Out of time

Venus was so bright from where we were standing, it looked unreal. Feet in the sand, surrounded by trees together with a scent of citronella, eyes up to the dark sky where stars were lighting up one by one. Here we were. Tiny, humble, astonished.

1 hour north from Gatineau, you can find a natural park where racoons, squirrels and hummingbird (!) live in peace and harmony. Hundreds of islands are spread all over the water reservoir, and you can conquer most of them if only you can paddle – and read a map. If my paddling skills are acceptable, it is of common knowledge that I cannot read a map. I do not even know my left from my right.

Manon and I paddled in circles and around the wrong island for about 1 hour and a half, before we could set foot on what would be our very own island for the next days. A beach, a wooden table and rocks defining the campfire. As pink was taking over the vanishing blue sky, we were opening our first beer. Cheers to our progress in tent management, to this place, and to our sweet escape.

There is no word really to explain the beauty we witnessed. In this kingdom we were nothing – but food for mosquitos. Despite citronella – oil, candles and incense – I count about 19 visible bites on my legs only. If that is the price to pay to be on the first row of this show,  I will come again.

There is nothing. For several kilometers around. As long as you have sunlight, it is empowering. You feel like you have conquered something, like you have some kind of super power. You can make fire, you can float and swim, you can climb on trees. Your skin absorbs the sun, your bare feet run in the sand, your un-sanitized hands feed your mouth with simple food. You are king, really.  Until Venus is the brightest view you have.The darkness of the night makes you lose all landmarks, and together with it, pride. The slightest noise starts you up, shadows become terrible monster and your imagination takes you to a whole different place. This is not your cute friendly little island anymore, it has become a place of darkness where racoons work in organized group against you – personally.

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The real darkness that you experience there makes you lose touch with reality. It feels even deeper than losing track of time. You hear, feel and see differently. Eventually your body adapts, but your mind keeps on playing trick on you; trying to insert images of the outside world into this perfect island. And here comes the monster you read about in your books, right here behind the fairy tree where earlier you spotted a hummingbird.

You know you are safe but this kind of  » open world safety » is so far from everything you know! It is very interesting to observe the game between the mind and the body. I did not have a air mattress in my tent, so I slept on the tent floor, on a sandy ground. My head was already whining about comfort, and about my back and my neck and blablabla. I slept like a baby, once I could stop my brains from turning all the squirrels walking around the tent into psychopath steps looking after me.

You do not need much, apart from a waterproof roof above your head. Meals are easy: bites of vegetables and fruits; a camembert to melt in the dying fire and grilled chamallows for the black stories evenings.

From our little paradise, we paddled down the reservoir until we found a perfect swimming spot. At this stage we hadn’t found out yet that the little heads swimming around were not turtles either frogs, but snakes. Yolo.

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Dabbling and splashing around like three little ducks, it felt like we were really connecting with the world around us. Laughing out loud and breaking loose with all thoughts from the outside. It is actually much harder than you think and strangely, I have had the most realistic dreams about my life  »back home » those last two nights. It felt like my head was trying to hold me back to it, like my head would feel the ceasura initiated by my instincts, but she would not be ready to deal with. Funny process.

The sky of last night was from far the most intense experience I had. Out of nowhere, a thick black cloud came up, covering our good stars; thereby plunging the all landscape in what was to me a very new kind of dark. Deepest dark I have ever seen, thick air, warm wind : a storm was coming. Drops were big and heavy, bouncing on the roof of my tent; offering to the spiders and ants some good trampoline session. Few times during the night, the rain came by, ensuring a clear bright sky for the new morning.

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Driving back – and dreaming of running water, shower and non rationed drinking water; I try to keep my head and heart into this very moment, in the car with my family. I am already planning my arrival tomorrow in Hawaii. Somehow, this new trip feels like another big departure. Till now, I was evolving in  »known » environments but the flight tomorrow will take me to a side of the world where I have never been before, where I know nothing and no one. It is thrilling. But let’s enjoy what is happening now : sing proudly with my cousin the songs from our homeland, under the amused eyes of her boyfriend.

 

 

Publicités

Into the wild

Mon Farewell aux Adirondack a été ensorcelant.

Une dernière nuit dans mon chalet perdu – quelque peu angoissant à la nuit tombée. Mille étoiles brillent, les grenouilles croassent leur comptines de bonne nuit, la nuit devient épaisse ; et soudain ma solitude passe de paisible à pesante. J’aimerai partager le crépitement du feu de cheminée, le grincement des volets et les ombres dans la forêt avec d’autre que mon esprit qui vagabonde.

Il faudra pourtant dormir, pour demain avoir la force de porter mon bâton de sorcière/randonneuse.  Je tiens la méthode de ma Mère-Grand : tenir un bâton à bout de bras, devant soi, pour éliminer sur son passage les toiles d’araignées. La culpabilité de détruire les habitats de ces méticuleuses travailleuses est rapidement dépassée par le stupide dégout et la peur incontrôlable, inexpliquée qui m’assaillit quand une toile effleure mon visage. Je n’écoute que ma peur, et brandis mon précieux bâton, que je fais tournoyer devant moi telle une baguette protectrice. Je ne suis pas très fière, mais je me félicite de ne porter sur moi ni araignée ni habitat.

