Sunday, January 31, 2016

women in history / art postcards / writing /

In the days before digital plenitude, museums and art galleries used to have postcards of the works on display--not just the big names but lesser ones too. I still have envelopes stuffed with postcards from trips I took in the 80s and 90s. They're great mementos in a way that googling paintings isn't--partly because I'm not as likely to google something that I saw 22 years ago, whereas I do look at the postcards now and then.

At one point I started collecting postcards of paintings of women. I thought I might write a book of short stories--each story about the woman in the painting. Botticelli, Vermeer, Bonnard, Kandinsky... Right. All these women from past centuries were depicted by men. In order to do so with such expression and detail, I would like to think the men had to see past the skin. But did they? Who knows.

I still want to write those stories. It won't be easy to do research, because historical details about domestic life--women's lives--weren't considered important enough to be documented. Women and women's concerns were invisible. What can I deduce from posture, cuffs, and collars? A woman peeling an apple for a child. Another reading a book. Is what I see enough to build a life?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

buying cheese with a stranger

I went to the grocery store to buy cheese. I remember when this store started out as a small family-run business, and at New Year's, if you were a regular, one of the brothers offered you a shot of Metaxa. The store is much larger now, and I haven't seen the brothers for years, though I still remember their names. Sam and Tasso.
But that's another story. This is about the man who wanted to tell me what cheese to buy.
I already knew what cheese I wanted and was waiting for the man standing in front of it at the display counter to move along. I finally leaned in front of him to reach for the cheese when he said, You shouldn't buy that. The one from Switzerland is better.
I said, I like the Canadian cheese.
He winced--sadly. The taste isn't...
I know, I said. I don't like cheese that's stinky. That's why I prefer the Canadian cheese. It has the same taste, but it's not as strong.
Then it can't taste the same.
Moot point.
We'd started out talking French but he'd switched to English when he decided that he spoke better English than I did French. It's something people who've lived in Montreal for a few years do. It's not always a conscious decision. Nor is the person who decides to take the lead always the better speaker. I can be stubborn too, preferring to continue in French. But this man's English was very good, and just then my head wasn't up to the grammar and syntax of j'aurais voulu vous dire--or wherever this conversation was going.
The Canadian cheese isn't as hard, he said.
I'm okay with how hard it is.
Now and then another shopper stretched to scoop a package of cheese from between us. We should probably have moved aside, but we didn't. We were talking. 
The Swiss cheese is better, he said now. Simply better.
Better how, I asked? Ethically better?
It tastes better.
But it comes from farther away. It's got a bigger carbon footprint.
He thought, then said, Not if your cheese is made in Vancouver.
Standing there in the cheese aisle, I couldn't check the distance--Montreal to Vancouver versus Montreal to some milky Alpine valley in Switzerland. I said, I don't think they make cheese in Vancouver.
He shrugged. Maybe not.
Though I didn't prefer the Canadian over the Swiss cheese because of its footprint.
Is it because the Swiss cheese costs more? he asked.
No, I said. Though $$$ might have been a factor.
He picked up the Swiss version and held it next to my cheese. Look! The Canadian cheese has more holes!
But I only pay for the cheese, not the holes.
Okay, he sighed. You know what you want.
I do, I said.
But it was nice talking to you. You have a good day.
Yeah, you too.
That was the first time we really looked at each other. All the while we were talking, we'd been gesturing at the cheese on display, the cheese in my hand. He had a tweed cap and a jowly, yet clean-shaven face. Maybe 70? When he looked at me, he must have seen a woman younger than he was, but no longer young, in a puffy winter coat.
We smiled and said goodbye, me with my Canadian cheese in hand.

Monday, January 11, 2016

biodegradable urn

Today I was given a bag containing a water soluble plastic bag with instructions to let cremated remains cool before placing them into the bag. Once in the bag--

But as I'm reading the instructions, I'm wondering what would happen if someone accidentally splashed water on the water soluble bag. How quickly does the bag dissolve? Would there be ashes--the cooled, cremated remains--all over the table or the floor? Or whoever was holding the water soluble bag before it solubled?

The bag is put inside a sand and gelatin urn, which the instructions claim is suitable for water burial. The urn will float "briefly", taking on water, and sink...

How long is briefly? Time to play a sonata if someone brought her cello out on the boat? I'm fond of cello solos.  Bach, if anyone is taking requests.

The urns will biodegrade completely within 3 days. However, the time the urn takes to sink varies depending on the weight of the remains. This is one time when it's not good to be slim and fashionable. Unless, of course, there's a mango and cranberry sunset. If there's any consciousness left in the remains, she/he/it might appreciate floating on the water to bask for a while. Sinking is all that's left to do for the rest of eternity, so who's in a rush?

The biodegradable urn can also be buried, though caution must be taken not to drip water onto the urn or it will begin to dissolve. Buried, the urn will break down within 3 months, depending on soil conditions.

I'll put the bag with the water soluble bag and instructions on a bookshelf. You have my permission to use it for my remains when the time comes. Only be careful with water. You'll have to get an urn too. I was only given the bag.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

january, 2016

Winter finally came to Montreal. I'm looking out my back door in the Pointe, an older neighbourhood of brick row houses and narrow backyards. Those are our garden chairs. That's clematis along the fence. It's still morning here. I didn't venture farther out.

I missed seeing snow. People complain about the shorter days and lack of sunlight during these winter months, but I find snow helps--reflecting what light we do get back at us, making the day luminescent. Hm,.. I'll try to remember that when I'm cursing while trudging along the not-yet-cleaned side walks.