A coming-out party

At last leaves emerge

The little leaf casings are sticky. The still folded leaves are as soft and smooth as velvet. The grass is green thanks to recent rain but the rushes beside the pond are still last-year’s pale straw. Only they remember the first hard frosts of last fall, the dark clear nights when only the stars circled overhead. The winter was long, cloudy and icy underfoot.

A muskrat in Angrignon Park

But all the life that was suspended, seemingly gone forever is coming out into the daylight.

A real robin’s egg. Not candy, not a toy but a real robin’s egg that I found on a high bluff where no one walks. Somewhere there is a chick, and a mother robin nurturing this new life.
Blood Root – first to emerge from dead leaves
Trout Lily named for its leaves spotted like a river trout.

Unbelievable as it seems I saw a red butterfly in a quiet section of the woods over a week ago. A week ago it was dark and cold at night. Sometimes it seemed to me that we were all under some winter spell and that we would never feel warm or complain that it was “ too hot.” But it is the coming out party for all nature… and here is the master of ceremonies.

Today is Pascha

Eggs 2022

My kind grandchildren helped me make these for yet another year. Fragile and beautiful yet resilient and precious like their creators. How lucky I am that they still like to indulge me and come to my house to color these symbols of new life, of Spring and hope. Later this evening my whole family who live in Montreal will come and have a festive meal with my. My daughter who is on Vancouver Island will not be here but in a couple of weeks I will go to visit her. I will bring her seeds for her garden – more symbols of growth and new life.

These pictures are from today’s brief Easter office ( only an hour!) From up in the choir last night I looked down and saw the darkened church slowly illuminated as the darkness of the tomb was overcome with shared flickering candles.How wonderful it is to sing the powerful Easter canon and later the anthem “ Christ is Risen” in many different languages – we even have a sheet in Innu although I don’t remember ever singing it. English, French, Greek, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, Bulgarian…,

I am very lucky to be healthy enough to go to many services to sing, to exchange greetings, to buy and cook food for my family. Every day is Pascha. We just have to remember

Look who I saw in the Metro yesterday

Yes, Spider-Man

He was a little scary I admit as he silently performed his acrobatics on the bars of the almost … but not quite empty Metro cars. He was carrying a backpack( not shown in his posed picture here) which at one point threw him off balance. He landed in a bit of a heap and then spent some frantic time searching for his cell phone which had, it seems, fallen out during a particularly complicated manoeuvre. However a kind fellow passenger found it and gave it to him just in time for him to get off with me at the terminus. He happily consented to this picture and we both went on our ways.

Just another Spring day in the Montreal Metro

Starting the training

Why to moderately steep hills…..

Look totally flat from the top? Yesterday I finally got going and pumped up this hill a couple of times. It is a toboggan hill steep enough to require a couple of visits from the ambulance at least once every winter as teens whizz down and smash into each other.

It feels so good to get out and see the city and far off the river spread our over the brown winter-dead grass. For sure we will have snow again before we are done but it did feel springy.

My seedlings are springy too

This is just the start of preparing for the Portugese Camino in September. I think I may need a new pair of shoes but that’s for later. The sun is stronger, the days longer and hey…. Is that hope I see on the horizon?

Have a soft day, people.

A Few Good Signs

They’re Baack!

Only today did I hear that wonderful cry of geese flying overhead. And then walking through the park on my way come from the tax man- another sign of Spring- there were these two.

Don’t get me wrong, these birds are no favorites of mine . They foul the paths of my neighborhood park. They can be aggressive and I don’t find them particularly beautiful. However, they are living proof that no matter what, winter is really over.

Yes, the tax man! A sign that it’s time to turn the page on another year. This man has been doing my taxes for well over 20 years. Although one year I was was lured away by someone who charged less and had an office closer to home, well, no one is better than Nelson. I took my mother to him too before she passed away.

“ Why do you insist on bringing me here to this man who doesn’t speak a word of English! I don’t understand anything.” And she would fix him with a steely eye. I think it was only with Nelson that she established a reputation of being “ ben tuff, ben severe, vot mere!” as he put it to me today. “ Why on earth is he called Nelson. That’s the name of a great British Naval hero?” She asked one day. Laughing, in his raspy voice nurtured by decades of heavy smoking, “ Tell your mother I have a brother Napoleon.”

But he knows his stuff and is meticulous and prompt. When I go back to pick up my return we will be one step closer to the heart of Spring.

Seed packages arrived today. More nudging from Spring. Go get heirloom seeds from these guys, people! You only pay a donation for shipping. I have shame and so I sent 20 US dollars and they came within a week. FreeHeirloomSeeds.org go for it. They are a bit particular about how you place your order but I love that homey feeling of being scolded by a seed merchant. Most I will give to my daughter in BC for her big wild garden.

Oh, no boots today just my Compostela running shoes. Another sign of our lovely world turning it’s lovely profile towards the spring. Enjoy, darlings! Go outside and enjoy!

