to see in twilight

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.

Streetcar 4
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.

Streetcar 2
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.


  1. Reply
    Mike August 16, 2011

    a perfect song for the most perfect time of day:

  2. Reply
    Jennifer August 16, 2011

    Dang! Video “not available in my country!”

  3. Reply
    Mike August 16, 2011

    Not Dark Yet…
    Fits the mood… love your pictures.

  4. Reply
    Susan Tiner August 16, 2011

    “When walking or riding, I feel together with the city – like a functioning aspect of a sprawling organism.”
    I feel that way too.

  5. Reply
    Jennifer August 16, 2011

    YES – love that song! It’s really hard to find Dylan performances, even music, online. Here anyway. But yes, Mike, beautiful choice. And thanks, I like those pictures too – in all their “imperfections.”

  6. Reply
    Jennifer August 16, 2011

    I’m glad to hear that Susan! And not surprised.

  7. Reply
    Susannah August 17, 2011

    Beautiful writing Jennifer. It did that thing to me that your writing often does! where I drift off into your words and forget that I am reading… I’m just being carried by the pictures that your words weave.
    I think we miss so much by travelling everywhere by car, I really idintified with what you said about the side streets and all the places that would be missed in a car. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years walking, exploring towns and villages, discovering the side streets, the little hidden bits of history, and character, and beauty. It is a more natural pace, you get the full effect of a place, the feel, the sounds, the smells. You get to hear the heartbeat and feel the breathing.
    Lovely post Jennifer. 🙂
    Thanks for your visit over at the streaming now, it is always good to see you. x

  8. Reply
    Jennifer August 17, 2011

    Aw, thank you so much Susannah. Actually, your latest “Streaming” post was similar, in that you and Joe became like tourists in your nearby town. It’s SO worthwhile, isn’t it?
    Your kind words are always so welcome. I’m sorry I don’t get around as regularly anymore – my new job doesn’t afford me as much free time in the day, and managing a class these days too. I always WILL get around, it might take me longer sometimes!

  9. Reply
    Selma August 17, 2011

    I can’t tell you how much this post means to me because it is the way I feel about my city. Many people complain about urban life but there is a lot of beauty to be had if we only look. The image of you in the streetcar travelling through the blue and purple twilight is one I won’t forget in a hurry. I could cry, I love this post so much. Thank you.

  10. Reply
    Jennifer August 17, 2011

    No, thank YOU. I love experiencing your city through your eyes. In fact, I was doing that VERY THING (reading your blog) when my email told me this comment come in.
    I’m so glad you’re paying attention to Selma.

  11. Reply
    LindyLouMac in Italy August 23, 2011

    I love the way you have connected with the city in this post.

  12. Reply
    Jennifer August 23, 2011

    Thank you Lindy Lou!

  13. Reply
    Mike August 26, 2011

    thought of this blog entry while listening to a beautiful twilight waltz tonight…

  14. Reply
    Jennifer August 27, 2011

    Gorgeous! I enjoyed, thanks Mike!

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