On the very last days of 2022 R and I travelled to Winnipeg to visit our friends whose boys we've known since they were babies. All but the youngest is taller than I am now.
The weather was mild, considering that we were in Winnipeg in the winter. Only about -8C. For a few days there was no wind and the hoarfrost was impressive.
We walked for long afternoons and into the dusk, often on the Assiniboine River, once on the Red, also on smaller rivers where one of our young friends who's enamoured of ice fishing set up his equipment that now includes a sonic device he built himself. I have to admit I wasn't paying as much attention to his enthusiastic explanation of its workings as to moon that was visible at 2:30 pm.
I lay in the snow a lot because it makes a firm mattress that moulds to the body, and cold through my coat feels delicious when I'm overheated from trudging along for a couple of hours.
To return to Montreal, R and I took the train. I wasn't sure whether I would like a 38-hr trip, but R convinced me with his sketches from a previous trip. I wanted to see winter in Northern Ontario.
The train was LONG. Three locomotives to pull it. The conductor sometimes let us get off at stops or when we had to wait for freight trains to pass. There were also lots of stops for the smokers. I jumped around a bit, stretched my back and legs.
The smokers complained when the train stopped and they weren't allowed to get off--but the woman who was accompanied by her psychiatric service dog could. They understood that the dog needed to pee, but boy oh boy, they'd better not look out the window and see her smoking!
I sat and wrote here because it was quiet and the endless trees were good companions. Between somewhere and somewhere a man parked himself at a table and tried to chat up the young woman who worked at the snack bar. He told her about his job and she told him that someone had broken into her apartment and that her mom was in the hospital. Then it was his stop and he disappeared into the night.
There was a woman who engaged everyone who walked past, including the conductor. I never saw her leave her seat, although she was already installed in a nest of blankets when we got on in Winnipeg and she was going all the way to Toronto. A couple of hours before Toronto, she did a full makeup procedure with a hand mirror. She was obsessed with cost. When someone said they had an apartment in Red Deer, Alberta, she wanted to know how much they paid for rent--and were utilities included or extra? She asked people what they did and how much they were paid. She asked how much a coat cost. When the person sitting across from her returned with a sandwich from the snackbar, she wanted to know how much it cost. She had a long phone conversation in Spanish about the cost of a house in Nicaragua. I avoided looking at her and she didn't ask me anything.
A man got on in the evening and was calling family farther south to tell them that yup, yup, yup, he was on his way. He kept the phone on speaker so I heard that people were disappointed that he wasn't underway sooner. I gathered someone was very ill. They told him he should have taken the bus (which runs more frequently than the train). At one point he misdialed a number, heard the person's voice who answered and tried to say it was a wrong number and hang up. The person said, Jim, is that you? Are you okay? Have you quit yet? Jim said he'd been trying and he was grateful for all the help the friend had given him, but with all his might he couldn't manage. He'd tried, oh he'd tried, but the plain fact was he liked smoking.