Health budget cuts in Quebec


i have been working for most of the month of March in a hospital here in Montreal.  I am retired after over thirty years in the system.  Occasionally I am called to do fill in periods of work when my old co-workers are sick or on unpaid leave.  I love being retired but I also love the pace and interest of the work in social service in a community hospital.  I was welcomed by old friends and when I left people seemed genuinely sorry to see me go.  A doctor and a head nurse told me I should come back full time and that I was ” needed”.  That felt good.  It felt good to effect change, to intervene for good ( I hope) at a moment of crisis.  Every hospitalization is a moment of crisis for patients and their families.  It can be life-changing or part of an unfortunate pattern.  It it is never a day just like any other.

I will never go back full time for two reasons.  I am happy to be retired and have found other interests to occupy my time.  The other reason is that for the foreseeable future, the Provincial Government will not pay me a salary.  In fact, there are much bigger and more important cuts being implemented.  I was disturbed to see a fundamental change in the mood of the hospital I had come to love over my years of work.  People are discouraged, apprehensive, more impatient than I have ever seen them.  A popular topic of conversation was how many months or years until people could retire.  I saw people working at warp speed, exhausted, harassed.  I don’t consider that a safe environment.  I am not a statistician, an accountant, or God forbid, a politician.  I am starting to be a consumer of health care services rather than a provider.  I am one of the infamous baby boomers and the years are starting to take their toll.  Although in general good health ( I could boast up until a couple of weeks ago that I took no medication on a regular basis) now I can see some problems looming.  In 2014, 7% of Canada’ population was over 65 and next year there will be more people over 65 than under  the age of 15.  What I just wrote presents a dilemma. People over 65 are big consumers of health care.  Normal, they get sick more.  But if you don’t have a young working population to pay for these services, there is a serious problem.  Politicians usually have two approaches to a problem:  they throw money at it or they take a hatchet to it. We  are going to live through the hatchet phase for a while. Let’s hope there’s somebody left to bind up the wounds when they’re done.  The last letter I got from the Provincial Health Insurance plan ended with the kindly advice to ” look after myself”. Somewhat ironic in the circumstances.

Orientalist exhibition at the Montreal museum of fine arts


OK just go, guys. I have been away and I must admit to a certain reluctance to getting into the subject. I mean, all that harem stuff is a bit off- putting. The idea of white 19 th century guys interpreting another culture for their own weird satisfaction made me hesitant certainly to volunteer to guide, and even to go visit. I was away when the exhibit started so I had a good excuse not to study up on it. Well, finally on the weekend I went for a brief visit. I realized just how much I need to delve into this subject to understand what I was looking at. One of the guides kindly gave a special tour today just for fellow guides and I wish I could have dragged myself out into the snowy streets to hear him. He is a wonderful guide, always very profound and historically accurate in his tours. ( Patrick Fitzgerald you know who you are). Nice thatt he got to do it on St. Patrick’s day too. Anyway I was so discouraged by the snow and I got into my writing….this is the last bit. Guess I will have to do my own reading instead of riding on his coat- tails. Bottom line: I was blown away both by the size, skill,wow-factor of the works and by the beautiful set up in the galleries. The paintings are set on dark walls that really set them off. The whole show is very atmospheric. Visitors even get to sit on a sort of divan and lounge around in front of a huge and engrossing painting. You have to make up your own minds about the subject matter. I love that they included some modern works that riff off the classical ones. Go see it. The illustration is a photo of a postcard of my favorite. This is a watercolour, folks. You get an idea of the level of painterly skill. Enjoy!

a tree on her way to a wedding




What  a long time since I wrote in here!  I have been a bit overwhelmed since my return from Mexico.  It was like walking into a black and white movie when you’ve been living inTechnicolor for weeks.  I started working at the hospital part time which meant that all I wanted to do on the weekends was lie down in a dark room!  Anyway, although there is still plenty to do, I can once again notice my surroundings and accept their own beauty instead of hankering after bougainvillea.  Take this picture for instance.  Isn’t the tree lovely with her pink facinator?  The trick about sky pictures is that everything changes so fast.  You never can tell when a cloud will change from a luminous wonder to a modest little grey or white everyday cloud.  Not that I,have anything against that kind, but, it is just as well to be prepared.  Happy weekend everyone.  Lift up your eyes and enjoy the beauty.

Don’t Look for Logic Here



Don’t look for it in migrating butterflies

or in a sunset that wraps around the whole sky.

Don’t look for logic in a roof-top hammock

but only for the to-and-fro of tides.

Don’t look for logic in an orange tree offering fruit and sweet blossom

on the same day.

