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.

L'hiver à Québec

Clear sky, pleine lune, the fur around my hood whispers through the scrape of the wind on my face. 21:00 Les Plaines deserted, except for the street lamps that succesfully compete with the moon. Instead I must imagine la neige au clair de lune. (Writing that phrase, I remember my father playing Debussy. The aural memory immediate.)

Ash blue light after sunset, before dark, webs of branches black against it.

Weekend of 22,23, and Monday am. Extreme cold almost thrilling. Taking out the garbage, half-dressed, cold slips under my long skirt, encases my knees. crack, crunch .According to the weather network, it feels like minus 43. I remember my beaded muklunks, my long skirt, scraping at the interior windshield of my vw station wagon as I drove into Whitehorse for work in the mid-70's. Lis waiting for the bus, bundled in her turqoise blue snowsuit, face wound with scarves.

That Monday night,waiting for the #25 at Maguire because the driver dropped me off too early. Il fait froid de canard et le bus est en retard! Bon que je continuais, parce que, when I finally reached the Centre Formation I met a very good teacher and many good étudiants de FSL. Je pense que je vais apprendre beacoup. Mais, trop froid!

My day often begins with the smell of coffee from the downstairs neighbour, who grinds his beans at about 6:30, and ends with the sound of water running through the pipes as he showers at about 23:00. On Saturday I woke smelling coffee, but the neighbour, whoever he is, was still sleeping. Pavlovian connection now: When I wake I smell coffee, when I smell coffee I wake.

Concert at Palais Montcalm. Wonderful conductor, Airat Ichmoouratov, presented his own Symphonic Poem based on the legend of David of Sassoun. Thrilling musical imagination, and he inspired an idea for my fictional composer. These concert tickets Russ supplies...what a gift! To return the favour to some extent, I have introduced Russ to small cd players and the work of Arvo Part and John Adams' El Nino.

The beauty of flocons catching the sunlight,scintilla, snow dances.

Excitement à les Plaines. People buying queues de Castor, watching snow sculptors carve and chain saw, and finesse their huge blocks of snow, waiting for the ferris wheel to open, standing at the fence as the ice palace is completed. Skiing off across the Plaines. That night, more excitement, many more people crowded into espace Hydro Quebec for the opening ceremonies, music, the sculptures coming closer to their final white shape. A concentrated, brilliant explosion of fireworks above les Plaines!

2 fevrier

Snow blowing sideways, whitening the mortar between the bricks. Wind gusting to 52 k. A perfect day to stay inside all day.