Music in the Subway


In the glorified tunnel that moves thousands of people around the city every day, a few souls bring their instruments and play.  Over the wave of sound that never crests come notes of music.  The silvery sounds of a South American harp cut through the trudging footsteps of workers, students, shoppers.  The musician’s dark head inclines over the strings, his hands move quickly to bring forth silvery dance music of a sweet melody.  He beams when I ask if I can take his picture and as I turn to go he bends back into his instrument and the music floats out into the hall.  The accordian player has been performing in the Concordia Metro station for years.  He plays popular tunes but sometimes I hear what sound like old Soviet waltzes and folk tunes in a minor key.  Almost everyone passes by without a glance but I smile as I see their stride fall in with the beat of the music.  Thank you gentlemen, for beautifying the day.

A day in the City

imageThe city is full of straight lines that tells us where to walk.  It is full of people, crowds passing through the Metro turnstiles, waiting obediently at the sharp intersection corners.  Red light, green light, a homeless person sleeps beside his paper cup and a sign that reads ” kindness is not a weakness”.  A musician plays in the station.  The museum where I guide is packed with people. The sky is grey wih winter fog.  The cityis about waiting, hurrying up, standing isolated on the platform in the crowd.  This is the university station so ten minutes before and after the hour, it is packed with youngsters in their chic or grungy clothes.  Their backpacks, hunchbacks of the educated, jostle in the crowded cars.  A city worker reams a wire down a manhole.  Pigeons feed at the feet of a hero.  Of all the faces slipping by, few make eye contact.  Yet there is one who detaches herself from the crowd and even on this damp grey day finds a place, a time to sit alone.  What is she doing?  Meditating, reading, talking on her phone or texting?  This one, apart from us all, cast up on the bank of this river of people.



imageThe dilemma of the writer is to find the specific word that will properly portray his or her idea, her image, her concept.  I remember a wise teacher responding to a student in a class I attended. The student said,” I know the answer but I don’t know how to express it in words.”  The teacher replied,” Then the truth is that you do not know the answer.”  The moment passed and the teacher was branded as “mean” or “picky”.  This idea stayed with me, however, and I realized on  that day that words are precise tools to express precise ideas.  Some of my friends who are properly educated scientists rightly say that mathematics or physics also express precise ideas.  As a young and inexperienced person with little guidance, I chose to drop math, physics and chemistry as soon as I could and so I am left with words as my tools in expressing myself and in appreciating what others have to say.  Let us take as an example the picture above.  If I want to say something about the snow that is hanging in suspended curves from the horizontal branches, I have to search for the specific word that will awake an image in the mind of my reader.  Should I say the snow is folded over the branches?  Somehow, to me, that evokes the notion of paper being folded.  It feels stiff and angular and that’s not what I want.  I could say the snow is draped over the twigs.  That sounds better but for some reason “draped” brings up the image of something bigger, like a curtain.  That means I have to modify the language and say something like ,”The snow is draped in shallow folds over the still branches. “.  I’ll have to say something, too, about how still the air is or my reader won’t believe that these delicate folds can remain suspended over the twigs and the power lines. The whole exercise is a concious effort to use the words that will touch and inform the reader.  The writer hopes to engage, retain and perhaps amuse the reader too.  So, the  specific word is pretty important.  “It’s sort of like, eh, you know, kind of hanging-like.” will just not cut it.


imageFloat down from silent trees

white bouquets of snow.

In the still air of early winter

bare twigs and branches are outlined

with layered fine snow.  Like icing sugar

or impossibly fine sand a spotless mantle

sits contrasting with the dark, sleeping, Winter wood.

Last night in the silent darkness,

one by one in their billions, snowflakes

floated down through the dream hours.

In daylight, weak sunlight, shadow-casting light,

little clusters float onto the barely frozen water of the creek.

In this image two mountains hover, real or illusion?

For you to decide.





imageWho can resist?  There’s more than the delicious taste of the taste of sugar,  butter eggs, and vanilla on those beaters.  Who was the one who let us lick the spoon as she made cakes?  My memory of my mother making cakes is of her sitting close to the fire so the butter would be soft and beating for a long time wih a fork.  She didn’t even have a whisk much less an electric beater.  If she was making something that required a very light batter, my grandmother might take over and give her a spell.  My grandmother was the one to pronounce on the subject of temptation.  She would quote a Methodist hymn.”Yeild not to temptation, for yielding is sin.  Each victory will help you some other to win.”  The whole of life was a battle against temptation to do wrong.  The greatest wrong was not to do your duty.  That is not to say she never had fun.  On the contrary, she loved to go out and it was she who took me to so many Hollywood musical movies.  Westerns were also a great favorite.  There was no question of not going on holiday or on an outing.  She was a smart dresser and never skimped on good food.  So, what forbidden indulgence would tempt her, I wonder?  She hated the smell of cigarettes and had never touched any alcoholic drink since she ” took the pledge” as a teenager at a revival meeting.  I think she struggled most with her temper.  She had little patience with laziness or stupidity.  She was a master of the one-liner and a scornful tut and a toss of her head was enough to stop any thoughtless talk.  “How exasperating!”doesn’t sound like a very violent outburst, but the depth of feeling it expressed make us all realize that her iron will had somehow been thwarted,.  Yes, I think for my beloved grandmother, not getting her own way presented the greatest temptation of falling into a fit of temper.  Hmm…perhaps I inherited more than the nose, after all.


imageHere are some turkeys crossing the farmer’s field.  His dairy cows are safe in the barn, their mild eyes turning to the door, their coats steaming in their winter home.  The turkeys are wild and although they stalk around the properties around here, they are skittish of people or dogs.  I even saw them take fright when a small deer approached.  I never thought of turkeys flying but it was quite a sight that fall day.  Yesterday in brilliant sun, I was surprised to see these bronze-feathered beauties slogging through deep snow.  They walked in single file but stopped when we parked the car to take a picture.  When the ground is clear the flocks cover the ground with their heads down, looking for insects or grass or other delicacies to eat.  What do they like best, I wonder?  Yesterday they came out of the woods, crossed the snowy field  and even went over  the road to reach the other side.  Why did the turkey cross the road?  Turkey Mysteries!


image.jpgTo my bewildered friends who will read  these posts on Facebook, I am following the “daily posts” of WordPress.  They choose the topics and I have to write to topic.  I missed yesterday because the Internet connection in this neck of the woods is sometimes ” gone”

Goodbye beauty, goodbye youth,

Goodbye lovers, suave and uncouth.

Goodbye money in a finance crash.

Goodbye candles a a birthday bash.

Goodbye career and a book  I wrote,

hardly sold any, that got my goat.

Houses and cars, they’re all gone,

Clothes of leather  and of chiffon.

I’ve lost lots of things, people too,

now just hang on, don’t want to lose you!

Some lessons I’ve learned from what’s come and gone.

I learned from Mary  and I learned from John.

Listen with care, take a careful look.

and whatever you do…..hide the chequebook!