January 1st 2011
This is the first day of the year in which I've resolved to do something each day that I have never done before. The long, dark nights make it hard to get out of the apartment, but this evening at five I had an old feeling I used to get when I was a teenager living at home. Why stay indoors where it is claustrophobic when you could be out in the mysterious world? I decided to take my alto recorder, a wooden wind instrument that I keep in a woven case that I found at the Peruvian shop on Duluth Street here in Montreal. I thought of busking but remembered a man playing his violin on the Ponte Vecchio when I visited Florence. He had no hat and was not collecting coins, but was instead giving his music as a gift to the street. I decided to do that. I walked on Rue Jean-Talon to the intersection of St. Hubert where there were some pretty hanging lights, and I stood in the streetlight and played a piece that came to me from the mountains, from who-knows-where, some years ago. It is a windblown, airy, prayerful piece, and it was really great to play it in the dark as people went past. One thing about Montreal that I like is that you can do a thing like that without attracting personal attention. You can just give music to the street and the street will accept it without a fuss.
Then I decided to walk to the part of Jean-Talon where all the little Indian hole-in-the-wall restaurants are. I had an idea that another thing I could do, a new thing like playing street music, was wander into one of those places and order a spiced tea and sit and simply drink it. I like making chai tea at home but I thought it would be nice to have it made properly, by people who knew what they were doing. I followed a young couple into one of the Indian places because they were having fun laughing and I heard the girl say that the walk they had just taken had made her feel excited. I sat alone and because it was dinner time and I did not want to take up a table with just an order of tea, I ordered some vegetarian pakoras and asked the waiter if I could drink the tea there but take the pakoras home. I was thinking my husband and daughter would like them.
On the walk to the restaurant, after playing my street music, I had been thinking about where the divine was. I felt on the walk that I had learned, after a long dry spell of many years, how to recognize that mysterious place of questioning I used to inhabit before I got married or had children. The difference now was that instead of experiencing god as an absence, a frustrating disappeared and ever-retreating idea, I now seemed to be looking at and feeling the very same experience but reading or interpreting it differently. God was not necessarily retreating at all, but instead asking me to come outside, out of the claustrophobic apartment and ordinary life, to spend some time with the divine question. My cat is something like that, something like a divine question. I sat in the restaurant and the waiter brought me some perfectly spiced, red-hot tea, and then she brought, with a smile, a silver plate on which sat four fresh, hot pakoras, some mango chutney, and some coriander raita. "This is a compliment," she said. This had never happened to me before. I had never gone into a restaurant and had a smiling waiter give me a silver plate of exotic food as a compliment.
So that is a little vignette about my first attempt, this January first, 2011 (1 1 11), to do something new, something I had never done before. I played street music, went to an unfamiliar place for spiced tea, noticed the divine, and was given food as a gift by a smiling Indian girl. The pakoras I had ordered to take out, I brought home to my husband and daughter, and they dipped them in the mango and coriander sauces and pronounced them delicious. So they got something out of it too.
The photo is a picture of my alto recorder.
I have just read your entries from Jan 1st to today... I love them. How brave you are. i kept thinking this should be a book, perahps a local travel diary... or what ever. I hope you are able to continue finding the extra ordinary in the ordinary.. it is a real gift!