Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hate that Grey, Wash it Away

10 years ago in Seattle

While I was away in Mexico, I listened to BBC Radio almost every day.  I read a lot and by 8:00
each evening, I was ready to listen. A couple of weeks ago, I listened to an interview of Mary Beard, 
a well-known and controversial classics professor who was discussing her grey hair. Mary Beard, in 
the interview, asserts that she is glad to be 60 years old and has no intention of colouring her long grey hair.

My hair has been a journey. I started with dark brown curly hair. My hair was thick and I travelled without styling tools or product. As grey appeared, I began to colour it an auburn shade. As a blue-eyed Celt with red-haired cousins, I was "sort of" believable.
four years ago in Paris
I did not grow up with a mother who "did her own hair".  Maman visits the hairdresser weekly for a blow-out and has an occasional "perm". I knew that, as an ageing woman, I would not want any kind of "wash and wear perm" look. When permanent straightening processes (i.e. the Brazilian blowout)
became available, I was there ready to pay $400 and spend 3 hours in the salon to fulfill a teen-age dream of longer, straight hair. 

I did not require a lot of product and my hair dried straight. If I got caught in wind or rain, my hair stayed straight. Unfortunately, the demarcation line (skunk strip) shows up sooner on straight hair.
Six week colouring sessions were replaced by four week colour sessions. During my first three years of retirement, I was travelling for months at a time. I was constantly in search of a colourist. Paris, London, cruise ships...I was always needing colour. My eyebrows are salt and pepper coloured so they had to be tinted. More time in salons.
my last colour
Finally, in fall of 2013, aboard a 28-day cruise, I had my last full colour treatment. This was it! I was tired of spending time in hair salons and it was becoming evident that, if I wanted to continue to travel, I needed to cut back on some other expenditures.  I had no idea how grey I would be or what I would look like.
The first step is blonde highlights.
Fortunately, I have always found good hairdressers and I am willing to listen and to pay for their
expertise. If you are young or "naturally beautiful", you can probably visit "cut-rate" stylists but I am not willing to take a chance with colour. Karyn Rudance, at Curly Hair Vancouver, is my favourite local stylist. In January of 2014, she created some blonde highlights to help soften the effects of my new growth. I spent 10 weeks in Europe in the spring of 2014 so I was able to "grow out" without much ado.
a Paris blonde
If you spend time in Paris, you might need a colour or cut. In 2012, with my straight auburn hair, I visited my local stylist on Rue St Jacques and I was pleased with the results. However, in 2014, my "growing out" was a little more complex. I didn't want to "cover" but I needed another "blending/blonding". I chose Coiffirst, a prestigious salon in St.-Germain-des-Près for the procedure. 
I have never been in such a beautiful salon! There are private rooms for famous clients and sparkling water is offered. I felt a bit like Catherine Deneuve.
back to Karyn
My Paris hair travelled with me to visit relatives in the Shetland Islands and along blustery footpaths in Cornwall. When I returned to Vancouver, it seemed like a good time to "cut to the grey". It's a really big step! I was frightened that my husband, who despite his boyish face has been grey-haired for 20 years, would prefer the dyed tresses of his musical friends. There are very few women performers with "natural hair".



grey and curly

Today, I have curly, grey hair. I am 10 years older than my first picture. People ask if Maman (84) and I are sisters. I have no problem getting a seat on public transit and last week, the ticket-seller at the movies assumed that I was a senior. There are so few women with uncoloured hair, that I have joined
the ranks of the "almost elderly".  Most of the brightly coloured clothing that I wore as a red-head
has been replaced by softer greys and blues. On the plus side, my last haircut in Oaxaca cost me $12
and I won't be needing a trim before summer. 

"Natural greying" is a slowly growing trend. I notice that, in the two years since I have gone grey, more of my blogging contemporaries have gone the same route. As more healthy, visible women in their 60's choose grey, it is likely that the stereotypes will lose gradually disappear.

 I was interested by Mary Beard's interview on BBC news:



Monday, March 7, 2016

Reading in Paradise








"gigantes" getting ready for a wedding



Oaxaca is a colourful and exuberant city! The streets are filled with activity:another race on Sunday,
a wedding with "gigantes", the dance festival, Oaxaca Sabe ( a restaurant promotion this week) BUT
I am a "sociable introvert". Although I am thankful for the conversation of fellow volunteers at the library and fellow travellers that I meet and for my brief exchanges in Spanish with waiters and hotel staff, these encounters take effort and I am also thankful for time alone in my room.

