When I'm in Mill Valley California, there are a zillion places to be alone with nature and my thoughts. You just relax in a different way when you're not surrounded by people - and forced to wear the "social mask", and navigate the space of other people.
Montréal is much different - even than San Francisco. There are people everywhere. It just isn't possible to be out of doors here and really enjoy being truly alone. At least - not until it starts to get really cold. And then, a wonderful thing happens; people disappear from the normally crowded outdoor public venues.
I take a daily walk after writing in the morning. It's my zen time. A respite from working, worrying, practical planning - a chance to let my mind go where it wants, in its own way, at its own pace. But to truly free my thoughts and musings, I need to be alone during my walk. And that's hard to do in a city like Montréal.
The other day, though, the temperature dropped to a quite nippy -4 centigrade, and as I bundled up and set out for my daily jaunt, I was suddenly struck by an unusual sight. I was walking through a park that is usually bustling with activity of every type when I slowly realized that I was completely alone. Not another person in sight. No readers, sun bathers, dog walkers, children playing - no one.
It was one of my best walks ever. I covered a couple of miles, and even when I did encounter other people, they were in a hurry to get where they were going - because it was cold. But I wasn't bothered by the chill in the least. I was too absorbed in something that had accompanied the drop in temperature; solitude.
Most people speak of winter in Montréal with a sense of enduring a trial by nature. An ordeal of sorts. And while it is a quite different experience than life in California, when I see the weather forecast for Montréal, and it calls for bone chilling cold, I now have one consistent reaction. Yes!