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Au bout du chemin, je dépasse enfin la cime des arbres. Je remercie mon stick de combat et entame l’étape escalade. Je renoue avec mes souvenirs d’entrainement en forêt de Fontainebleau et me ballade jusqu’au sommet de Cobble Hill. Je fais la rencontre de Max, ses parents, sa grande sœur et son petit frère. Je devrai être bien prudente en entamant la descente, ‘’ça glisse vachement, mais c’est fun’’. Il s’excuse si les écureuils sont tous cachés, mais ils ont pris peur car son petit frère gazouillait trop fort… mais il est ‘’beaucoup trop petit’’ pour comprendre alors il ne faudrait pas lui en vouloir! Vaillant et bienveillant, Max continue son aventure et j’atteins le sommet. Il n’avait pas menti, ‘’on voit tout’’.

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Il semble si facile ici d’atteindre la paix. Depuis ces pierres dominant la vallée, j’admire. Sous mes pieds, une ville où crépite le bacon et coule le sirop d’érable. Sous mes yeux, à perte de vue, des bois et des neiges fondues. Des routes infinies qui lient mille trésors enfouis. En voilà un vrai open space… dans lequel l’esprit vagabonde librement et grandit, s’enrichit et ne connait pas de limite. Ces limites, que l’on ne les repousse jamais assez. Vitrés et climatisés, nos open space nous conditionnent à repousser des limites économiques et  de productivité. Depuis ma prison dorée, quand j’arrivais à m’écouter penser, j’allais toujours au-delà de ces frontières idéologiques. Il m’est difficile d’exprimer le bonheur d’avoir atteint et dépassé ces frontières, physiquement. C’est une vraie victoire, tant savoureuse que dévorante.

Je suis descendue quand les écureuils entamaient leur chasse à la noisette. Intrépides, ils s’appliquent à récolter leur butin sans se soucier de ma présence.

De retour à Montréal en début de soirée, juste à temps pour improviser quelques gâteaux pour le Birthday boy du jour. Une pincée de ceci, une lichette de cela, on goute du bout du doigt, on rajoute un peu de chocolat ; et hop. On est saufs, les bougies pourront être soufflées !

Avant d’entamer l’ultime épreuve Wild, je profite d’une dernière journée dans Montréal. Je ne me lasse pas des rues pleines de vie, d’art impromptu, de façades florissantes d’escaliers, de lierre, hortensia et rosiers. A l’ombre d’un arbre du Mont Royal, un raton laveur se met en boule – lui non plus ne semble pas apprécier le chant strident des corbeaux. Il se hisse au sommet, et se blottit entre une branche et le tronc solide de l’un des majestueux habitants de cette incroyable forêt, en cœur de ville. Ici, les bois vibrent de magie et malice. Les arbres coupés sont des trônes pour lutins et les écureuils se servent dans les sacs de Pic-Nic des plus rêveurs.

Demain, nous partons pour 3 jours de camping, sur une ile déserte, atteignable uniquement à la rame. La dernière expérience ‘’cousines bécassines’’ en nature était mémorable, mais j’espère quand même que nous ferons mieux au niveau gestion de tente. First thing first, une manucure + pédicure est indispensable : si le choix des couleurs est un calvaire, le massage des pieds est un plaisir. Tout est prêt : casquettes animaux (oui, il y aura des photos), raquettes de badminton, chamallows à griller et les restes du méchoui d’anniv. Bel exercice pour moi que de partir en camping, avec pour seul assainissant de l’huile essentielle de lavande (aspic !) et la promesse de 3 matins sans shampoings. Ça va bien se passer …

 

Be more than you have

There is not enough time in the world to see it all. It makes it both frustrating and fascinating. As hard as you try to be efficient, you will never have enough time to see it all.

Take this place for example. It is insignificant on our planet scale; but if my feet could speak, they would probably use all kinds of  hyperbole about how spacious this is.

I feel like I am running out of time, and words too. I do not know how to keep it interesting anymore: I am tiny and everything around me makes me feel both relaxed and anxious. Relaxed for how peaceful it is from the moment I open my eyes to the kind forest surrounding the house, and for how peaceful it remains up on the roads, in the forest, by the river, next to the falls, at the feet of the cliff… everywhere really. Anxious too, as I sometimes feel like a parasite in this beautiful and messy wild.

I woke up squirrels who followed my steps carefully, scared that I would come too close. I almost stepped on a red frog and I am not sure if she accepted my apologies – she looked pretty mad. I disturbed a Blue Jay – but maybe was he stealing some eggs from another nest so I am not sure yet if I am sorry about this one. I kept on tripping on unstable rocks, roots and even mud. Looking up, after some light or noise and it is like the ground would grab my leg trying to make me fall. Looking down my feet and tiny branches will find their way through my hair. The forest today was enchanted, and did not seem to be pleased about my visit. It was pretty, as always, but for the first time I was not at ease. I was anxious. Trees were keeping the sunlight from me, frogs were singing an hymn that made me nervous, birds were shouting at each other just as if they were following my moves.

But see, I could have experienced this totally differently.

