In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
8:00 am, top of the Plateau Mont-Royal, looking directly south.
The storm went through far to the south of Montreal; all we experienced were high winds last night (I was biking home in swirling leaves, but no crashing limbs), some light rain, and very dramatic skies.
The biggest surprise for me was that when I opened the blinds this morning, literally all the leaves were down, overnight. Bare branches against a huge grey cloud, rimmed with sun, and a brilliant yellow glow beneath it, against deep blue.
Once we got to the studio, where I was able to climb up high and take these photos, I could see the storm clouds heading west, and the division between the pressure systems was obvious. J. said there was a beautiful rainbow when he rode up, but I missed it.
And southwest, toward the city center.
Around noon I took a walk across Parc Lafontaine, and the light from this sky was so intense on the remaining colored leaves that I coud hardly stand it. Very beautiful, and eerie too.
I hope all the readers who were in the direct path fo the storm are all right, and that your power gets restored quickly. Please tell us your stories!
We'll be singing selections from our upcoming annual concert ( an homage to Igor Stravinsky) at Evensong today -- all the anthems will be by Stravinsky, and there will be modern works by other composers for the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, and the Preces and Responses. You can hear it streamed live on Radio Ville Marie at 4:00 p.m. (Click on the link in the upper right where it says "'Nous ecouter en direct.")
And if you're anywhere near Montreal next Friday evening, we'd love to see you at the concert!
Life these days feels very busy, so much so that I haven't been able to write much of anything, either here or on any of my ongoing projects. But I think there is another factor, besides work deadlines, choir rehearsals, email correspondence, meals to cook and cats to feed, and all the other aspects of daily life.
It's the damned election.
Since moving up here, across that strange and rather arbitrary border, I've tried keep emotionally away from the ugly morass of American politics. It took us a couple of years just to de-toxify so that our reactions weren't automatically, knee-jerkedly, affected by the fact of being Americans who had been steeped in that particular soup since birth. And if that's who you are, still, I doubt that you can really know what I'm talking about unless you've lived elsewhere for a significant period of time.
Staying out of it is, of course, impossible, because U.S. politics affects almost everyone: it's the stuff of news, almost everywhere, and it matters. And I'm an American citizen, and always will be, even after receiving dual citizenship in Canada. I've followed Obama's presidency, at some distance, to be sure, but with interest -- four years ago, my husband and I drove all the way to Washington to attend the inauguration. Like many progressively-minded people on the planet, we had high hopes, but we also had big doubts about his own plans for bipartisan cooperation, and for what he would be able to accomplish in such a polarized, hostile, and money/special-interest-influenced atmosphere.
I'm afraid it has played out just that way. I've been gravely disappointed in this presidency, and particularly in the foreign policy as led by Hilary Clinton, who has turned out to be both hawkish and, I feel, completely wrong in her ideas of how to deal with tensions in the Middle East -- a subject I care about a great deal.
But the alternative - a Romney presidency - would be so much worse. Why anyone -- but particularly any woman -- would vote for him is completely beyond me.
I voted by absentee ballot, and was glad to cast my ballot for Obama as the better of the two choices. I hope, if he manages to win, that he'll have a somewhat easier time in a second term. I'll be in the U.S. on election night, and will be watching the returns. But I'm worried about what may happen, and dismayed that no matter who wins, I won't really feel my deepest desires -- for a world where peace is truly sought, where the natural environment is treasured, where the poor and disenfranchised are cared for, where every human being matters, where money no longer calls the shots -- will be represented. How many of us do?
I was fortunate to live in Vermont for 30 years, and I'm fortunate to live now in Quebec, the most liberal place in Canada, and in North America. My values are close to those of my fellow Quebecois. But I also know that the border is just a line on a map, and that what happens in the U.S. election will affect me, and all of us.
white almond-eyes: pointed leaves slick the dark sidewalks and pattern
the windshields of the parked cars. We walk up the street, my arm in
yours, past the lace-curtained doorways, the night glow of late suppers,
readers, bedtime stories. The car wash is buttoned up, the grey
concrete rinsed and swept, hoses hung in wide arcs on the wall. A
doorway; hunched knees of a long-haired girl smoking a joint, and here,
past the seminary-now-condos, a grey kitten interrupts our stride with
sharp cries for affection. Autumn vines twist on wrought iron; a mother
descends, the child stops, coughs.
the dark, tree-lined side-streets, lights glare on Mont-Royal. In the
Jean-Coutu, the smocked cosmetic-girls head for the back exit, leaving a
window of plastic pumpkins leering beneath oversize, flying masks. A
blonde girl in pink sateen walks a black dog. Lunettes sleep in their glass cases; rattan baskets hang empty beneath white-lettered chalkboards: “asperges”, “champignons”. In a café, a final patron cradles his coffee, the stools already on their backs for the evening, legs in the air.
onto a side street: the dull red of overgrown begonias cascading from a
windowbox, a tree encircled by a knee-high forest of nasturtiums. On a
third floor, a girl bends forward, straightens up against warm beige
walls, making a bed. We look down the empty alley, past the chainlink
fence and its sign: terrain privé.
