Happy New Year. Yeah, I know, it’s closer to February than it is to the new year swing over, but the break was intentional. Sort of. After the year of daily posting “rules,” which I didn’t stay true to in the end, I did what I have done upon being released from “rules” in the past –I revelled in the no more rules. The photo-a-day project was a good thing; don’t go thinking I’m regretting it. The exercise made me keep my eyes open, and I documented a year, and even if I didn’t manage the one-a-day in the end, I took lots and lots of photographs, a few of them decent. I’m just a natural rebeller against rules so I'd say I did pretty good. (Even better if I got the rest of December's photos back-posted!) Anyway, now that I’ve got those things expelled from my system I’m back. Here’s where I’m at.
At the beginning of the year, everyone is thinking about fresh starts and resolutions. As a big fan of fresh starts, it is the same for me too. If I were to state some resolutions, which I’m not going to do because I didn’t make any, but if I did, they would revolve around writing and creativity and personal authenticity and cooking and getting more sleep. And revitalizing this blog.
Over the extended bloggerly break I’ve been working out ideas about where I’d like to go with this space now that the photograph project is over. I still don’t have that clearly defined in my mind, but I do know that my intent is to put the focus back on finding inspiration and making pictures with words. What those pictures will look like, I have no idea; I’m just soldiering on.
I really loved writing people watching stories, but just I don’t have as many these days because I’m not trapped in subway cars with them for two hours or more a day any more. And this makes me very happy. I’ve always enjoyed the people-watching aspect of public transit, but doing it every day for several years took a piece out of me. For all the wonderful things a big city is, it is also filled with millions of people who aren’t looking beyond the ends of their noses in getting about their days and to an over-sensitive sod like me, the daily sea of rudeness was demoralizing. So I’m refocusing on the process of finding and developing inspiration in other ways, and my lovely, solitary walks to and from the office each day are the perfect times to meditate on that. That and, er, perhaps, some loving kindness toward the city full of rude people I’m still so quick to judge.
I will continue to use photos to enhance my blog space, but now I’m thinking about playing with photos creatively, and finally learning how to use my PhotoShop software to its full extent, and connecting them to the things I write. I’ve got a brand new phone and now a number of new camera apps to try too.
It’s January, my annual nesting period; and I’m obsessed with food. Every day I’m searching for new recipes, looking at my cookbooks and food blogs and the good thing is that I’ve tried, with success, a number of new favourites to put on the table. This past weekend’s kitchen adventures included tomato-onion-red pepper frittata (eaten over two breakfasts), chicken enchilada soup, vegetable barley soup, crispy quinoa bake, balsamic roasted carrots, roasted tomatoes with parmesan and Ceri’s broccoli salad. I didn’t have homemade lunches a number of times in recent weeks and the thought of the restaurant/takeout options near work, though abundant in choice, grew increasingly unfavourable. I thought of taking up a challenge, say, to try a new recipe every week, but there’re those rules again.
My little family and I are in a really good place together. Ceri and I have moved ourselves into a comfortable, though never fixed routine. We continue our quest to find something to do every weekend, and times at home are happy and relaxed and thank goodness he is amenable to one of the only channels I’m keen to watch on TV these days, Turner Classic Movies (through which I obsessively shut out the world time-travelled over my relatively quiet holidays). Both my girls have new homes and happy work and social lives filled with good people. We all meet every Friday night after work at our favourite local for “beer o’clock” and dinner where we decompress from the work week and catch up and laugh a lot. I’m so lucky.
I’ve started a new semester in my online creative non-fiction class and through it I continue to meet some really great people who seek to do what you and I do – tell our stories. Each new learner that comes to a class inspires me in one way or another; I learn so much from them. In return, I try my best to inspire them to tell their stories.
It’s January. My world is small. A good small – a beautiful thing.
Where are you at?
These days much of my world looks like this. I have heard all kinds of grumbling about it, and I suppose if I had a car I might be grumbling too. However, much of this is about transforming one of the best things about this city – the harbourfront, which has gotten kind of shabby. If this is going to be a world-class city, then this jewel of a spot needs fixing up. Bring it on, I say.
I get as much pleasure looking at the objects in my window when they're reflected by the morning light onto the curtain as I do looking at them when the curtain is open. It's kind of otherworldly-like; secret goings on in that other realm just beyond the reach of this one. Like when you're a little kid and you think all your toys come alive when you're sleeping, interacting in a toy community with toy concerns and toy traditions and toy conversations - all above the little non-magical world of mortals and thus never to be shared.
In which we get up close and personal with thousands to watch the lighting of the tree and subsequent fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto City Hall).
Should I go suddenly from this life, I hope it's not by decapitation by glass falling out of the sky.
After work Ceri and I meet up at Fran’s for steak salads on the patio and chat and watch the world go by. It’s been another hot day and sun dresses float by on women everywhere. As a collection of them walks over to a table on the patio, I remark that every one of them has a pattern I wouldn’t pay money for in a million years. Ceri says that he was thinking all the dresses weren’t looking so bad.
