I’m in charge here

Preparing for sunset at 3:45

The sun is brilliant but determined to leave the party early. In the big city park, deserted on Monday afternoon the sun sits bright and brilliant as he prepares to leave. Having discovered the thrill of feeding wild birds by hand I dropped by a couple of likely spots. The boys were a little quarrelsome today, chasing each other off.


I had a little competition too as there are some brilliant red sumac berries available to birds. They have a velvety texture that I love. It was quite cold and I suppose some of the normally cheeky chic a dees were already hunkered down for the evening.

The clouds were lovely, dark above and lit by the sulky sun from below. By the time I turned and went home they were pink and yellow. In summer it can be very hot at the end of the afternoon but that is now a faint memory. It will be a lot colder tomorrow and the little birds will have to stick to red berries. My bare hands just can’t take low temperatures and wind. I’ll be back on Wednesday. The sun may be in charge but the wind gives him a run for his money.

Winter clouds

A tiny joy

Snowy afternoon in the park

These two friends were standing in the picture- book snow, their hands outstretched , birdseed on their palms, waiting for tiny finches to come down and take what was offered.

Once again it was a struggle to force myself to go and walk. Instead of my usual track park. I decided to go to Angrignon Park. It is closer in and with huge snowflakes drifting down in a thick veil, it was a paradise for cross-country skiers and devoted dog walkers. I figured if I walked around the big lake a couple of times it would make up about an hour of exercise. I took my walking poles and it was a good thing as the snow was already thick underfoot.

I was fascinated to see the little finches come down to feed from the hands of these patient bird lovers. I arrived just as they were leaving and I called out to ask if they had had to wait long for the birds to come.

“Oh,no. It’s easy to attract them. They know people come here to feed them. We just saw two big cardinals too. Beautiful! “ I guess I must have looked like a bird-feeder wanna-be as one of the men pulled out a little container of seed and poured some into my hand.

“Go on,” he said. they don’t care who gives them the seed.” He and his friend walked off into the thick snow and there I was with a handful of birdseed.

And down they flew, one after the other. Their little claws wrapped around my fingers and the boldest of them stopped to pick up two or three seeds. One, a little smaller than the others, made a few timid passes and I thought he would never pluck up the courage to take a seed. Finally he did, however, and then his wings whirring, he retreated to the safety of the bushes.

My hand became very cold and after a few moments the little finches disappeared. I have had a few unexpected lovely moments with birds over the past few days. I wonder why.

Welcome Visitors

January 5th was a gloomy day. It is hard to be motivated to do anything in the flat short days after Christmas and New Year. I really was trying to persuade myself that I would go for the first walk in the park that would mark the beginning of the preparation for my next Camino. No use! Everything served as an excuse not to go out. Suddenly in the tree outside my window I noticed a fat robin. What really raised my spirits was the sight of his mate.

And there she is!

I don’t know why or how I decided who was he…and who was she….but somehow I did. I love robins for their confidence in human beings, for their beautiful fluting song in spring, for their quick run along the ground. These seemed very big to me and for a few moments I had my doubts but when one finally flew off and darted along a bare patch of grass close to a neighboring building he confirmed that he was indeed a robin. Some of these birds migrate but if there are enough berries around, some will stay, particularly in well-wooded areas. My “new” condo is close to one of the biggest parks in Montreal and this year, my neighbors tell me, for the first time wild turkeys appeared in the fall. If it’s good enough for turkeys, I guess robins can survive too.

It was such a hopeful thing to see that I finally pulled on my boots and made it to another park that was the site of my training for my last Camino, the Frances. That took place in September and October of 2021 and, like many, I became a Camino junkie. I watch lots of You Tube posts about the other routes. I was almost decided on the Portugese which is mainly costal and a lot flatter than the Camino Frances. However, I recently stumbled (sorry) on information about the LePuy route that is completely in France. It was developed by the French Hikers’ Association and so avoids all big towns. In the beginning it too is hilly and challenging but what appeals to me is the path through tiny medieval villages and the open wild feel of it.

Well, whichever one I choose, I will need to get moving again and say bye bye to the few pounds I picked up over the holidays. Back to the track I go and thanks to my red-breasted friends I did get motivated and did a measly five laps around the track. I could not climb up the toboggan hill as it was full of kids on their new sleds. No need to get bowled over, after all!

Thank you, robins. I looked up their symbolic meaning too and I am quite happy to adopt them as my “spirit animal”. Now, if only I could sing as well as they do. Another thing to work on in 2022. Happy New Year all of you.

Boxing Day

Turkeys who got away
A Snow Cat presided over the park

I like Boxing Day. There’s a relaxed feel to it that suits me. Walking through the park close to my home I noticed a group of turkeys. This is the first year I’ve seen in our park. It’s a true city park and I really wonder how they came here. There are big boulevards that surround it so I can’t imagine them crossing over. Two true city dogs were looking at them without even barking or tugging at the leash. I certainly wasn’t going to get too close. I preferred the company of this guard cat, sitting up on the parapet of the pond.

What to say when I paint the bathroom

That looks fantastic

These are examples of what to say when you see the new paint job that I did all by myself. The word “why “ is to be avoided at all costs. This is why:

Correct reaction:who has a charcoal grey bathroom?

Oh, and note that the paint spots are on brown paper which I carefully put down to protect the ( charcoal grey) floor.

So, “ Why” in regard to my not liking grey, choosing pale pink, the texture of the paint, the technique, random smudges or any other issue is a word you should use very carefully.