I was walking on juicy green mossy grounds, protected by two rows of high trees, hoping from a rock to another to pass the many streams and dawning waterfalls when I was stopped. Here, a feet away from my foot, a stressed out red frog. I almost stepped on her, so I bow down and apologize. If I hadn’t find my charming prince already (with the white pony and all!) , I’d give it a kiss. This place is a perfect playground, and today’s game seems to be hide and seek: sun versus trees, squirrels versus squirrels – once spotted, they freeze and give you that look  »please don’t tell the others you found me! »; and that majestic bird given away by its own bright blue fathering. And the background is better than any Spotify playlist:  birds and frogs singing in harmony their welcome song to Spring which finally made it to their valley.

It’s a matter of perspective. You can see the worst or the best out of the same situation. Today, I was in a whining mood, having a hard time seeing beauty. I was missing home, my species – and the pony. I was seeking for some human warmth, loud jokes and sparkling wine. I did not see the beauty of my surrounding and I felt a bit guilty about it. But see, I think it is ok to miss home, and at the end of the day I am happy to be able to call a place Home. Despite my love and excitement for travels and discoveries, I figured I am enjoying this also because it reminds me of something, someone, back home. It is bringing me closer to the things I love. And I feel like I am a part of something bigger, that does not know borders either time difference.

I might be tiny in here, and I will never have enough time either physical strength to walk all those roads, climb all those peaks, feel all the ice cold water, talk to all the sneaky squirrels. But I am ok with being tiny, for I belong to this huge mess. There is no game of power, there is nothing to win really. It is only about being a part of this beauty, seeing it and getting the chance to make your own path, your own way.

There is nothing to win, really. It does not get any better than being able to see things with a judgement-free eye, and to let the world be without even trying to control any of it. There is no point in being efficient – climbing more, seeing more, walking more, making more (picture, memories or money) but it is hard for me to surrender. I have been in a mold for long, where productivity was the only queen. But what if we can do otherwise? What if we are losing touch with our inner selves, by always giving priority to someone’s else needs, desires, ambitions… Why is it that we think negatively of people who put their own needs on the first line? When are we going to stop feeling guilty when we do?

We already are a part of something, it’s called nature. It’s our planet, it’s carrying us and caring for us. Yet, we forgot and we put our minds into secondary needs, that we created. We cut off with our primary desires and we feel guilty or ashamed when they resurface and eventually take over. We are lead by groups of people whose interest is to keep us into the circle of secondary needs, where we will be encouraged to work to supply our created needs with the money we  »make ». If you do not think about any of it, it is all fine. What it is not is sustainable, fair, rewarding; but well, it works for now. If you start thinking about it, claiming your conscious and your place in the bigger picture, you might lose faith in our build-up so called humanity; but you might as well reconnect with what’s real. As much as our society has a need for organisation, there is no need for possession either domination. Before you do anything, you should be. So be, more that you have – ever been.

Cloud nine

I am a food enthusiast, so it goes without saying that finding a French bakery down my cousin’s street was a real treat. They have a chocolate brioche bread, which tastes better than a few I’ve tried in France. Also, they are not greedy, so you can actually taste the cheese in the cheese bread. There we were, sitting around the wooden table, enjoying late breakfast and reconnecting with our childhood gustatory memory. Time travel, taking us back to another kitchen table, with the invading and perfect smell of Grandma hot chocolate.

Faithful to our roots and genetics, we got lost later that day in Mont Royal – the hill that sits right in the middle of Montreal city. Small world existing in the effervescence of the city,the Mont Royal sets different standards. Time stops, stairs wrap all around the cliffs, rocks are chairs, trees support slacking walkers, drummers make everyone’s heart beat on the same rhythm. Spring and tulips have arrived. Twisting, jumping, dancing; we eventually made it back home after climbing up the shelves of the cereals alley in the grocery store. It is also part of our education to not sleep on a serious discount on our favorite cereals brand.

This morning, after a generous bowl of the precious loot, I hit the road towards the United States of America. They used all the letters, in bright white and silver, on top of the toll desks at the border. Fancy. As I keep driving on those open roads, following the double yellow line, I eat up the horizon line, getting more and more curvy. Here we are, in the Adirondacks High Peaks. Hiking trails start up from the main road, leading you up to one of the many tops of the world. Passed Elizabethtown, I lost my network – again – and found another way to paradise…

Somewhere between Mont Cascade, Lake Placid and Mont Whiteface; nestled between high pines and glowing trees, a huge lodge made of wood and magic. Walking around the house, surrounding by laughing birds and lush grass, I feel like Goldilocks. When I step in, I know for sure this place comes right out of the children’s book. Remember that story? Strolling in the woods, the nosy Goldilocks sneaks in the Bear family’s house while they are wandering. She tries out their food, and once she has had her fill she tries out all 3 beds in the house and falls asleep in the one of baby bear. Tonight, I have a bear’s house for myself : so many beds I do not know yet in which one I will dream about tomorrow’s hike.

Today’s walks took me to one of the green peaks stuck between Mont Cascade and Mont Porter; and later to a hidden waterfall. Driving down to Lake Placid, I was intrigued by the crystal clear lakes along the road. Following the cliffs, strewn with trees, they extend for miles…

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A small driveway takes me to a parking lot, where blue signs indicate the start of a trail. Clueless and not accordingly equipped, I take my camera and my canvas shoes for a walk anyway. For a little while, I go up the forest trail following a tiny squirrel ; he seems to show me the way, still carefully checking if I am keeping my distance. I lost him when the way got rocky – lot less to eat from there on , and I started to climb up to the top of the hill. Breathtaking view, clear sky, wide green forest as far as my eyes can see. I sit on a rock, which the sun has warmed up all day. Cloud nine. Infinite peace. There is not limit, no boundaries, no time and no other place to be. 

