I hope your summers are off to a fine start. In Quebec City, it’s lovely late spring weather–not too hot, but warm and sunny and just right! (Well, today was pretty hot actually, and a cold front is going to blow through tomorrow, but we’re always ready for that in the true North, strong and free.) The tulips, crabapples, and lilacs are just flowering here–so it’s especially floral and picturesque.
The fun thing about Quebec is that it’s (in the words of one of my traveling companions) a “free city,” especially in the tourist centers of the upper and lower cities inside the city walls. It’s got a relaxed and playful vibe–people walk around in everything from skins from the waist up (men, anyway) to suits and more formal wear. The teenagers and young adults of the city were sunning themselves and showing off their tats on the walls of the city. The historic parts of the town are tres touristique, and there are more tacky T-shirt shops than ever, but hey–everyone has to make a living, right? Being a francophone Canadian means that one lives in a very small country, and not everyone wants to get rigged up like a Musketeer to go to work.
It’s great to be back in the archives, but I’m left with the challenge of taking haphazardly-kept records that span a century (or more) and turning them into something I can analyze. I feel weak and stupid again, but it’s also fun to think big. Researching this book is kind of like being handed a stack of sporadic grocery lists–those that survived two devastating fires, that is–and describing and analyzing everything that went on in a kitchen over a century or so: all the meals, all of the people, all of the celebrations, all of the tragedies, etc. You know, the stuff someone else might actually care enough to read about. I’m gradually coming to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to do some serious old-fashioned social history if I’m going to figure out this monastery.
The big find of the day? An obituary of a nun who died of le scorbut, which is scurvy, a disease that it usually suffered by seamen, slaves, and others who don’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies. Three guesses as to how you die of scurvy inside a convent when no one else is dealing with malnutrition, friends, and the first two don’t count!
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