Sweet September slipped away

A new student from our school is caught contemplating the incredible light at the Loarre Castle in the north of Spain.

It is 10 p.m. in Barcelona and I have been watching the rain fall on Seneca, in large crystal drops illuminated by the streetlights. DP is fast asleep, leaving me to the rain and the wind and the lightning. And my blogging.

The beginning of the school year has been exciting and draining. I love my new (and old) gig as High School Counselor but there have been challenges including a move to the charming but crumbling butter-coloured villa across the street where we do not have a phone line or a photocopier. The IT guy found me a good printer but, for now, I am using the school’s cell phone and I run across the street when I need to make photocopies. While some might call this arrangement inconvenient, I am going to describe it as a fitness plan.

Two weeks ago, I chaperoned a Grade 9 and 10 Cultural trip to Pamplona and Jaca. For the six teachers on the trip, supervising the 60 kids was a heart-stopping tight-rope performance; we encouraged the students to have great, goofy fun while recognizing that we were responsible for their individual and collective well-being for 72 straight hours. Highlights of the trip included walking on the streets of Pamplona – without the bulls, bowling at 11:00 p.m. in a town called Jaca (pronounced Haka) in the Pyrennes near the French border, and visiting the Castle Loarre which appears at the beginning of the film “Kingdom of Heaven.” When we woke up on Friday morning and boarded the bus to the castle it was 0 degrees celcius. This came as quite a shock to the students who found that their little hoodies just were not cutting it. I was snug (and, I daresay, smug) in my blue and black MEC shell and I am never leaving home without it.

Now that I think about it, I am wearing that MEC coat in every single picture that DP has taken of me on three continents over the last 7 or 8 years… and let’s be clear that this is a jacket that makes Europeans shudder. I know that these well-heeled Spaniards (not to mention the French) are saying, silently, “Oh my!” (See translations: “Dios Mio!” or “Mon Dieu!”). I know that the well-dressed citizens of Western Europe are condemning me to fashion hell while my shell and the black fleece jacket peeking out from underneath, are shouting, “I AM Canadian and I have bad taste.” I know and yet… what’s a girl to do? I AM warm. I was warm in the Pyrennes as the students contemplated starting a forest fire in order to warm up a little.

I loved the trip. We saw four monasteries… three too many for the kids. Two of the monasteries were called Suso and Yuso… wouldn’t I be clever if I were actually making that up. At one of the Suso/Yuso monasteries (one is at the top of a mountain and the other is at the bottom… I just can’t keep them straight) we saw the very first words that were written in Spanish. The kids behaved, more or less, like kids which is to say that they were funny and energetic and easily bored by monasteries and they stayed up all night both nights and took a zillion digital photos of each other and absolutely none of the places we visited.

If I could be 14 again, I would be wilder. That’s another story.

One Saturday morning in September, when we were still in our pajamas, we were treated to the most amazing impromptu concert. We believe that the sweet sound of a choir warming up must originate deep inside a nearby (and still unidentified) church; the voices, full and magnificent, are carried through the neighbourhood by the ever shape-shifting wind off the Mediterranean. This celestial concert, requiring no ticket or footwear, comes to our apartment each Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m… and, much to our surprise and delight, drifts in on Wednesday evenings as well. I was listening to the choir tonight when the storm started and, for a while, I could hear the strength of the singers’ combined voices fighting against the force of the wind.

And sweet September has slipped away…


  1. I think the same thing happened to my September. Ah…the cycle of the school year.Your school trip sounds lovely. I'll be part of an insane four days in Xi'an, China with 200 twelve year olds in April. Yep…REALLY looking forward to that!Have fun in October!

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