Home from VacationSeptember 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
Tags: Quebec City, St. Francois de Laval, St. Marie of the Incarnation
Some readers may have noticed a certain silence on my part. My last post appeared on August 16. Well, we’ve been on vacation. But as with most things, there’s more to it than that.
At one level, there’s my esteemed companion’s absolute objection to mentioning in a blog post that we’re away, even as I find it hard to blog without doing so. We live in the middle of Brooklyn, and while I feel fairly safe here–lots safer than I felt in Brooklyn in the 1970s or 1980s–we really can’t afford to be inviting people over while we’re gone.
But at a deeper level, I just needed to knock off. I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband was seriously ill this past spring and summer, first with pneumonia, then with (thank God, early-stage) kidney cancer. Years ago I took a vocational aptitude test and got a score of less than zero for nursing, so you get a picture of me dealing with all that. Then, as Keith began to recover, Betty, his ninety-three year old mother down in Florida, became seriously ill–sort of lost her mind, leg swelled up, already had congestive heart failure, had surgery, stopped being able to breathe, had a tube down her throat, etc., etc. For days, every time the phone rang we expected to hear we’d have to fly down there for Keith to do the funeral. And in the midst of all that, a tooth popped out while I was flossing, and I ended up having a root canal and other fun dental procedures.
But we seem to have survived. Not only is Keith much better, his mother is about to go back to her independent living apartment, having regained her faculties and begun walking again. And I myself am having the occasional thought.
So let me share a few of them, after which, tomorrow or the next day, I’ll write something about yesterday’s People’s Climate March which I participated in.
During our time away, we spent a week at my brother’s place in rural Vermont, and almost two weeks in Quebec City, east of Montreal, in Canada. Regarding Vermont, let me say that it’s quite an experience for someone who ordinarily shares a borough with two-and-a-half million other people to go walking for an hour and not see a soul. Sometimes I really like it; other times it kind of freaks me out.
As for Quebec City, it’s pretty amazing. You may know that the old part of the city is walled, the only walled city in North America north of Mexico. Founded in 1608, it’s also full of museums and monuments about the history of New France, a subject I knew very little about before we went there. One of my favorite parts of the visit was taking a tour of the Museum of the Ursulines, which explores the history of the oldest order of Catholic sisters in North America, brought there by Sister Marie Guyart of the Incarnation. Sister Marie was a widow in Tours, France, who entered the (cloistered) Ursuline order but in 1639 traveled to New France and started the first convent in North America in Quebec City; the school she founded was also the first women’s educational institution in North America. A mystic, she also wrote dictionaries in three indigenous languages and an Algonquin catechism. And lest you think everything has changed in three-hundred-fifty years, she struggled against efforts by the bishop of Quebec City, Francois de Laval, to take control of her community. Pope Francis canonized both of them together last April; I’m sure Archbishop Laval was thrilled to have feisty Soeur Marie join him at the same level of churchly adulation.
The other thing I love about Quebec City is that when I’m there I know how to speak French, whereas when I’m in Paris, I’m way too ignorant to be able to do so. Seems as if only 10 percent of English Canada speaks French, so when an English speaker starts speaking in French, the Québécois are thrilled. A sales person said, “You really know how to speak French, don’t you!?” whereas the snotty Parisians say, “Your accent is terrible. Speak English.” Finally, my seven years of French classes have been redeemed.
There’s lots more to be said about Quebec City, but not now. Stay tuned.