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When I finally make it down the hill – slippery shoes, not the best choice – I find a tiny beach. There is not real way there but, following the advice of the three guys I just bump into, I follow the way up. Indeed, I would not have wanted to miss the view. Finding my way through rocks and a growing water stream, I make it to the feet of the waterfall. Dominating the lakes, I have here my very own belvedere. Stunning view, from the other side of the hill I just left behind.

Before the sun goes down, I bring back the stars shinning in my eyes to my safe shelter where I dive into the hiking guides. Adirondack High Peaks, here I am !

I used to …

Everything is possible. For the one who can open his eyes and think outside the box.

I have found my happiest places, in hopeless ones. I drove for hours, on empty roads, to this horizon always renewing opportunities. It is never over. Behind each turn, on top on each hill, after each forest; there is always more. More to see, to feel, to think about.

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It is quite narcissist to travel on your own, self-centered for you only have to care about your own needs and desires. In this selfish act, I feel I am growing into a better version of myself. Not only more adventurous but also more patient. I am leaving less space to pressure and I am accepting more, from myself and from the world around me. Accepting more opportunities, and giving more chances.

Breaking out of my clean (!) and organized bubble was the hardest thing I have ever done. Also because I had no reason to do it, if not my motivation to see what was outside. I just wanted to be sure that I was not settling for less, and that I was on the right path. It is a dangerous game, for you might as well never be satisfied and keep running for ever. But I wanted to run the risk and see if really this bubble I was evolving in was the right fit for me. I could afford to break it for I knew I would be able to jump back in any time.

The jump so far has only taken me further away from my home bubble, for my own good!  I (re)connected with ideas and feelings that could not fit in my previous life, and that I intentionally shut down as I was trying to fit in. The places I see, the people I meet, the experiences I live, the things I feel … this is all I needed to know.

You can go your own way, they sing. I remember perfectly how I felt hearing those simple words, put together with genius music notes, played on the radio in the car of my dear coffee master friend. We were just out of our weekly Muay Thai training, I was feeling light and happy, strong and free. This feeling is the one I will never give up on. Chase it forever, never bury it and always give it priority. I can only be the best version of myself if I follow this feeling. I can only be good to the ones I love if I can pursue this feeling. I can live instead of surviving if I keep nourishing this feeling. It makes me dance, and I love dancing my dances.

Breaking free. As much as I found it almost impossible back home; I find it easier here to start my process. A start clean begins with the identification of what is holding you back. I had to find that out. How could I if I did not change my habits? I needed to feel what I was missing and what I was feeling released of. It is painful to miss the ones I love, but the release from what was holding me back is helping healing the pain. I am learning how to be a better partner, for I know what to hold on and what to let go.

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Alone and lost in the middle of nowhere for the last days, I have been through a few intern storms before I could come to peaceful state of mind. It was confronting enough to be up there, with no connection with the world as I have always known it. No network, but a sky full of stars. Gardens are parks, trees grow on rocks, deer are jumping in your backyard to eat up leaf buds and flies are biting you in the head (they bite off a piece of your skin; they do not casually suck your blood). I have lost track of time and I sincerely did not know what the days were.

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I can appreciate now the times where I face myself and answer the questions I used to shut down back home. There is no distraction here, only elements helping me the reconnect and see the things for what they really are.

I used to wonder what I was doing; I now wander from a wonder to another. I used to trade dairy, I now train daily. I live better, feel deeper, experience to the fullest. The dream – I am making true – is the life I have been searching for. It does not necessarily have to last forever, but just the idea it is possible makes all the rest a lot more ok. I know I can make it my way, and it is sufficient to know it.

It might be a few takes before you will trust yourself enough to jump, and it is oke. Just feel the moment. Even the smallest steps are enjoyable… Yesterday, wandering in Mont Tremblant with a pleasant surprise partner, I only dipped the tip of my fingers in the small stream running to the Diable River. To cool down after a very hot hike, we went pedaling on the Lake Monroe and offered our exhausted feet a (very) quick cold bath. Today, enjoying the view of the other side of the Mount from a Spa hot tub, I wanted to keep up the ice water progress.  I went down to the river and walked in up to my knees. When I could feel my feet again, I went back and jumped in, holding on to the rope hanging on the platform. Oh the feeling of bathing – even just 5 seconds – in a 8 degrees water. Amazing! As much as I enjoyed the jump, I appreciated ever step which got me there. It is about the process.

The Diable River is the queen of the valley; she feeds multitudes of lakes spread among the hills and peaks. At that time of the year, green and blue are dominant colors. If you are lucky, you can spot the white tale of a deer running away from the noise of our heavy dragging feet. Bravest deer give you a judgmental look when you pick up your camera and start shooting them frenetically.

