Rivière-des-Prairies or Bust: Part Six – Journey into a Desert Sentinel

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 25, 2014

If you did a search on the 4,652 most interesting walks in Montreal, today’s industrial meanderings probably wouldn’t make the cut.   I’ve resorted to consulting maps to assure myself that there really will be a river on the other side of all this.

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Then I recall a teacher’s suggestion that we regard street signs we encounter during the course of the day as wisdom offerings.  So when a delivery truck passes, bearing the slogan, “everywhere you want to be,” I insert an ellipsis (“everywhere….you want to be”) and find myself agreeing with the truck.  No matter where I go, I do want to be present.

With that intention in mind, when an eighteen-wheeler passes on Poirier Boulevard, I notice that my knees and ears have, if only subtly, prepared for the ground to shake and for the truck to rattle, and that they are disoriented when this doesn’t happen.  I feel a rush of excitement when airplanes – mammoth, with blazing velocity – screech into descent at nearby Trudeau Airport.  I’d rather not be excited, given my concerns about air travel and the environment, but it is probably good and useful to know when something that concerns me also thrills me.

I pass by ostensibly non-distinctive roadside scrub

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and looking closer, become aware of what it reveals about the direction of the prevailing winds.

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Even in this industrial desert – or maybe especially in this industrial desert – what nature has to offer is a blessing.  When I take refuge in the shade of a tree, I recite a blessing which literally speaks of roosters, but which might fairly be applied to all gifts of nature

Baruch atah adonay, eloheynu melech ha’olam, hanoten lasechvi vinah lehavchin beyn yom uveyn laylah

Blessed are You, The Provident, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night

The more I walk among the power line towers

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the more they seem to have the deportment of monster movie sentinels.

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Though I have passed tens of thousands in my lifetime, it’s never occurred to me to crawl into one.  Until now.

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And somewhere along the way, I remember to recite the Asher Yatzar, the expression of gratitude for the intricate workings of the body.*

And, oh yes, now and again I also remember to look at the sky.

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*For those unfamiliar with the Asher Yatzar blessing, and who might like to see it in Hebrew or with transliteration, you should be able to search for it easily enough online.  Since translations might be harder to find, here’s an adaptation of one from Kol Haneshamah, the Jewish Reconstructionist movement’s siddur (prayer book),

Blessed are You, The Architect, who shaped the human being with wisdom, making for us all the openings and vessels of the body.  It is revealed and known before Your Glory that if one of these passage-ways be open when it should be closed, or blocked when it should be free, one could not stay alive or stand before You.  Blessed are You, The Miraculous, the wondrous healer of all flesh.

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