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.
The lace in this doorway is typical of old entrances in the Plateau; there are different kinds of lace curtains but all are made to the dimensions of the long glass windows in entrance doors. I especially like the scalloped and tasseled detail here, at the bottom. This one is made using a technique called filet crochet, and reminds me of the intricate scenes my neighbor Esther used to crochet back in Vermont. She was from an old Quebecois family, and had probably learned the art as a child - but back then, I never made the connection. Filet crochet can range from fairly coarse detail to extremely fine, depending on the size of thread used - and of course, the finer the thread and detail, the longer it takes. As in needlepoint or crosstitch, patterns are charted out on graph paper, with the squares corresponding to the crochet stitches.
Most windows, however, don't act as such perfect mirrors of the scene outside as the one on the right did, this particular morning.
It took me a minute, the first time I saw this laundry ("buanderie") to work out that Blanche Neige is a pun: "Snow White." Such is the beauty and delight of living in a bilingual city. I pass this corner every day, and use the laundry when I need to wash something large from our studio -- but the name never seemed more appropriate than it did yesterday.
Waiting at the bus stop, Masson and Papineau, December 1 2014.
December First. The last month of the year, the first days of Advent, and the countdown to winter solstice and the day that the sun turns around and starts heading back to us.
This is how it looked this morning as we went to our studio. It's not particularly cold -- hovering just above freezing -- but we wake in darkness, and the lights are still on at 8:00 am.
Morning deliveries at the corner gas station.
The beer trucks and produce and supply trucks still have to make their morning rounds to the depanneurs and couche-tard convenience stores, and they're probably very glad we don't have snow on the ground. Nevertheless, it feels awfully dark and dreary on these mornings, and one longs to stay in bed. Right now, at noon, the sun is shining brightly and I'm finally feeling more or less awake.
While waiting for J. to do an errand on the way to our studio this morning, I sat in the car and did a quick sketch of this building, complete with its typically-Montreal wrought iron balconies, on Fabre and Mont-Royal. The Christmas trees have been set out in front of businesses, and the merchants will be decorating them soon if they haven't already. All our snow has evaporated, but that is almost certainly a temporary situation!
Last week was one of the busiest for me in recent memory, ending yesterday afternoon with the annual Advent Lessons& Carols service at the cathedral, which is pretty much a musical marathon. Advent is all about "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"/ "Sleepers wake, the voice is calling" -- or wake up, stay awake to watch for the coming of the bridegroom, as the parable goes. So we always sing some setting of that text. But the first piece we sang -- to a dark cathedral from the dimness of the high altar -- was this modern setting of the text of the traditional Advent Responsory, "Laetentur coeli/Rejoice, O Heavens". If this doesn't wake you up on a sleepy, dark winter day, nothing will! (Laetentur coeli, by William Mathias [1934-1992], performed by the East Carolina University Chamber Singers.)
Rejoice, O heavens, and be joyful, O earth. Give praise, O hills, for our lord shall come and show mercy to his humble people. There shall rise up in those days justice and abundance of peace. And he will show mercy to his people.
On Thursday evening, after an appointment at the Jewish Hospital in Cote-des-Neiges, J. and I found ourselves wanting something to eat rather than driving home in the rush hour traffic. We entered a small Moroccan restaurant and sheesha bar -- not a usual place for us -- where we lounged on cushioned banquettes, ate delicious kefta and poulet grillades, drank mink tea sent to our table by the observant manager, and shared a sheesha for two hours amid the Arab men and a few women who were talking, smoking the sweet apple-soaked tobacco, drinking coffee, playing with their phones and computers, and casting an occasional eye at the Arab music videos on big screens. It was uncharacteristic for us, and deeply relaxing, and we thought about this cold city and mixed-up neighborhood where, as in old Damascus or Jerusalem, the Hassids and less conservative Jews and Arabs and Christians actually manage to live together in peace.
