I arrive! We won't leave till the end of April at least.

volume 4

raw forming volume 3: 1964-1965 september-april
work & days: a lifetime journal project