wandering in leonard cohen's footsteps...

After getting Di breakfasted and off to her first day at school - her practicum for the ESL certificate began today - I faced a wholly new challenge: an entire day with no guidelines! There was no one to report to about my work's progress because there was NO work. There was no one else to help me discern what I felt like doing because I was all by myself. And without anyone else around to suggest alternative plans I had to check-in with myself about what might happen today.

At first this felt unsettling. In so many ways this is unchartered territory. My go to security blanket, therefore, was to start writing and I spent 90 minutes working on an article about resistance to the current regime for a friend's upcoming e-book. But then I was faced with the genuinely peculiar task of making something else of this day all by myself. I was grateful that my daughter suggested visiting some of Leonard Cohen's old haunts so that was my next stop:  Little Portugal in le Plateau. This once old Jewish immigrant neighborhood is still home to some of the city's finest delicatessens. According to the NY Times, Cohen regularly returned to this area even after finding success throughout the world:  "Montreal feels like home to me." It is great old area - one Di and I have walked often - but I never realized it was St. Leonard's favorite abode, too.

"Well, why not keep on "the Main" (the old school nick name for Boulevard St. Laurent)?" I asked myself. So another 2 kilometers later I was downtown. "Let's see how far Rue St. Catherine runs?" I continued. "After all, when we first started coming to Montreal we stayed somewhere off St Catherine and Rue Guy." I walked up and down that street twice - another 7 kilometers - searching for a forgotten Vietnamese noodle shop, obscure bookstores and a small park. All told, I put in about seven US miles before jumping in a cab to meet Di for a celebration of her first day of teaching immigrants. "Parlez-vous Anglais?" I asked the young cabbie only to find he was stone cold Quebecois, so I gave him directions to "Rue St. Nicholas et Moyen en la Vieux Port" and hoped for the best. Later I found out a l'angle de means "at the intersection or corner of" but without that working knowledge I had to hope my man knew his city.  And did he ever: in four minutes flat I was able to pick up my honey, who was famished, and escort her to Modavie Bistro and Jazz Club where we feasted to stories of her first day.  After buying two weekly Metro (subway) passes (en Francais) it was back to our groovy home so Di can prepare lesson plans for tomorrow's class.

It was a new experience for me to be totally on my own for most of the day. I like it but it is going to take some getting used to; I could easily fritter away countless hours without coming to grips with what I really want to do. Hence, I am realizing in a new way, the importance of an ordered day a les Benedictines who balance prayer with play and work with rest, silence and study. Two years ago during Advent I used my IPhone like a chapel's bell with chimes going off every four hours. It was an exercise in mindfulness and the settings are still ready to activate. Clearly it is time to reclaim that precious gift. Same goes for setting time aside for writing, walking, study and guitar practice. As I found out during my sabbatical, without a clearly scheduled practice commitment to both music and writing, my monkey mind keeps me distracted. Dianne recently said to me that all this unstructured quiet time is a gift to me for discernment. Just because I am not accustomed to radical freedom doesn't mean it isn't a blessing. Still, it is going to take a little time to get into the groove.


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