Sunday, May 17, 2020
Montreal - A Girdled Porcupine (reflections on a reunion in 2013)
Forty years, unbelievable and yet, a reality; that it's been that long since I graduated from McGill with my M.D.;C.M. and a little B.Sc. tucked in as well for my six-year experience. Annie Foyle, you said some of the time at school felt ethereal. Medicine not necessarily what you might have chosen, either, had you been given more time to think about it. You have had a rewarding career, nonetheless, as have I, and yet I understand entirely. One finds oneself in high school with only a vague sense of the future, a glimpse of purpose, some inkling of direction. Poof! You are there, and somehow you make it through a fantastic experience. Now, forty years later, there is perspective and time to reflect. Before this time, it's the demands of the job that comes with this challenging career choice, the intense needs of spouse and family, and just a little time with friends and creativity. Not enough sand in the hourglass for more. Reflection and introspection become needs and indulgences of maturity.
I noticed how many of us reflected on the subject, "Will we be there for future reunions?" Our aches and pains, cancer, angina, hypertension, and arthritis and just the feeling of fatigue at the end of a day all force us to look ahead to the reality of mortality. (As I edit this in 2020 the spectre of Co-Vid 19 also looms.) Some of our classmates are no longer with us already. Some lost far too soon.
I enjoyed the reunion, despite my feeling that it was much too short. Not the medicine reunion, that was about right; but, those events conflicted with general reunion events that I would like to have attended on campus. I did visit and thoroughly enjoyed the Leacock luncheon; Dan Needles was the speaker. I enjoyed his talk enough that I'm planning to buy a book or two. I believe some of my former Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute classmates might enjoy these stories, too. The humor rings genuine in the telling. Maybe, copies will make their way back north. Warm and folksy humor tickles my fancy.
I am an inadvertent object of humor too often, which maybe is why I like the fun of a gentle nature at other's expense. It happened one night when walking back to my hotel, where a statement of mine was taken to mean something entirely not innocent. While Ms. Manners might suggest responding with humor, I shook my head. I was silent, reflecting on how men's minds tend to bring sexual innuendo to any comment. Maybe women's, too, though I do not find that personally, is my style. My husband reflects that I am perpetually naive, I think he's right.
Annie arranged a lecture about the history of the architecture of the McGill campus by Professor David Covo at our reunion dinner. I was fascinated! Montreal is an island with a beautiful mountaintop park, designed by Olmsted, at its center. Treasured vistas are preserved by the architects as they plan the city. Maintaining the view, preservation of history, and a push for green architecture are restraints.
The title of this essay is not a reference to the beautiful quill beading done by that tiny fraction of my ancestry, the Metis, and First Nation people. This is the feeling I have when I look about me on the streets of Montreal and as I walk through campus. It's an unsettling architecture where things fit in where they may, edgy and contemporary. There is not the soaring verticality of New York City. There are no broad sweeps of Parisian boulevards, nor the feeling I get here in Sacramento, where buildings seem to flow with the rivers. While Montreal is a mountain, there are not the seesaw vistas of San Francisco, but an entirely different mood. I notice a feeling of constraint and of angles. A sprinkle doughnut on a spindle, an image I considered when I reflected on how I felt about the city, was a picture quickly discarded. That description did not give me the disquiet I feel about Montreal, nor has the city any feeling of roundness or bloat. Somehow, an image of a cute porcupine its head and quills upright and its nethers constrained by a too-tight girdle seems right. Montreal is not a town of comfort, and I'm not sure it aspires to be. The city does not comfortably accommodate the handicapped. Historical preservation even dictates the exclusion of service to those citizens in need, denying modifications for that purpose. I learned, within the grey walls of the structures of McGill, contemporary architects include bits of color and cozy coffee spots. They see these as a necessary requirement in a world where the environment is often grey and white. In the city itself, here are sidewalk cafes and cozy little sandwich shops with a good smattering of hipster fashion and classic design. The buildings mix the very old and the new in the same edgy way as the campus. Like most North American urban areas, vacant and blighted buildings are not a strong aspect of the city; activity and construction are more dominant features.
Politics and controversy colored reunion conversations and elicited passionate discourse. It was a delight to hear speeches where the rights of all to health care was assumed, championed not argued. The passion for making the care and system better was the focus of the speeches. How Americans can tolerate the healthcare we live with, truly mystifies many who live in Canada. Yet, many classmates, like me, have found their way to the USA. Weather is a significant factor, and so is the opportunity the USA affords. Canada may be a vast land, yet it has a population less than California. That's a significant factor in a people-focused business.
Reflections are often a bit rambling, and I've taken you on quite a meandering path with this essay. I'm happy I found this amidst the drafts in my Blogger file. Only three short years until our 50th!
at May 17, 2020
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