Saturday, July 9, 2011

Running in the Rain

It’s late as I walk with my friend through the downtown streets of Montreal after enjoying outdoor events in the Old Port. We come upon a plaza in the center of Place Ville Marie. I recall coming here for years when it was only concrete. Now I see trees, large expanses of grass and flowering hedges. A fountain splashes around the graceful sculpture of a woman. We settle ourselves at the edge to enjoy the sound of rushing water.

As it’s a warm night, we both kick off our sandals and dangle our feet in the slightly chlorinated pool at the base. The coolness refreshes me.

From our vantage spot, we look up McGill College Avenue to see all the restaurants and street lamps, then beyond to Mount Royal (mountain in the center of the city) and the lighted cross at the top. Sitting here feels magical.

I mention how I miss swimming and wish I could immerse my whole body in water right now. As though the heavens heard me, the skies open and a few drops of rain quickly turn into a torrent.

We need to head for the subway but it continues to pour, bouncing water off the pavement. So we walk and run along Ste Catherine Street, getting thoroughly drenched. I see the water drip through my friend’s hair and down his face and feel it sliding over mine. Everything I have on is wet but it no longer seems to matter.

I remember running barefoot in the rain as a child, holding my hands up to the sky. Now, as then, I feel exhilarated.

A Celebration of Canada

On Canada Day, July 1st, I join the throngs at the Old Port of Montreal to celebrate our heritage.

A huge white cruise ship is docked alongside yachts and power boats at the harbour and people spill over the concrete walkways and fill the park to overflowing. A stage has been erected for the free performances. I find the most lively and engaging is the Freddie James Project, delivering popular hits including “I Got a Feeling.” The crowds sway and clap, drawn into the pulsating energy of the music and the joy of this celebration.

Surrounding me is a sea of faces – from the very old to the very young – that represents the cultural mix that is Canada. Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Lebanese, Russian: most of us come from different countries or have parents or grandparents who did…but tonight we unite to show how glad we are to be here.

This is a country where personal freedom is respected, where financial institutions with their more stringent regulations help to keep our resources safe, and healthcare as well as social programs are offered to the masses. We are also considered a tolerant society but will never condone violence and aggression.

Tonight I feel the spirit of the people as hundreds of thousands of miniature maple leaf flags wave in the breeze. Although free concerts take place on Canada Day all over Montreal, this is the biggest party by far. We must be close to a million people.

Interestingly, there is no mention of these events by the media the next day. Happy crowds and a growing national pride do not make news.

What happened on July 1st, though, will forever live on in our memories. And I, like so many others, will continue to celebrate this day.