Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dear Blog

I wonder if I could use the blog to focus on the various subjects of my columns. I could write in a less formal way, be more speculative. At any rate, Happy Anniversary, Dear Blog. Thanks for the good times we have had together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Tomorrow is the first anniversary of this blog. It has wiggled and wobbled from subject to subject. What wiggles and wobbles at the bottom of the sea? A nervous wreck. I have got off the subject of tracing my way. I have noticed that other people periodically change the focus of their blogs. I think I will try that, but what should the focus be?

What I didn’t anticipate was the great fun of meeting up with other people and becoming interested in their lives and opinions. I have added and subtracted blogs from my blogroll because I realized after a while that I couldn’t read too many regularly; there just was not enough time. I do occasionally think to myself that since there are millions of blogs, there probably are quite a few by people who would turn out to be kindred spirits. I wish I had kept a journal of how I came to the blogs I regularly read. Usually it was “way leads on to way.” to quote Robert Frost.

I hadn’t remembered until today that I had started the blog on the anniversary of my mother’s death. I don’t know if I was aware at the time, although it was serendipitous because the first few posts are about her naming of me.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Names and Music

Friday I updated my The Writers’ Union of Canada page and today googled myself to see if it was there. The URL for the old one comes up and says it is not longer viable. I saw that there were 90,000 entries for Nancy Bauer, but I continued on for quite a few (400?) and the newly revised web page didn’t turn up. I see by this googling that I share the name with many others, the most prominent being a Tufts U professor. There is even another Bill and Nancy couple who run a farm in the American Midwest. Yesterday in the Globe and Mail there was a review by a UNB professor, Mark Anthony Jarman. He has taken to using this middle name, and I think I know why. I googled him last week for some information for my TJ column and found that there are several writers named Mark Jarman. I had to go quite far in to get the Jarman I wanted. I am thinking now that I should have added my maiden name as my public name on books and articles, but at the time I first published, “poetesses with three names” were satirized. Ah, pride and vanity, what problems you create.

I updated my TWUC page because the organization has now arranged it so that you can do it yourself. You used to have to go through them. I was introduced at a reading last week and realized the introducer had got her information from the page. The photo I had used was now nearly 20 years old.

I haven’t written about music for my State of the Art column because of all the arts, I have the least expertise in it. I decided I should give it a try. I don’t even listen to the late night music programs on CBC because I discovered that music keeps me awake and talk puts me to sleep. We have a new station which broadcasts the Ottawa Senators’ games. I turn it on, and I am asleep in minutes. I think the part of my brain given to music must have atrophied. I was thinking this morning that maybe Bill and I should begin again to listen to music. It might be good for him in reestablishing the synapses that were damaged in his stroke, and it would be good for me to revive my interest in music.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Treasure Hunts

I was thinking today of treasure hunts. When Bill’s mother went into a nursing home, after his father died, we cleaned out their house. Be sure to look everywhere, she said, especially up high, because I suspect your father hid money around. This made cleaning out the house seem like a treasure hunt. We did look everywhere – inside the clock, under chair cushions. We took out the drawers of his desk. No money. He had a strong box that he had had with him since their marriage, 55 years. He kept it in his closet and never told his wife what was in it. Cleaning his closet, she would pick it up and notice that something inside rattled. She never asked him what was in it, but she was curious. After he died, Bill rifled through his desk, found the key and took the key and box to his mother to open. There was nothing in it. What had rattled was the metal divider.

When we were cleaning out Bill’s aunt apartment house, we tackled the cellar, a vast dungeon, full of rooms going back and back and back, packed with stuff. Aunt Elsa had told us that the padlocked cabinet in one of the rooms was her father’s, and she was sure it contained valuable tools. Our friend Louie came with his hacksaw, sawed away at the lock, and finally got it open. Bill and I crowded around, expecting wondrous things. The cabinet was full, but with used plumbing fixtures, some screws, a broken hammer, that sort of thing. We laughed when Louie finally pulled out a key – the key to the padlock.

My neighbor Jack came by for a visit this afternoon. I was telling him of my musings. He had inherited a handsome armoire. It needed repairs, which he made. When his father came, Jack’s wife took him to see the cabinet, to admire the repairs, and told him to look inside. No, he said, he couldn’t. It had been his mother’s, and as a child he had been forbidden to open it. After all those years, seventy or more, he still couldn’t bring himself to disobey.

