Putting one foot in front of the other has been one of my main goals this year – but rarely have I looked up, or stopped to smell the seaweed.
Partly out of necessity (our car has passed on, and the bus is too expensive) and partly out of laziness (wrestling my bike off the balcony for a five minute ride is too much trouble), I’ve been walking to work, and it’s been transforming my health, my spirits and my imagination.
I wear large, colourful and sturdy Fluevog boots for the trek, and just the other day a little girl, dressed in pink, stopped in her tracks as our paths crossed, tugged her grandmother’s sleeve, and shouted “Boots! Boots!”
I’ve had the same experience as that little girl, with sights as insignificant as a cat the colour of concrete, but infinitely softer. Instead of hunching over my bicycle, dodging traffic and conquering hills, I tread slowly along the sidewalk, looking up at everything.
I begin each morning at the crest of Adanac Street with a view that sweeps the city even as I struggle down the ravaged alleyway (it’s anarchist cobblestone made of broken concrete and years of weather damage). Crossing through the small park, I do look down for a bit, to avoid the inevitable dog poo hidden in greenery, and begin my descent to work. I can time my walk by the people that pass, from the old lady gracefully practicing tai chi in the playground, to the man with the cane who waves at me every morning as we cross the road together.
I’ve included some snapshots of the heritage houses and architecture the right hand side of the page, and will take more snapshots as I ramble on, but here are some of the more picturesque things I’ve seen on my walks that photography can’t capture:
– a homeless man sprawled out in glorious slumber on a lawn, in a sleeping bag. The owners of the lawn sit on their porch, drinking tea and letting him snooze in the afternoon sun.
– a clutch of chattering, impossibly slim ladies waiting to be let in to the factory that pumps out hundreds of flavours of gelato so we can all get fat.
-a giant house, three floors, on wooden stilts, awaiting a foundation. The lights are on upstairs, and through the window I can see a family having dinner in peace as their massive home floats above ground.
– a pumpkin vine that transforms a prison-like social housing project into a fairytale scene. The vine curls around a dead tree and reaches into the sky. All that’s needed is Jack.
– platform shoes, left behind in an attempt to scale the fence (I often see bits of clothing, abandoned during the night.)
– the golden cocker spaniel, Charlie, who has bitten the dogwalker only once. The dogwalker forgives him, as he is a cocker spaniel, after all.
– the birch tree by the Russian Orthodox church whose branches frame the late afternoon sun perfectly.
– the couple who sit in their car by the factory every morning at 8:07 am, fingers entwined, talking of things I cannot hear over the noise of traffic.
I keep a mental list of these things – small bits of astonishment and familiarity, that fill my senses and turn a senseless commute into a morning delight. By the time I get to work, I am awake and alive, and by the time I wander home, the day’s worries and cares are left behind me on the trail.