For how many hundreds of years did poor Irish survive on potatoes and milk, cheese or butter? That with cups of tea was the staple diet. Of course, the nice cup pictured here is more along the lines of ” lace curtain Irish” as my mother would have put it. A dear friend of mine came by and left me some wonderful new potatoes and I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had a full basket in my pantry. So…today my lunch was boiled potatoes and cheese. I heard generations of Cunninghams express their approval from the misty heaven where they reside enjoying celestial Guiness and legs of lamb.
I really didn’t mean to grow potatoes. I had read that if you stuck a rose cutting into a potato and buried it, a rooted rose plant would result. It didn’t so I pulled out the dry stick and threw it away. I forgot about it. ((don’t mock me)
Weeks later some beautiful plants sprouted in a flower pot in a corner of my garden. When little white flowers appeared I recognized ….potato plants! My granddaughter pulled out the first one, peeled it and, with some ordinary grocery potatoes it was a tiny part of dinner.
If life gives you roses, smell them. If your harvest is potatoes….fry them!
Bright yellow and pink in the city garden.
Blazing sun and dazzling colors.
After days of baking heat, at last welcome rain
and these darker beauties.
Clematis coddled and anticipated
opens like a Japanese sunshade to reveal
a purple that puts the pallid roses to shame.
On cue, a mysterious visitor, his brown and iridescent wings
boldly carry him to a stick that holds some mysterious attraction.
Surrounded by scents and blooms visited by drunken bees
he, severe and austere, remains faithful to his choice.
Catalpa trees in my neighborhood
have burst into bloom.
Each flower an orchid look-alike
In intense heat the flowers fall,
the brief bride-moment
replaced by housewives
sweeping up the glory
and grumbling about confetti.
It’s summer with all the luxurious roses and the brilliant buttercups that enchant a young photographer. Today’s image was made by my granddaughter who has suddenly developed an interest in photography.
It is tremendously hot in Montreal and the good weather has been holding for days. I thoughtlessly planted a lovely rosebush on my mother’s grave about 10 days ago and watering it has been something of a chore. Because of Covid 19 access to the big mountain cemetery has been limited to late afternoon and evening. Only one entrance can be used by cars. I am on foot and that means I have been getting my exercise by walking from the gate at the higher level through the old section with its wonderful trees and monuments and then up a steep incline to the top where my mother’s black headstone sits baking in the merciless sun. Fortunately a dear friend has been giving me a lift from time to time. Besides the inaccessibility of the site, the taps set here and there for relatives to water their plants and shrubs have mainly run out of water. I scout around on lower levels to find a tap that works or when I get a lift bring my own water! We met a widower the other day who promised to water my mother’s precious rose bush. It is already blooming with many pink blossoms. However, I know I will not rest until the heat wave is over and I can trust rain to once again take over my duties.
The groundhogs, you ask? I saw two lovely ones up in the cemetery and then, as if to remind me of my responsibilities the next day – – a fat one in my city garden. He was bustling away under the fence. When he heard me he turned as if to say, “Well, is there a problem here?” and off he went.
Fireflies appeared that evening as I was watering my plants in the blessed darkness. I have a stubborn clematis that does not want to open its magnificent purple blooms, but it too will yield to the heat and length of days. In the meantime the little flashing lights, pulsating with mysterious life in the dense leaves, remind us that other lives, other forces are at work.
Magic bus driver in the Covid screening bus,
you don’t take my ticket through the low slot
of the plastic barrier that cuts the wattage
of your brilliant smile.
You take my medicare card, sanitized, in order.
In return, you, the driver, give me a ticket.
The three magic questions,” Do you have symptoms?, Have you been
in contact ….?” The right answers, any answers grant me admission to the
bus with no seats.
Nurses (later I learn they are not nurses) decked out in Covid regalia on the
hottest day of the year, wait to test me in the bus with no seats.
Four cubicles. A figure in a sanitary burka peers at me.
A Quebec scandal!
“anglais ou francais, Madame?” Through the barrier of our masks and
my diminished hearing, we arrive at the compromise of “franglais”.
a ping-ping of both languages in which we are both fluent.
A long swab down my throat elicits a discrete gag on my part.
Then the nose. “Sit still” I tell myself, “If Trump can do this every morning,
you can do it this once.”
All done and I am released through the back door of the magic bus.
Like a sheep guided through the “it’s for your own good” dip,
out I go into the blazing parking lot of my beloved library.
Why did I test? As we say in Quebec, “Le coeur a ses raisons.”
Magic bus driver, stop giving tickets! Take the wheel.
