Sunday, August 15, 2004

Return to the Green Mountain

As long as I can recall, Mount Royal, the 200-metre high hill for which Montreal was named, has loomed large. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in the Jewish General Hospital, high up on the hill. My room in the children's ward afforded me a view of another hospital, St. Mary's, at which our eldest son would be born so many years later.

When I learned to ride a bike, I would dream of riding across the bridge from my home just north of Montreal, through the city itself, then way up the mountain until, finally, I would reach the top. Never mind that my mother would ground me forever if I so much as left the neighborhood without her permission. I had the itch to ride further.

When I got into biking, the mountain became my so-called odyssey ride. The first time I climbed it, I was so tired that I think it took me the rest of the afternoon to trek back across the city. Still, as I got older and stronger, the mountain became a place to test my mettle and gradually bring my times down. For a while, we lived at the base of the mountain, and I'd climb it early every morning before going to work.

I went back to the hill earlier today. I climbed up and enjoyed the view before coasting down the long Chemin Olmsted - named for Mount Royal Park's designer, Frederick Law Olmsted - and taking a few pictures at the famed Tam Tam Jam. A couple more climbs and descents and I was ready to head home, my black tires turned grey from the dust of the gravel trail.

London has no real mountains, and its few hills pale in comparison. Still, every time I encounter one on the way home from work, I imagine I'm tackling my old favorite, and I go back to a comfortable reminder of childhood for the most brief of moments.

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