Wednesday, September 27, 2017

looking at the body / writing

This happened yesterday. We're still having a heatwave in Montreal and though I normally go for my long walk in the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk before the sun got into its Albert Camus mood and the air was still cool. Cool as in: tank top and shorts and not melting with sweat. (Yes, yes, I had a high school English teacher tell me that horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow. She must have been made of plastic. I am female and I sweat.)

While sitting in a cafĂ© reading a novel, I stopped to consider this line: "People look more like who they really are from the back." 

A choreographer recently helped me with some pages I wrote, and she pointed out that I mostly describe my characters from the front--which doesn't work in dance. She prompted me to be more aware of a 360 degree perception.

So this line especially caught my attention. I wondered how true it was and on my walk home, started snapping pics.

This man is carrying his cane along with his groceries. Made me wonder why he had a cane if he could walk so well without it. Although that was something best seen from the front, so this isn't a case where the back view reveals more.

What can be seen? Some lifestyle choices. How a person dresses. Whether she walks or rides a bike. Carries groceries in a knapsack. A physio therapist probably has a more well-trained eye to spot people's habits, good and bad, from their posture than I can. There are cultural identifiers. There's anxiety, there's determination to get somewhere, there's confidence, there's indolence, there's simply having to get from one place to another.

There's no reason for this woman to look so impatient and tight-kneed. She's already being served. In fact, why hasn't she reached into her purse to get out her wallet since she's going to have to pay any instant?

I stood behind this woman for a very long time because the pharmacist was explaining in minute detail how she was supposed to administer the medication for her child. She didn't once move or shift as she listened, though it looked to me like one foot was about to slip off her shoe. This last observation is more a reflection on myself than her. I would fall. She didn't. She finally asked the pharmacist if all that he was telling her was on the piece of paper in the bag. Yes. Well, then, she said. Her tone was as patient with him as he'd been with her.

It occurred to me--being the kind of writer I am, interested in "story"--that I could imagine more when I see two people rather than a solitary person. Immediately there's dynamic.

This couple, for example. Quite apart from their age, I would still guess that they've been together for a couple of decades at least. They're comfortable together. Maybe even take each others' presence for granted? I'm looking at his hands. She might seem to be the in-charge person since she's doing the carrying. Though you never know. She might pass him the knapsack once it's loaded up. Real-life people--and fictional characters--can surprise you with their inconsistencies.

This is the back shot I like best. Her solitary quietness and elegance. The bicycle. This is a story I could write. I like to "place" my characters.

In some cases, I only saw the person from the back. There were times, too, when I turned around to take a pic. I'd already seen the person from the front. And... yeah, I perceived more from the front view. I wouldn't agree the line in the novel.

It's still a good pointer to pay more attention to what we can read from behind.

Monday, September 25, 2017

a long summer in Montreal / no complaints

You go away for vacation in the summer. I don't have kids. I'm not tied to a school schedule. My favourite season to travel is the fall.

During the summer I stay home and work. I don't have a/c but the dirt cellar keeps the downstairs cool. Just don't shriek when the occasional centipede ventures upstairs. They eat spiders which is good. Leave the centipedes alone. Not that they even react when you shriek.

I like being in the city in the summer, wearing a floaty dress and sandals, getting lettuce from the garden, cycling followed by bbq and wine.

This summer I finished a long and intensive bout of work. I spent so much time at the computer that I gave myself... ahem... De Quervain's Tenosyvitis from banging the space bar so hard with my thumb. Very painful. From the thumb through the wrist up the forearm. I'm still trying to teach myself not to bang like that and wondering why I ever started. Why so aggressive about making spaces?

I'm not ready to get back to blogging yet but I will. I need some time to myself for all the other things that have piled up and gotten dusty and neglected.

In the meantime, while out walking, I saw a couple of sights that actually made me pull out my phone. 

This past weekend was very hot, so we cycled across the St. Lawrence via the old ice bridge aka l'Estacade. Here, I'm facing Montreal across the river.

On the other side of the ice bridge, if you turn west, you're on a spit of land called la Petite Voie du Fleuve. The St. Lawrence River is on one side, the St. Lawrence Seaway on the other. When there aren't too many trees, you can see water on both sides. I took a panoramic shot to give you an idea--and ha! A cyclist dashed by. Neat what the camera did to him, no?

And here I'm heading home again. And yes, I know one isn't supposed to take pics into the sun.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

eating and books in Stratford / Appetite for Words festival

It looks as if, since I had the exciting news that a chef in Stratford, Ontario has designed a menu "inspired" by my novel, Five Roses, all I can write about is food.

What can I say? They asked.

Here's the example I sent. Their photographer--and clearly amazing kitchen store--did a better job.

It's also harvest season.Time to hope the beets and carrots will grow just a little bit more before winter. Wishing the tomatoes on the vines will still ripen. Will there be green beans for another meal? Will I still get rhubarb?

Thursday, September 7, 2017


This made 5 large freezer bags of sauce.

I've got another batch cooking and I still have more than half the box to go.

Tomatoes bought in the wintertime--in Canada--are so hard and dry and juiceless. I told R a few days ago that if I had Italian plum tomatoes from the market, I'd make sauce. He told his good friend who works near the Jean-Talon Market. His good friend is known for kindness and generosity. As he said when he came, What's the point in buying a basket of tomatoes when you can buy a crate?

The tomatoes smell so fresh and... fruity! The knife slides like into peaches. I chop until I almost nick myself and I stop because I don't want to mix blood with tomato juice. (I'm on a blood thinner. Believe me, I bleed.)

Tomato sauce bubbles. I work near the kitchen so I remember to stir it now and again. I have deadlines. Work I need to finish. Work I need to start. But: it's tomato season and I am grateful for fresh, locally-grown produce and good friends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Five Roses the novel

There's no telling when you write a book what might happen. I thought I wrote a novel about surviving insurmountable loss. I thought I was exploring the historic Montreal neighbourhood of Pointe St. Charles where I've been living since 2001.

In the book I wanted to include cycling by the St. Lawrence River, writing about pastries and pastry-making, living in a cabin without running water or electricity, weaving on a loom, Trini cooking, abandoned factories along the Lachine Canal...

I didn't think a chef would concoct a meal after reading my book!

Pointe paintings by R. I use words not a paint brush.