Tuesday, July 24, 2018

on the subway / being seen

What do strangers see when they glance at me--you know, that first unthinking, social antennae assessment. I don't mean my FB profile pic of rhubarb which has finally stopped the friend requests from widowed US military personnel who obviously don't like rhubarb. And ha! if they thought my face suggested I would make a good step-mom for their adolescent kids, boy, are they wrong.

No, I mean when I get on the subway and someone offers me their seat. I appreciate that people do it, not because I need to sit at this point in time--there were times when I did--but because it's a healthy indicator of civic attitude when people are aware that someone might need a seat. I smile and sit so the person doesn't feel their gesture has been snubbed. I don't want them to stop. 

But what do they see in a swift glance that makes them offer me a seat? I walk a lot so my legs are good. I've usually got a knapsack because I do errands when I'm out walking. I'm not completely grey yet, not that hair is an indicator of anything. I know people whose hair turned grey/white in their late 20s. What about me looks frail, infirm, fragile?

Up until my mid-40s people who didn't know me as Alice addressed me as Mademoiselle, ie here in Montreal. I didn't object but I thought it was silly. Did people think they were flattering me by pretending I was younger than I was? 

Until people started calling me Madame. Here, there, and finally everywhere. I was now a mature woman.

Made sense to me but I did sorta wonder what the indicators were. Do people have instant x-ray vision for crinkly corners at the eyes and encroaching turkey skin? (Is that why so many women drape scarves around their necks as soon as they turn 30? They'll take them off damn fast once menopause hits.)

And now strangers have once again reached a consensus: when I get on the subway, I should be offered a seat.

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 a 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.