These are the last flowers that were blooming in a pot on our terrace, and I don't even know what they are - some sort of salvia, maybe? They're tiny and purple. I cut the last of them and brought them inside one evening earlier this week. Yesterday we saw the first snow flurries, so it won't be long.
And here's a jar of comb honey, some tea, and some almonds. I guess I just wanted to make things hard for myself - drawing thick honey with wax in it, or a cup of tea, using a fountain pen, is not exactly easy! Some kind of wonky circles here, but I like the drawing anyway.
I'm not interested at all in making illustrations, or worrying about accuracy: as a commercial artist and graphic designer I've done enough of that for one lifetime. What I'm after in these drawings is the impression of things, a feeling, and an interesting arrangement of shapes -- and the ability to capture that quickly and freshly, without making a drawing that looks labored or fussy. A true sketch. Looking back through my sketchbooks I can see a lot of progress since I started doing this regularly, a few years ago, as well as a lot of experimenting with different media and styles. Nothing feels "fixed" (and I hope that persists), except that the practice is becoming part of my life; I enjoy it, I'm happy when a drawing works out well, and I don't get upset when they don't. And I like having this different sort of record of my life. Drawings bring places, people, events and emotions back to me in a way that a photograph can't, probably because of the time spent doing them: there's an awareness of yourself as part of a particular scene that persists along with the marks that your hand makes on the paper. Anyway -- it's been worth the effort and a lot of bad drawings to get to a point where it feels like fun.
Complete with a ghost in the window. Happy Halloween, everyone!
We'll be celebrating quietly at home (no kids ever come to our condo -- I miss them) after a quick trip this afternoon to the market where we might get a few treats. So that's All Hallow's Eve.
On All Saints' Day, celebrated liturgically a day late, this Sunday, we've got some special music to sing: a wonderful Mendelssohn mass in the morning, and the Fauré Requiem in the afternoon, with a string quintet and organ. You can listen to that on the radio at 4:00 pm EST (daylight savings time ends this weekend!) streaming live on Radio Ville-Marie, or, if you're in Montreal, come to Christ Church Cathedral - it's free. I'm really looking forward to it.
This party was for the launch of Jonathan's new book How Many Roads?, but it was also, for us, a symbolic moment to celebrate our first ten years in Montreal and the sense that we have truly settled: we've never had an open studio party before, inviting our friends to see where we work and spend so much of our time, and for this party we really cleaned and reorganized the place, so it feels newly special to us too. Above, some of the guests are listening to Jonathan speaking about the project, and how grateful he was to everyone for being there with us to celebrate.
When I said a few words about myself and Phoenicia, I mentioned how I had never been the same as J. or some of the other guests who had always known from an early age exactly what they wanted to do with their lives -- mine has always been a question of trying to balance a bunch of different interests and struggling with the problems that created. It's only been since moving here, in the past decade, I said, that I've finally felt all the threads of my life coming together, with a sense of integration -- and it was quite wonderful to look out and see these friends who represent the different parts of my life -- artists, writers, musicians, gardeners, neighbors, family, friends who share a spiritual path, all of whom have come from many different parts of the world -- and to be bringing out this book from a publishing venture that also brings together many of the things I do that formerly felt separate. In the end, I said, it wasn't "success" that mattered, but giving yourself fully to things that you are passionate about, and sharing that with people you love.
Our niece came up from New Hampshire the day before to help us, and we couldn't have done it without her. We also had a lot of help from friends: here's some of the gorgeous food arranged (and photographed) by Priya Sebastien.
The author/photographer inscribes a book.
More food beautifully arranged by Priya, with a Middle Eastern flavour.
The guests devoured a carrot cake, iconic of the 1960s (that was in the absence of the even more iconic brownies of that era.)
And here we are with screenwriter Martine Pagé (Ni Vu Ni Connu) who helped hugely by handling the sales during the party. She and her partner Ed Hawco (Blork Blog), who took these and many other photos as a gift for us that evening, were our first friends in Montreal and we've stayed fast friends ever since -- not surprisingly, we met through blogging!