I drove back to Montreal tonight, in the almost full moonlight. I am tiny, and happy. I accept being nothing for this place and I am grateful for I get to keep everlasting memories. I did not leave a trace, barely riddles in this water I just begin to acclimate to; and it feels good. It is not anymore about possessing and building, it is about being in harmony.

 

 

Superior beauty

Have you ever heard a fox screaming ? Tonight I might.

It took me about 5 hours to drive down here, and I regret no minute of it. Could have been a 4,5 hours trip but, I *might* have been delayed by the extremely sexy foam of the cappuccino spotted through the window of  »le bonnet d’ane » in Quebec. Despite my full donkey mode – one bag on my back, one on the front – I walked in the bistro, and ordered a très gros cappuccino. First, a spoon of foam. Creamy but light, smoothing its way to my heart. Follows the sip giving you the elegant moustache. Another sip, and again, awakening my palate and with it all my senses. OK, ready to go.

Open road, one eye on the speedometer, I am singing out loud. I will survive! Not so sure about the baby fox I spotted on the side of the road tho … Last mirror check , he was carefully checking left and right and right and right again. Eyes back on the road.

I cannot even begin to explain how it feels to drive here. No breaking news, I am not a good driver. I am easily bored and distracted behind the wheel, with a dangerous tendency to fall asleep. Let’s  not start the directions chapter. But here it is somehow different.. for starter, I do not get lost on this side of the world! I kind of love driving here. There is enough space, the curves and lines are inviting and there is always the chance to spot a deer!

1.5 hour after I left Quebec behind, I arrived in Trois-Rivières. A tea break to soften my sour throat, a quick wifi steal to check  »what to do in T-R? » and I am off to the old city. Tiny place, yet full of charm. Walking those streets is like time travelling and I feel a bit like Mary Poppins. I know where I’d like the chalk drawing to take me.  Sunbathing in the romantic garden facing the Monastery, I am shamelessly day dreaming. The horn of the cargo cruising on the St Laurent throws me back Rue des Ursulines. Could not find a whole lot to complain about. Without being breathtaking, Trois Rivieres is a cute little town.

Rocked and raised in the shadow of Paris, I have a spoiled version of what a city should be like. When the Opéra Garnier and Concorde by night are standards, it becomes quite hard on other cities in the world to compete. I have loved visiting and getting lost in many places, but I am not often impressed. Paris is stressful, busy, messy; but before all that she is alive, romantic and timeless. A duality nourishing our love/hate relationship. It never takes too long before I go back to Paris and feel in love again.

Even though my call for nature is prevalent, I am happy to feel something for the Canadian cities. I like how unfading they are and how ordinary they make me feel. Everywhere I walk I feel like being a part of something bigger yet already adopting me. The space is huge, stunning; but people are warm and down to earth. I do not feel like a disturbing stranger… I basically instantly feel at home in a place I have never set foot in before.

P1010327No deer spotted on the way to Lac Supérieur. But this place – again – is magical. It is like finding the forest that inspired all Disney movies from my childhood. Speeding rabbits, chatty frogs, greedy squirrels, nifty birds… After the highway, the maze. The more trees I count, the less network I have. And here is it, nestled between lakes and emerging peaks. My home for 2 nights is a winner for it is lost in the most peaceful place ever. Behind the main house are scattered adorable small cottages. Eastward along the pond, a sinuous path is leading to the top of the hill. Few minutes of absolute silence later, I find myself facing a valley sheltering troll’s houses, fairy in trees and adorable monster in puddles. I might as well never come back.

 

The cabin standing here is the most perfect place I have seen so far. It looks like heaven. It smells like freedom. Caressing the rough wood its made of, I want to get its essence under my skin.  Whoever made this has just given me a precious gift. I am on top of the world, my feet dance around this tiny house, and as I fly around, ideas keep flourishing in my happy head.

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In the moonlight starts the frog’s concerto. One might think night is for sleep, but here rules are definitely different. Precious warning from my host, regarding the eventual fox scream… Mix between emasculated dog and winning baby, the screaming fox is not the kind of company I wish for tonight. Keep you posted …

Champs d’oiseaux

Lors de mon arrivée à Québec il y a deux jours, j’ai rencontré un mortel peu commun. Je ne connais pas son nom, mais je n’oublierai pas son sourire, ni son aide précieuse. J’étais paumée, à tourner en rond dans ma maudite voiture de location. Le foutu GPS s’obstinait à me diriger dans la rue en travaux, inaccessible. Excédée, mais en respectant la vitesse, j’ai pris la grande rue qui descendait à gauche. Je suis tombée sur le parking de Rochester, où j’ai rencontré mon héros. Le charmant type s’improvise guide touristique, et grâce a lui j’ai une voiture (bien) garée à 5 minutes de mon bnb.

C’est sur ses recommandations que je me suis rendu aujourd’hui sur l’Isle-aux-Coudres. Et cette publication, en français aujourd’hui, c’est pour lui dire Merci. (Je ne connais pas son prénom mais je me rappelle de sa langue de prédilection, après avoir été son associée-traductrice pendant quelques minutes)

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Quelle évasion ! L’Isle est à une centaine de kilomètres de Québec, la route est longue et belle. Elle s’élance élégante entre la montagne et le Saint Laurent, épousant des courbes à faire rougir les plus belles filles de Botero, et offrant à mes yeux ses merveilles. Des cimes enneigées, des nuages qui s’y accrochent, des pins de tous les âges et de toutes les couleurs. Au fil des kilomètres, j’en viens à la conclusion que les montagnes canadiennes n’ont rien à envier aux russes.

