Dec 26 2012

Advice on aging

Earlier this year, the broadcaster any author would die to be interviewed by, Eleanor Wachtel, was eliciting gems from American writer, Fran Leibowitz. Although I was listening to their conversation on CBC’s Writers and Company while cooking, I stopped chopping, sautéeing and tasting long enough to transcribe the following:

You should become less interested in yourself as you become older because other people are less interested in you.

You might as well join them; they might be right.

Leibowitz’s wisdom put me in mind of some of the advice contributor Lyndsay Green solicited from the octogenarians she interviewed for her own book, You Could Live a Long Time: Are You Ready?  Although my copy of Lyndsay’s book doesn’t currently sit on my shelf, having been loaned to a friend, I recall her devoting a good portion of one chapter to strategies that could have been summed up in Leibowitz’s quip.

But more important than taking less interest in yourself, were the suggestions offered by Lyndsay’s interview subjects about remaining curious about the lives of others.

At a recent Christmas lunch, I watched a brilliant practitioner of this approach in action. Accomplished pianist, avid traveler and enthusiastic grandmother, Evelyn Greenberg is the kind of person who adds enormously to any table she graces. Although retired a number of years ago from her teaching responsibilities at the University of Ottawa School of Music, she remains as engaged in the world as anyone I know. And if she knows little about social media, her social skills are honed from years of inquiring about others.

Within minutes of meeting my young colleague, Claire, Evelyn had determined that the two shared a birthday, and before the lunch was over, she had my equally youthful stepdaughter  enthusiastically anticipating a promised brunch date in their shared neighbourhood. To top off her tour de force charm offensive, on our way from the dining room to the coat room, Evelyn exercised no false modesty in quickly agreeing to demonstrate her piano prowess, but rather than wow us with an awe-inducing riff from Paginini or Bach, she began to play Silent Night — a song that all of us knew well enough to sing along to.

And yes, I AM taking notes.

 


May 11 2011

Poultry inspires surprising insights


Different Drummer Books in Burlington played host yesterday to two of the contributors to I Feel Great About My Hands, Sheila Deane (above) and author Lyndsay Green (below). The two met for the first time at the collection’s Ottawa launch last month and bonded there and at the Toronto event over their shared literary references to poultry. (What can I say – true artists find inspiration in the every day and these women are talented enough to fashion insight from the unlikeliest sources.)

For Sheila it was a menopausal chicken; for Lyndsay, it was the unfortunate nickname applied by her daughters to the undersides of her arms.When the two read recently at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, and then again in Toronto at Ben McNally’s, hilarity ensued. I wish you’d been there.

But if you weren’t, their poignant pieces, full of unique yet relatable moments, are available in the book.