It’s a beautiful summer evening and we’re reluctant to leave, so we linger longer than usual. As my friend Lisa said yesterday, it’s what we wait all winter for, no?
Summer has officially arrived and Canadians everywhere are doing what they love to do a lot: complaining about the weather. Not me. I'm so glad to see summer. I am glad to have my bike out; to be wearing sandals and getting pedicures. I'm glad that the city festival season is in full swing; that I am going up to the cottage soon; that my skin is turning brown and that there is colour everywhere. I’m glad to be spending entire days outside; that the harbour is filled with boats and the Harbourfront filled with tourists. I’m glad for the long days and that the summer solstice is almost here. I’m glad for the abundance of fresh foods, and especially glad for having people I love to share it with and a rooftop patio to share it on.
My wonderful niece posted this video on Facebook yesterday. She says is very inspired by it. How wise of her.
A 13 year old wise soul: beautiful thing number eighty-five.
This morning it’s deeply overcast; one of those rainy mornings when you wish it was Saturday but it’s really Thursday and so you drag yourself out of bed, late, and don’t care about what the clock says because everybody is late on a rainy day.
The atmosphere has an indigo-charcoal cast and soft, smoky clouds are obscuring the tops of the buildings. It’s warmer than usual and it’s raining lightly but it seems like the rain is coming down hard because of the thrusting winds.
I walk outside and one of those winds sweeps up smacks me wet in the face and so I look at the streetcars approaching the stops outside my building. One going east to Union Station would be a relatively fast ride, and then I could navigate my way through the station and walk the underground malls all the way to my office. I’m gauging the favourableness of that as opposed to the 25 minute blustery rainy walk when I get a look at the steamy windows of the streetcars and I think about the vacant, rude, blackberry punching humanity crammed inside, and that times a hundred teeming through Union Station, and I open up my polka dotted umbrella and tilt it into the wind and walk up into Spadina Avenue for my journey north-east to work.
Right away I smell the rain on the city and I’m glad I’ve chosen the walk, even though gusts blow up one side of me and down the other and I’m hanging on to my umbrella wrestling it back to its job. I get up to Front Street and other people are wrestling their umbrellas too and some are crouched up tight in their hoods and scarves. On King Street the streetcars are glistening behind the swishing windshield wipers and the streets are shining under the rain and the clouds seemed to have sunk down to encompass the coffee shops too.
I get close to Bay Street amidst all the suits and black umbrellas and while I’m waiting for a light I imagine all of those bankerly types suddenly swooping up into the air like the would-be nannies in Mary Poppins, high heels flying off and scarves fluttering; and I imagine them flipping and whirling, getting smaller as they move off past the cloud draped buildings and over the lake toward Niagara Falls.
I get to my office with mashed up hair and a runny nose and I prop my dripping umbrella next to my desk and get myself a cup of jasmine flavoured tea and know that my wet ankles will dry before long.
When I was a little kid I became enamoured with the camera tracking shot – that particular kind that moves along over the landscape or cityscape, as when the lens is pointed through a car or train window. My earliest recollection of noticing a shot like that was seeing what was probably a National Film Board flick in some grade school classroom. I don’t remember anything else about the movie, just that continuous image of a roadside unfolding out the side of a moving car. And many times over my lifetime I’ve looked out a car or train window and imagined my eyes were a camera like that, recording a ribbon of land, every now and then settling on some random image before it moves off out of range.
Maybe it’s what that kind shot was meant to achieve that captured my imagination – along with whatever road trip, running away or rambling was going on in the movie, there was also the implication of thinking; some kind of mental moving forward, moving away or moving on. And it was like a character could suspend him or herself outside everything and pause to contemplate there, while the world rolled on beyond the window. There is a restfulness in such a shot – but also the suggestion that a character is wrestling with something internally – that there is change happening beneath the surface.
That amateur theory would make sense applied to one of my favourite movies from the 1970s, The Last Waltz, which was filmed during a time when these kinds of shots were in vogue, and by a director who made a number of really famous tracking shots, Martin Scorsese. The movie opens with the camera following the sidewalk around the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, along which stands a long line people quietly waiting to see the final performance of The Band. With the rambly moving image of a beat up part of town, Scorsese creates a melancholy setup for the film. Sounds from the final moments of the concert and The Band coming on for a final encore build up as the camera meanders along.
The movie would go on to show members of The Band telling stories of ‘life on the road’ and their reasons for wanting to end it. And thus the opening shot conveys the contemplation of an “ending” – but also an “unfolding” of new directions. The shot gets the viewer thinking about where this band has been and what’s next, and asks the same questions about popular music in general.
Of course I didn’t think about anything like that when I was a kid and sat there watching that scene in the NFB film. It just appealed to a thoughtful, sometimes dreamy kid who even then took a lot of pleasure in observing the world around her.
This morning I looked out the window during an above-ground leg of my train journey and once again imagined my eyes were recording that rambling tracking shot of the city outside. And it occurred to me that maybe this long moving scene of a world is something my subconscious has been connecting to all along – finding the images and events that provoke thought and understanding. And it’s always been the random ones that seemingly come out of nowhere that I’ve loved best.