D’une rive à l’autre du Laurent, quelques minutes houleuses à bord d’une navette qui sert le pire thé qu’il m’ait été donné à boire. Pourtant thé et temps s’écoulent sans  peine, grâce au sourire chaleureux et à  l’accent chantant des traversiers.

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Sur l’ile, la paix. On n’entend que le chant des oiseaux. Quelque chose se trame, ils dialoguent d’un bout à l’autre de la route escarpée. Peut-être qu’ils rient de moi, pédalant avec peine pour rejoindre le sommet de cette côte. De plus petits oiseaux virevoltent et m’ouvrent la voie, reliant la berge – sur ma droite –  à la naissance de la forêt de pins – sur ma gauche. J’entends des bruissements de feuilles, je m’arrête et observe. Les écureuils sont si petits et agiles qu’ont les prendrait pour des moineaux. De petites boules de feu sautillantes de part et d’autre de la route. Jeu ou travail, ils sont appliqués à leur tâche et ne semble même pas remarquer ma présence. Je reste silencieuse, et je savoure ce moment.

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Le long du chemin des Coudriers, je ne rencontre que des sourires. J’étanche ma curiosité avec une dégustation de cidres et spiritueux multi médaillés à la Cidrerie Verger Pedneault, je découvre et adore le Pet de nonne à la Maison Bouchard, je félicite Madame pour son potager et j’échange un regard complice avec le pilote en herbe qui ne voit pas bien la nécessité de ranger ses petites voitures maintenant alors qu’il va encore jouer plus tard. Même les épouvantails des jardins sont sympathiques : des silhouettes noires d’homme fumant la pipe ou encore de chien se chatouillant le ventre dans les herbes hautes.

Au croisement avec la rue du Ruisseau rouge, il y a ce beau bateau en bois. A vendre. Je me verrai bien Capitaine, ou sirène, jouant dans les vagues de la marée montante, accompagnée des centaines d’oiseaux trouvant refuge sur cette terre si tranquille. Sérieusement, au cœur de l’Isle j’ai découvert des champs entiers d’oiseaux chantants. Peu de potes à pattes, si ce n’est pour les deux chèvres qui dormaient paisibles.

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La musique de l’Isle est superbe, apaisante. Le temps s’arrête, et il est beau. Des nuages de coton dessinent un ciel parfait, qui épouse les montagnes laissées de l’autre côté du Saint Laurent. A l’abri sur l’ile, je vois des pluies locales arroser le continent ; des éclaircies superbes illuminer les familles de pins ; et le fleuve insolent, si beau qu’il en rougit sur ses propres rives.

Les lacs sont des miroirs, et l’Isle un peu narcissique en compte un certain nombre. On n’y nage pas, on n’y pêche pas, on y admire le ciel. L’un d’eux est un peu plus mystique que les autres : La roche pleureuse est sa source. La légende veut que Louise, ayant perdu foi et patience en voyant l’hiver arriver avant son bien aimé de marin, ne fasse encore aujourd’hui plus qu’un avec le rocher qui fut son siège quand elle le pleurait.

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A la lumière de la fin du jour, je trouve la plage du Chemin du bout d’en bas. Un secret bien gardé. Sur le sentier les minuscules pommes de pin et coquillages échoués ne font qu’ajouter à la grandeur de ce lieu en dehors du temps.

Retournant à mes pénates, Québec me surprend en s’érigeant majestueuse dans un horizon rose. Demain au réveil, quand le ciel s’habillera encore de nouvelles couleurs, je  (re) prendrai la route vers le sud. Ce Nord si Grand me donne tant à rêver, marcher, aimer … je réalise que je n’aurai jamais assez de temps pour rendre hommage à toutes ces images, qui m’inondent et me comblent…

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Only and already

Most people would say about me that I am often  »fashionably late ». I struggle with only 60 seconds per minute, it is just not enough. On this side of the world I happen to be too early.

Nature is still preparing, she needs a little time. I know the feeling, I can only understand her. I respect her rhythm. Moody spring is (too) muddy, resulting in late opening of hiking trails.

Driving up here from Quebec, my eyes devoured the emerging skyline of majestic waterfalls, canyons, cliffs and mountains domes. Entering the park, my heartbeat raced a little faster, setting the pace for my dancing feet. But I am too early, and most of the trails are not ready for hikers yet.

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Don’t let the quiet snowy path fool you. The ascending elevation lasted for a few kilometers, each step taking me closer to a clarifying sky. Down hill, the river swirls; up hill the kingdom is shared among birds and squirrels. Life is everywhere in the bustling nature, yet the place is peaceful and relaxing. I witness an ongoing ballet of blue, orange, yellow birds fluttering in the air like confetti’s at a party. They are everywhere, and they have a lot to say. Later, I ran into a squirrel so small it could not qualify for the job. We stared at each other for a while, his mini body language betrayed his fear and discomfort. Few wooden bridges further, the ascension ends up with a rocky path.

