Sunday, July 26, 2020

cycling in the spring / Tomifobia 2020

An exchange with a friend about sliding her kayak into the reeds to READ reminded me that I never posted these pics of a bicycle trip we did on our anniversary in mid-May. Our one trip out of the city since the start of the pandemic.

Restrictions about travel between the regions (of Quebec) had just been lifted, and R surprised me with a car rental and a map of the bicycle trail from Ayer's Cliff to Tomifobia. The drive would take a little over an hour, we could bring our food and return home in the evening.

Except for grasses, little had started growing. Trees were only in bud. But after a few months of nothing growing, a little feels so promising.

I saw the first butterflies of the year. They were white, nothing extraordinary, but the first.

Birds were nesting. Lots of exuberant birdsong.

A man was pushing a baby stroller along the path, but he had no child. The stroller was for a camera with a long telescope lens.

There were brilliant yellow marsh marigolds. You had to look for the red trilliums where the sunlight picked them out.

I wasn't surprised to find this boulder since we were in Louise Penny territory. Obviously a mystery.

By noon the sun was high and bright. Much of the path followed the Tomifobia River but there were swampy areas where frogs hummed. I thought the sun must have lulled them. I used to sleep in a bedroom with a window on a swamp, and the nighttime noise of bullfrogs doing their throat balloon bellowing and droning was loud and competitive. This was more of a companionable purring. I described the sound to my mother who used to photograph frogs (long story which I might tell one day), and she said that was the sound of contented females.

R had reserved a bench for lunch under the hemlock trees, view on the river. Fresh baguette, cheese, nuts, carrots, fruit.

I didn't think it at the time--I was too hungry--but the picture reminds me that one of the first things R did for me when we met was offer to cut and core an apple. Almost forty years later, he still carries a Swiss knife. It's not the same knife. He's lost a few going through airport security and forgetting the knife in his pocket. He's cutting me cheese here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

urban garden jungle / montreal

My garden looks like a thriving paradise of plants.

It's actually a battle armed with hairy creepers, stinging tentacles, sneaky rhizomes.

Every year I think I’ve given the plants enough space and every year they fight for more.

What do I see here? There will be tomatoes. Or... there might be. Because there are also racoons, squirrels and groundhogs--who also like tomatoes.

There are no crash-car movie scenes. It’s not intergalactic warfare.

But believe me, there’s fierce conniving, choking and strangulation snaking in the shadows.

Here especially.

The beans grasping for territory, the tomato determined to hold its own.

And I'm not even mentioning the squirrels, groundhogs, racoons, skunks, earwigs with their pincers, gooseberry maggots inside the black currants, the slugs and other bibittes. 

In short, I'm loving another summer of gardening in my plot at the Jardin Communautaire la Pointe-Verte.

Friday, July 3, 2020

look closer / montreal june 2020

You're walking and your eye yanks at your brain and says, Hey look, look again, look closer.

          I added my own photo-edited graffiti to this one created by Dodo (upper right corner):


This used to be a Bank of Montreal, built in 1901 in Pointe St. Charles by Andrew Taylor, closed as a bank I don't know when, bought by an individual rumoured to be a McGill professor who lives there now. He kindly makes the large hall, where people used to see tellers to do their banking, available to the PSC Community Theatre for performance space.
The scallop pediment over the main door is being restored. Cf the image below, taken by Alexis Hamel in 2010.

However, the building wasn't what caught my attention as I walked past.

Still working their way through pizza.

Here, I could narrow my focus to pretend I'm seeing a Great Blue Heron in the wilds. Not fishing, probably resting after a long morning of standing on one leg, neck outstretched to mimic a tree and fool the fish. Do herons shift from leg to leg when they get tired? I wonder.

But I haven't even left Montreal. Along the shore, mere metres away, is the bike path, which these days is busy with cyclists, rollerbladers, pedestrians with or without baby strollers and/or dogs, flocks of Canada Geese, skateboarders, even the odd illegal motorcycle.

So this is what I really saw.

For better or worse, birds have learned to coexist with humans, their various activities, structures, habits, even their garbage and pollution.

Or have had coexistence forced upon them.

Question is: will humans learn to coexist--with each other, with other creatures, with the world we live in? Or wait until everything crashes around us.


ps I cheated. One of the above pics was taken in July.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

inner-city bees, eggs, gardens

I could have zoomed on the beehive but the graffiti belongs to the environs. Note that 'zoom' in this instance is a photo editing term. Before that, you 'zoomed' with the camera lens. Before cameras, 'zoom' was a sound word, the noise of something moving fast. Once upon a time, it was a sewing term. However did it become a social media app?

I won't say exactly where the hive is situated because the bees like their privacy.

Me, too, I kept my distance. But of course, it's in the Pointe.

R is trying to engage this cool inner-city chicken in chat, but she's not interested. His hair is pandemic long but no match for a red rooster comb. 

The chickens belong to an egg-laying initiative at the Batiment-7 in the Pointe. Also to educate kids--and maybe even some adults--as to where food comes from.

This is one happy, well-fed chicken.

The many people who belong to Montreal's community gardens were not allowed access to their plots until... mid-May, I think. They are now open with sanitary protocols.

I've been able to harvest rhubarb once, tomatoes are in flower, leaf lettuce, arugula, carrots, onions coming along, pole beans trying to climb farther, garlic scapes cut.

