The spring sky beckons to the heart starved by a winter that overstayed its welcome. “You don’t need to escape the cold any more. Come on, linger a little longer…”
Bright and sunny today, but blustery still. Made breakfast then Ceri went off to the office and I had to work for awhile too. Do NOT like giving up any part of a weekend to work, but the upcoming week will be a challenge, so want to prepare for that. Later I met Ceri at Fran's on Front Street for late lunch of big salads, then we did some errands and groceries and went back to his place. Talked. He played piano. Had leftover lasagna he had frozen from last week and salad for supper. Listened to music. Had wine. Tried to catch part of SNL but conked out, feeling happy.
This week I'm walking to work the "no-shortcuts" way, walking up to my office east along Adelaide Street from Spadina. It's part of the "Entertainment District" though the street with the beautiful name is rather shabby along the route I walk – it has none of the swankiness of King Street, a block south. There are some great buildings though, and construction underway in spots, and slated to begin in others, and I expect in the next few years the area will house a lot of new glass. I'll enjoy the "shabby" bits while I can!
There has been a soft rain falling off and on since last night, and as I walk to work under the heavily overcast skies this morning everything is glistening luminous under the dim light; the pavement a wet black canvas painted here and there with splashes of colour reflecting the city pulsing above it.
Earlier, I lay in bed watching the sky through a gap in the curtain, thinking I was as reluctant to come to wakefulness as that sky was. Last night’s rain capped a gorgeous, warm and sunshiny Sunday – that kind of weekend day you look upon as a gift at any time of year, but particularly this one. The day was gentle; I walked and shopped and puttered around my home, and later my table housed a big pot of vegetable barley soup and toasted rosemary bread and warm company and suddenly I find myself in deep autumn with not a little pleasure.
The slowed pace amidst the low clouds and glistening streets extends that autumnal comfort even on a Monday morning. Once upon a time when I was a driver on the highway trying to get to work in mornings like this, I would curse at the way even a soft rain like this would slow everything down. Now I feel lucky to be able to find pleasure in the slowed pace of a city under a rain. It wasn’t all contentment – I wanted to walk right past my office and spend the morning in it.
I’m not sure I’ll move so peacefully into winter, but who knows? Maybe I just need to learn to carry with me in my mind the gentleness of a rainy morning.
The other evening I’m walking home. It’s not late but it’s after dark. I look unremarkable in Monday office wear – the kind of clothes you drag yourself into in that seven o’clock Monday morning sigh. I haven’t washed my hair, it looks unremarkable too. I’m wearing a casual fleece jacket over top of the Monday office clothes and a favourite scarf in reds and greens. If anything, the colours of the red jacket and scarf are the only things not unremarkable about my aspect on an autumn Monday evening in which I just want to get home.
I’m walking fast. At that time of the evening, the office tower crowds have left the sidewalks and got onto their trains and I’m free to hoof it as fast as a like. I cut down from King Street and through a parking lot and round south onto Blue Jays Way and as I get around the corner a young guy materializes on my left jolting me to awareness with a sudden “WOW.”
“Wow!” he exclaims again, beholding me with his arms held out at his sides.
I’m not particularly surprised, there are animated people everywhere in the city, and I give him the, albeit amused, attention he’s looking for without breaking my stride. He beholds my unremarkable aspect, held to his spot by some perceived marvellousness.
“You look GREAT!” he says, maintaining a respectful distance and I don’t feel threatened by him. I smirk, to let him know I’m on to his play for a handout or a trick even. He backs off a little, acting bowled over by the aspect of me:
“The way you rounded that corner, that was gorgeous!”
I don’t break my stride but I give him a little laugh, appreciating his original delivery but I’m not falling for it and I’m not going to give him any money.
As I walk south toward home, I carry with me the enjoyment of his in-the-moment earnestness, and what seemed to me an artistic perspective of an otherwise unremarkable woman rounding a corner in a red jacket and pretty scarf.
And I wonder if, really, he maybe did see something in that woman that betrayed recent events he couldn’t have known about; those kind that, despite her unremarkable approach to Monday‘s workday in a city office, had her feeling just as beautiful as the person he created in his clever appeal.
Wherever it came from, the fella's creative perspective is beautiful thing number seventy.