 

As much as I am grateful to nature for the show, I still get frustrated with cameras unable to encapsulate the essence and the dimension of it. I am trying to restrain my furious envy to capture everything, also because I know the result will never compare with the memory. But when I witness such beauty, I wish I could share it with my loved ones. Carrying their heart in mine is not always sufficient. When nature makes me feel so small, so humble I am vulnerable, I try to capture it. Maybe to take over a bit of its majesty; surely to try and catch the moment, the beauty and the feeling growing into my chest. I hope that looking back at all the pictures I took, I will not only remember the place but most importantly how it made me feel.

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It has been two weeks, only and already. I still catch myself planning, preparing, worrying about being as efficient as possible with this trip. I guess it will take a bit extra time to really lay back and let things come to me. I have a hard time doing nothing, I feel guilty when I sit down and enjoy the view. For a minute, just the time to surrender; then I shut myself up (literally say to myself  »shut up Zoé ») and start enjoying the view. I have nowhere to be, no one to please, nothing to do. It sounds easier than it actually is. I really enjoy the physical exercises through mud, rocks, rain, snow even… but the mental gymnastic is really challenging and exhausting. But each time I manage to step back, something almost magical happens. I let it happen, its impossible to explain and that is what makes it great. It’s my moment.

Down the hill, back to the hypnotic river. The rapids are covering the songs of the birds around, but once back in the quieter valley I can enjoy the hard work of a woodpecker. Absorbed, eyes fixed up in the air I almost missed the orange ball of fur sleeping in the rising sun. Attentive to every murmurs, his hears are restless and he raises his nose. Soon, nose back down, napping won over hunting.

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On my toes, I leave the sleeping beauty in his awakening kingdom. Heading back south, I stop by the  »must see » Falls of Montmorency, at the doors of Quebec city. 487 steps, a floating bridge vibrating with the rumbling water and a closed ice cream shop. Again, too early in the season which starts in June. By then I will be climbing another kind of stairs

The falls were nice, but sure thing not as spectacular as the oats and chocolate chip cookies I got myself once back in the city. I was looking for soup but well, when life gives you a cookie you better eat it – fast.

Far far away

I could get used to weekends in Montreal. These probably were the first days of holidays in the purest form: of sweat, only the pants!

In the short window of time we left my cousin’s cocoon, I managed to buy a vintage dress in a Church’s basement, learn about Canadian population distribution, seals overpopulation and fishermen despair, taste an organic homemade Nutella in a tiny pancakes restaurant, create my own poutine and eat half of it.I think it is wise to conclude it was probably guilt which got me out of bed for a run on Sunday morning. On the bridge between the Cocoon and the Olympic stadium (1976, summer Olympics. I googled it) I am stopped by a motivating man: ‘’God loves you’’ he says. The divine support did help us to get a table for brunch at Touski, the local, famous, delicious and overcrowded cooperative restaurant. They do not joke about eggs benedict, that’s something we have in common. But God’s love stopped right at the door of the escape room, where we unsuccessfully tried to resolve the enigma of Al Patraz. Luckily enough, we had just enough strength to reconnect with our consolation religion: chocolate. Creamy bitter hot chocolate, chocolate fondant, chocolate sauce. All together. There will be no poutine for dinner.

Keeping in and digesting this feast was quite a challenge, but soon we lost our minds to a stunning documentary – in French called ‘’Terra’’

It was already a few millions of years ago that life started developing, firstly with the work of strong independent bacteria absorbing carbon and creating oxygen. Follows evolution, and basically iguanas merged into birds. We all are cousins. This is what Darwin defines as adapting to survive. Given the surrounding, each species had to perform, develop, survive… to adapt. They grew wings, teeth, hair… to survive.

As much as humans are attracted, fascinated even by nature and wild life, I do not see us fitting in there. In the name of a concept we created (profit) we are using – not to say stealing – the nature which created us in the first place. When other species adapt and infinitely develop physicals skills and assets, we – humans – are trying to have the world adapting to us. We want to dominate what created us for we believe we can profit from it. The mechanism is quite schizophrenic.

We are so absorbed by nature that we end up captivating wild life. We want to control the food chain, so we empty natural water reserves to irrigate fields we installed on infertile but more accessible soils. We build reserves and create laws to protect animals, which we endangered in the first place. We try to re model the world to our image, together with all living species. We want it to adapt to us, to our need for comfort, entertainment, power and profit. We help ourselves, and create systems and laws accordingly to find our way into a crazy and meaningless treasure hunt.

We often talk about humans as being the most advanced species. Not only physically, but also mentally. ‘’I think therefore I am’’ … therefore I am superior for I can think for others, which I consider as being stuck in a primitive state of instinct survival. Mind is a strong tool, which can play against our own instincts and interest. I think, therefore I am.

I am because I breathe, feeding the millions of elements I am made of, constantly working together to create and maintain (my) life. Each inch (not easy to pronounce) of me is a blend of not thinking cells, yet functioning. I function therefore I am, physically. I think therefore I create an idea of myself, a projection of my cells, instincts and feelings into a mold of ‘’super being’’. And I build up from this projection; I gather and organize a lot of different ‘’self ideas’’ into cities. We think therefore we are, together. And we support and feed each other self ideas.

