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November 24, 2022


I haven’t commented here in so long! I live on the edge of the Oklahoma City metro but work in a small town half an hour away that most people would call rural; there isn’t a grocery store for 15 miles. Oklahoma is mostly rural and while it is beautiful and people are generally friendly, the small communities are rather insular. If I were to say Bonjour in greeting the most likely response would be, “Come again?” Oklahoma is famously ultra conservative and I typically keep my political and social views to myself. I can make a difference here through my work; perhaps that’s why I stay. Your description of life in Montreal sounds inviting. My company has a plant in Montreal. Maybe I can find a reason to visit soon and experience Montreal for myself for a little while.

I hope you were able to show the young woman that wonderful sketch.
During my few years of daily sketching I found it to be an excellent way of attracting company. Reading a book can indicate the need for isolation, but a sketchbook seems to provide an invitation to stop for a chat, even if not multi-lingual.

I am buoyed by your experience and my similar ones! I find at least 95% of persons willing to switch languages, or bash away ignoring perfect grammar. On se débrouiller! Quebec provides a wealth of resources for newcomers to learn French and it will be ever more important, no matter what the age, role or mother tongue.

The other day I went to the neighbourhood hardware store to buy a broom, and suddenly could not remember the word for it. I said, "Où sont les baleines?? (Where are the whales?") instead of "balais" (broom).

HI Beth,
My computer screen is flickering and dying but, talk about privilege, a new one is arriving next week which will make reading and writing much easier.
When I lived in Montreal in the 70's I would shop at a large immigrant market. We were very poor so had a strict food budget. I could get groceries for a week and for 25 cents, the market would deliver. I'd walk home and the delivery van would be there soon after.
Halvah, dates, vegetables, fruit. People from all over the world.
Now in northern NH we're almost all white, the tourists are all white. In recent years we've gotten three Thai restaurants , one Indian, two Mexican and a convenient store owned by Sikhs. But we are a long long way from being multicultural.
In my home the family speaks Swedish, English and Finnish. I remember being in NYC and overhearing two women gossiping in Swedish thinking they were private. My husband leaned over as we left and commented...

Yesterday when we had dear family members gathered (and thought lovingly of those absent, both of the moment and permanently), I was tempted to ask for each to share a thankfulness. But the group was having such a warm, happy conversation to accompany the delicious dinner that I decided to let the moment be its own joy. And it was.

Beth! I love your watercolour of the woman on the metro. I look forward to seeing more of your people-drawings. Did you have time to draw her in the metro or did you manage to snap a photo first? It's always a problem to do this without being seen!

Kim, please do come and visit! Where I grew up is very rural and conservative too, and yet I love the people there for their friendliness and readiness to help. My father used to say, "It takes all kinds to make a world" and I try to remember that. I'm glad I grew up in a place that gave me sensitivity as to why people have trouble processing and accepting what feels unfamiliar. You're right that you can make a difference by staying, through your work -- more so than in a big city like this. I sometimes think about that choice.

Thanks, Judith. No, I got off the train only having snapped a photo and committed an impression of her to memory. I'll probably never see her again! You're quite right though -- I've met a number of people through sketching - someone always stops by and wants to see and chat.

Duchesse, yes, I bet all Montrealers have favorite stories of bilingual successes and mistakes. I love your balais and baleines!

Hi Sharyn, I'm glad to know your area now has those ethnic restaurants! That's new since we used to come over and ski there. But your home reflects the Scandinavian heritage (and ski history) of that region -- that's really special. (Funny story, too.)

Gretchen, it's true that sometimes the moment is more meaningful when we don't explicitly name how we're feeling. I'm sure there was plenty of gratitude around your real (and virtual) tables on Thanksgiving, whether it was voiced or not.

Natalie, I might have had time for a quick sketch but she was only a few feet away from me and I felt it would be intrusive, so I snapped a quick surreptitious photo on my phone and worked from that when I got home, using the time on the train to make a strong mental image of what I wanted to emphasize. I don't do enough people-drawing; thanks for the encouragement.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • 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.