I love where I live. I love the noise and energy of the knockabout downtown. The diversity of all us that live here. And the tourists. The history welling within the bricks of this old neighbourhood. The endless supply of new things to do, different foods to try and culture to explore. That I don’t need to own a car. And that I can walk to work! Many unique neighbourhoods to discover. Grand building and humble alleys. A killer view of a really great skyline.
And a short walk to a small, floating, quieter world where just sitting down to watch if for a little while will soothe the mind and breath from all that bustle when it needs to.
Sometimes light falls on things in a fleeting moment. The subtlety of the moment can be so quick and startling that you suspect it was placed in front of you just so you’ll open your eyes and see.
Every year I dislike this more:
This year it’s been relentless. I’m tired of your icy sidewalks. I’m tired of it hurting to just walk outside. I’m tired of your grey monotones. I’m tired of cold feet and numb fingers and whipping winds. I’m leaving you Toronto.
I haven’t used an alarm clock in years. Not needing one is one of the best things that happened to me in middle age. I wake up a little before six most days, well in advance of the time I need to get ready for work. I welcome waking up; that time to myself before the commotion of city and work are like a daily gift. With an alarm clock it was different; the wakeup call like a general ordering me out of bed, and I’ve never much liked being told what to do. Without any sort of alarm, and when it’s just my own mind telling me it’s time, I heed with pleasure, and retreat to what we jokingly refer to as the morning room with my coffee.
We live on the eleventh floor of a twelve storey building in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. The morning room is a solarium facing west over the city overlooking the Toronto skyline. The night view of the city lights is spectacular. The room also gives us a view south and a limited view of the harbour and Toronto Islands beyond that. It used to be that the solarium was more of a night-time spot for us. Ceri’s piano is in there, and he’ll often go in and play against the backdrop of lights. Then last year we acquired some more comfortable seating for the space, and I adopted it for what I envisioned on moving in – a morning retreat.
The chair I sit in faces south and at this time of year I get to watch the light start to creep across the sky; different colours every day, swirling with the clouds, ribbon-like over the islands, and many a morning finds me recording the state of that sky in my journal. As I have in the past, I have returned to handwritten journalling as part of a creative recovery process, and for almost a half year now I sit in the morning room and write with a pen without editing. Everything gets in there, petty complaints, small joys, irrational fears, creative ideas and every day – gratitude for what I have.
Often I’ve expressed gratitude for this home and neighbourhood, over which I survey every morning, seeking out the forms of familiar objects from so many walks. It’s not a glamorous lakeside view. Our street is lined with parks, and beyond those a two more apartment buildings the same height as ours, and beyond those row housing, and beyond those a block or so of small industry, and beyond that railway with occasional GO and Via trains streaming through, and beyond that the elevated Gardiner Expressway over top of Lake Shore Blvd., and beyond those, Sherbourne Common park astride both sides of Queens Quay, and beyond that, new development land that includes a shiny new George Brown College campus, and beyond that the harbour.
Not exactly pastoral, it’s a view I enjoy. Every day I see the ferry making its journey back and forth across the harbour – these days through the same narrow paths in the iced-over lake. I see the tiny figures of early morning skaters zipping back and forth on the Sherbourne Common ice rink. And the life preserver on the walkway beside the lake which I’ve photographed more than once, the last time a few weeks ago when Debbie and Len were in town and we were giving them a tour of the neighbourhood.
It’s not much more than a dot from the view of my morning room chair, but there is something beautiful in the familiarity of it. Something I appreciate every day during the ritual of the morning room.
One misty, moisty, morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
All clothed in leather
All clothed in leather,
With a cap under his chin.
How do you do?
And how do you do?
And how do you do again?
I don't take a lot of pride in working on Bay Street. I dig the historical address, but I don't work for, or associate myself with the suits that surround me on the sidewalks every day. I despise the big banks that own the area and who happen to be among the richest companies in Canada who hold the citizens of this country under a great big ugly warty thumb.
But like that kid I mentioned yesterday who squints her eyes to create watercolours on the night, I'm a sucker for the big mother Christmas decorations trying to out ostentatious each other in and around the towers. I love the big shiny Christmas down here.
Is that wrong?