Monday, August 3, 2015

Montreal Trip Part II: In which I realize a life-long dream

After we got picked up from the airport in Montreal, it was about an hour drive to the house we were staying at, in Sainte-Julienne. As we drove it got prettier and prettier (big green cornfields, rolling leafy hills, silos and dairy farms, maple forests) and we marveled at everything, as we desert-dwellers always do upon encountering the Edenic East Coast.

We didn't really know what to expect; when I heard "outside Montreal" I pictured something more…suburban, but this was way out among farms and small towns (I think Thierry said Sainte-Julienne only had a population of a few thousand, and it was quite spread out). And when someone had described the house as being "by a lake," I didn't realize there would be a lake in the backyard. We just couldn't believe how beautiful everything was.
When we got there the students all came out to say hi (the four of them were from Brazil and France and Norway and Maine, respectively. They all spoke good English and were really friendly). The students live downstairs and we were staying upstairs, with Thierry. After we got settled we went outside to explore. It was such a fairy-tale place for kids. For anyone, really! There was a treehouse and a little beach and two frog ponds and a firepit. And of course, beautiful Lac McGill!
I don't know if people who live with frogs all the time share our sentiment, but to us they are so novel and interesting. I know my aunt who lives in Seattle complains about how loud and insistently her frogs croak at night. We didn't hear much nocturnally from these frogs, but when we visited them as they sunned themselves on the rocks, they had the delightful habit of each making one offended "earrrrp" and leaping, one after another, back into the pond like this:

The pond looks so dark in the picture above, but really it was quite clear and reflective; it usually looked more like this:

The little froggies were so perfectly camouflaged in the dappled light. We counted at least nine of them, but it was hard to spot them all. I thought it was so cute how they just hung out in the water with their legs floating casually off behind them, like this: 
We tried so hard to catch one, but they were too fast for us. ("Earrrp!") I even had my fingers on one a couple of times, to no avail. Well, here's a close-up look at one of them anyway.
From the back of the house there was a little sunroom with screen doors on either side. It was beautiful out there, and you almost felt like you were still outside because of all the windows and the air coming in through the screens. The boys played lots and lots of foosball (and Sam and I, some) and it was a great place to sit and watch the sudden rainstorms that kept blowing through.
Ky scores on Sam
The boys also quite enjoyed sitting on these big beanbags, and then fluffing them up and putting Theo in them, where he would flail helplessly and sink deeper and deeper down the more he flailed.
One of the best things about being in a house was that little Theo could nap inside while we were outside playing. So he didn't spend as much time outside as the rest of us did (which is probably good, as he would likely have been carried off whole and eaten by the mosquitos), but he was taken out for his afternoon and evening constitutionals quite regularly. He seemed to approve of everything.
There was so much space to just run around and play, and the boys were always up to some sort of elaborate game the details of which I could only guess at: something to do with airplanes, or roller coasters, or hide and seek, or spies, or "smoke machines" with sticks when we built a fire. It made me happy just to sit out on the dock, or up on the deck of the house, and watch them bounce from place to place like giggling yo-yos.
This tree house really is perfect.
Before we came, I had been most worried about how everyone would feel about having so many of us there. Thierry said he had "never really been around kids much," and none of the other visiting artists for previous workshops had brought their families. (Which is a shame, because the place is amazing for kids!) But everyone was unflaggingly nice. The students were nice to the kids, and Thierry was great, and the kids were polite and helped out with meal clean-up and dishes and so forth. I am afraid Teddy may have woken people up in the middle of the night a few times, but no one would admit to it, and at least he didn't scream for long periods of time…!
Thierry gave us the run of his kitchen, so we made breakfast and lunch ourselves (with fresh eggs from Thierry's mom's chickens!) but the students and everyone ate dinner upstairs together. My favorite meal was the Mushroom Poutine Thierry made. SO delicious! And it was fun to sit and talk. The students mostly wanted to hang on Sam's every word, but our boys made sure the conversation went around to Rubik's Cubes and Geocaching and what-if-there-was-a-whole-Eiffel-Tower-made-of-French-fries, as well.

As I mentioned, our suitcase was lost, so Sam and I really had nothing but the clothes on our backs. Thank goodness Sam had his laptop in a different bag so he could teach the class! And I did, luckily, have the camera, and my contacts, and a few diapers for Theo, and Thierry got us toothbrushes and deodorant and more diapers, so we got along all right. We kept thinking our suitcase would surely be found soon. And it was soon—speaking in geologic terms. We got it back Friday night, just in time for us to fly home again on Saturday. Ha! But, it really turned out fine. Sam looked a bit more bearded than usual. We washed ours and Teddy's clothes in the washing machine a couple times while we slept. If I allowed myself to think too much about it, I started to get self-conscious—appearing in front of all these cosmopolitan people every day in the same clothes, with no makeup and not even a brush to run through my hair! But it seemed dumb to let being mad about it ruin this awesome trip, and I just decided there was no point in fretting about how I looked, so mostly I didn't. It was kind of freeing, in a way, to be forced into that. 

The first night we were there, Thierry called the boys over to look outside toward the forest. He said there were fireflies out there, and sure enough, there were tiny little glowing lights winking on and off in the darkness. I have always, my whole life, wanted to see fireflies and I thought it was a dream that might never come true. I know they aren't out all summer long, so I can't believe how lucky we were to be there at the right time! I was so happy I wanted to cry. They are so beautiful and mysterious. Everything I always hoped they would be. :)
You really can't take pictures of them (or, I don't know how to), but I tried a long-exposure shot anyway. If you have seen them before you won't need the picture and if you haven't, this doesn't really show how they are. But those teeny little yellow specks you probably think are just dust on your computer screen? Those are the fireflies.
You can see a few glowing in the dark part of the sky in this picture, too. 
Of course we wanted to catch some. And the boys succeeded! They went out on the hunt for fireflies several of the evenings we were there. It was hard because it was so dim outside; you just had to wait for a flash and then try to get your jar in the place you saw one, and then wait till it flashed again to see if you'd gotten it! We even saw the captured fireflies light up in their jars a few times, and then we let them go after watching them for awhile. There were SO many mosquitos, too, or we probably would have stayed out catching them even longer! But it was so lovely to sit by the windows and see those hypnotic flash-flashes rising up higher and higher along the dark treeline.
Some of the nights we lingered talking after dinner, and one night we played games till late, and the students let our boys be on teams with them for the harder games. It really was so sweet to watch.
This is my favorite picture—of teammates Abe and Thierry sharing a conspiratorial smile about some strategy or other in their game. What a fun time!

4 comments:

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    1. Let's make poutine next time we get together! Yum!

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  2. So sorry about the luggage stress, but yes, I miss the sound of frogs at night terribly! AND, I have also ALWAYS wanted to see fireflies!!! Mike saw them several times when he was training in GA for his job, but even though we joined him for an entire month, I never saw a one!

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    1. I know, it really was SO lucky we were there at the right time. I hope you get another chance sometime! I read somewhere that there have been fireflies seen in Utah before. But I'VE never encountered any!

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