Spring is knocking on my Window

No other sound so intoxicating

Although it is not warm, the sun’s rays are strong enough to melt the snow. The texture of the snow has changed too. No more fluffy deep snow or treacherous plaques of ice covered with a faint dusting. No more crunchy steps, my crampons gripping the pure surface. Now the structure under my feet is airy, corn snow. My trusty poles have kept me upright on a few occasions.

I went by the track where I trained for the Camino, not once, but twice! Damned Covid! How many times did I stomp around the track and up the toboggan hill? I really want to start up again but… as you see the snow is still deep here. However, it will not be long!

Too much snow on the track. Too much snow on the hill

Before that though, I will do a short trip to Vancouver Island. Looking forward to seeing my darling daughter and getting a few hikes in over on Vancouver Island. Time to break out the bear bells!

Where do we go?

Simply shadows

What does it mean to be alive? To be alive as a human being, as a bird or animal, as water, as a plant or a cloud?

It has been a hard winter. In the dark, cold days and nights of February I sometimes descended to an even darker place. These days the ducks in the water in the big park close to my house are lively, diving into the icy water and playing or fighting among themselves. The ice is getting darker, a sign that it will soon melt. Yesterday I took my first long walk for a long time.

My thoughts were full of the memory of a young woman I knew who simply dropped dead last Friday at the age of 44. Simone was the mother of three adolescents. Her husband tried to administer CPR to no avail. As he put it in the heartbreaking obituary that appeared today, “She died in my arms”. She was a bright spirit. My mother gave her some basic painting lessons so that a renowned teacher would accept her as a pupil. He did and she went on to become a successful artist who painted many scenes of the little town in New Brunswick where she lived.

She and her husband worked hard to renovate a ramshackle old building and to turn it into an inn. Markus, her husband is a chef and their business, the Europa, became justly well known.

As I walked in the sun on spring snow that is, at last, melting under strong sun, I puzzled over where Simone’s spirit, the essence of her cheerful and loving personality might be. What happens to the ducks passing under the bridge when they die? The plants know how to rise up again in Springtime. We have forgotten that gift.

All the teeming life of the universe is rising, busy making the next generation and passing away. I had a fancy that I could hear my mother setting up the easel and making tea as she welcomed Simone to yet another painting afternoon in another sphere, another realm.

But these are deep secrets. Even the one who seems to have a “ perfect” life and character carries with her some shadow, something unknown.Why should I be free to walk about when , yes, sometimes it is a lonely walk but Simone’s life is simply snuffed out?

Mysteries not yet to be explained… perhaps never.

At the Symphony

“Oh, I was at the symphony concert last night… with my grandson! “ Is there a grandmother anywhere who wouldn’t be overjoyed to just casually drop this into conversation. How lovely it was to take my place next to my oldest grandchild who is now almost eighteen. Is it possible? Oh, and he’s the one who noticed that Dvorak was on the program. Seems he’s a fan.

It was awful to slither along the icy rutted streets but wonderful to have a strong arm to grab onto. It was awful to still have to wear a mask, but wonderful to see Samy’s eyes light up with pleasure at a particular passage that he loves. Sometimes it’s scary to understand that I’m getting old, that an icy sidewalk is not a joke any more, that perhaps I’m not hearing the symphony as acutely as I would have done ten years ago. But everything is weighed in the scale. If I don’t get older, Samy can’t be old enough to want to go to the symphony or old enough to offer a helping hand. I had the patience to sit next to a patron who was obviously mentally ill. I understood the music better. I could understand the themes and how they wove together. I could hear birdsong in the flute behind the majestic orchestration. I could “see” the untamed rivers and mountains of the “ New World” that inspired Dvorak.

After the concert we went home by Metro. My grandson hugged me goodbye and we parted. I walked home in the mild winter night and thought how wonderful it is to look forward to another Spring.

Camino Souvenir Book

Many many thanks to my dear friend Masha Schmemann Tkachuk for putting this together. Shutterfly has a great service which allows smart people like her to create actual books from photos and text.

Beauty of Galicia

As you can see Masha did a great editing job . The material was taken from last fall’s blog posts that chronicled my walk along the Camino Frances. I did blog entries every day because I know how easy it is for individual experiences during a long journey to blend into a general impression. Of course I still have access to the blog posts but I am old-fashioned enough to be thrilled to have a “ real” book in my hands.

It has been a long, difficult winter that still drags on. Receiving this book in the mail lifted my spirits. The day before I found another happy surprise in my mailbox… the Brierley guidebook for the Portuguese Camino. Hmm, I’m thinking September.

Many thanks to Masha and looking forward to working on the next one!

Water under the Bridge

In the park
No matter how cold

Gone, water under the bridge they say as if the event, the person, the feeling is disposed of. But it’s not gone just gone somewhere else. Not disappeared, not effaced, that water just flows away to a river, to the sea, to a new form. It will turn into a cloud and fall, fall somewhere on earth, in a swamp, onto that same sea. The water under the bridge is never gone. It’s always flowing towards the bridge, it’s really “ under the bridge” for a second or so and then it’s flowing away, leaving the bridge behind. It’s in the glass I drink from, in the shower with me, in the water that greens up a lawn, that irrigates my food, that falls over a cliff in a jungle. Wherever I go the “ water under the bridge” is with me.