Fall in the woods, and in town

 City and country are different after all. The woods are full of caribou moss and brown oak leaves somehow soft and inviting. Although winter is surely coming there is a comfort in fall. The earth tones  the greys, creams, browns are kind to our eyes. The forest smells of earth and there is a sense of settling down, of turning away from the teeming life that was the forest in summer. Of course, life will carry on in winter. Plenty of birds, and mammals will adapt and live but plant life will sleep, will die, will live in another way.

The city garden is still green, even  bright. Although many leaves have fallen, those on the trees can be green or pale yellow. One miraculous rose bush has continued to put out pink blooms all through  the rainy autumn. I picked a few for the children’s lunch table and left quite as many on the bush. Although it is Halloween, I liked these better than a pumpkin as a table decoration. Life in the city hangs on to the illusion that it is eternal

Dying Away

The year is dying off, failing, dropping to sleep. No one wants to swim in the waters of the bay any more. To take a canoe out has become an exercise in survival. It is no longer a summer jaunt where the major preoccupation was sweating too much as we navigated the little rise between lakes. Hypothermia, drowning, memories of the fragile lives of pioneers, these are suddenly new concerns. 

We meet some hunters in a little cafe that looks  like something out of Twilight Zone. All but one are dressed in the cheap and hideous camouflage jackets that are the hot feature of Wallmart these days. They tell us the fine for hunting without a license is $600.and  confiscation of your gun and truck. They laugh nervously when I ask if the fine is heavier if the judge is a vegetarian. With that question I blow our cover. 

” We saw you digging oaks out of the bush.” one says. ” Just harvesting like us, eh?” Depends on how you look at it, I guess. I don’t tell them that we only go to do laps around Wallmart. Well, maybe to pick up one, just one lettuce when everything else is closed. 

Safer to drink in the sights, the scents of this turning season. Sleep, decay, death coming.

We transplanted nine oaks into the dark earth, their tawny leaves hanging by a thread. What will we see in Spring, I wonder? 

Sweetening up the world



Here are some friends of mine adding to the beauty and  sweetness of the world. Last weekend I went to see my friends Judith and Dick play Bluegrass music at the Verdun farmers’ markeDxt. It is held in summer beside the beautiful St. Lawrence River. The humidity was gone and it was relaxing to sit and hear the guitar and mandolin accompanying the duo’s harmonies. I love Bluegrass and these two are really talented.

Above are my neighbours, Stephan (yes, without an “e”) and Danny. They are tending their beehive in the yard just down the lane from my house. It is almost time for the bees to go to sleep. I think of their murmuring echoing in the strumming of instruments over the city even when their hive is covered with snow. The golden honey sits in the jars ready to soothe voices and to feed our love of sun and sweetness.

Many people around me are making beauty and it is lovely to notice them.

A roof over my head!


They did it! In one sunny day the roof that has sheltered me was ripped off and replaced. And no, they didn’t find a giant bee colony or termites or rotten wood. All went smoothly and well. Of course, it is traumatizing to hear the hammering, the crunch, the small bits of debris grumbling down the air shaft. Fortunately I had an appointment made months before that forced me out of the house for a couple of hours. Otherwise I think the feeling of insecurity might have done me in.

The afternoon before the big job a charming young lady named Valerie dropped by to set up ” No Parking” signs. The whole block was blocked off for the heavy equipment that came early next morning. I had made the decision to go with white gravel but you still need tar to cover a flat roof in Montreal. White gravel or white membrane is required by law now in the city to reflect the rays of the sun. At last we are waking up! Too little too late? Let’s hope not.

The guys worked from 7 am to 4pm and during the day a crane brought down material ripped off the roof and hauled up hot tar and buckets of gravel to make the new surface. Of course ventilation hoods and flashing around the building were put on too.  Most emblematic for me is the big barrel of hot tar warmed by a flame that roars under the belly of the barrel. A generator chugs along all day feeding the gas flame. For all the modern crane and the environmentally correct colour of my new roof, it is still pitch, tar, goudron….heated by the eternal element of open flame that holds the roof over my head.

Who does this work? Old guys, guys with wild beards, men who have put on hundreds of roofs in the drowning humidity and  heat of Montreal summer. I salute them and thank them as I thank plumbers, garbage collectors and all those who work hard to maintain my ‘ civilized’ life. They deserve a good tip at the end of the day so they can go have a nice cold beer.

Charming Valerie, minus her hard hat and construction boods but armed with a dazzling smile, dropped by a day or so later to relieve me of a hefty cheque and to present me with an impressive guarantee worthy of an ornate frame.

” Are you happy with your roof?”

” Well, I can’t say I’ve been up there to inspect the job but I must trust to your skill and reputation. “”

In this hurricane season I am grateful that I am safe under the new roof. Come on blizzards, do your worst!

Changing and staying the same

 Why is the rosary hanging on the clothes line? To guarantee good weather  on the wedding day of my neighbour’s daughter. This is a very old French Canadian and Italian tradition. It seems the Poles have the same idea as I just found it mentioned on a website for the Wilnus polish community in Ontario.

Yes, people still get married in a white dress in church.  The New York Times had a recent article about how many churches in Quebec have been transformed for use other than worship. A particularly grand church right in my neighborhood is now a theatre. The Montreal church of St. Jude, patron of hopeless cases, is now ,somewhat ironically, transformed into an upscale gym!

What is it that makes us cling to some things and discard others? I wonder

Nature’s plan

Black flies, horse flies, deer flies and mosquitoes

To them I am a tasty treat, like Cheetos or Doritos.

I rub my skin with Insect Off and spray with DDT

But still the pesky insects love to make a meal of me.

My blood type’s O – I must admit. A magnet draws them near

But I’m not pregnant, don’t wear black and never have a beer.

I tend the garden, water plants and drag out pesky weeds

I pray to all the Nature gods – but not one ever heeds

my fervent cries I swat and howl. Why must they bite so much?

But then a pretty bird flies by. He tweets out, “That’s my lunch!”

I get it! I am just a part of Nature’s magic plan.

The bugs eat me and I eat steak that’s fried up in a pan.


PS the top picture is of a snake that we found in the well in the garden.  Poor baby!