Monday, July 16, 2018

the Gaspésie July 2018


I take lots of pics of water and sky when I'm in the Gaspé (la Gaspésie in French).




But have I shown you what a village looks like? Sure, they're all different, each unique for various reasons, but in general a village features a string of houses dwarfed by the horizon of water out front and land behind. The landscape is grander than human. I find it humbling.

Along our stretch of coastline, the land bulks up close in aged, low mountains called the Chic Chocs.





Between the villages, you see the odd house that might be abandoned. Or someone only stays in them a few weeks a year as we do.










It's less common to see a statue out front as I used to see more frequently when driving through Quebec in the 70s. Note the stove pipe inside the lit window: for a wood stove. Also the metal roof.





When fog sets in, the hills disappear. Or the water does. Or both. If  you're out walking, you might not find your house. Sight and sound are muffled. Not even the birds sing.


My favourite view while walking along the shore in front of our place is of these receding hills. They're the arms of the bays we drive around when we go to the Post Office or to buy fish or milk in villages farther along. The hills aren't always distinct. It depends on the light, the water, how calm the water is, the time of day.


The trees across the road are growing on the side of the slope we take down to the shore.
I was *so* glad we escaped the heat wave that hit Montreal the first week in July. In the Gaspé the lilacs were still blooming. There were a few days I wore jeans instead of shorts (though as much to protect myself from the gigantic Hogweed bordering the path down the slope). Those same evenings were cool enough that we made a fire, though that was also because I like the sound of a fire. Just a little one to take the chill off the room.



The sun was strong and we saw more wildflowers than we ever have before. Fierce blooms that were shorter than their city flowerbed cousins that don't have to withstand the gusting salt wind--and perhaps the more precious for that.




There was work on the house too. A well to fix which required more digging than I'd expected, but the well wasn't where we expected--almost under the back door because, as our neighbour recalled, the back of the house was an addition after the well was dug. So: not under the back door originally.








R had rescued a door from the garbage of a funeral home being gutted near where we live in Montreal. He thought it would make a good bedroom door.

He also painted these walls and the ceiling with primer. I'd gotten used to the drywall plastered with polka dots and stripes.













I set myself up with a standing desk/ironing board in a room that faces the water to work on this ongoing novel. The photo is dark because I tried to get the camera to focus on the view.

For the moment these walls and the gables still have their polka dots and stripes.








We ate locally grown potatoes, fresh fish, a baguette from the excellent bakery in Kamouraska where we always stop on the drive out, Quebec strawberries, frîtes maison at a beach hut in Mont Louis. The chandelier candle holders were already in the house when we got it.






We had some glorious sunsets (though the sun sets every day, no matter how it sets), stars if we were willing to dare the black flies and mosquitoes, no Northern Lights at this time of year but a thunderstorm in the night that shook the house. The sky was clear again in the morning.

Here's channel R thought we might walk across so we wouldn't have to go all the way back along the beach and down the road to get from point A to point B which was right there on the other side. We didn't that day but on another day, when it was low tide, we did. Water up to my knees, strong current, and water so cold that my feet were numb.






Can you see? I'm wearing a sequined skirt. Nah, I didn't bring it to go hiking. We'd stopped in Sainte Anne des Monts to buy pretzels and I saw it in a little dress shop on sale for $14. Always wanted a sequined skirt--and yes, you can hike in it.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

no excuses, I was playing with my new camera

My afternoon started in a hospital waiting room. I did not have to wear a gown. I only needed a blood test. I was pleased to see that of the five people, four were reading. I was experimenting with how far away I could be and still get a pic with some detail without anyone noticing that I was taking a pic. Yes, yes, I invade privacy but I'm a writer so I already shamelessly eavesdrop on conversations--not public cell phone gab but the quiet beginnings of tension at the next restaurant table.


Blood test over, I had a meandering walk and saw children with a great sense of purpose.



Parents with their kids too. Was it the last day of school? (No, Alice, already almost suppertime. School was over.)













I ended up in my garden where I picked some lettuce.




I don't mind the holes in the leaves. I wash the lettuce before I eat it. If the bugs find it so tasty, I usually do too.



















As always, I'm impressed by my Bangladeshi neighbour's two-tiered utilization of space and hope to get organized to do that myself one year. In a month's time, she'll have squash growing up the sides of the trellis and hanging from the top with greens in the shade underneath.






This is *my* Montreal: lots of room for different people and cultures, parents and kids.

urban heron / cycling Montreal


If a heron is anywhere near Montreal, I suppose it can be called an urban heron.

And yes, I mean a heron, not a heroine or a hero. Heron = large bird, long beak to scoop fish swimming by, long neck to swallow fish, known for standing in the water on one leg to mimic a tree trunk or branch to fool the fish.

If you walk or cycle by the river at a certain time of day you can often see a couple of them standing near or on a rock pretending to be the statue of a tree. Or flying by. A Great Blue Heron has a wingspan of six feet or almost two metres. Hard to miss, though I saw a mom who wouldn't take her eyes off her phone though her kid was insisting there was a super-grand oiseau in the air!