Your hip sways against mine, our walk a familiar dance, a little slower tonight. No need to speak; we see the same things.
When I came across this watercolor from the late 1980s I still liked it, but had no recollection of the scene. It reminded me of twisted trees I saw last year along the coast of Florida, but I knew that couldn't be it. I studied and studied the painting, and then suddenly it came to me - these were the branches of a Siberian peaberry in our Vermont garden, and the ferns that grew underneath them. When we sat on our terrace in back of the house, you'd see this view up underneath the branches. I must have been trying to capture the energy and busy-ness I found in the mixture of foliage. Once the memory snapped into place, I was right back there.
The painting also reminded me of a recurrent dream: I am seated at the piano, or preparing to sing, but the music in front of me is a painting or picture, not a score. I have to "play" or "sing" the painting.
This watercolor looks like music to me! The rhythmic punctuation of the spiky vertical foliage at the top; the twisting branches could be chordal structures; the curving ferns a repetitive, looping pattern of melody. Last night at choir we worked for two hours on works by Stravinsky for our upcoming annual fundraising concert, November 2. We worked hard on a piece called Credo, which has a complex rhythmical structure that our director parsed for us; we went rhoguh,marking our scores, then saying the words in rhythm, then singing them. It took a lotof concentration, and it's no wonder that my mind went in that direction this morning even though the dreams were a while ago.
My bedtime reading lately has been a book called The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places, by Bernie Krause. Krause is a musician, recording engineer, and scientist with a PhD in bioacoustics who has spent a great deal of time making recordings in very wild places, capturing and studying their particular "sound signatures." In a lot of ways, his premise seems pretty obvious to me, and has since I was a child - of course music came from the natural world, of which we (and our voices, our talent for mimicry, and our ability to make sounds with tools) are an intrinsic part. I read the first half of the book, and skimmed the rest. Of course, Krauses' book is all about animals and the natural sounds of water, wind, and rain -- he doesn't say anything about playing or singing inspired by foliage or rocks! But visual rhythm and pattern exist everywhere, and I see no reason why they too can't be translated into sound, music, dance and movement.
These are the last days of autumn, and the season is going out in a blaze of beauty. Yesterday we took off on our bikes in the middle of the afternoon for a quick trip to the Jean-Talon market; we wanted to go while the outdoor stalls were still up, knowing they'd close soon. In spite of a stiff wind from the northwest that nearly stopped us at times, the ride up was beautiful too -- the streets are piled with golden leaves, and the sun was shining through openings in dark clouds.
When we arrived, we saw that some of the vendors have already packed up and left for the year. There was an over-abundance of pumpkins and squashes, leeks, cabbages, cauliflowers and, of course, apples.
But that wasn't all: to our surprise there were still paniers of Isle d'Orleans strawberries, and it's also cranberry season. Even during these late days of October, the market was still pretty glorious.
As a treat (we were feeling weak! hungry!) we went to the little gelato shop and shared a small cup of 2 flavors: dark chocolate, and caramel brulée d'erable: caramel brulée made with maple sugar. Oh my. (Merci, Martine et Ed, for turning us on to that place!) I can't even tell you how delicious that little cup of intensity was. And how restored we felt, for the ride back!
As the sun went down, the trees lining the streets were in deep shadow, but the tops were blazing with light - red, orange, gold.
It's always a little bittersweet, this time of year, but honestly, I don't know how I'd exist in a place that didn't have seasons. Life here -- and my life, in general -- is so defined by the weather and the time of year; there's always something to fuss about, but also to look forward to, and because we know that we can't hold onto the present, there's an incentive to enjoy it for what it is.
I've been walking back and forth to work through some of the "Green Lanes" in my neighborhood, and wanted to take you along...
"A green lane is a lane of Montreal renaturalized by local residents, in collaboration with the eco-district of the borough. The project of a green lane is primarily a movement of residents volunteers who want to reclaim the space of their lane and improve their quality of life in urban areas. They include the benefit of improving air quality, reducing ambient noise and combat urban heat islands.
Since 1997, nearly a hundred green lanes have been created and are now part of the Montreal Network. They are so popular that some districts receive dozens of requests for greening each year."
The lanes, or alleys, are located in back of the long rows of apartment buildings that face onto the main streets. So you have two sets of buidings backing up on one another, with small backyard areas and a lane running down the middle. Some of the lanes are large enough for vehicles, but in most of the cases of the designated ruelles vertes, the lanes are mainly for pedestrian use, and the occasional bicycle.
Old-fashioned clotheslines often run from one side of the lane to the other -- they're an iconic feature of the Plateau Mont-Royal.
Neighbors cooperate to create these quiet oases -- but it's clear to me who really owns the ruelles vertes.