We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.
But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.
I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.
It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.
First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.
Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.
And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.
This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.
The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.
This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.
I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.
However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.
Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.
An excerpt from my novel, Fame’s Victim (at times, an altered history of Canada.) Here, ST (the person of Fame in the novel) dines with Leonard Cohen after Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s funeral.
“Yes.” ST turns to the street. “The only time I met the Prime Minister – mere months ago – he desired we have champagne. It is a memory to share.”
“Memory – the ghost at every table.”
The noontime crowd has run its course and, just as with the café clientele, the number of people on the street become fewer. However, word-of-mouth has spread and everyone makes a pass of the café. Other than being the object of glances and smiles, the two men are not interrupted. Pedestrian traffic does slow however when the bottle of champagne arrives.
“They want a show.” Cohen runs a finger over the cold bottle.
“There’s a proper way.” The waitress is winding a white napkin around the bottle.
“In tandem, don’t you think?” The poet glances at ST.
“That will make the news of the world.” ST indicates the number of cameras and video recorders among the crowd.
“It should be the news of the world.”
The waitress is not certain of his intent, but when Cohen stands beside her with a generous smile she hands him the bottle. He lets the napkin fall to the table and holds the champagne – label out – toward the street. ST gets to his feet amid the click-click-click of cameras and begins to remove the wire basket.
“You can not share my déjà vu but trust me, Time is doubling over with laughter.”
ST begins to twist the cork, his other hand around the bottle’s neck even though Cohen holds the base. When he feels the cork start to give he puts both thumbs against it and shoves. As it explodes into the Montreal sky the waitress holds the two glasses and, amid the welling applause from the street, ST pours the champagne.
“We begin to set the clocks at normal.” The poet takes both glasses and the flustered waitress flees.
“By drinking champagne at noon?” ST reaches for the offered glass.
“By showing we no longer need to mourn.” Cohen’s smile contains wry triumph. “Time is pulling out of the station and now we need to jump on board.”
“With a sip of champagne?” ST brings his glass to his lips.
Cohen gives a slight bow to the street. “The most effective slight-of-hand is the trick that’s seen by all.”
This cruise on the Oceania Marina caught my eye because 1) it actually comes to the Atlantic coast of Canada the second week of April (the earliest I have seen) and 2) it ends in Barcelona – a destination I would appreciate.
In between it goes to Ireland, France, England, France again, Spain, Portugal, Spain (again). It takes twenty-eight days out of New York.
Now, I don’t want to sound like a publicity writer for pricey cruises. If I ever did go on such a jaunt, I’d prefer a ship much smaller (the Marina can handle 1258 – 1447 passengers). And – in truth – I would rather go on a Freighter that only handles a dozen or so paying passengers. Oddly, the main character in my work-in-progress, Alison Alexandra, went on such a Freighter cruise and enjoyed herself immensely. But she’s that type of gal.
However, Alison Alexandra also enjoys the finer things in life (she also had a hearty jaunt on The Orient Express), and would not eschew the accommodations and offerings aboard The Marina.
In addition to the extensive voyage, and numerous ports of call, (and the complementary 24 hour room service) Alison Alexandra would enjoy a night or two in the twelve dining venues offered.
Alison Alexandra could dip into various menus to have :
Roasted veal rack: marsala sauce, mascarpone polenta, sautéed asparagus, tomato
Tournedos rossini: foie gras, truffle sauce, fried lorette potatoes
Roasted Beetroot and Garlic Goat Cheese Napoleon with Champagne and Truffle Vinaigrette
Pancetta Wrapped Filet of Veal with Bay Lobster Tail Oscar Style
Bone-In Milk-Fed Veal Chop prepared in your choice of style: Grilled to perfection and topped with Sautéed Piedmonte Wild Porcini Mushroom Sauce Pounded thin, lightly breaded and sautéed in Lemon-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil Vinaigrette, crowned with Trio of Diced Roma Tomatoes, Radicchio and ArugulaAged Marsala Wine Sauce
Gambas Sautées ProvençaleSautéed Jumbo Shrimp in Lessatini Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Garlic, Parsley and Tomatoes
And, from he Dom Pérignon Experience:
Curry jaune de homard bleu, nuage de coco: Brittany blue lobster, yellow curry broth, coco foam:
w/ Dom Pérignon 2006
Alison Alexandra is not (unlike her author) much for desserts.
All the menus, and other cruise details, can be found here: https://www.oceaniacruises.com/ships/marina/cuisine/
I post this winter tale when the snow decides to storm and the wind shakes the trees and there in nary a bird to see. It happened a few years ago, and hints at the rougher side of Nature, which is so often just around the corner in Canada.
Some years in the past, I looked after a dog whilst her owners went out of town.
Tibbit is a big, friendly dawg who likes inspecting piles of leaves. She has a long lead which her benevolent human allows to go as far as possible. She knows (better than her accompanying human) that there are treats at the end of each walk.
