The posts in this “Rivière-des-Prairies or Bust” series are self-contained, but by way of background…these are “field notes” of my efforts to walk in a mindful way westward from my Mile End, Montreal apartment until I reach Rivière-des-Prairies.
August 19, 2014
When I eventually leave the du College subway (see the previous post for what kept me so entranced there), I notice a man sitting on a bench, his purple shirt soiled and tattered, long beard in no better shape, knee wrapped in a thick plastic brace. I offer a smile, but he is staring worriedly into the middle distance.
A police cruiser stops in front of him. The officer riding shotgun, a blonde policewoman with an uncreased forehead and a green plastic wristband, leans out the window. “I like your sandals,” she says. She and the man fall into familiar conversation, a relaxed smile spreading across his face, as he is transformed from a lonely hermit to a man who has friends.
Before I know it, I am whispering one of the Jewish morning blessings.
Baruch atah adonay, eloheynu melech ha’olam, hanoten laya’ef ko’ach
Blessed are you, Renewing One, who gives strength to the weary
At the end of today’s walk, at Côte-Vertu Boulevard, I get to watch a woman with thick arms trying to inch her pick-up out of a side street. Realizing she won’t be able to get onto the busy road for a while, she backs up to make things easier for pedestrians. The person who benefits most from being spared an unwanted detour onto the street doesn’t thank or even seem to notice her. He’s an elderly man, unsteady, and leaning desperately on his cane; it’s all he can do to stay on his feet as he labours along, pain tightening his face. The driver, being screened by taller, hardier pedestrians, doesn’t appear to know how much good she’s done him. But you and I do.