Saturday, July 24, 2010

A poem

I've been working on a novel and assisting someone with a memoir lately, and these things take priority over my blog. As well, it is an emotional time for me, as a couple of people dear to me are very ill.

So I've decided to post a poem I wrote a few years ago, which I included in an appropriate place in my novel Spelling Bee (Ottawa, Baico, $22.95


(c) Ruth Latta, 2008, 2010

It's heaven on earth to spend time with a friend
whom you haven't seen for a while
You talk and you listen, you cannot offend,
you both share your thoughts with a smile.

But then, out of nowhere, the clock strikes the hour,
the horizon devours the sun.
Though we would continue if we had the power
our brief time together is done.

Other times when I'm with someone special to me
our souls somehow can't seem to meet.
We're tired, distracted; we're fettered, not free
and somehow we both miss a beat.

There must be a heaven, a life after death
where we will have plenty of time,
where sharing our thoughts is as easy as breath
and friendship is always sublime.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Urban planning for seniors

Currently I'm reading The Geography of Aging (McGill/Queen's, 2010) by urban planner Gerald Hodge. Its subtitle is "Preparing Communities for the Surge in Seniors." I intend to review this book at some length for an "off-line"/newsprint publication one of these days. In the meantime, let me recommend it to citizens of all ages, including those of mature years who are concerned about the future.

"Not infrequently, the surging numbers of seniors after 2011 are portrayed as a social problem of catastrophic proportions," Hodge writes (p. 187) This perspective has been branded 'apocalyptic demography' by Canadian and other gerontologists, who point out the fallacies of looking only at the numbers of seniors and drawing conclusions. Many other factors are at work, such as the productivity of the economy, the uses of medical technologies, the increasing good health of seniors themselves, which need to be taken into account in reckoning the consequences of an aging population."

Hodge quotes the National Advisory Council on Aging to the effect that most communities tend NOT to have "enabling environments" which will allow older adults to "age in place" or cope with a minimum of assistance into their old age.

"Many seniors encounter obstacles in the areas of housing, transportation and community services, as well as negative attitudes about the elderly that reinforce the physical barriers," he writes. Very few communities in Canada have initiated plans for their seniors populations, he says.

"The Geography of Aging" is classified under the subject headings of "social studies/geography". This reader-friendly book is not just for experts. It combines sound scholarship with personal essays by seniors and focuses on the (interlinked) issues of housing, transportant and community services. Hodge spells out, for any municipalities that are interested, how to gather data and go through the steps of formulating and implementing an urban plan to keep their senior citizens as independent as possible.

Do read it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Too Many Books"

During this heat wave, while sitting by the air conditioner, or at the screen door in the early morning, I have been reading a lot. The works of fiction include, in no particular order, In the Middle of a Life, by Richard B. Wright, Labour Day by Joyce Maynard, Between Sisters by Adwoa Badoe and As Husbands Go, by Susan Isaacs. These latter two are advance (review) copies. I also reread two favourites: The Truth about Loren Jones, by Alison Lurie, and A Complicated Kindness, by Miriam Toews, because I wanted to refresh my memory about certain narrative decisions the authors made.
I remember a panellist at the Writer's Union AGM who said that "too many" books are being published nowadays.That's like saying there's too much fresh air.

A book which takes a writer a year or more to write can be devoured by an avid reader within days. It gives me pause, as a writer, to think that something which required so much effort from me can be zipped through so easily by those who read it, but that's just the way it is. Some novels are worth reading again and again because there is always something new to be derived from them, but, in addition to delving into books we have enjoyed before, we who are readers are always looking for a new reading experience and new insights.

Last week, interviewing a Canadian actor, I was impressed by his remarks about the value of theatre. Live drama gives people a chance to "relax and be", to "get out of their own way and become themselves," he told me. Reading does the same thing. In his landmark opus, Read for Your Life, psychologist Joseph Gold wrote that reading serves the same function in western cultures that meditation does in eastern cultures.

Reading may have fallen out of fashion among those seduced by electronic media, but many of us still read and in so doing, have our horizons broadened and our capacity for empathy enhanced. So how can there be "too many books"?