The powder of snow around Brandt’s Creek path has melted. And leafy remains, black and pressed into the soggy lane, prepare for next year’s compost. I emerge alongside the little bridge spanning the duck pond where orange-billed inhabitants mill about in widening circles like high society out for a turn on the green.
I press on to Yates, ever prepared with camera in hand, for a person, place or thing of interest. And as I make my way, my path intersects that of an elderly woman exiting a parking lot. A neighbourly ‘hello’ is exchanged. And her calf-length coat – green and variable as summer grass – compels me to comment: “I love the colour of your coat!” I exclaim.
Her face brightens, and momentarily the lines around her lips dissolve behind a smile. “I made it myself!” She says. “My friend weaves the cloth, and I make things.”
“Wow, you sure are a talented woman,” I reply.
“…and I’m 90-and-a-half,” she adds proudly like a young girl adding fractions to her age.
“Remarkable,” I say beneath the trees of autumn. “You don’t look a day over 73.” And indeed she did not: elegant, fresh, assured; her voice resonant with the lingering flavour of youth. She blooms with appreciation, and surprises me with a little hug.
Up the gentle incline to her destination we walk, while conversation spills from her mouth like summer flowers. She tells me of her adventures in the neighbourhood; meeting the orchardists on the hill; discovering, to her delight, that they speak French like she, and how they have become friends. I am intrigued: This is no ordinary nonagenarian.
She speaks of her days at McGill in the ‘30s; of how, at the end of her first year, her father said: Well, you’ve now met as many men as you’re going to meet, so it’s time to stay home; and of how she responded: No way! I’m going back! She looks at me and victoriously says: “So I became a model for the Eaton’s catalogue. I earned $10 per sitting. And it was enough for an entire year ($300).”
We arrive at the entrance to a mall. And before we part, this model allows me to snap a photo. I give her my card and ask if she would at some time be willing to sit for a portrait. She looks away, fingers bending and flicking the edges of my proposal, and diplomatically says, “Oh…I’ll think about it.”
My many walks along the lane leading to Brandt’s Creek have treaded the autumn leaves to pulp. And when I see the paddling ducks, green and black on the still pond, I sometimes think of my elderly acquaintance: a fleeting serendipity in ever widening circles of time and space. What will I be like when I am ninety-and-a-half? Will I have a coat of green that will catch the eye and inspire?