it is raining in Montreal.
from my 6th story apartment, I look right out over Saint-Catherine Street, the circular window of the St James cathedral and its spires dominate my view.
my living room for the next few days (pre-rain)
Canada may not seem that “foreign” to many of us in the States. but I put forward to you now that my foreign experience really began in Maine. Where a kindly State Park ranger welcomed me to the Atlantic beach with a language all his own, stories of a moose dipping its hooves (paws?) in the ocean, slow methodical nods and “eh’s” as we compared the skiing conditions in Colorado vs. the Northeast.
Then, Halifax – a city steeped in World War I and II trivia, its proud Citadel still watching over its harbour, its beaches witness to Norse explorers, Inuit migrations, mammoths stalking the shores, German U-boats and Allied fleets launching into the North Atlantic.
downtown Halifax, Dartmouth, the harbour and Canadian fleet.
ducking into coffee shops and small secluded pubs near Dalhousie University where I was staying, Halifax reminded me of other places (Crested Butte in Colorado to name one) that retains an innocence and trusting simplicity lost on most of the western world. (as an example of this – a group of about 20 residents went out for a run and each in turn shouted out words of welcome as we passed in the pre-dawn haze. I soon came across their gear, including car keys and expensive technical jerseys, laying in neat piles in the grass beside the sidewalk.)
but then into Quebec, where the clouds turned dark and brooding, lightning cut jagged tooth marks through the sky, and rain pummeled the little black Ford pushing sideways like some palm of the great hand of nature. during a break in the weather, I risked a venture out into Quebec City, and was more than rewarded. what do I know, after all, about French Canada? or rather, what did I know?
still, I felt absurd, childish even, for having to rely so heavily upon my English when every interaction was a chance to be immersed in a fantastic culture so different from mine, even as it is so very close to home.
I have driven somewhere around 3500 miles thus far, not even 1/3 of the distance I will still travel in the next 23 days. though I packed my GoreTex jacket, it was thoroughly an afterthought. Rain just did not occur to me. so many things did not occur to me. how useful French might be, or how little reading I would really be doing when every new place I pulled the car into would be mine for a day or two at the most. how desperately I would miss some of those faces in my life, and neglect many others in thought, and how strange both of those would feel as I drive further and further into something new.