But I suffocate here… soon there is no more room for any self ideas. My self idea is limited by the necessity to organize (human) life, for we would not want to surrender to natural laws – hé, we are no animals! We’d rather submit to made-up laws than to our natural instincts. We consider marginal one who would want to live in the nature; we call successful one who spends his life creating profit and systems to multiply it. From a distance perspective, we are the most advanced species. We are so far away from our origins and roots; we even managed to turn them against us.

While driving from Montreal to Quebec today, I realized how easy it has been made for us to travel, even though we do it with no vital motive. Roads and transportation were created so we could move, which we nowadays mainly do for entertainment. I never really have to adapt, or only to a certain type of car maybe. But mainly, we made the world adapt to our secondary needs and wishes. We spend a lot of energy branding the world so it fits our dreams and ideas, but do we ever genuinely adapt to anything?

Every day, a new batch of 240 000 humans is brought to life. It is thrilling and terrifying to think about how hard one species is working to shape a concrete natural world into a mold made of ideas and abstract concepts.

I am not sure yet how to qualify my call for nature, but it becomes quite clear to me that I am running away from suffocating cities. My week plan contains national parks, islands, mountains and waterfalls.  Before going full green I stopped for half a day in Old Quebec. Yet extremely calm in the snow, I did not find peace in here. The narrow streets holding together cute colored little houses are charming, and the neat promenade around the cliff does provide a nice view, but I figured I really do not need 310 wooden stairs to reach for the sky. Feet on the ground, surrounding with trees, birds and squirrels, I find the reach much more powerful.

 

Is this (Mont) real?

Montreal is a circus.

There are circuses to be banned for they are animals and humans exploiters; but there are also astral circuses so mystical they manage to take you into another dimension. Le Cirque du Soleil does that to me. Listen to this. Thank me later.

Montreal is that kind of circus. It is in another dimension. I am still trying to figure out whether this place is purely great, or if it is a masterpiece of manipulation.

Comparing Montreal to New York would annihilate its charm and its soul. From east to west, the square organization of the long streets, the pretty red houses with black iron stairs, and the invading squirrels could remind one of New York. But that is without acknowledging all the small details that make a all difference.

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Making a stop in the middle of a street, looking – up, left, and right – for the street name and number; before you can open your map, locals will take over your confusion and guide you through the right side of the Rue Saint Laurent (cardinal point of the city which marks the division of the city into East and West). Exhibitions are in and out, everywhere, in every form and always interactive. See those white spheres hanging in the tree? They light up at night and you may choose the color by voting on the city website. Feeling jazzy? Swing by the Place des Arts where 21 singing swings are waiting for you to play them. Sit, fly, let the world hear your melody in harmony with 20 strangers swinging their swag away. No place is left unattended; buildings in between two lives are taken over with colorful paintings or mosaics. On the Old Harbor a rope park is built on pirate’s ships, providing the bravest climbers a fantastic view of the old city. Facilities in the many parks please everyone, whether you want to hike up to the raccoon shelter on top of the Mont Royal; perfect your tan on the beach volley fields; see your little ones growing up too fast on the children’s playgrounds; enjoy a beer – or two – in the grass with your friends. Free bathing hours are offered daily in local swimming pools – up to you if you wish to actually swim or soften your skin while gossiping with your friends.

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Everything is made so Montrealers (?) are evolving in a  »nest – city », which they can appropriate to themselves thanks to a rich and lively cultural life. Talking with a few people, starting with my family here, I understood that the selective immigration had for main objective to re-populate and maintain a young, active, French speaking population.

Opening your business will not be too complicated, as long as we can count more French words than English ones on your front window. Settling in is easier for potential young parents, on the condition that they can themselves bring exceptional skills onto the workplace. Yet, it is a nightmare for young parents to find a proper daycare… and schools welcome kids from minimum 4 years old.

I just walked in the sport center next door and swam among the locals. Thinking: is this great? or is this a modern way of manipulating your people,  »easily » meeting their (created) needs and keeping them satisfied thus disciplined? Sure, it is fun to pick up the color of the tree’s lights, but really the true power here is the governmental one. The one they have on their people who will genuinely respect the city and the games they are inviting to join in, because they are fun! It does take quite some creativity to find a way to the heart of your people. Involved on very succinct levels (swings playing musics, really.) people here get the feeling that this city is theirs. Because they see what they have  »made » (I mean voted for), they get the feeling that they actually create. They do, but in a frame which is defined by a higher power and which therefore limits their creativity. This share of power, yet minimalist, but because it is very graphic and interactive, creates a group of respectful people with a real sense of community. It is a lot of things, among all it is smart. Smart manipulation.

While we in Europe respond mainly to rules and fear, they seem to have found here a better way to gather people. Creating a bubble of freedom based on creativity and social activities. Might be a way to mask rules which are just as if not more strict than the ones I know, but I want to be optimistic here and conclude  differently. I see a community of happy people, enjoying themselves, participating and creating a better and sustainable place. Oke, they are anti-squirrels; but for the rest they are real great people.

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Montreal is real. Real good. A real circus, opening to a new dimension of living together. With a real green touch and real concerns about the world that will be left to their children.

I guess this is what you get once you take the side of investing into culture instead of fear. Freedom remains an illusion, but just like circuses, there are some better than others.