This morning I met a friend for breakfast at one of Montreal's little neighborhood cafes: the sort of place where you can have excellent coffee - we both had bowls of latte - and a fresh croissant or chocolatine or muffin, and sit at a pleasant table in the sunlight for a long chat. She and I met through singing, but now we're both swimmers too, and we spent a good part of our time together today being swimming nerds, talking about goggles and suits and stroke mechanics, and alternate-side-breathing vs one side, and how our necks aren't symmetrical. You would have loved it. No? Well, that's why we needed to get together.
We caught up on family stuff and singing and talked a little about politics, but agreed not to dwell on it. It turns out that we're both thinking about studying another language, or taking up a new instrument. It was a great way to start a day, and reminded me of the importance of seeing the people you love, and continuing to do the things that you're passionate about, regardless of what's going on in the world, as much as you can, for as long as you can.
Then we bundled up, and she walked back to her place, and I walked back to the studio, and, I swear by the leaping polar bears, was it ever cold! There's a storm system approaching from the south and it's damp as well as cold; I was OK in my body and head underneath layers of down and fleece, but my legs felt the way they used to when I was a kid walking home from school - first cold, then almost numb. I had on leather gloves and woolen mitts over the gloves, and even so I kept having to stick my hands in my pockets. For long walks on days like this, I told myself, I need to wear tights under my jeans, or an even longer coat.
I ducked into the sheltered entryway of this flowershop, to warm up.
I stopped at the market and bought a couple of cans of tunafish, to warm up.
I stopped at the artisanal bakery and bought a loaf of bread, to warm up.
You've really got to be crazy to live up here, I thought, as the wind howled down the alley. But there's something so exhilarating about it, too: the extremes, the survival, the memories you accumulate of adventures in winters past, and the delight of going into the warmth of an interior after being out in it, as you thaw out and the feeling returns to your skin and something warm to drink spirals down your throat.
On the street, I watched a young mother and her child as they approached me and went past. The mother, bubbling with enthusiasm, carried a bright orange plastic sled, and had a small dog on a leash; they must have been going off to the park. The little boy, only 2 or 3, trudged behind her, all bundled in his puffy snowsuit and boots, and wearing a red hat with an animal face on the brim and little floppy ears. He looked up at me and grinned, his cheeks so red from the cold, but without a hint of complaint, and I thought, yep, he's already Canadian.