Friday, 7 August 2009

A Quiet Spot in the Middle of the City: The Pleasures of Mount Royal Cemetery

If it weren’t for the Mount Royal Cemetery I don’t know if I’d be alive in Montreal today. Or not really alive, anyway. For decades I’ve walked there several times a week, with kids, with a dog, with Lee, but most frequently alone in the early morning. It is a wonderful spot in all seasons. I arrive with my thoughts—a problem in whatever I’m writing, some strategy to think out, an action to plan—and I leave more often than not with a solution, or the beginning of one, or at least with the idea that the world will continue and I with it.

The green space on the north side of Mount Royal was set aside more than 150 years ago as “rural” cemetery like those designed by Frederick Law Olmsted to combine a place of rest for the dead and a bucolic setting for the living. Olmsted made the first plan for Mount Royal Park, and the cemetery which adjoins it is a perfect companion for Montreal’s signature open space.

Yesterday morning, however, Le Devoir vaunted the cemetery’s slopes as great places for cyclists to train, and I’m afraid that some of the peace I’ve grown accustomed to will be spoiled. True, the winding, well-kept asphalt roads must be great to cycle down, after climbing the steep slope that leads up the mountain from the east side, but I hope the place won’t be over-run by pumped-up bikers.

The story has already elicited comments from people who walk or bird-watch there, while cemetery officials are quoted in it as saying that cyclists who “exaggerate” are asked to go elsewhere. Let us hope that cyclists get the message so that the many people (and there must be hundreds) who quietly enjoy the grass, trees, birds and lovely views can continue to do so.

Photo: a summer morning when the cloud cover is so low it's fog.


audrey.K said...

have you ever seen the grave of Vadim Schneider ?

Mary Soderstrom said...

No, I haven't. Didn't know he was buried there. I'll keep my eyes open.