Garbage and Tulips
Time marches slowly on though 2020. Meanwhile we’re trapped in some kind of bizarre groundhog day loop. Look outside our socially distanced bubble, and it seems like the world is burning down around us. Use of the internet is a balancing act. It’s essential for maintaining some contact with friends and family during this period of isolation. However the benefits have to be weighed against the increasing negatives.
I want to be aware of what’s happening in the rest of the world, but the mental load becomes overwhelming if I scroll for too long. For now it’s a case of one step in front of the other to get through this time. We do the small manageable things that we can each day. Bite-size conversations with the children about complex issues of racism, sexism, and everything else that our world needs to change.
Our daily strolls are essential for maintaining our health. They keep our step count above the level of couch potato and provide a dose of fresh air and sunshine. Between 2 to 4 times a day, we will dutifully prepare ourselves for the 15 minute excursion. This preparation usually takes longer than the actual exercise itself.
The first side of lengthy street is used by the children to warm up – racing ahead and jumping between the pavement and cracked chunks of tarmac that separate the path from gardens. On bin day it’s an adventure obstacle course, complete with bins and bags of trash in all shapes and sizes. Perfect for dodging around or jumping over – if you’re so inclined.
Sometimes there are unexpected and unwanted obstacles on the route. Hell hath no fury like a 3-year-old who has to modify his trajectory to go around a dog or pedestrian. It results in either a full-blown screaming meltdown at their audacity, or a loud rant at their rudeness while he reverses to re-do the ‘ruined’ section. “You go walk on the road and get run over by a car!” he will probably shout. Or “Stupid dog! you get out of my way!”. Thankfully his enunciation isn’t usually clear enough to be understood by strangers.
Garbage collection days are not the most pleasant days for walks. The overheated stench hangs in the air along with a multitude of flies. Once a month the difficulty level of taking a stroll is increased for the ‘bulky objects’ collection. It never ceases to amaze me just how many couches and actual toilets are regularly disposed of on the side of the road here. I fear that the ease of disposal must make it less likely that people freecycle, however it also makes it incredibly unlikely that mattresses and god knows what else will end up dumped in a nearby river or ditch (a common occurrence in Ireland where you must transport these kinds of items to a recycle centre or rubbish dump that will charge for disposal).
Here in Montreal, I have come across the oddest objects in my travels. Abandoned on the kerbside awaiting either an enterprising scavenger, or the city collection. Whichever comes first. Toilets, antique couches, doors and random appliances. It’s an upcycler’s dream, provided they have their own small van ready to take advantage of discarded bookcases and chests of drawers.
Anyway, next up on our excursion is the low concrete barrier at the side of an alleyway. The kids mount it, then stand high to clasp their hands in some kind of victory yoga pose (a lamppost, according to the eldest), then jump or clamber down to continue their adventure.
Next up is a small patch of park in front of a church. It’s not large, but it’s a nice green space with plenty of benches and some rare shade from the sun. It’s less busy than it deserves to be, which leaves it free for our use. The kids race in circles playing with sticks and leaves and seeds. Whatever is to be found. And of course obligatory races to their favourite bench where they both claim loudly to have won.
The best indicator that spring is turning towards summer in Montreal is the brief tulip season. The tulips arrive almost overnight, in a stunning burst of colour after the long white cold months. A riot of brightness greets you at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. Instagram feeds fill with photographic tulips at the overlook at the top of Mont Royal. This year those venues were not accessible. The tulips presumably bloomed and died without being seen by our eyes.
We didn’t totally miss out on the brief tulip season though, thanks to the display in this little oasis by the busy street. Every day the kids would run to check the flowers. Watching them in all stages of unfurling and closing. Exclaiming over the variety of colours they found. They mourned the loss as the flowers swiftly faded away until next year. Luckily dandelions still dotted the green grass, releasing their seeds in every gust of wind.
The last part of our trek is a second obstacle course. Running up grassy slopes at the side of the church, taking concrete slabs as steps on the way back down. The ritual is observed religiously. The youngest balances precariously while gripping my hand. The eldest ambitiously climbs to the far side of the rails and often returns home with scraped knees.
Then it’s a straightforward run. We check on the various gardens searching out any new growth. Increasingly familiar faces are out on their porches all day long, observing as we pass them by yet again. Their dogs warily eye the children. The children reciprocate, edging past and hoping not to trigger a territorial dog into barking at them. Then we’re at the last turn onto the pot-holed alley at the rear of our apartment. The youngest has a particular pattern of hole-jumping that must be followed exactly.
And there you have it – the highlight of our daily lockdown lives. We have less zoom calls now. Replaced by garbage, flowers and increasing humidity levels. Next stop, summer. This one’s going to be a long one.