bigger things

And with no explanation, it is December 2nd and I am back in Montreal, on the brink of my first round of exams, the last round of exams like these, the last time I turn the page to December 1st and feel a deep sinking feeling. I hope! I am caught in new Quebecois snowflake clouds and the persistent warmth of good friends; I am occasionally staggered with challenges and roadblocks, but I am moving forward.

As this month leans down, tucks the elbows in, squints eyes and — whoosh — releases down a snowy hill, I am patient and will ride along. I do not feel overwhelmed or confined by the impending work that I’ve got, because for once, it’s leading somewhere. I have an idea of what I want! Where I want to be! and how I will get there. And so, instead of seeing the white billows above me and feeling my feet quickly melting away beneath me, I choose to be awed by the size of things here. Things are big here. I love feeling small, seeing something looming before me and forgetting myself entirely. Here we have beluga whales and fjords that I have seen, jagged cliffs and expansive lakes, black bears and moose that I imagine I see in the flickering between-the-pines glimpses from my bicycle. 


Hurtling away from Chicoutimi (coincidence?)- day 2 of the Great Adventure

So now, in the spirit of the big stuff, the tall stuff and the grandiose landscape that unfurls in either direction: I am here, I am climbing big rock-walls and feeling the confines drift away as soon as I stop imagining them.

I will spend December writing papers, taking exams, going to work, climbing, baking, reading, cooking, juice-making, hood-wearing, letter-writing knitting breathing remembering and so eventually, taking it easy. When these little things seem big, when I am blinded by papers and deadlines, I am grateful because I know what real size is. I know what sublime vastness looks like. I have seen sweeping landscapes and will never again mistake the small things for the forests, the hills, the cliffs the oceans that hold me with watery arms full of love, and leaves, and a deeper understanding and acceptance than I will ever get from tiny papers and exams and the garish distractions of school-life. When small things overwhelm me, I can laugh at their size compared to the Saguenay, to the Alps, to the Point of Chewonki Neck, to the soaring heights of the UWS.


Maine, summertime

Cheers to december! Big snow! I missed you, a little.


easy april

When words travel over internet and telephone and flutter to rest before me here, I am amazed. I collect them slowly; they feel real! I turn them around like precious stones and feel their edges, their roundness, until I have convinced myself that the words fell from someone standing before me. The heartbreak comes sometimes when I look up, still clutching one, words forming on my lips to question whomever dropped it for me. That’s when reality sets in, when the two-dimensional limitations make me hear the flat resonance of my voice hitting a screen. Then I’m back here, knocked over sometimes and wondering where to go or who to talk to. In a country where hugs are unheard of, where instead la bise is expected and hand shakes rarely given by females, physical contact is oddly foreign to me. Sometimes it takes a gym class, a metro ride, a “you have something in your hair” moment for me to remember that, yes, I am real, yes, they are real, yes, we are here together, it’s up to me to feel contact. When I’m in a daze, it’s hard to snap out of it. Or to know whether snapping out of it is the right direction to choose.

For now, I find myself grateful for sunlight, April, easy conversations, kind friends and the family that reaches beyond screens and crackling cell phones to hold onto me here if I can muster up enough courage to ask for it.

And of course, I’ve been having some dinners because there’s something about a roomful of good people and the steam of a warm kitchen and a command-grip on a solid frying pan that makes me feel really, really good.


We have galettes, then we have other kinds of galettes, then there’s always the galette des rois: and so we have at least three different definitions for ‘galettes’. These particular ones fed five of us; just a formality before a bowl of melted easter eggs for use with the discount (but why?) pineapples that have been lurking around in our grocery stores for a few days now. Easter is such a flexible holiday.


Sometimes we even have place settings, and tables to eat at! What lovely ladies.


Other times, Marlis chooses to get up and leave her hot chocolate; I started playing with it because it was an Italian hot chocolate, which means it was truly chocolate, just – hot.

DSC_0845Then we go to Carnaval! We borrow flowers and forget to buy a mask.


 Then sometimes, life happens and it’s incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever showed anyone this picture– this is in Barcelona with my friend Santiago, where he’s signing some papers to submit his novel for copyright. He invited our friend Ben and me to go with him because it was a big day, the culmination of four years of traveling and writing. We were both honoured to have been included and we composed a victory song to sing to him in the elevator on the way down. The security guards clapped on the way out.


 Today I am locked in my house imagining what it feels like to do real homework once again, and I’m having trouble really visualizing this process. So in the meantime, I’ll visualize the excellent trips I’ve been on and work at reflecting on the legions of happy people I’ve met since being here. Day by day, sometimes time passes slowly and I allow myself to get frustrated with little things like advisors, classes, and the guy on the metro with the german shepherds who didn’t like me. Overall? How lucky to be here, to be used to, not just part of, a life here. It’s April!