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February 3, 2023

The most beautiful snowstorm

7:30 a.m. on my way to the coffee shop
This morning, as I left the house, I was instantly dazzled by the splendid wintry sight: A thick fog made the sky seem like it had transformed into a grand white ballroom where large snowflakes waltzed with magnificent partners dressed in white linen crinolines. I stopped the car halfway down the hill to the main road. On my right, the branches of a beautiful pine tree were decorated in huge snowy meringues. With my foot on the brakes, I searched for my cell phone to take pictures of this extraordinary sight. Click, click, click. Winter has never been as beautiful as it is today.

I’m telling you! It’s even more beautiful than in the famous sleigh ride with Doctor Zhivago (played by Omar Sharif) and his lover, Lara (Julie Christie). The eponymous movie was produced by David Lean and adapted from a novel by Boris Pasternak. I was 18 when it came out in movie theatres in 1965 and I still remember each detail from this incredible love story. I can still hear, as I write today, the immortal soundtrack from the movie and strains of Lara’s Theme, composed by Maurice Jarre. Go to YOUTUBE and listen to it! It’s as beautiful as the most beautiful snowstorm.

I drive towards the coffee shop with my four wheels tightly gripping Highway 117. Will the coffee shop be open? I live nearby, maybe just five or six streets away. I drive at a snail’s pace and I can’t help but notice the dozen or so workers playing like kids with their big trucks, clearing the sidewalks of snow. I see their rosy cheeks and big smiles through the foggy windshields. I’m certain they’re enjoying some youthful levity. And to think they are getting paid for having this much winter fun!

The snow removal company that used to do my driveway closed its doors last year. I liked them a lot, especially the man who shovelled my porch and kept the space in front of the two garage doors clear all winter long. It’s natural to get a little worried when you need to find a replacement for someone who was good at their job. It’s as stressful as replacing a vice-president of finance. You simply need to calm down and put your faith in others. After all, no one wants to do a bad job, especially those who spend the entire winter in the cold, in storms even, and very often with half-frozen fingers.

7:58 a.m.
The coffee shop is almost empty when I finally get there, with the exception of four employees hanging around the counter where the pastries are kept. Upon seeing me, two of them make a start for the coffee machine to make me a latte. This place is magical. I always sit at the same table unless someone who’s not a regular gets there before me. It doesn’t happen very often because I’m usually the first one to arrive. Not this morning, however.

Sometimes I think of drawing a map of my life with the names of all those who are dear to me printed in white lettering on green signs outlined in white, just like the names of the villages in my native GASPÉSIE. Isn’t each person a village unto themselves, with a story to tell, talents to be discovered and landscapes to admire? I would also plant fluorescent signs in the ground announcing all the “good” advice I never listened to; the speed limits that once made me impatient; the yesses that should have been nos; and the nos that should have been yesses.

I would write inspiring quotes in pink calligraphy to display in parks, in schoolyards and around university campuses. On major commercial streets, I would write “STOP BUYING STUFF” on big red panels. Isn’t unnecessary consumption the biggest expense in a household, particularly now?

9:15 a.m.
“All those hearts, all those faces enraptured by Puccini’s Madame Butterfly,” as my friend who lives in the Eastern Townships exclaims. She loves the opera, and I have never been! It’s a major shortcoming in my cultural knowledge and it should be my first resolution this year. There, you have it: I will go! I just asked my friend Google for the show dates. MADAME BUTTERFLY will be in Montreal from May 6 to 13, 2023. I have more than enough time to discover this popular opera by Puccini.
— “Google, please tell me more about this Madame Butterfly.”
— “A young geisha from Nagasaki, named Cio-Cio-San, becomes Madame Butterfly after she marries Pinkerton, an American naval officer. The young woman truly loves him and patiently awaits his return with their young son. One day Pinkerton does return with his new American wife.”
— “Yuck. That story is worse than my bad marriage.” But I still want to learn all about it because I love stories, even those that turn out badly.
— “In Montreal, from May 6 to 13, 2023.”

Last night, happily nestled on my red couch, I watched a wonderful movie on NETFLIX: Hector and the Search for Happiness, directed by Peter Chelson in 2014. The story is about the incredible adventures of a psychiatrist named Hector (played by Simon Pegg), whose patients never seem to get any happier. He decides to travel the world in search of what makes people happy.

For nearly two hours, I travelled with Hector, visited many countries and found a dozen good reasons to be happy. The movie is wonderful and I will watch it again soon because I want to write down every single reason. I strongly recommend this movie, which is full of nuggets of wisdom.

We all want to be happy. Isn’t that what lies at the core of our life’s mission? The burdens of everyday life aside, shouldn’t we all leave this world content? Think about it for a while. Should we follow Hector’s example and look for new reasons to be happy? Maybe we simply forgot about the reasons we already had?

Life deals out a new hand so often and worry drops on us from above like overripe apples in an orchard. I won’t travel the world like Hector did. However, I need to weed my garden, soften my speech and be more open to new experiences, encounters and adventures.