Let the wheels of your bus grow light, transparent, buoyant,
Slam down the gas pedal and carry us away from
Montreal, plague city, city of wary looks, masks, no touch, death.
The next day an email. Negative. For today.
Clothes blowing on the line for the first time
this enclosed Spring.
Pink t-shirt reaches out arms to clasp close
a child, a friend,
chin on the other’s warm shoulder – a long embrace.
But not today.
Cold wind breezes through the arms, the body
that cannot meet another.
At the track where I walk alone
white emperor clouds lounge in a song-blue sky
not seen since childhood.
The sun behind me throws down shadows of my lengthening hair
sprung up and writhing like fronds of sea anemones
swayed by a fierce tide.
Tonight when the wind is blown away down river
I’ll sleep in faded cool pyjamas and a soft shirt left
by an old lover,
the memory of his breath, wind through the heart-harp strings.
Sap tears of the vine near the clothes line drip
through the Spring night beneath a waning crescent moon.
A project to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostella in Spain this spring has been shelved because of the Corona virus. I had trained all winter because, after all, when granny makes up her mind to walk 800 kms, she had better be in shape. I lost 10 pounds and found I fell into a trance-like state as I walked mile after mile in all weathers. Montreal is blessed with a substantial hill that residents call our “mountain”. Many times I walked up the slopes and steps of the mountain to prepare for the notorious first days of the hike from St. Jean Pied de Port that begin the classic Frances Route.
Restless at home and lothe to completely give up my dream, I took to walking the track in my local park. I made it my goal to walk ten laps a day and to work up to higher numbers. Even under Corona lock down I am allowed to go out for a solitary walk each day. I ran into the problem of counting how many laps I had done. Of course I could just keep track of time and walk for an hour, check my pedometer for distance and head off home for my lunch but today, I hit upon a way of keeping count. I looked for a rhyme for each lap and this is the “head poem” that emerged.
ONE – Just begun.
But something is finished, a dream. What’s begun is resignation, adaptation, appreciation of this little Camino that just goes round and round. The Road is in my imagination.
TWO – Blue
Just like the sky battling to show its beauty through low clouds. The clouds are beautiful too, shifting, grey and shades of white, torn by a north-east wind. Let me glimpse that open sky, just for a moment.
THREE – For me
Alone, in quarantine, striding along with no one to agree that it’s a good idea or object that it’s not. Walking for my body, for my mind.
FOUR – “The door “
Subject of a poem recently published that I will not share for fear of hurting someone, for fear of hurting myself, perhaps. Decision made and firm.
FIVE – The bee hive
My neighbor’s bees coming to visit, coming to swarm around my home forced tulips, to take sustenance from them. Remembering them as they swarm for water in summer in my garden.
SIX – Fix
I can’t fix this. Years of “fixing” all for nothing. Time to endure now.
SEVEN – Heaven and Hell
Where are they? What are they? Who can tell us? Who can know what would be hell for me and heaven for another? Walking to heaven.
EIGHT – Late
Is it too late for me ever to walk the Camino? I should have done it years ago, like so many other things.
NINE – Pine tree
Standing in the wind as I pass the half-way mark around the track. Sure of yourself, watching the walkers, the runners, the dogs, the children. Putting out your cones every year with no thought, no deliberation, no agony
TEN – The pen
Solace, friend, helper, enemy, adversary, rebel, triumph.
And that’s how I kept track of the laps today.
Here are a couple of pictures from around my neighborhood. I took my solitary walk today and noticed in the window of an upper duplex, children’s drawings telling me to take care of myself. I don’t really want to take care of myself. I want someone else to take care of me. Now that is a blatant bit of self-pity. It doesn’t matter. The lonely feeling of wandering around for the sake of “getting some fresh air” or “keeping active” has that effect on me.
There were a few couples walking in that fast purposeful way that tells you they have made up their minds to keep in shape. There were a few mothers out pushing baby carriages, There were a few oldies, like me, warily stepping aside when we passed on the sidewalk. I was surprised at the number of closed businesses, at the neighborhood church with a notice cancelling weekly services but still inviting me in with the big “Church Open” sign. I went in, gingerly grasping the door handle and reminding myself not to touch my face until I had washed my hands at home. I sat in an absolutely silent church. There were two other people there. I sat for a while in a sort of trance and then I walked the few blocks to my home and washed my hands with hot water and soap before I even took off my coat. The streets are quiet. People I expect to call me don’t. People I haven’t heard from for years do. It is very disorienting.
I feel like a spacewoman floating out in the black abyss of the universe. I can hear my mother’s voice when I write that. “Don’t be so fancifull, Isobel.” There is something fantastic, something other-worldly in this, though.