Saturday, 8 June 2013

Enforced Rest : Wandering the neighbourhood, smelling the flowers ...

Pied Beauty - Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

a rose


Wispy clouds. Light evening breezes dance in sun-speckled leaves ... 

OK. So I'm not Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I feel inspired by this enforced rest to be more aware of the details around me. Twice a day I'm out for walks - short, cautious walks around our little neighbourhood. Slow - careful not to trip or slip in dips of the sidewalk. Time to feel. Aware of ghosts of summers past - children playing softball after supper on our spare lot, the boulder near Salette's being first base. Laughter. Crack of bat. Run!!!  In summer, the field was full of pink, white and mauve phlox and we ran betweenst them. 

Glass jars in hand, we traipsed to Victoria's just past Benjamin Constant where there still    existed a tiny stream - enough of a trickle to support tadpoles. We carried the wee brown/black legless polliwogs home in muddy water and to watch them develop into frogs.  We had more room on our property for frogs to be happy. Somehow they always disappeared from our chipped pink enamel baby bath part-way through their transformaton process . I wonder - did birds get them? Did they hop out? 

Two ash trees grew at either side of the stone wall in front of our house and are still there, now bordering the driveway into the large apartment building parking lot. Every few years, a section approximating the outline of our home at 427 has to be repaved, as the ground beneath continues to settle.  Even after 25 years. Our basement had a small window at the right back as a coal chute. I am wondering if I'm making this up - but must be Dad had to shovel coal to keep us warm in winter. Vague memory of him doing so at night before bedtime. 

Do you see wisdom and memory?

I stood one evening and rested my hand on the right-hand tree, breathing quietly, listening for the life in it and wondering if it holds the memory of us all. It whispered to my heart the joys and sorrows it had seen. Lorne a blonde, blue-eyed, smiley baby - first grandchild - first child of Mum and Dad's generation. Everybody loved him and he belonged to everyone. Lorne's death when he was 8 and the horror and grief that wound within and around our home. Foster babies, one of whom - Johnny - died a crib death in his pram in the shade of those trees. Big brother Jim with his impish grin and straight brown hair, so like Dad's picture as a baby.  Jim standing in his crib, a year and a half, rocking and humming in tune, "Bell bottom trousers." He WAS a war-baby after all and had the gift of music born in him as well. Music flowing from Granda in early days when he bought the piano, and then Jim later on - both playing by ear. 

Auntie Joyce, Uncle Mel and Peter arrived back from Australia in 1949 - staying with us until they were settled. Peter and I became inseparable. Jack, the airedale, in Mum's day; cats always with Gram and then me. Gram's garden - her great gift - and on it goes. If the huge old willow tree were still there in the back yard, it would have the same and other stories to tell. Jim caught his knee on a huge nail while building the platform between the two massive arms of it. Peter and I decided that Gram's rough cement fish pond in the back corner was dirty. We added soap flakes to clean it, to the detriment of the goldfish and the distress of Gram. We were 2 and 3 at the time, so it seemed a good idea to help out. What can I say? The animal cemetery of several generations of pets - fish, rabbit, cats, dogs... Daisy, Lorne's dog who was killed by a car late one night shortly after Lorne's death. 

The irises are blooming now - the scent so sweet. Well, some are past their best now, but the scent lingers. Gram always had irises - yellow and purple mixes, along the stone wall. And the peonies waft their fragance on the evening air - though many are weighted and broken down by size and rain.

Remnant of our lilac bushes - or should I say descendant? Still there. Left side of what was the driveway.
Almost every time I have walked past our old home that is no longer this last week on one of my build-my-strength-back-up constitutionals, I've smelled marijuana and I can't see where it's coming from. Do you suppose Gram's ghost is floating about smoking pot? I never did know all of what she grew in her garden. :-) and how, you may wonder, does Ros know the sweet scent of pot? It's amazing what I learned in a psych hospital way back at breakdown/breakthrough time in 1975,. :-)

Moving around the neighbourhood ....

