Cosmic Prose

Natasha Regehr

Page 2 of 7

A Whole Lot of Normal

Last week I tapped on my neighbour’s door to ask for a bit of flour. Because that’s what you do when you neither cook nor bake, but you find yourself craving cheese sauce, and that sauce needs thickening, and you know your neighbour has flour, because she gave you some the one and only other time you felt a need to cheese things up.

It’s pleasant, having neighbours from whom you can acquire flour twice a year, in exchange for several kilos of peanut and almond butter. It’s pleasant, walking in and being welcome in someone else’s home. It’s pleasant, chatting about how we’re really feeling about this juncture in our lives. Continue reading

Casting Blame: It’s My View, Too

Am I complicit in this? I think I am.

It was with shock and heartsickness that I woke up on Wednesday morning to find the world on fire.  I had followed the campaign process with a kind of grim amusement for the last year or so (how could one not?), and therefore I thought I knew what was going on.

Clearly, I did not.

I had gone to bed the night before mildly curious about the outcome of the presidential election, but not at all perturbed.  “Surely the majority of thinking, voting Americans share my viewpoint,” I thought.  “They’ll never vote him in.”

So how was it that I was so completely sideswiped by the next morning’s announcement? How did I not see it coming? Continue reading

Rendez-vous: The Day I Met my Prince

A year and a half ago, with my sights set on Morocco, I trotted to the Peterborough Public Library and went berserk. First, I gave away about fifteen boxes of books, and then, I set about replacing them.

I signed out an armload of language and travel resources, fiction, and DVDs about North Africa, and devoured them all, in between spastic packing fits. But my most precious acquisition was a tiny, one-dollar purchase from the library basement: a slim, winsome copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Princeen français, of course, because I fancied the idea of becoming fluent in French during my two years abroad.

img_9764Ha! Well, I exported myself from one continent to the other, and soon discovered that “learning French” is a bigger endeavour than I had expected – and that Le Petit Prince is not so little after all. Continue reading

2016 Gratitude List

I am thankful for the big things: the people who make my world beautiful every day, both here in Morocco and in my other happy home in Canada; for the many places in between that I’ve been able to visit this year (twelve airports, if I’ve counted correctly!); for the rich cultures and histories that intersect my days; for meaningful work; and for the provisions that allow me to keep on living this colourful, promising life.

But every Thanksgiving, I take a few hours to collect all the smaller thanksgivings I’ve recorded throughout the year as well – those things that, at the end of each day, remind me that there is always, always a little goodness to be found, or to create, with a small turn of the mind.

Here, then, is my 2016 Gratitude List, beginning with last year’s Thanksgiving trip to an all-inclusive resort in Southern Morocco, and ending with yesterday’s roast chicken at home. I invite you to walk through my year of thankfulness with me: Continue reading

Find Your Blick: An Alpine Adventure

When your travel buddy deserts you in the middle of a mountain, you have a choice to make: do you follow her to the local spa to be coddled for the rest of the day, or do you carry on without her?

I chose to carry on.

Poor Jennifer. She didn’t really desert me. She just wasn’t feeling well. We had taken the cable car to the top of Mount Jenner, and halfway down again, hoping to do the last 8.5 km on foot. In her bodily distress, she opted to ride all the way down, but I refused: “No way, not me. I did not come to the Bavarian Alps to do a wussy cable-car descent. I came to hike, and hike I will!”

IMG_8801She waved a cheery good-bye and floated away in her glass carriage, and I confess, I gulped a little. Me – find my way across the mountain and down to Lake Königssee, then catch the boat to Kessel, the bus to Berchtesgaden, and the train to Bad Reichenhall – without my GPS? Or Google maps? Without even my phone to look after me if I get lost? No cell service, no wi-fi, no homing pigeons… just me, a pamphlet, and a series of destinations? Me – the wanderer who can barely get from home to work and back again without an unintentional detour? Without a functioning phone? Not even one?

Yes, me. I can do this. I’m an Adventurous Adult. Continue reading

Home Brew: Vienna in a Cup

Vienna, you very nearly failed me.

I approached you with the same wide-eyed wonder with which I’ve approached the rest of Europe: quivering with anticipation at the thought of having an Authentic Cultural Experience in a city Steeped in History like a well-brewed cup of tea – a classy, temporal tea made of Stately Buildings and the Important People who once inhabited them. Oh, I would imbibe this heady tea, I thought. I would establish a mystical connection with the legendary masters who created the music that has so inspired me all my life. I would enter and inhabit their lofty, artistic world.