Until I stayed in "el studio rustico", I didn't realize how important my surroundings are to me.  I can wander the streets of Oaxaca for about 4 hours then I must retreat into my solitude. I require
"a clean, well-lighted place" to read and to write. My room at the Parador del Domenico opens on to a small patio so I have a private outdoor space and natural light.

I truly appreciate the Oaxaca Lending Library because it has such an interesting collection of
books. Most of the books have been donated by the membership which is comprised of retired expatriates from the United States and Canada. The collection is curated by the Book Committee
on which I volunteer when I am in Oaxaca.

This week-end, I read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I saw Lauren Groff at a discussion of Elena Ferrante's work at the Vancouver Writers' Festival when I volunteered in October but I have not read any other of her books.







Fates and Furies is the story of a marriage. Lotto and Mathilde meet, marry and spend the next 24 years together. The first part of the novel "Fates" is told mostly from the perspective of Lotto. As he makes his way through life as an unsuccessful actor, as a  successful playwright, as an aging man who has lost his charisma, he is supported by his faithful wife Mathilde who seems to take pleasure in cleaning houses, entertaining, exercise and having sex with Lotto.

It is in the second part of the novel, "Fury" that we discover that "Mathilde" is not who Lotto thinks
she is. She is an "invention" of the marriage. Mathilde claims that "she didn't tell Lotto lies, she just didn't tell him..." For twenty-four years, the two live happily in a fantasy world. What is especially effective is that Groff uses literary and mythological allusions and takes liberties with time to create
 a fabulist feel to the novel.

During my visit to Oaxaca, I have also read a number of books by Elena Ferrante whose writing deals with personal relationships. Ferrante's books are never reshelved at the Library as there is such a great demand. Now that I have read Fates and Furies, I understand why Lauren Groff was part of the panel discussion on Ferrante.

Last fall, the small group from my church read Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I was a bit skeptical at first because I tired of New Age and self-help in the 1990's. Lamott, a "Christian"
writer is refreshing however. I borrowed her Plan B from the Oaxaca Lending Library as well.

Her statement about why she writes resonated with me:
I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.[6]

In Oaxaca, I am free from any personal "shoulds." The library, where there is coffee, bagels and conversation, is block away from the Parador. There are restaurants nearby where I can eat healthfully for less than $20 a day. I have only to put the sign on the door and my room will be
"made up". I sent four items of clothing out to be washed  and it cost me $3.  I walk every day in sunshine  to soak up the streets' activities.

Birds are chirping and voices can be heard in the courtyard. Breakfast and another volunteer
day at the library...



Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Rhythm of the Days




some of the indigenous costumes from the Belber-Jimenez  Museum

It is less than a week before I return home to Canada. My days in Oaxaca have taken on a pleasant rhythm this week. The Parador del Domenico has worked well as a temporary home. My room is clean and bright. I settle in for the evening with my books and computer and I often awaken to the
sounds of the arrival of the morning staff. The employees are always laughing and joking with each other in the enclosed courtyard.







the courtyard outside my door

Breakfast is included with my room. I have become accustomed to a plate of freshly sliced fruit,
scrambled eggs and coffee. Mexican families with children, business travellers, and retired Canadian
ladies gather in the breakfast room each day. I especially enjoyed eating with the other Canadian visitors. Whether at home or away, eating alone gets tiresome.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I volunteer at the Oaxaca Lending Library. It has been 3 weeks now
and I am just starting to feel comfortable. Many of the volunteers live permanently in Oaxaca and snowbirds usually come for 3 months so I am really just a "blip" in the volunteer world. I do love the library and the enthusiasm of its members for books and for the community.  There are many educators who congregate at the library and I have especially enjoyed the historical lectures that have been offered. For me, as a retiree with a busy husband and no grandchildren, community and friendships are very important.


So much colour!

As I have spent months in Oaxaca before and as I am planning to travel to Ireland in the late summer,
I am keeping my expenditures to a minimum. The traditional Oaxacan moles are rich so I have been eating mostly salads or fish. It is surprising that in a dry, landlocked city, the variety and quality of produce is excellent. The prices are much lower than at home but the restaurants that I visit are definitely for visitors with more money than the indigenous Oaxaqueño.

The sights of Oaxaca cost little! Benefactors have paid for the restoration of many of the colonial buildings which are used as public spaces. If you wander the streets, there are many examples of the  traditional dress of the indigenous people. This week,Oaxaca is hosting an International Dance Festival where Mexican, as well as Spanish, Argentinian, and American dancers will perform. All events are free and I'm sure to see some colourful costumes.


free dance festival


I have lived my life in a Northwestern Marine climate. Our colours are grey, blue and green with an emphasis on the grey. As I wander the streets of Oaxaca, it is such a joy to experience the brilliant hues on a daily basis.

Colour and detail!