March 7, 2014

Alma Mater Matters and a trip to Ottawa

You know when something is so perfect that you don’t know how to write about it without somehow diminishing it?

Even two three four weeks out from the event I did at the College of the Humanities at Carleton University, I’m not sure what I can say about it that would do it justice. I really had the nicest time!

Before I went to Ottawa, I thought a lot about what I remembered from my university classes as part of my Humanities degree, and I realized it's hard to predict what will stick with you. I jotted down a few of the random facts that have lingered in my mind in the dozen or so years since I graduated. I listed a few of them at the beginning of my reading, and I'm sharing a couple of them here upon request: 

  • Paradise is shaped like a multifoliate rose 

  • Flatterers are found in the 8th circle of hell 

  • Ezekiel cut his beard into three parts (which, respectively, were burned, chopped, and  thrown to the wind)   

So basically the recesses of my mind belong mostly to Dante and the Old Testament. 

I also dug out some of my old notebooks from university and flipped through them to see what I'd frantically underlined or highlighted in my notes as critically important knowledge from our Humanities lectures. 

Pack rat or archivist: you decide.

Here are some of the choice phrases I’d highlighted in my notes:

  • Socratic speech is always adapted to suit the interlocutor.

  • The experience of transcendence also involves the experience of immanence.

  • Happiness is contemplation.

  • There is an erotic compulsion to intellectual virtue.


After my random reminiscing, I did a reading from Bone & Bread and a Q & A with Ottawa poet David O’Meara. David did some one-on-one feedback sessions with aspiring College writers back in the day and very helpfully stopped me from writing like a Victorian. So it was fun to be able to thank him in person and chat about writing, too. 

Everyone was incredibly generous with their questions and comments, and it was lovely to see old friends and former professors in the audience. I never imagined speaking in that lecture hall and having my (revered!) profs ask me questions about the creative process. It was humbling and thrilling all at once.

There were old friends from Carleton, former classmates and teachers...even a girl I used to babysit! But o
ne of the most exciting reunions was with B., my dearest and very best friend from Grade 1/2, and her mom, who was my fourth grade teacher...and my first serious editor. (The editing is another post for another time.)

B, me, and Mrs. D

I wish I'd taken more photos, but my phone was in danger of powering down all day. I popped back into the seminar room before we headed out to dinner to snap this one: 

A different perspective on my old lecture hall...the front!

After the talk and the reception, there was an alumni reunion dinner. It was so wonderful to catch up with everyone and find out what they’re doing now. There were also old issues of our College literary journal, including some poems of mine I'd completely forgotten about! I was happy both to be reminded of them (okay, of some of them) and to have them restored to me with just a couple of quick photos.

Catching up with former profs/old friends

My friend K came to get me (after a complicated series of back and forth texts in which we realized that even though both of us went to Carleton, neither of us could remember any meeting place accessible by car well enough to describe it to the other person), and after I changed into pyjamas and took a couple of Tylenols (some kind of strange stress headache had taken hold the minute the talk was over) and actually gotten into bed and turned the light out, I managed to touch base with my Winnipeg writer friends and ended up having a long-distance meeting until about midnight Ottawa time. So fun! I keep forgetting about the magic of Skype.

The magic of Skype: illustrated! 

And if all that wasn't already an absurd amount fun to pack into 36 hours, the next day friend K gave me a private cross-country skiing lesson.  Maybe next time I'll fully graduate to poles. And her lovely parents cooked a delicious early supper so we could eat together before I had to catch my train home. 

K said I was a natural, and I almost believe her!

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