Thursday, June 28, 2007
Greetings, friends and countrywomen.
I write to you from my dear friend's laptop (password: fuckoff) in her lovely little apartment in a peaceful corner of Montreal. Outside it is hotter than Hades, more humid than a sauna, and the streets are dry as a bone despite a spectacular thunderstorm last night. Dag`s computer would rather produce Spanish accents than apostrophes, so you`ll just have to bear with me since I am incapable of writing without the humble yet oh-so-vital Apostrophe.
I love thunderstorms. A girl my good friend is trying to set me up with sent me a text message last night asking me what I loved about lightning. Was it, she asked, "glimpses into a past, future, yourself...time frozen in an instant, the eyes see, but does the mind?" (Oh I'm terribly clever to have just figured out how to change the keyboard's language). Poetic, eh? She's like that. She sends me quotations on a fairly regular basis, from sources as diverse as Kafka, Dr. Seuss, and Langston Hughes. AND she has red hair.
I wrote back: "they remind me of those great chills you get when something exciting happens. A series of brief consecutive tremors, followed by amazing sound, then the fury tapering off. It's sexy. The amoral violence of nature is also always kind of fascinating. Nature is neither good nor evil, it simply is."
Regardless of the fact that I have no foundational belief in a God or god-like figure, I still search for that sense of the sublime, that feeling so aptly described by George Eliot and the Brontes, and all those painters whose work hangs in the Louvre, those amazing dark blue canvasses with a tiny figure perched on the edge of an abyss, or a cavernous forest, or an endless sprawling moor at dawn. I long for and am learning to love that feeling of being very small in a wide and complex world. I actually rather enjoy knowing that I am terribly insignificant in the scheme of things. There is no great plan for me except for the plans I make for myself.
I am a rare atheist who loves churches. Not those garish modern megachurches with video screens blasting Christian rock videos karaoke-style, but the ancient, dusty relics of a bygone era. A really spectacular church can take me to a strange place beyond religious or sexual ecstasy. It is a relatively rare but wondrous moment when I find myself overcome by their scale and detail, and by the sheer commitment of the artists to grandeur and beauty. The last time I felt this was in a chapel at Oxford, gazing up at an endless row of stone statues that stretched up to the cathedral ceiling, and the sublime nature of the moment made me want to fall to my knees. And I am not a fall on my knees kind of girl.
But anyway. Back to earth.
I've been in Montreal for a week and a bit. I left the Vancity with my mom on the 15th and flew to Toronto, where I took a bus to Stratford for my cousin's wedding. It was a great ceremony, mainly because it was short and blessedly unpreachy. This is the cousin I always nudge under the table and share inappropriate jokes with at our family's usual ultra-religious, five-hour snorefest weddings. And so his wedding was low on the speeches, brief in its ceremony (under 20 minutes), low on the references to God (2, and I was counting) and heavy on the dancing. My kind of party. It was a great time, despite the fact that I had to dance with two teenage boys from the bride's side of the family for whom I suppose I was the only eligible female in a short skirt anywhere near their age bracket.
After Stratford my mom and I settled in Montreal, then went to Eastern Quebec (Frenchily known as Estrie) to do some geneological research. Two days in the library, hours of translating old French documents and the archivists' information to my mom, and much searching through cemeteries later, we had discovered that my grandfather's side of the family has lived in Quebec for eight generations, before which they came to the New World from France and surprisingly, Spain. There is still much left to discover, but I think my mom was pleased with what we found. And I was pleased to have helped. Translating excites me. No, really.
Montreal is an impressively diverse city, and I've tried to explore it a bit despite the oppressive weather. On Tuesday my friends from the states, Curlz and MB, came up to visit, and the four of us had a delightful time. Last night we went for Thai food at Chu Chai, a restaurant that does strange and magical things with soy and seitan that makes vegetable matter look and taste almost disturbingly like meat. We talked and laughed for hours, and Dag and I tried our hardest to get them to stay in town for the weekend, but to no avail. I can't help but find it somewhat unfair that the most wonderful people I know always seem to live across the country, or in some little town in the Eastern US.
I wish I could travel all the time and never work, yet somehow still manage to maintain my apartment and pay my bills and feed my cat. Oh, and I'd like a beautiful girl who reads the Brontes and loves Maya and likes to do the dishes and doesn't smoke.
Fortunately, I don't believe there's any great plan for me. There is only what I make for myself, the world as I create it, the kindness I give out and the love that I try to share.
Existentialism isn't really so lonely after all.