Wednesday, December 30, 2020

walking / halloween to winter solstice / montreal / tiohtià:ke

I walk most days. It's a slow way of seeing the world--and my world, like most everyone's world these past many months is circumscribed. Yet still so much to see. 
 From where I live in the southwest or sud-ouest of Montreal, I can walk along the St. Lawrence River--or even cross it. I can follow the Lachine Canal past the standing wreckage of factories, past the new condo projects. I can walk through St-Henri with a nod to Gabrielle Roy. There are still houses left that she would have seen. I can walk to Westmount, to NDG, or over the "mountain". (No one with family in Austria can see Montreal's little hill as "a mountain". It's what? 233 metres. I just looked it up. The very minor peak behind the house where my father grew up is ten times that height.) I can head over to Old Montreal or uptown, though I haven't done the latter very often these past months. (Once, when I decided that fleece-lined leotards *were* an imperative, essential item, and so I hiked up to Simons and bought three pair.) 

This bridge, called Pont Samuel de Champlain, is a cable-stayed bridge, opened in 2019 to replace an older bridge. Two summers ago, when we cycled to the south shore, I took a pic from underneath both bridges. The old one wasn't dismantled yet and the new bridge had just opened. Or maybe it hadn't yet.  
The new bridge is 3.4 k long and has 8 lanes. It's not yellow. That's late afternoon sunlight. You can see it like this from the eastern edge of Nuns' Island or Île des Soeurs. 

We knew a monk who called nuns "women religious". Not religious women, women religious. Is the word "nun" perjorative? Hm. Maybe he wanted to be known as a "man religious". 

I don't take many pics of dogs because their people are so possessive. Why do you want to take a picture? What are you going to do with it? 

The dogs don't mind. Look how proudly she sits, giving me her best profile. 

Cats are much easier. They don't give a damn. If they do, they give me their backs or they walk away. 

I have only ever seen this underpass, next to the Lachine Canal, in shadow. This year I happened to be walking here a couple of days before winter solstice at 3:30 pm. The sun was low in the sky, about to set. At that hour, at the solstice, the underpass gets sunshine. I would like to think--though I highly doubt it--that it was planned. Is it possible that a city engineer hailed from Newgrange and/or had a sense of humour? 

Along the top of the underpass are the railroad tracks heading to and returning from Ontario, Kingston, Toronto, Hamilton, Stratford... places where I hope to go again some day soon. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Christmas without children

Someone, whom I don't know very well, expresses surprise when I tell her we have a Christmas tree. 

You put up a tree? 

Why wouldn't we?

You don't have kids. 

Ah. That small and comparatively harmless opinion about people who don't have children. We don't--we can't--really have Christmas. What's Christmas without kids? How often have I heard that?

I say "small and comparatively harmless", because it's not on the same scale as ignorance about ethnicities, religious beliefs, class privilege, gender identity. 

But for people, who cannot have children for various biological reasons and who want them badly, comments like this hurt.

Back to our Christmas tree. I have some ornaments from my childhood, now rusted around the edges, that I hang on the tree. My real-life retro trinkets. Somewhere I have a photo of myself as a kid next to a tree with those same shiny balls.  

Holidays are for anyone who wants to celebrate them, no? If I want to make latkes at Chanukah, can't I? Light candles for Diwali? Be happy about Chinese New Year? 

More than the ornaments on our little tree, I want the coloured lights. The days are short and grey, especially this year with spending so much time at home. Coloured lights are a trick, no more than a few strands of brightness, but they cheer me up.  


Sunday, December 13, 2020

post-industrial dreams / art/ play

A character in my novel Five Roses squats in one of the towers of an abandoned industrial complex along the Lachine Canal in Montreal. 

I don't identify the building in the novel, nor is the architectural layout exactly alike, but in my mind I thought of Canada Malting. Among the derelict edifices along the canal--many of them still there in the years when I was writing the novel--Canada Malting was the only one with towers and silos as high as I imagined my characters climbing. 

Important in the novel is the watchman's cabin, which reminds Rose of her cabin in the woods (and reminds me of the cabin my father built, where our family used to spend weekends and summers).  

I was delighted to notice a year ago that the watchman's cabin on Canada Malting (still abandoned) was refurbished with a coat of pink paint and windowboxes. This year, for Xmas, an intrepid group of artists have painted the shed behind the cabin red and erected a Christmas tree they decorated. This has even made the news. (Something other than Covid-19!) The article is in French but have a look at the closeup photos and drone footage of the pink and red cabins and tree. The gift box is addressed to St-Henri, the neighbourhood below Canada Malting.

As a footnote: take pictures when doing research. It's good to have them!