I would welcome it in any reaction such as , “ Why didn’t I know you were such a great decorator? “ or “ Why don’t you come over and advise me on my color scheme?” Just remember psychology 101 when they taught you that every question is a challenge.

Best to stick to exclamations of admiration and praising my skill. Now, the unfinished part of my project is …ta da! Turning my grotesque bathtub into a greenhouse. Call it an urban spa, call it a great way of getting plants out of my way, call it just Isobel’s decorator eye. As soon as my grow lights go up you can call me Tarzana!

It’s winter

And it’s beautiful. Close to my home is a large park. Today as I walked through to go to the Metro I noticed that the pond was starting to freeze over. The reflection of the few leaves left on the trees will soon disappear but the sky was still lovely. After a dark and dreary day, the clouds lightened up and colour from the coming sunset softened the mood. The Canada geese have left and the fat squirrels are almost manic in their search for food for winter. I confess to hating squirrels, a hold-over from my gardening days when they were my mortal enemies.

In Angrignon Park

I went to my volunteer English conversation class today. I had a chance to walk through a city neighbourhood where our family used to live. In fact, from my bedroom window my husband and I could see the bell tower rising over our flat. This church is one of a couple of Byzantine revivals built in the early twentieth century. It’s a magnificent building. The cold air made me take notice of my surroundings as I walked after class to get myCovid booster shot. I had my flu shot last week so this pincushion is ready for the onslaught of winter. Bring it on!

Against a winter sky

Dread November

The full moon

I saw a wonderful quote -where else, on Facebook – that reminded us that photos of the moon, or sunsets or dawns never really capture the beauty of these wonders. It went on to tell us that we should remember this when we look at old pictures of ourselves and “ hate “ them. So, we are more beautiful and transcendent and inspiring than those awkward snaps. Consoling, isn’t it?

I had hoped to send a picture of the full moon from my balcony to a site called “ view from my window” but really! Compared to some of the splendour or cosiness or lush beauty S ome people look at, mine is very banal. I know, I know, practice thankfulness. Most of the time I do and I really feel it….but…. dark at 4 pm, snow yesterday and freezing rain today’

Yes, rambling! So here is a beautiful image down by the river just to cheer myself up

Return to “ normal”

After weeks and weeks of walking an average of 20 kilometres a day I suppose it is “normal” to feel restless. There are things I must do. I have to shop for food, take my jacket to the cleaners, take care of my plants before snow comes. To be fair I am surrounded by beauty here just as I was in Spain

In the park around the corner

The trouble is I know this place too well. Also, I can get away with just sitting on my couch. I don’t have to worry about where I’ll sleep.

When I walk on the street or sit in the Metro I want to say “ good morning” to people as I did for so many weeks. They’d think I was mad. Isn’t it more mad to sit in a Metro car where every single person is hunched over his or her phone. Not one head was raised. How surprised that teenaged boy would have been if I had followed my impulse and took him by the scruff of the neck and and yelled “ wake up, kid! Your life is ticking away. Go and do one thing that has nothing to do with a screen!”

None of my business, right? Run the vacuum, make a cake for the kids, get the gas fire sorted. No more walking for now. Be “ normal”.Thank heaven for those kids who will be here tomorrow and will expect tacos. Get on it Granny!

At the River

OK it’s official

I have post Camino blues. Negotiating the red tape and Covid details of getting into Canada was distracting but, let’s face it, shopping for food and going through the mail is boring. My body misses the long routine of walking, walking, climbing up slopes, stopping to rest or drink cafe con leche.

The far horizon, the wind, the smell of things cannot be found nearby

I have no initiative to go out, to write, to cook. The weather was brilliant today but…well, as the Stoics would say, “ If a thing can be endured, endure it”. Funny, during the last few days in Europe, I was so anxious to come home and yet, there is something flat about being here.

Today is all saints day. Tomorrow I will climb up the mountain and visit my mother’s grave. I think that will fulfill the need to walk a long way and the need to connect with this place again.

One of her favorite flowers

Last Sleep

I did my Covid test today. Well within the 72 hrs by my calculations. Now fingers crossed for a negative result! I feel fine and tramp around the city for hours. I must say I have never blown my nose so much since I walked into Galicia! People say allergies or the very damp climate. Let us hope so.

Today I visited the museum of the cathedral . Good heavens! I could hear my Methodist grandmother‘S voice, “It’s a long way from Bethlehem”! Simplicity and poverty were not much in evidence. The amount of gold,silver and ( very interesting to me) tapestry and vestments on display was astounding.

The metal cape of the statue of St James

Because of Covid people are no longer allowed to climb up behind the altar and embrace the statue of the saint as was the custom. This is the cloak he wore to protect the statue from wearing away. I am very fond of opals and so admired the three up under the collar. I was eavesdropping on a guide who said people used to steal some jewels and swallow them to avoid detection. Then they would “ retrieve them somehow” ….so tactful! Anyway the whole place was dripping with gold, silver and beautiful paintings.

This nativity scene appealed to me

Seeing everything involved a lot of climbing up and down the most uneven and winding stairs. I hung onto the substantial railings which were always just a little too short so that the last bits involved a sort of “ leap of faith”. I have managed to survive unscathed and thought it would be a shame to spoil my record.

A banner from the Battle of Lepanto!

A modern note that somehow cheered me up was a loud demonstration in Cathedral Square in support of the rights of bus drivers going to the airport. My firm pro-workers’ rights position was tinged with a little worry in case I should not be able to get to that destination myself tomorrow. However, I must take the tough with the smooth not only on Camino pathways it seems. I am well and truly ready to come home and be with all my darlings for the winter. How wonderful it will be to sleep in my own bed again!