On Saturday I didn’t get Tibbit out until after dark. We skirted the university (where her masters work) and went up a street bordering the campus. We both liked the Christmas lights. Near the top of the street we met an inebriated gentleman warning us of a bear in the surrounding woods.
“Flush him out,” said he, “And I’ll get my 3 aught 3.”
“Get the rifle first,” I replied, and we went our respective ways.
Now Tibbit and I doubted the veracity of the gentleman, so when we came to a trail through the woods, we took it. I will admit I did peer more intently into the gloom than usual, but one trail led to a larger trail which led back to the university. We advanced without incident.
On Sunday I again walked Tibbit toward the university, though from a different direction. It was a crisp, clear day and she gamboled (as much as the leash allowed ) through the new fallen snow. Sunshine gleamed. This time we were on the other side of the campus, but our walk eventually led to a position about half a mile away from where we were the previous evening.
We followed another trail into the woods and admired the sun through the fir trees. The path was wide and sloped. It came to turn some distance away which would lead us even closer to where we were the day before.
At the top of the slope Tibbit stopped dead in her tracks. She stared and stared. She glanced briefly into the woods but mainly kept staring along the trail. I saw nothing nor heard anything (and I was intent upon both).
Tibbit did not move and made not a sound. She just kept staring.
After a solid two minutes of this I started to backtrack and she made no complaint.
You betcha she got her dog treats.
Bus rides do give one time to observe people – particularly a bus trip longer than one might want to take.
So, I had time on my hands to observe the fellow across the aisle. I’ll take a guess at early thirties, well-dressed, though well-dressed for travel on a bus. He had a fashionable pea coat, tailored jeans, and rugged dressy boots or dressy rugged boots. He was of slender but muscular build, with short hair and a chiseled face. The man exuded military.
He had a neatly appointed carry bag for his food stuffs. It seemed each compartment had its own designation. There was one for sandwiches, one for granola bars, one for fruit. There was even a compartment for a slender, space age-looking thermos. I am not certain what it might have held.
When he used his iPhone, though I was too far away to actually read anything, I noted the cycle of images he went through. There was a deep red shield with a crest and wings; a large silver image of vertical slashing lightning bolts; and a photo of an almost-smiling attractive brunette. Whatever messages he sent seemed to consist of only a couple of lines of text, all done with his thumb.
About half way through the trip he took a book from another case. It was large enough to read the title across the aisle. It was “Merry Hell: The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919” .
No, I wasn’t able to read all that from across the aisle, but a book search of key words led me to it a few minutes ago. And a fitting tale, think I, for a military chap.
When the bus reached its destination, he kindly indicated that I could precede him to disembark. For which I thanked him. And, as I waited to get my luggage, I saw him embraced – fulsomely – by the attractive brunette on his iPhone. A smiling brunette. An embrace he, as-fulsomely, returned.
(Place Ville Marie)
At one time I shared a whole house with four other people. Two were in the process of becoming lawyers. I noted that most of their stories did not contain much whimsy. The following is a story one of the fellows told us. I, of course, make up the dialogue but, though fiction, it is based on his facts.
“I don’t mean to stare – I apologise. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….
“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montréal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montréal, and made train and bus connection.
“No, thanks. I don’t want another.
“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.
“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.
“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.
“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.
“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus, and just jumped it as it was pulling away.
“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course, on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.
“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”
Buddy and I are waiting for a bus. Hours ahead await us on the trip, though we go to different destinations. I guess proximity is the reason he starts to talk to me, there being nobody else close.
This conversation is edited, though mostly for continuity.
Buddy : Gotta great day.
Me: Yes. (and it is – the weather is some grand)
Buddy: I’ve come half way across Canada, and still have to take the boat to Newfoundland. (this means another 8 hours on the bus for him, and 9 hours on the ferry)
Me: Hope you can sleep on the boat.
Buddy: And then another twelve hours hitching across the province.
Me: You sure have me beat. (I have 7 hours ahead of me, half by train)
Buddy: I don’t know what will happen. My friend says the church will help people.
Me: You’re not going home?
Buddy; Nope – all dead.
Me: That’s tough.
Buddy: That’s my Mom there. (he points to one of his bags) Got her ashes to bury.
Me: You have a sad time.
Buddy: Found her at the end of the driveway.
Buddy: In the urn. My girlfriend threw all my stuff out. That’s where it rolled.
Me: All your things?
Buddy: I had to store my stuff. Just money left for the bus and the ferry.
Me: I gotta say that sounds cold.
Buddy: She’s keeping my last disability cheque.
Buddy $1,700. Says I owe her.
Me: Do you?
Buddy: I guess. Anyway, there’s no going back there.
Me: That’s what it sounds like.
(At this point the bus driver arrives, asking what luggage is to go under the bus)
Buddy: Not that one. (he points to the one with the ashes) That comes with me.