Gaston Bachelard writes, “Wardrobes with their shelves, desks with their drawers, and chests with their false bottoms are veritable organs of the secret psychological life.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007


I am just getting caught up reading other people’s blogs. Some entries are long and dense, but interesting, so I will go back to read them again. Yesterday a woman who runs a twice monthly reading series asked me to fill in this afternoon for a poet who has laryngitis. This morning I am wondering why I said yes since I have so much to do. I was, however, intending to go to the reading anyway. I decided to read the ailing poet’s poem which addresses another poet, dead more than 20 years. In the poem, Robert Gibbs addresses Alden Nowlan who addresses John Keats and Samuel Johnson. I like the idea of Nancy addressing Robert addressing Alden addressing John and Samuel. A set of nested Russian wooden dolls. Or six degrees of separation. I am going to read an old, unpublished story, partly because I can’t remember which stories I have read publicly in recent times. In the story I am imagining ideal readers, so Nancy will be reading to an audience about writing for an ideal audience. When Alison asked me to fill in for Bob, I thought I would read the beginning of the novel I am working on but that would necessitate my typing it and I don’t have time. I know from bitter experience that I can’t read from my own handwriting. Now I have to steel myself to go down cellar to see if it is flooded. Yesterday and last night we had snow and then terrific rain and melting.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Onion Soup

One of the best dishes I ever made, probably the best one, was French onion soup. When we first moved to Fredericton, we joined the university gourmet group and were members for several years. Once for our final meal of the year I made onion soup for sixteen people. A departing faculty member had given me a huge black iron pot that had belonged to the US Army. Every once in a while, even now, someone will mention the soup. Some people said it was the single best thing they ever tasted. I have never made it again. I used an Escoffier book and a Larousse cookbook. Escoffier recommended first roasting the bones for the stock, several kinds, beef of course, and I think lamb and veal. Some vegetables were roasted too. The resulting stock was so subtle that I can’t even bring it to my memory; I only remember its reputation.

I was thinking of that soup this morning because tonight we will have chicken soup with stock from the bones of the roast chicken we had several nights ago. My cooking has gradually lost its luster. I rarely cook any more for someone who loves food. I love food, but cooking just for myself is too much work. Fredericton has never had good restaurants. I don’t know why that is. We go to one and it is good, and six months later we go back and it is mediocre. Bill loves Italian food, but there has never been a good one here. An Indian restaurant opened here a year or so ago. I was delighted. It was ridiculously expensive and lousy. I didn’t think it was possible to make lousy Indian food. All the effort had gone into the ambience.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Metronome

We have had warm weather the last month or so. By warm I mean zero or above Celsius. Today it is already 6 above. For an unaccustomed pain in my chest my family doctor sent me to see the cardiac doctor. He put me on a treadmill and said to say stop whenever I wanted. I kept going so that the test would be accurate and because I was embarrassed by my huffing and puffing. He stopped me. He is alleged not to have a good bedside manner, but I like him, mostly because he is reputed to be the most brilliant doctor in our area and that is what made me happy when he was looking after Bill. He has an acerbic sense of humor. He explained that my heart is fine for someone my age, but he said, “What the test tells me is that you don’t do very much.” I had to confess that was true. Dr. S suggested I buy a treadmill, and I probably will do that, but Bill’s cardiovascular system has to undergo improvement too, so ever since the warm weather arrived we have been walking. We will enjoy the walking when the snow goes and we can go along the trails in the park or the river. Now our walk is metronomic and our pleasure is in how virtuous we are and how healthy we will be.

My first controversial column last Saturday so far has only elicited comments from people who agree with me. This Saturday’s column is non-controversial. The editor said that it was “beautifully written.” Another reader said it was “lyrical.” I can see that I won’t be able to keep up writing one every week.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not Abandoned

I seem to have abandoned my blog. Partly that is because I spend my “good” morning time working on my column. Last week I agreed to write one every week instead of every other week as I had said at first I would do. So far three of them have been published: one about the high price of art, the second on poetry as being more popular in a local context and the third on the getting together of the francophone and anglophone arts communities. I have had positive feedback on them. Two of the people commenting wanted something out of me, however, so I had to take their compliments with a grain of salt. One wanted me to help her get her novel published, and the other wanted me to read the novel she is writing. I no longer read manuscripts except by those whose work I have read and commented on for years. It is hard work and not too rewarding.

I am enjoying the journalism, though, because it gives me something that I must concentrate on and a deadline that makes me do that: a few minutes when I am not contemplating our troubles. I am probably qualified to write this column. I have been involved with the literary community here for 40 years, and I have written about arts and crafts for 25 years so know both scenes well. I get family members to edit for me. I consult with friends. My next column will be my first controversial one. When I was first asked to write, the editor (since replaced) said I should be controversial, “edgy.” I am not naturally an “edgy” journalist, but in this case I feel passionately about the subject. I wrote my first damning review last fall. I got the proofs two weeks ago and realized again that it was very different from what I usually write. Ordinarily I give back books that I don’t like at all. I would rather explicate books than merely review them. I am getting to be a crotchety old lady.