Vienna! You tease.

imagesWhat I got instead was a whole lot of kitsch: bewigged men in velvet breeches handing out glossy pamphlets advertising cotton-candy concerts in gaudy palaces; church cantors with nasal voices, leading quartets instead of choirs; museum exhibits with nothing but facsimiles and gift shops; and Strauss. Oh, the Strauss. And not the good kind, either. Waltzen-Strauss. Vienna, you and I both know that there’s more to you than triple time, treble clef trinkets and musical ties. But where to find it?

Continue reading

O, Canada!

O, Canada! How do I love you? Let me count the ways.

I love the way your cars travel in placidly parallel lanes, staying obediently between the dotted lines, graciously allowing each and every vehicle its own personal space. I love how I can always tell with reasonable certainty whether it’s safe to enter your blessedly perpendicular intersections;  I love how I can see your traffic lights no matter where I am, and people wave at me to say, “Please, you go first. I’d rather wait.” I love it that I have been here for thirteen days now and I haven’t heard a single honking horn or shrieking whistle. I love how your cyclists get their very own lanes, your signs tell everyone to share the road, and people are happy to take turns. O, Canada, I love your pretty roads. Continue reading

Start, Stop, and the Sounds in Between

Let me tell you the story of a class.

When I met them in September, I was perturbed. I was more than perturbed. I dreaded Thursday mornings, when I knew that they would tumble through my door with raucous disregard for my precious routines and expectations.

You see, I expect my classes to line up quietly outside my door and wait to be invited in. I expect them to walk quietly, single file, to the blue line on my floor, and wait quietly to be invited to sit on the carpet in alphabetical order. I expect them to sit quietly while I read over my class list, study their (very similar) faces, and practice their (very similar) names. I expect them to remain still and silent until I can say every name without looking at my list. This may not sound like a stupendous feat to you, but believe me, it is, when you are new to a foreign school and you have four hundred nearly identical students that you only see for 50 minutes a week.

But back to my story. In September, we had to practice lining up outside my door over and over every single time the students came to class. It took five or six tries to walk to the blue line and get settled at the carpet. And it took an agonizingly long time for me to practice their names, because I couldn’t concentrate with all the hooliganism going on before me. At one point one of the students blurted out insolently, “This isn’t music! This is just names!” And, wearily, I agreed. Perturbed, indeed. Continue reading

Nice Lines, Lady

“Qu’est-ce que vous voulez faire aujourd’hui?” asked the Artist. What do you want to do?

The two dignified women beside me knew exactly what they wanted to “faire.” Silhouettes. Watercolours. Realistic paintings of realistic people. Crap like that.

“Et vous?” she asked again.

Gulp.

“I’m not a trained artist,” I stammered, “mais j’aime jouer avec les coleurs.”

The three real artists in the room smiled condescendingly, and a little amusedly. Jouer? Play? What nonsense was this?

Continue reading

A Canadian in Paris, Part 2: Market Value

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 8.35.55 PMI woke up later than I’d planned. I’d best get moving if I want to experience artistic ecstasy at the Louvre, and still have time to lose myself in the ultimate flea market, all before 6pm. No time for dawdling. Where’s that market? Oh dang, I accidentally closed that tab. Google search… markets in Paris… oh, here it is. Marché St. Denis. Quick. Find it on the map. Find the Louvre. Find a route between the two. Hmmm. No simple route presents itself. That’s okay. I will ask the informative people at the Louvre. They are designed to be helpful. So one would assume.

And off I went. Metro. Louvre. Artistic ecstasy. Check.

“Excusez-moi? Quelle est la meilleur route au Marché St. Denis?” I asked, pointing to the place I’d circled on my map.

“I speak English,” replied the girl behind the tourist desk. Like I’d asked.

“What’s the best way to get to this market?” I asked again.

“I went there once,” she said, coolly. “I didn’t like it.”

Did I ask what language you speak? Did I ask if you like flea markets? Of course you don’t. You’re a snooty, polished Parisian who works behind the information desk at the snootiest, most aristocratic cultural destination on the planet. Just tell me how to get there, already.

She told me. I went. I was beside myself with anticipation. Continue reading

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