a wintry walk

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When we lived in Tromsø I was pretty good about getting out for walks on a regular basis. The goal was always a daily walk, and even if I sometimes fell short of that, it wasn’t hard to find the motivation to get out for a walk when I was surrounded by so much natural beauty. Since moving to Montreal I have gone on fewer walks, especially since winter has set in. Given that in December we went through the longest continuous stretch of days that never made it above -17°C (about 1.5°F) in Montreal’s recorded history, I suppose that’s not a surprise. Lately, though, it’s been much warmer (about -5°C / 23°F or so) and we’ve had a lot of snow, and I realized that I hadn’t actually walked over to Parc La Fontaine since the snow first came.

I visited this park for the first time over the summer, when we were in Montreal looking for apartments before the move, and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s a huge park to be in the middle of the city, full of trees and playing fields and with a pair of ponds (or one pond divided in two, depending on how you look at it) feauturing, as its name suggests, a big fountain. In summer, it feels like an oasis. The trees provide a leafy green canopy when you want a break from the sun and the heat, people picnic and laze in the grass, and take leisurely strolls on the paths through the park and around the ponds. It’s one of those magical communal spaces that I’m so grateful exists.

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In winter, the experience is very different, unsurprisingly. I expected that there wouldn’t be too many people in the park in the middle of a weekday, though there are a few, walking dogs or babies or simply going from point A to point B. The green grass is covered in a thick blanket of snow and the trees are bare. The main thoroughfares appeared to have been plowed, at least a little bit, but the park was also full of tracks from people taking shortcuts between the paths.

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The ponds freeze over in winter and one of them is kept clear for skating. I’d heard about this before so I was pleased to see people on the ice. Having grown up in North Carolina, frozen ponds are the things of picture books to me (even after living in Norway), and it was fun to see that come to life before my eyes.

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One of the things that consistently catches me off guard about Montreal is how much the vegetation reminds me of the vegetation where I grew up. The tall deciduous trees are deeply familiar to me in a way that feels surprising in an otherwise pretty unfamiliar place. I moved to the west coast of the US after graduating from college, and grew to love the flora of the Pacific Northwest. Northern Norway presented a new set of trees, flowers, weeds, and herbs to become familiar with. But the vegetation here doesn’t feel new or different the way that it did in those places. It’s always so interesting to me which pieces of our childhood come back to the front of our minds when we least expect it.

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One thing I hadn’t anticipated about the experience of being in Parc La Fontaine in the winter is how much more aware I was of the city surrounding me. You’re still aware of being in the middle of the city in the summertime, but in winter when all the tree branches are bare you can’t avoid it. It’s easier to see downtown on the horizon when you look south/west, and all the buildings and the streets on the perimeter of the park are much easier to see and hear. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it did make me want to head for Mount Royal next time I want to go for a long walk in the snow to get away from the feeling of the city.

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I wore my Brackett hat on what might have been its inaugural journey outside the house. This is a pattern of Whitney Hayward’s for issue 3 of Laine Magazine, and I knit mine in the Harrisville Designs  Color Lab 2 yarn I brought back from Rhinebeck. There are so many different colors in this Harrisville yarn that it feels impossible to photograph correctly, but I think this photo gives you a little bit of an idea. (P.S. Have you seen the Bellows cardigan that Karen is knitting with it?)

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Today’s walk was a lovely reminder that it’s always a good idea to get out of the house for a walk, especially when the weather is good. I’ll have to make sure to do it more often.

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