I spend the morning doing some spring cleaning at home, getting rid of some piles of clutter. After lunch, Mia picks me up and we go to her place to wallpaper her living room wall, and if there's time, do some of the bathroom. I've always enjoyed wallpapering because the change happens quickly – with each strip hung, the impact is big.
Later, we have dinner of Asian flavour marinated ribs, asparagus risotto and salad. It's a later dinner and we're hungry from our labours.
I enjoy the evening on my way home – first streetcar, then walking the last bit. It's quite mild, still 18°C.
The other day a friend, who’s lived in Toronto most of his life, commented that I have a pretty good understanding of the city considering I moved here only a few years ago. Actually it was five years ago, and I think five years is plenty of time to get to know a city. But then I suppose in a large one like this, with its many distinct neighbourhoods, one might establish the habit of frequenting nearby and familiar spaces. I’m sure my familiarity with the city has much to do with my having lived in four of those neighbourhoods, and working in a place substantially north to all of them. I’ve got around, and mostly without a car. The best thing about not owning a car isn’t actually the wagonload of money I save. It’s the ability to get up close and personal with a place, to really see it.
Last night I rode the streetcar home at dusk. To me, it’s the most perfect time of day; when the night begins to slide in and envelope you and your world. The shades of blue and purple are divine. Even the names for this time of day are beautiful – dusk, nightfall, eventide, and the loveliest of all: twilight. And then as darkness settles, space becomes more immediate; time slows; sounds muffle; people change demeanour. As the light dwindles, the city’s heartbeat slows. I sat on a streetcar last night and watched the light change and the city moving within it.
On a Sunday evening when the city is winding down a weekend, it can be a most pleasant time to be gliding through the streets on a rail. I especially love the 505 and 504 King Street cars that take me from my cousin’s home in Riverdale over to Spadina, where I get off and walk slowly down the last ten minutes or so to where I live. I might get home faster if I took the subway, but I couldn’t imagine how a few minutes are worth more than the time spent looking at the city. In the summer I sit by an open window and stick my face in it and enjoy the stroke of night in my hair.
Not all, but most times, I feel lucky that I don’t have to have a car. When walking or riding, I feel together with the city – like a functioning aspect of a sprawling organism. What I lost in convenience when I ditched the car I’ve gained in stimulus, space and sight. When one drives through the city, one generally sticks to available highways and arterial streets – those which get you where you’re going the fastest. When you’re walking you can cut through side streets and see the nooks and crannies without much consequence to your time. In fact, if you’ve walked your daily travels for any length of time, your sense of time changes. It isn’t quite so urgent to get home because focusing your attention on the features and nuances that happen across your path; or you get lost in the meditative aspect of steady walking, feet pacing earth. You’re more able to be present in the NOW.
A person like me places a lot of value in her ability to pay attention to the world. Paying attention inspires her; makes her happier and more alive. Paying attention to her immediate world gets her out of her head. She is connected with the streets and patterns of movement in and around them.
Sometimes the city – in spite of its noise, in spite of the cacophony and vast numbers of people – brings her not a little joy. Particularly at twilight.
Twilight, dusk, eventide, nightfall, sundown – whatever you want to call it, it's beautiful. And beautiful thing number fifty-seven.
On my way home last night I see this dad walking back and forth on the streetcar platform at Broadview Station having a debate with his three-ish year old daughter about whether he needs to hold her hand while they wait. I think he wins, but I forget about them while I look over messages on my phone. I notice them again as the car comes in and they say goodbye to an acquaintance.
“Bonsoir” says the man’s friend.
“Bonsoir” says the dad.
“Bonsoiiirrr” mocks the little girl. “Bonnnsooiiirrrr” she continues mocking to the amusement of her dad as they board the car.
I sit behind them, exchanging charmed smiles with the doting dad.
Over the course of the ride, dad tries to get the little girl to settle and rest. She concedes for a minute or two at a time, but the pops up back in her seat to watch out the window and ask all manner of questions about the goings on. She’s wearing a bright pink winter coat and wool hat – not really necessary for this unseasonably warm evening I think. Neither does the little girl because she keeps whipping off the hat. Dad keeps trying to get her to put it back on but she won’t have any of it.
At one point, when she relaxes, her cute little multi-braided head quiet against his arm, he starts to sing to her in rich, gentle tones – a bluesy sounding folk song of some sort. He’s a beautiful singer – no doubt this dad’s sung a song or two in his day. I stop paying attention to my phone just to enjoy it too.
Then we stop in front of the lit up Royal Alex Theatre and the little girl pops up wanting to know what all those lights are. Dad tries to explain what a theatre is, then in his “islandy-with-a-thick-dose-of-British” accent says, “it’s a picture house.” Little girl thinks the idea of a picture house is hilarious.
Dad hears me chuckle and turns to chat. He jokes about her age and the incessant questions, and that sometimes they are hard to manage, with minds of their own.
I say, “never mind, before you know it she’ll be in her twenties,” feeling, as I often do when I see little girls, a twinge of melancholy at the time passed so quickly from when my own girls were small.
He says he loves being a father and “Princess” is one of four, two boys and two girls. He hopes there will be four more to follow – “a large family is a blessing” he says.
He asks me if I have a family, and as I get up to get off at my stop, I tell him I have two grown up daughters. He tells Princess, who is resting against his arm again, to say goodbye to me, and she offers a sleepy wave and a cheeky grin.
When I got on the 510 headed south a few moments later I imagine Princess all grown up like my girls, and remembering how her father sung to her like that. And that she’ll be filled with gratitude and love when she does so.