Be Your Own Best Friend – Doing It Alone (Part 2)
I just got back from listening to Margaret Atwood speak at the Alice Munro Festival in Blyth and wanted to share my thoughts before they disappear into the fine mist of my memory. What can anyone say about Margaret Atwood? She’s a well-known, prolific writer of many genres. At 76 she has three pieces of literature coming out before the end of the year, and one in the works. How does she do it? But the interesting thing about this woman is, she is a very ordinary woman. I don’t mean ordinary in a negative sense, but just like you and me. She was dressed all in black with thick black socks and lace up shoes. From what I could gather she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and speaks tongue in cheek about many things in her life. And it surprised me that she still does these talks. It’s not like she needs to. People know who she is will probably buy anything she puts her name to. But I suspect she did it for her long-time friend Alice Munro, in support of the festival in her name.
YOU MAY NOT LEARN WHAT YOU EXPECTED, BUT YOU LEARN SOMETHING ANYWAY:
Sadly, I was a little disappointed not to have learned something about writing, which is why I went to Blyth in the first place. Ms. Atwood read from her book of short stories Stone Mattress and then she was interviewed by her friend, Merilyn Simonds. For the entire time they sat talking to each other, Ms. Atwood rarely addressed the audience. Perhaps that was how the format was set up – an intimate “living room” type chat with a friend. Or perhaps the lights were too bright. But I would have liked to have been part of the conversation. But, I tell myself, I wanted to learn how to present myself in front of an audience, and perhaps I did. As a member of Toastmasters, I have learned how important it is to make eye contact with one or two members of the audience when you speak in order to make a connection. It seems that while I’m looking to other writer’s to show me how it’s done, maybe I already know. Or perhaps I just need to trust my own inner guidance and just do things in my own way.
When I got back to my hotel room, I started to wonder why I decided to drive the 3 hours it took to come to Blyth, spend the night in a hotel, and then drive back home the following morning. I have come to realize that there was more to it, as there often is if we look for it, than going to hear Margaret Atwood speak. I wanted to spend some time with myself. I could have stayed in my lonely hotel room, but I wanted to eat a fine meal in a nice restaurant. I deserved that, didn’t I? I ate dinner in a lovely dining establishment called Bistro II in Blyth. I sat at my lonely table without a book, and simply got a feel for what it’s like to be by myself. I looked around the room at the décor, the prints of previous Byth Festival plays, and observed the other people sitting at their tables. In the front window where seated a group of young women who I guessed were part of a book group. In front of them looked to be a family of mom, dad, daughter and their husbands, with what I guessed was the younger daughter of one of the moms. There was another lone diner, like myself, but she brought a book to read. People kept stopping by the Bistro wanting a table, so I’m glad I made a reservation. There’s only three places to eat in Blyth, and one of them was closed. But when a lone woman came in looking for a table, it occurred to me that she might like to join me, but I didn’t catch her in time. I sipped my wine, savoured my pork spring rolls, and luxuriated in my Caesar salad that had strips of pesto underneath. By the end of dinner, one of the two young women sitting beside me made contact. She asked if I was going to see Margaret Atwood. I mentioned that, as a writer myself, I was hoping to learn something about writing from a master, and she was immediately interested. She and her friend, (or was it a sister?) was interested in the topic of my novel River of the Stick Wavers and wanted to know if I had a card. Luckily, I had some in my purse. Ladies, I do hope you are reading this now. Drop me a line if you are. It was a pleasure meeting you both. Meeting new people is one of the pleasures of travelling alone. Had I been with someone, we probably would not have met.
I also chatted with a woman in the theater who owns two restaurants in the nearby town of Goderich – a place I visit on a regular basis. She invited me to visit her restaurant Beach Street Station on the beach (naturally) next time I’m in town. And I just might do that. Again, I would never have met this woman if I’d been with a friend.
The following morning, I decided to go to Queen’s Bakery, down the street from the hotel I was staying at, for breakfast, this time with a book. I had a relaxing visit eating a delicious cinnamon oatmeal with a pot of Auntie’s Garden tea, and gazed at the lovely paintings on the red brick wall. I felt perfectly content. I could have stopped in at Bayfield on Lake Huron, a place of many boutiques, on my way home. But I felt I had done what I needed to do – heard Margaret Atwood speak, and spend some time with myself – so I turned right around and came home.