Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Life at its best

By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

Geneviève Hone is a grandmother, family therapist and social worker.  With her husband, Julien Mercure (also a family therapist), she has co-authored three books on couples and family life. Her home on the web is

  Image courtesy of the author.
The noise awakens me at 4:52 a.m. For a moment or two, I struggle to identify its source. Suddenly, I know where it comes from. But my first reaction is to deny it. “It can’t be”, I say to myself. “She has never arrived in the middle of the night.”  I go to the window and look down to the river. And there she is right under the bridge, though of course I can only see her lights. I am absolutely delighted! I return to bed and touch my husband’s shoulder to awaken him gently. He will want to know, I’m certain. “Do you hear that sound? C’est la grenouille!” “Wow! Cool”, he mumbles mockingly as he turns his back to me and goes back to sleep. He knows that the grenouille will still be around when dawn breaks. He also knows of my love affair with the grenouille, and later today he will smile indulgently when I take numerous pictures as I have been doing for the past five years.
You might know the grenouille as an “amphibious general purpose excavator”, but you must admit that this term is not as colorful as the French one. The grenouille appears once a year to work on preventing ice jams on the river just below our apartment building. She’s aptly named as she does somewhat resemble a giant frog, albeit one with picassoesque body proportions as if she had been created by a scientist on the brink of madness. But she is nevertheless a beautiful thing to behold as she uses her flexibility and strength to break the ice into big chunks that she pushes into the middle of the river. She will be at work all day, and many times I will go on the balcony to be able to report back on her progress with the giant ice floe by the park.
If I so much enjoy the arrival of the grenouille, it is because she heralds Spring and Easter, my favorite feast of the year. As a child, I used to love Easter Sunday. It was generally the first day that we were allowed to go outside without winter boots, and I remember the thrill of walking around the neighborhood enjoying the crunch of my shoes on the still unswept sidewalks. I also delighted in spotting objects that we thought were lost forever but that had just been hibernating under the snow: an old tennis ball, a mitten, my blue skipping rope and, one day, miracle of miracles, the key I needed to affix my roller skates to my shoes.  You see, with my skates, I could take flight. Hours of fun and fantasies of soaring through the air awaited me. From that day on, Easter has represented Life at its best, most definitely!
In grade four, we were taught by Sister Joseph de la Croix (name changed to protect the innocent that she was) that Jesus had resurrected sometime during the night. This of course was both a mystery and a miracle. At the ripe old age of nine, I had already decided that the stories about Jesus and his followers were not meant to be taken literally, as inspiring as they may be. My take on the resurrection story was that Jesus had continued being dead as all people do once they are dead, but that during the night, the followers had come to their senses, stopped crying and come to realize that they could keep Jesus alive in their hearts if they chose to. There was the real miracle.
I must admit here that Sister Joseph de la Croix was big on miracles, whereas I wasn’t. Miracles were presented to us as something over which we had no control. Miracles happened… or not. We could pray for miracles, but that didn’t guarantee they would happen. Conversely, we could not pray for miracles and they might still happen. I imagined miracles as entities floating around the universe and landing indiscriminately on good people and bad people alike. I considered miracles to be part of a giant disorderly process, though probably a well-intentioned one. Miracles basically lacked a boss, I thought, somebody who would establish clear rules, known to all, something like the “naughty or nice” rule of Santa Claus fame. You would know where you stand. Yes, the miracle of the Resurrection of the Lord left me rather cold. For one thing, I couldn’t understand it, but between you and me, who really does? For another, nobody could prove that it actually had happened, whereas everyone could see with their own eyes the resurrection of my roller skate key left for dead under the snow.
This winter, my husband and I watched a DVD course on cosmology, specifically on observing the sky. Twelve well prepared lessons were delivered by a very knowledgeable professor of cosmology, an eminent scientist, a fellow completely enamored with his subject. The courses were excellent: clear explanations, well designed graphs, beautiful pictures. But right at the start, the poor man annoyed me no end, to the point that I was thinking of abandoning the course. The reason he annoyed me so much is that often, much too often, he would interrupt his teaching, beam us a smile that covered half the screen and exclaim: “WOW!”, or even worse: “C-O-O-L!” “What’s wrong with that?” you ask. Nothing really, except that I felt treated as a child whose kindergarten teacher is badly overdoing it with the positive reinforcement. When I am being studious, I want to be treated as seriously as my respectable old age warrants.
Thank God, and perhaps that is a little miracle in itself, I somehow snapped out of that bad mood. I realized that I had been studying the universe and trying so hard to understand its workings, that I was not contemplating its miracles and mysteries. Whereas, this learned professor, a student of cosmology for 40 years, was actually speaking of his enduring love for the universe while explaining cold scientific facts. He was inviting us to open our eyes and gaze with wonderment at this universe that humanity has barely begun to understand. He was simply teaching us how to be able to do this better. He was saying: come see Life at its best! Shouldn’t he be allowed a moment to exclaim: “Cool!”?
It is still dark, but soon the colors of the night sky will start fading in preparation for sunrise. I make myself a cup of tea, check the battery in my camera and walk back to the window. The grenouille has come out from under the bridge and is slowly approaching the little island. I send a quiet prayer of thanks to the crew who will be working hard all day to make life safer for all of us who live near the river. Easter is two weeks from now, but I feel that Life is already at its best, and that this morning, like all mornings, is a miracle.