On the weekend we cycled along the river and into Lachine for an iced coffee. Last year I saw this heron on a deck behind a house, basking in the peachy rays of the sun that was low in the sky. This year there he was again, though the sky was overcast.




That was his hangout. At ease, grooming himself in plain view of cyclists and pedestrians passing by.


Poor quality pics because I was using my phone BUT have just gifted myself a new camera that I'm going to have lots of fun using. Yup, still a snap and go--nothing fancy for me--but seems to be good one. Still trying to figure out the buttons.


ps The white debris floating in the canal is cottonwood fluff that drifts along the sidewalks like snow and gets up your nose, reminding us that cities can proliferate but won't have the last word. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

finally... cycling!


Given the late spring, a hospital stay, a bruised leg, feeling achy with shingles and generally wary of anything that might turn into an accident, I only yesterday went for my first bike ride this year. We cycled by the river at suppertime when the bike path tends to empty as people get hungry and go home. I prefer the slant of early evening light. We got home in time to have a bbq and wine in our tiny backyard where a rogue rosebush is blooming. Rogue because I don't do anything to it and am surprised that it continues to make buds and flower every year.
(Pics erratic because my camera is kaput, my phone is cheap, and as always I tilt. It's also possible that our backyard and our old house are crooked.)



Monday, June 11, 2018

How you get shingles

He was sitting on a bench talking about the different personalities of his bird companions. You don't want to mess with the larger, colourful ones. They're bosses. They expect respect and they'll bite when they don't get it. But the smaller white ones are biddable and crave affection. They combed his beard and drank from his mouth. Does that obedience and love for him make them less likely to be respected than the more independent birds?

He talked yin/yang and life balance.

Saturday evening in Magog, rock music blasting from a bar, laughter and clanking of dishes because all the restaurant windows were open on a fine June evening, and I was listening to Bird Man talk about life balance.


My life balance these past two weeks has been dealing with getting over the mess following sciatic pain down my left side and bingo! sprouting shingles on my right side. Lower body, upper body, left side, right side--not sure how to sit or what position to sleep in that wasn't going to hurt. Since I guessed I might have shingles as soon as I felt tingling and discovered a rash, I saw a doctor and started anti-viral medication promptly. I think I'm past the worst of it. I still get the occasional chills and I have an ugly rash, but I can't say it was painful--certainly not a scratch on sciatica.

Here's Lac Memphrémagog where we went last weekend for us both to relax. I love the view of the receding hills into Vermont. R had a long bike ride. He and I had a more meandering kind of walk together.


What's been interesting about the shingles has been people's reactions--not helped, I must admit, by my own ignorance. The doctor told me that I was not contagious until the rash made blisters, and even then *only* contagious if someone had direct contact with the oozing. That would mean that a person would have to reach under my shirt to touch my rash, once I had oozing blisters. Because I didn't want anyone who I was going to see to feel I put them at unnecessary risk, I told them I had shingles--assuming that they would also understand how absurd it was that they would be touching me under my shirt.

However, the word shingles was enough to keep them at bay--which makes me wonder what happens when even weightier words are used.


When I saw the doctor, what he didn't specify--I guess he thought I knew--was that even if someone were to touch the oozing blisters, THEY COULD NOT GET SHINGLES FROM ME. That's not how you get them!

If you have had chicken pox, you have the shingles virus in you ALREADY--and *you* can get shingles at any time if your immune system is weaker. That's right, you. Nothing to do with me. 

You cannot get shingles from someone else, even if you touch their oozing blisters.


What you can get, if you've never had it, is chicken pox. That's all. And again (have I said this often enough?), assuming you reached under my shirt and touched my oozing blisters. 

Thank you to the friend who did some research and sent me this link.
https://www.healthline.com/health/shingles-contagious#how-it-spreads

Since I don't want to give chicken pox to anyone who hasn't already had it, I am keeping my torso well covered so as not to tempt anyone to fondle my alligator-skin rash which, I'm sorry to disappoint any oozing-pustule fetishists, is already fading. 


Sunday, June 3, 2018

daily grain of sand

Our neighbour's fence blew down in a spring wind storm and during the time it will take him to get around to building another (months? a year? two years? he's an absentee Pointe landlord and no one uses the backyard), our tiny yard gets more sunlight than usual.


This is the first year my iris are resplendent with blooms, so it's the first time I discover that no matter how ponderously about-to-burst the buds are during the bright light of day, they open at night. It's a small and insignificant discovery in a world of horrors, but there is it. My daily grain of sand. It helps keep me sane(ish).

Yesterday's was noticing how the modest chandelier in the room where I do my prescribed anti-sciatica exercises cast a magnificently structured shadow on the ceiling. I lay on the floor, lifting my legs, tipping my toes, rubbing circles at the back of my knees, noticing the elongated twists of the shadow.

finding garbage / bringing it home

Our for a walk today. That's right, I'm walking again. First time I've been to the river since the leaves came out.


Along the way we saw some interesting garbage.


We brought the spinning wheel home. I think it's missing a few pieces but I don't expect to learn how to use it. It will make for an interesting end table.