Heavysege's house - Mr and Mrs Heavysege's 50th wedding anniversary party was a big do.  They lived upstairs. I'm wondering who lived downstairs. Miss Heavysege was tall and angular, and sewed beautifully and for a living, I think. She must have had a first name, but we certainly didn't call her so. She took us through our Girl Guide sewing badge. If I were going to make up her name, I'd call her Violet. Or maybe Dorothy. 

Well - on I found a "Dominion Franchise Act List of Electors, 1935." Miss Heavysege was Winnifred - Winnie. Of course! Now I remember. Well, maybe her Mum was Violet or Dorothy - since she's just listed as Mrs. Fred. :-)

Heavysege home, upstairs, 2013

The little evangelical church on Lafayette warns us "Que sert à l'homme de gagner le monde s'il perd son âme?" "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" urrrrgghh... never mind the exclusive language - it wouldn't draw me in. I know we need an aspect of this theology, but I try not to do fear stuff anymore. How 'bout love, justice, compassion and inclusiveness? 

The church is an A-frame built on the overgrown lot behind Rilstone's old home. Figaro, the white and tiger-splotched kitty once caught his foot in a rat trap hidden amongst the weeds. Mittens, his sister, eventually led the family to him. He always stuck his right hind foot out at an angle when he wanted a little sympahy. This is the cat that leapt out the second floor window after a fly. Cats like Figaro prove the theory that cats have nine lives. :-)
Rilstone's as it was yesterday. This morning all trees in front were cut down.

Ruby and Hughie Oakley's house
brother and sister
Ruby and Hughie always had kittens, it seemed, in their back shed. We used to dress them up in doll clothes. I guess our own cats wouldn't stand for it, but then they were adults. Now and then we went into the kitchen at the back of the house. It was dim and I was a little afraid. To the left of their house (right if coming through from our place) was a wooded lot that backed onto our spare lot. Great fun!

Somebody's playing "O Canada" - in Longueuil! NOW! It may be travellin' over from Ile-Ste-Hélène - but still... surprise! Or do we have a closet federalist in the neigbourhood? :-) Well, playing that loudly, not much of a closet. (It was for the F1. At the end, there was the German national anthem, so someone from Germany must have won.)

Mrs. Bertha Carleton's home on Mercier
Don't you love this little home? Anne of Green Gables could live here. Mrs Carleton was a friend of Gram's, and was one of the little old ladies that Jim used to pick up and drive to St. Mark's of a Sunday morning. Along with Mrs. Coates ... and I forget who else... They loved Jim. 

The windows of Bradbury's house on Ste-Hélène are gone and it's being taken down by new owners to build something new. When our little gang left on our bikes each morning (1959-1963) from the gathering point at William White to high school at Lemoyne d'Iberville, little Mrs. Bradbury would wait on her front verandah and wave to us.

Bradbury's house

In the field where Montreal South United Church stood the outline of the building is like a sunken grave full of buttercups - the church, the hall where we attended Girl Guides on Wednesday nights, and the back room where Auntie Eileen went to school for Grade 3 in 1924 were all dismantled about ten years ago. Queen Anne's lace graces the rest of the  field and the original trees still stand at the sides. Mrs Campbell used to produce a musical each year ... and we sang our hearts out. I was once dressed in yellow crepe paper as one of the flowers. Were there boys in it? I only remember all the neighbourhood girls, down in age from the big girls like Dawn Gascoigne to little ones.

Formerly Montreal South United Church

Home sweet home, upstairs.
If you look very closely, you will see the ripe strawberry in the hanging basket!
Mr and Mrs Kipps used to live here.

All photos mine ... except the tadpoles

To be continued ...


  1. Thank you Ros for your precious memories.... You are a poet!!!!!

  2. Lots of shared memories there ... thanks!

  3. Thanks little Sister :) Mrs Southart and her Mom, Mrs Foreman?