Friday, April 24, 2015

Gabrielle Roy; running in the water shouting for joy.

He must have been about seven or eight; it had been raining and Alexandre, a sickly lad already in love with courage took off his shoes and stockings; he was running in the water gathered along the sidewalk and was shouting with joy.

Gabrielle Roy, The Cashier


I was listening to the CBC Weekend Morning Show as I dressed for a long run early Saturday. The host, Terry McCleod, was interviewing Annette Saint Pierre, a retired College St. Boniface professor of Canadian Literature and eminent local authority of famed author Gabrielle Roy. I was initially drawn to the rhythm of Saint Pierre's lovely Franco Manitoba voice, but quickly fell head first into her story.

What does Gabrielle Roy have to do with running? Stay with me as I unpack my tale in five Acts.

Act One

I absolutely loved Gabrielle Roys' book while attending university way back in the 1980s. Listening to the warm chatter between Terry and Annette reminded me of my love for Roy. I promised myself, that I would revist her work, put it on the bucket list so to speak. Fully layered and ready for a chilly 16 miles, I listened to Annette's last few words and went off in search of another adventure.

Act Two

I didn't have a clear route in mind. I knew I wanted trails and my schedule called for 16 miles. Aside from this criteria,  I was open for adventure. Surely this will be a good day, a good run, a good day to be alive.

I have run the Seine River Trails dozens of times over the years. It's a single track and hugs the steep pitches of the river bank. It's peaceful, scenic, challenging, and every inch a runner's dream trail. As I exited the trail I discovered a trail sign indicating I had just left Gabrielele Roy Trail. It's a large sign, how could I possibly have missed it on previous runs?

And I think to myself, sheesh, I really must reread some Roy.

Act Three

I continued running. I usually cross Marion and weave back on The Seine, but the coffee was pressing hard on my bladder so I veered to the right and headed to the St Boniface Hospital to use their facilities. I found myself on Deschambault Street, a pleasant blue collar neighborhood in old St Boniface. 

I came across a home at 375 that stood out from all the others. I stopped to read the elegant plaque on the boulevard. To my astonishment ir read "Gabrielle Roy's childhood home", now The Gabrielle Roy Museum. How had I missed this gem? I really should get out more!

And I continued running with a whole new appreciation of Roy thinking "Wow, I really HAVE to get some Roy books."

Act Four

Later that after noon I had a Ted's Run For Literacy meeting at The Neighbourhood Cafe Used Book Store.  As we finished up I happened to glance towards the stacks of used books. There, just above my head was the Can Lit section. I stood and walked a few paces to the 'R' section... RA, RE, RI, Ro...Roy! 

There, in full faded yellow-page splendor, were four Gabriell Roy titles. I bought the whole lot, $13! I left the Neighbourhood Cafe Bookstore light on feet anxious to crack one of the titles.

Act Five

The stars were alligned. Gabrielle Roy and I were destined to meet on this day. And there, in chapter two I discovered this gem of gems"...he was running in the water gathered on the sidewalk and was shouting with joy."

It's a good day to be alive, running in the water shouting for joy.


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