For someone who loves movement and geography, I sure can hesitate to cross the street or go for a walk.
Standing at a street corner, looking at the traffic of humans and cars, I try to determine the timing of the traffic lights. Should I step off the curb? Will the light turn yellow? Will the hand start flashing in 3 seconds? 10 seconds? I look around, I think, I wait. When the hand does start flashing, I’ve not moved an inch.
But Monday, I woke up to an inspiring, sunny day. I swore that today was the day I’d take a walk, the kind I used to be swept into, without a nudge or groan.
When I lived in Côte-des-Neiges, I walked in all directions. I walked south to the cemetery, east via the sloping Wilderton plaza, north towards Bates and the quasi-industrial area bordering the train tracks and adjacent to the mostly residential Town of Mount Royal. I walked west towards the Snowdon or Plamondon subway stations and sometimes into Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, across the Décarie autoroute. I walked and walked, led by the area’s asymmetries, from its topography to its history to its aesthetics.
Lately—well, since I left Côte-des-Neiges two years ago—I hesitate. Seeing traces of suburbia, streets so wide that disorientation creeps up on me, I tell myself that walking will feel endless, tire more than invigorate.
On Monday, I defied that voice, and I walked south along Sixth Avenue. Arriving just north of the Angus Shops, I recognized the landscape from the map on my cell phone: two oval-shaped parks cut by a road. The symmetry caught my eye. Indeed, townhouses, copies of other townhouses, lined the parks. I slowed down to look up and around. On every street sign a woman’s name had been inscribed. I recognized one: Marian Dale Scott.
Dale Scott’s name appeared on a park sign that was otherwise bare and white. That sign summed up what I knew about Dale Scott. If her name slowed my step and paused my walk, it was because I had read about her husband, the poet and lawyer F.R. Scott, in Sherry Simon’s book Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City. In 1960s and 1970s Montreal, F.R. Scott had travelled from the west into the city’s east, transgressing spatial and linguistic, often overlapping, borders. But what of Marian Dale Scott? She painted and sought symmetry in the repetition of abstract shapes. Had her work inspired the housing developers in the Angus neighbourhood?
In honour of my first spontaneous walk in Rosemont, and mimicking Montreal’s approach to park inscriptions, I offer you Marian Dale Scott’s biographical notice.
(1906–1993) Painter and member of the influential Contemporary Arts Society of Montreal and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.