Sunday, May 27, 2012

The window

I took the bus once from Ottawa to Boston. I don’t know if I was eager or just on top of things, but that day I arrived at the Greyhound station early enough to steal a window seat near the back of the bus that wasn't  too close to the washroom. It was early June, and I guess I figured there would be a lot to see out of that window as we headed east. I didn’t get to see much because a young man sat beside me as the bus and we talked most of the way to Montreal. He was full of excitement and moved around in his seat a lot. Montreal for dancing and trouble, he hooted. Ottawa's no place for any of that, I joked. He was a student at University of Ottawa, taking undergrad classes in poli sci, which would give him a BA in the end. Maybe it's an important subject but it's not one I know anything about.

He had no accent in English but he spoke other languages. Farsi at home, and his French wasn't bad. Then he said he'd be learning Dutch soon and hoped it was similar to German. He didn't add any reason for the Dutch, not right away, but the topic came up again later when we talked about biking in the Gats, and how you could sometimes see deer and fauns sipping dew from the asphalt if you hit the roads early in the morning. That was when he said he was going to the Netherlands in July for a bike trip with a cousin from France. The cousin, who he'd met only once during a family reunion, had called him out of the blue when he heard his mother had passed away. The cousin was going to arrange for a guide and bicycles, plan the route, set it all up. The young man sounded excited about the trip but also sad about the reason for it. I asked if his mother died recently. In March, he replied, looking away from me. I was saddened to hear that, and I said so. He thanked me and said he was doing better now but the final papers for his classes had been hard to finish.

A thick silence sprouted then, and I stared out the window without really seeing anything. Then he turned to me and asked if I'd done any travelling in Europe. I said, I've been to the Netherlands twice, and we both snorted with laughter. I told him how I'd found a roll of euros on the sidewalk after stumbling out of a café and took my friends out for dinner with the money. Remembering the Farsi, I told him about the Persian restaurant and his brown eyes lit up. I described the lamb with pomegranate seeds and saffron, and lentils and whole walnuts, and he smiled. In a flash I saw his mother in a colorful dress stirring a pot on the stove, lifting a stoneware dish from the hot oven to baste what was inside. I imagined the spicy vapours from a glass of hot chai and the fragrant scent of rice. He asked me if I'd tried Persian kabobs. When I shook my head, he said, you must try them the next time you're in the Netherlands. We laughed again.

When the bus pulled in to Maisonneuve we said our goodbyes. I watched from the window as he vanished into the big city dusk. Back on the highway, I found my novel but couldn't concentrate on the typed words so small and far away. Outside the daylight was softening as the darkness crept up from the horizon like lids closing around an eye. I watched the tips of the fir trees along the forest edge deepen from green to black, fading into night, every one of us waiting for stars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


We ran at lunch today, and I ran faster than the guys. The air was heavy and humid, the air in the woods a degree or two cooler. My skin plumped up with moisture and my hair frizzed like wire. As I pounded uphill I felt my muscles respond with more strength than before. Downhill on a flurry of loose gravel, I released my mental brake and let 'er rip, sliding with small steps and high knees but in control. It never got away from me. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Leaves, arrives

I arrived at my office building early this morning, because I was late.

I was trying to get myself fed, dressed and ready to catch an earlier bus, and it all looked possible, but my eyes were whining for purple eye liner, so I decided to catch the next bus 15 minutes later. Eyeliner doesn’t require substantial application time, just a quick line and I’m done. With time still on my side, I hopped over the café to pick up a coffee and bumped into a colleague who, it turns out, always grabs a coffee at just that time, and owns a car.

She has a sunny disposition and we chatted for the ride, so it was much more pleasant than the usual routine, plus I arrived 45 minutes early with good coffee and a bemused smile. Hot damn.

Ran the shorter route through the woods alone at lunch. The high noon heat poked at my thirst. As I rounded a corner I was surprised to see shadows where before there had been direct sunlight. The leaves on the little copse of trees had grown large enough to shield that area of the path from the sun.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Saved by a fountain

Feeling under the weather right now but I had an amazing run yesterday. Me and the lugubrious sunshine finally enjoyed some tête-à-tête (we drifted a bit after our time together in the southern hemisphere). The sun was out in full force and I imagined my vitamin D health meter rising, its neon yellow liquid gurgling in the heat like Mr Clean in a solar panel.

I ran for a long time on a dirt road by the boat club. Along the narrow, crumbly road that descends from the paved bike path to the dirt road hugging the river, I saw clumps of ferns at least a foot high.  

On the dirt road were just a few people - some runners, a few folks with fishing rods - and I soaked up solitude like a big happy sponge. The silver rowing boats stacked on a portable shelving unit by the main building were long and thin as needles ready to slice through waves in the next morning practice.     

Turned around and headed back, and after a short while I felt the thirst creeping up. I slurped the last bead of water from my bottle and thought of options. I don't know of any fountains near that area. I considered the ol' suck it up approach but my energy was waning, so I detoured from the home stretch and headed to the market. Slipped inside the main building and filled up the water bottle. Gulped it down and went for a refill! After capping the bottle and wading through the madding crowds to the canal, I felt my life force return. 22k.

~ In memory of Margot ~ 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

8K with the boss

No, I don't mean with D! Or Pinotte, for that matter. I mean with my director at the office. We two Employees and the boss have been settling into a weekly running routine of Tuesdays and Thursdays. I like the camaraderie and I'm comfortable being in the middle in terms of speed. Today, Employee was tired and opted to continue working at his desk, so it was just me and Boss. A little intimidating, but not really. We start off talking about work but I could tell he wanted to end that quickly, so we flipped to the trusty subject of running. While running. A giant cycle of obsession, is that.

Since we run during lunch we don't go out for all that long. The longest route is about 8K and leads first along the bike path for a series of killer hills, first a lot of up, then steeply down, then unites with the paved road for the last few kilometres. All spring we've been spoiled with a car-free road and only a few cyclists who seem to head straight for us, but I hear the roads re-open this weekend so we'll have to be more careful. No more running in the middle of the road until next winter. On the upside, guaranteed fewer bear sightings with the sound and smells of autos in the air. It's not that I like cars, but that I worry about critters with teeth and claws and big empty stomachs.

Sometimes we grab a shorter route that starts primly on the path, descends into gravel through the woods - we run along a marsh for part of it - and finishes up on the road. I don't know the distance, only that it takes about 32 minutes to complete.

Then there is the "lazy" run: three laps on the road around the building. That will bring us to roughly 6K and pancake flat but with lots of vehicles and sometimes walkers. Employee and I take this route occasionally, but never with Boss. With Boss it's all or nothing, even if he has to take a walk break in the middle. Which we did today.

It was misty and a perfect temperature. A few times I smelled vanilla but it lasted a second or two each time.