This morning I’m watching a young guy sketch people on the subway. I’m an observer of an observer. I’m captivated by his surreptitious search for detail and the subsequent concentration in getting what he sees onto the page of his sketchbook.
I get to imagining what the young man’s eyes are seeing in the short amount of time he has to create the images. Line? Space? Plane? Perspective? Or is he, like I so often am, imagining what lies beneath the surface – what is it about that changing furrow in a brow, that curl of a lip, what thoughts are washing over that face looking at itself in a window’s reflection?
The artist is young enough that I can guess he is still at the point of the former, working to strengthen his skill before attempting to convey the layers of his subjects’ humanity into his drawings. But then I also expect that the more an artist becomes accustomed to seeing, the more evident those layers become. So what is going on under those lines and planes must be evident at some level of his consciousness.
As I watch him, aspects of tunnel walls and station platforms move in shifting formations in the window behind him, and people move in and out of his space with that air of muted resignation that morning commuters always have. What I see is a young man in a bubble; a bubble in the middle of a busy transit system, in the middle of rush hour, in the middle of a big city, amongst thousands of people, most of whom are working very hard with various means to ignore and avoid the unpleasantness of experiencing each other. And I feel grateful to have encountered this one person who is striving to do the opposite – to see them.
And for that, the young man seeing is beautiful thing number 27 of 101.
I came across this video which has scenes I can identify with my every day. These scenes ARE my every day – they're of Toronto, the city I write about all the time.
And it's funny because I could link this song's theme to a conversation I had only just last night about my experience in having been here five years now; about choosing a city and not finding a home; about not giving up on the city but quitting looking for the home.
I might be more enthusiastic about finding this video treatment of this particular song. But I have laryngitis today. I don't even know how to deal with this song when I have laryngitis.
I haven’t been writing much. If you’re one of my regular friends I’m sure you’ve noticed. Lists of beautiful things and posts of YouTube clips are not writing. I’ve learned to accept the dry periods and assume the “writerly collector” in me is needing this time to just collect experience. But it’s been bothering me – posting other people’s work and videos of other people are not going to bring you back, and I can’t stand the thought of losing any one of you.
Part of it is that I’ve been immersing myself in good books over my daily commute – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact my excuse for staying with this job which is an hour’s trip from my home has always been that those two hours of travel time every day are reading time. But the problem with immersing myself in books during this time is that I’m not paying attention to my favourite subject: that little space of world around me and the people in it.
By the end of winter I start feeling trapped by it – the darkness, the extended periods of painful temperatures, the ugliness. Let’s face it – snow in the city is only beautiful when it first falls. Then it becomes dirty mounds on sidewalks and on edges of parking lots and lining curbs everywhere. I’m all about the changing seasons, I feel lucky that I live in such a climate – but by late January, I’m finished with this damned season.
I’m sure it’s all related to a lack of sunlight. In fact I know it – after an hour’s lunchtime walk in bright sunlight today I felt heady, almost drunk. And the move to Daylight Time this past weekend has flipped some internal switch – I get to evening and find daylight and I’m noticeably happy. Lots of my friends are still complaining about that lost hour of sleep – I’m practically giddy for it; I’d gladly sacrifice two hours to have Daylight Time back again.
I wish I was one to write myself through a down or difficult period. The last few months of hunkering against the weather, coming out of the subway after work into the dark, the sequestering away from humanity and losing myself in other peoples’ stories – have all caused me to close off, and thus close off that well of stories.
During today's lunchtime walk I stopped and looked ahead at a length of sidewalk on which there was no snow, no ice, no slush, no puddles; just a clear sidewalk under a sunny sky. And when I stood there looking at it, I felt a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in more than a month, a welcome desire to get back outside of myself.
As I walked on, one of my favourite song verses ran through my head:
You say you'll give me a highway with no-one on it
Treasure, just to look upon it
All the riches in the night
U2, from Rattle and Hum, 1988
Let’s call that little simple little verse, with its image so humble and idea so rich, beautiful thing 25, and my theme for escaping the bonds of winter.
You know, certain parts of most of my days are focused on me getting above ground again. This video made me think about the coming above ground part. I should always view it as rising to the new, and to not expect. Like a goldfish?
(This video encouraging me to see like a goldfish: beautiful thing seventeen.)