Gaston Miron

les notes novembre

20 novembre, the coldest night so far this autumn. - 8. Beautifully sunny today. A walk across les Plaines à l'escalier, le long de la rue Champlain et à Petit Champlain with its Christmas trees in front of old stone buildings, white lights on those, red, silver, gold objects gleaming in les vitirines. No snow, though. The only snow came a week or so ago, only flurries, which blanketed car tops and yards, but melted by the afternoon. Fall has been luxurious. Most trees bare now, but gold and brown leaves still skitter across the pavement in the strong winds off the St. Lawrence. One day the wind so strong I thought it was forcing the bells of St. Dominic to peal and peal, but maybe those were echoes swirling through le voisinage.

Days later, the 23, more snow, hours of flurries add up to a good inch on the ground, enough to also outline the branches of the trees. I saw my first huge snow clearing machine of the season, les gens avec des peles pour déneigement.

En route my walk the brilliant day three days earlier, I stopped at Chez Paillard and felt an inner "yes!" when I ordered a jèsuite et cafe au lait en français and no one replied to me in English. An improvement from last year. La langue, la langue. Such interesting interfaces. The tongue c'est la langue, aussi, the language est la langue. Risky in French is risqué, which means something quite different. Yes, generally dangerous, but mothers in Vancouver don't advise their children to be careful (prudent) crossing the street because it is risqué.

At the Musée the other night with Mireille to listen to the passionate Bernard Émond. Among other things he talked about the dynamism of language and said he accepted the fact that his films are not well received in France because people there abhor the Québecois accent. Mayor LeBeaume had been quoted in Le Soleil about the creeping anglicization of French as spoken in the mother country. Émond suggested that parents faced with the anglicization of Montréal confront the problem by giving their children French books to read, by finding ways to avoid the homogenization that is the result of American TV culture, primarily. Some official person is investigating the proliferation of signs with names like Second Cup, Urban Outfitters, and on and on; another example of the proliferation of American pop culture, the so-called malling of the world.

Émond said that he accepts that Québec is a petit cultur, and I like that notion, of seeing Québec as distinct, unique, if petit. And not so petit considering that the population of Ireland, for example, is less at 4.5 million, and look at the wonderful noise that has been made from there. Quebec creeps toward 8 million, almost as twice as many people, with a strong sense of itself and the need for survival, for self-protection.

Vagueness often surrounds spontaneous conversations. My aim is to admit when I cannot understand instead of nodding or replying inappropriately. Très drole quelquefois! I make so many errors, and some days I get tired of trying, but overall I love the challenge of communicating in a language other than ma langue maternelle. I am doing this for fun, but pity the people who try to find refuge in a new country/culture and must live in vagueness perhaps for years until they master English or French. How isolated they must feel.

Souvenirs: The monk striding down a slope sur les Plaines, his burgundy robes against the green, a burgundy hat pulled over the face I recognize from le Centre Boudiste. The bright cheeked man in the bonbonniere, the apples à Provisoners, hats, skates, Ile d'Orélans, its stands of birch, apples and leeks in wooden boxes by the side of the road.

The temporary garages, white plastic stretched over metal poles, entryways to the big churches guarded in that manner too. The red berries on the trees à les plaines, the metal poles inserted to show where obstacles will meet the blades of snow clearing equipment. Big bags of leaves raked; 20 from Mireille's. Anais and her sewing machine furious, as if it is saying grrr. The pride in Q authors, Mireille eloquent, even in English, on the subject of Gaston Miron, and showing me the grave, decorated with les souliers, of Felix Le Clerc, on Ile d'Orléans.