Thursday, June 20, 2013

when you're an anglo cycling in quebec

When you're an Anglo cycling in Quebec and someone comes up behind you and says, Gauche, that's not necessarily a comment on your cycling style. It means Left, as in I'm coming up on your left.
I've lived here long enough that I know this, but while one part of my brain understands Left, another part wonders if my elbows are sticking out or I'm cycling knock-kneed or sliding off my seat.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

too old but thirsty

We stop in a small village off the #40 between Quebec City and Trois Rivières so I can buy myself a drink. Small village, small corner store. Potato chips in an array of powdered flavours and a wall of refrigerators stocked with beer. There's only one small cooler near the cash with power drinks and soft drinks. And okay, there's apple juice, but I don't like apple juice.
I pick what I think will be the best of the worst.
The young woman at the cash has magenta hair she's painstakingly tousled and gunked into place. She squints at the can I've set on the counter. Only kids buy that, she says. Seulement des jeunes qui achètent  ça.
We both keep looking at the can. She makes no move to ring up the purchase. Is she not going to let me buy it because I'm too old? Should I tell her I've got a kid in the car?
I pull a $5 bill from my old-lady snap change purse and hand it to her so she has to make change.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

six days by the sea / two days in toronto

Six days might not seem long but time stretches, undulates and breathes by the sea.
By the sea you have time to stroll on the beach, wondering what word would best describe the sound of high tide coming in. You have time to let your eye trace the coastline and hills that recede in a pale mist.
It’s June so the evening is long; the sun hangs suspended. It’s nice to dine by candlelight, but nicer to dine with a view on the sea that ripples apricot-rose, reflecting a gala sunset.
You have so much time you carry a chair and two books, pretzels and beer through the dandelions down the cliff to the beach, though you might only read two pages before having a snooze.

You have time to listen to the waves. Tell each other about interesting or funny passages you’re reading. A character in R’s novel observes about another on whom good fortune always smiles: C’est pas difficile quand tu es née le cul dans le beurre. It’s not hard when you’re born with your ass in butter. I guess that’s the French variation of being born with a silver spoon in the mouth.

You have time to gather wood for a fire at dusk.

It's low tide and you see the stones that earlier in the day were covered by water. You can walk out across them as far as you can, white barnacles the size of pips crunching underfoot.
I always wonder why the stones lie in these crescent formations—like an amphitheatre facing the hills to the east. When I’m here, I always plan to return to the city and enroll in a geology course. Or maybe meteorology. How to explain the vicissitudes of weather in a single day on the coast??? When I’m here, there’s time for curiosity to roam.

And pick up beach glass. Though in my case that might be an addiction, not a luxury. My pockets bulge. I have finally stopped picking up green glass, because there’s way too much of it. I imagine a population of Heineken drinkers tossing bottles into the sea. Except that if beer drinkers are the culprits, why isn’t there more brown glass? This is Quebec. There must be more drinkers of St. Ambroise, Belle Gueule, Molson Canadian, Labatts Blue. Why do only Heineken drinkers litter bottles?

I had a brief whale sighting the first day I was here, and then while we were talking to our neighbour, she yelled that she saw one. I spun around but it was already gone. Still, you watch the water. Every pod of stones might be whales.

Should I mention that there was a dead starling in the wood stove? It must have come down the flue, and having braved the hole once to see where it led—and with what terror as the tunnel continued and continued and it couldn’t turn around—and didn’t dare enter the flue again, though that was the only way to get out.

It’s a new experience for me—newly retired from my clerical job—not to hoard every moment away from my job for writing. Since I can now write any day of the week, every week of the month if I want, I can take time off to do nothing. I can… relax? I’m still getting used to the feeling. Being by the sea helps. We have no internet, no phone, no sound from the outside world except for a 1970s transistor radio that only picks up one station that we only listen to at supper if we like the music that’s playing.

The beach along this section of coastline is shale and rocky. Lots of opportunity for clambering, which satisfies my inner mountain goat (Alpie genes) and love of waves.

There’s time to paint the veranda.

Time to finish reading at least one of those two books.

A few days before coming to the Gaspé, I took the megabus to Toronto. There’s a megabus every hour. If you book a few weeks in advance, round-trip costs $25 which is hard to beat. Mind you, it’s not the most comfortable ride. The seats are narrow and there’s no footrest, which for a short person like myself means that only my toes touch the floor—unsound ergonomics and hell on the back—but the trip is cheap and more efficiently handled than the train with its inexplicable stops among the fields because “there are leaves on the track.”
I stayed in Toronto for less than 48 hrs—an exercise on stretching time to hold the max. Charmaine Cadeau was going to be reading from her new book of poetry, Placeholders, which Salty Ink has hailed as one of the best Spring 2013 poetry picks.

It was a short but jam-packed visit with friends who took me
-for a hike through the ravine north of St. Clair after a supper of grilled salmon and asparagus
-to the upstairs café in the AGO where we talked to the background of a lovely choral recording
-a stroll through Tom Thomson land
-along Queen St. W past the restaurant where I used to work as a pastry chef then past the restaurant where I worked as a part-time bartender
(question: do grad students in Toronto still have to take extracurricular jobs to be able to pay for tuition, rent and food, not to mention incidentals like books, transit fare and clothes?)
-time to stop at and
-rendezvous at the Cherry Bomb on Roncy
-coffee in hand, a stroll along the lakefront
-up to the day-care to fetch the formidable Henry
-stroller to High Park subway
-streetcar back along Dundas with coincidental sighting of friends cycling—agog with cries and exclamations because what are the chances in a city the size of Toronto?
-Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant
-the Pivot reading series
-tea and a snack at midnight

I had a great time. Here’s where I slept, up against books.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

spider skeletons

I got startled the other day when I was kicking off the clogs I wear to go to the cellar and saw this white spider. I watched it for a while, but it didn't move. Spiders can hang motionless in their webs for a long time.
I asked R who said there were lots of them hanging all over the cellar. Clearly, I don't go down there any more than I have to. To get a hammer or machine oil. A bottle of wine. It's a dirt cellar 110 yrs old. It's damp. There are centipedes. Centipedes make me shriek. I can go into the cellar. I just prefer not to.
R said the spiders were dead. But if that's what happens to spiders when they die, why haven't I seen any like this before? Do spiders only die in cellars?
When we moved into this house, one of the downstairs rooms had crayon drawings on the wall of balloons with strings trailing from the bottom. I realized the balloons were supposed to be spiders. How many spiders do there have to be in a house for a child to start drawing them on the wall?

I tried to look up what this white spider was. The best answer, I think, is that it's a spider exoskeleton. Spiders' skeletons are on the outside of their bodies. Several people opined that when spiders die their skeletons turn white as they lose blood flow. Another explanation is that spiders molt when they get too big for their skeletons--like bursting out of a straight jacket and too tight leggings all at once.
I believe it's a skeleton because it looks like one. I don't know how it got like that. It's definitely lifeless. Three days later and it hasn't budged. No way am I touching it.