The basil seedlings survived marauding insects and one heatwave. So far at least.

The chamomile is posing against the black currants that I'm looking forward to. Black currants aren't readily available in Montreal, even at the market--and expensive when they are. I love black currant jam.

This wealth of growth is set in urban Montreal.

The last picture is called Find the Chicken.

ps Chicken pics were taken about a month ago. (R's hair is longer now.) We stopped to see the birds today but there are only two hens left. One hen and a rooster gone. Apparently two foxes had visited. The open area where the chickens used to roam has now been enclosed with chicken wire. So... there are inner-city foxes too.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

solstice cycle / Montreal / St. Lawrence River

I haven't been cycling in Montreal yet this year because there were too many people on the paths. However, it's been a tradition (if only in my own mind) that we go for a cycle for summer solstice.

I like to go in the early evening when the sun is behind us, and our shadows stretch far ahead. We cycle into them. Or *I* cycle into mine. I don't know what R is thinking. With the steep angle of early evening sunlight, the contrast of white foam against darker water is high. The white looks almost phosphorescent.

However, this year it is very hot. Right now, as I write, it's 33C (91F) at 5 pm. The sun is brilliant. I knew I would be unlikely to get on a bicycle. So we went this morning.

I didn't chase my shadow. The rapids weren't phosphorescent. They're not even very high because the river is low. But I cycled past my favourite view of the St. Lawrence around the island of Montreal.

I had to stop to take a pic of this table. A printed tablecloth, a vase with some branches. So hopeful that someone will come sit and maybe have lunch, even though the sun is high and the grass is scorched. Behind the trees is the river.

Here's me with Kahnaw√°:ke across the river in the background. Last fall I did a walk, organized my friend Matthew Anderson, across land from which the Mohawk had been expropriated. A walk like that isn't much, but it's a way of being aware that this act of violence was done.

And after today, the days begin to get shorter again.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Things that jump over the fence in the night

I don't need a pandemic to stay home and notice the minutiae of daily life because I already spend a good deal of time at home by myself scribbling words.

One small observation is how the people who live across the alley on the second floor have lights strung year-round over their balcony. The lights aren't kept on all night, but they're shining when I get up at 6:30 on a winter morning. Snow, no leaves on the branches, cold brick, looped strings of lit bulbs. It's cheerful, yeah, on a dark winter morning, the sun not up yet.

I have only ever once, a few years ago, seen anyone on the balcony. A girl of about eight years old playing by herself. At the time I wondered if she had a bedroom window that faced the balcony and the parent or parents strung lights so she wouldn't… I don't know… be afraid of the balcony at night. Or maybe so she would see lit smiles through her curtains.

The girl would be a young teen by now. I've never seen her again. Maybe she was only a visitor, sent outside to play while the adults gossiped.

And anyhow, a person doesn't need a kid to do things that might seem childish or needlessly reassuring and cheerful, says me who does not have a child, yet keeps a heart-shaped stone, a magic spool of gold thread, and other tchotchkes on her desk.

The lights aren't as visible through the leaves. I'm not as likely to notice them in the summer, but they're still there.

Yesterday R said that one of the lightbulbs was on the ground by his bike in our yard. That would entail a trip from the balcony, along the ground or through the trees--leaps across branches--over the neighbour's fence, then across the alley and over our fence. Under the fence is possible, too, at strategic points.

An adventurous squirrel or raccoon? To what end? The tiny, inner-city backyard that we think of as ours becomes another place at night

Last week we were gifted a large blue flip-flop.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

writing gesture and body language

Since last winter I've been revising short fiction set in other countries. Increasingly, especially when working on a story set in the 80s or 90s, I wondered if I was writing historical fiction. No ATM machines. Having to wait for news from home by asking at the American Express Office if a letter had arrived. (A letter as in handwritten pages in an envelope with stamps in the corner.) Sitting in the December sunshine in a park because it was warmer than the unheated room we were renting. Being able to travel on $20/day. Not having to stand in line to get into... well, just about anywhere if you travelled off-season.

In these past... how long has it been? Two months? I'm starting to wonder if I'm writing FANTASY fiction. People drove or got on planes to arrive in a place where the climate and customs and language were different? And then they might share a hotel room with a stranger. I don't mean sex. Just, hey, are you looking for a room, so am I. Wanna share? Not to mention racy little details like touching a person to get their attention. Sharing food. Lending a sweater. Tickling a child that isn't yours and blowing a raspberry on her stomach. All that spit! What a world of potentially germ-infested interactions!  

What is going to happen to our whole lexicon of (germ-infested) interpersonal body language and gesture? From now on, is it all going to be about distance, masks, gloves and face shields? How do you do tone of voice through a mask?  

While pondering that...

The tulips are from our very small backyard where I coaxed some tulips to bloom. I would have liked to leave them outside, enjoying the sun and refrigerated temps of the past couple of weeks. But after the squirrels bit a few heads off, I decided it was a nicer end to come indoors and get blowsy in a vase than to be chomped at the neck. Nicer for me at least. 

I have not yet been able to get into our community garden. (Soon, but not yet.) This is what I can see from the street. Purple marks my rhubarb. I have a couple of black currant bushes and can see my winter garlic too.