Don’t look for logic in the sublime beauty of an ugly person,

in the cry of a rooster at two a.m.

Is there logic in the liquid glass cooled and offering you liquid?

Quiet logic, modest logic, logic in her place,

sober, comforting, hemmed in,

But don’t look for logic here.

Let the wrong bus take you away.

Let the waiter bring you a dish you never ordered, and bless him

for his confusion.

Your hand will fall upon another book than the one you sought.

Take it up.

Run from the lover you think will fulfill every desire.

Roam around like a tiny finch or hide in the brush like a fox.

Don’t try to tame every mystery or allow poor logic to have her hand firm on the rudder.

In not searching everything will come

Shy and retiring as a nightingale.

Yet with a sweet song that knows nothing of logic

but everything of order, of eternity, of logic-baffled melody.


Lots of work to do




Funny how that phrase can feel heavy, onerous, and yet this time, it doesn’t.  I have lots of writing, organizing and preparation to do.  It feels like diving into something welcome, something exciting.  I am so aware of how lucky I have been to have been in a warm and beautiful environment for the whole of February.  San Miguel in Mexico is a wonderful place with a near perfect climate and stimulating company. Every day I saw color, beauty, outdoor life in plants, birds and animals.  Coming back I notice how people seem tired, strung out, sometimes even frantic with the strain of managing cold, snow and all that brings to daily life.  Just managing the car is tiresome and requires a lot of planning in a long winter like the one we seem to be emerging from.  I know just how lucky I have been to have avoided it.

And now it is time to do the work inspired by my stay in Mexico.  Time for “wild writing” .  Time for revision, for choosing pieces and for polishing poetry.  Lots of work to do and plenty of energy to do it in!  Finish up that second coffee and . . .let’s begin!


Coming Home



What at a wonderful thing to come home!  What a joy to find my dear friend waiting for me at the airport even though the airline left my bag in Atlanta.  She didn’t care that I was late after struggling with that.  She just whisked me off for Chinese food.  I sure enjoyed it since Delta thought a little juice and a cookie was enough for me . . . all day!  Boy, those noodles and black bean sauce just didn’t have a chance.  Then, when she deposited me at home I found that another friend had taken such good care of my orchids that they bloomed like crazy!  And she left a delicious pastichio and Greek pastry in the fridge.  That sure came in handy when the grandkids spent the day today.  Those dear faces and sweet ways were so welcome! Sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow was another thrill!  Ah, I think I’ll just repeat that experience!  Going away is great.  So is coming home.  Thank you , thank you, thank you.

And the Wednesday Butterfly Visit



Probably most of you have heard about the miraculous migration that Monarch butterflies make from Canada to their winter homes in Mexico.  Today I visited that home.  Seldom have I been so moved by beauty, quiet, respect for the magnificent sight I was privileged to witness.  The forests where the Monarchs mate is over three hours’ drive from San Miguel.  It is another province that surprised me by its forested and mountainous terrain.  When we finally arrived at the reserve I was surprised and impressed to learn that this section of forest, set aside for the butterflied is owned and managed by indigenous people who have  lived in this area for centuries.  We parked the van and set off on foot or on horseback.  We were at an altitude of over 10 thousand feet and I was feeling a little headachy so I opted for my friend Paloma.  A young fellow from the region led our group of horses up the steep track for about half an hour until we reached the area where the butterflies swarm.  They like sun and we were lucky enough to have a mainly sunny day.  Strict quiet is requested and we stood transfixed by the sight of these millions of beauties flitting around and covering the pine branches and trunks.  I must honestly say I was in tears, I was so moved.  I think the only time I have come close to feeling like this was when I saw whales from the boat last September and when I saw thousands of snow geese on their  migratory trip outside Quebec City.  The butterflies love the cool air and shade of the forest.  It is clear that the people who work with visitors take their responsibility and heritage seriously.  Many of the children do not go to school but start working in the forest as guides from an early age.  What a wonderful life.  Should they be encouraged to work as accountants or computer programmers?  What more wonderful life could they have than being surrounded by animals, their beloved butterflies and people from all over the world who follow their instructions so that they too can enjoy this wonderful experience.  They have a small,cluster of booths at the entrance where we bought the most delicious lunch cooked in a wood oven and we were able to buy baskets or embroidery. . . . The motif. . .guess!

I was very happy to complete to trek up and  down the mountain without mishap on Paloma’s back – although she did show marked tendency to want to be first in line and would take an unexpected shortcut sometimes!  I was in awe today and I know I will never forget my visit to the Monarchs.