Saturday, August 11, 2007

just thinking

I got back from Vancouver last night, and sat this morning having my Oolong out on the patio, watching the sun come up over the water and trying to figure out where the whooo-whoo, whooo-whoo sounds were coming from. The hoots mixed with the distant engine sounds of ferries and tugs and with the gentle, rhythmic conversation between waves and beach rocks. Otherwise, there was just my breath. So different from in the city.

Our Vancouver apartment looks out onto a very busy street, and there are very few times, even at night, when there are no traffic sounds. I adjust quickly to the noise when I'm there and don't feel conscious of it bothering me, altho' I often debate whether or not to put my hearing aids in -- since they're primarily to enhance conversation, they don't add much to a shopping expedition beyond magnifying what already seems really percussive city acoustics -- all those truck engines and squealing brakes amplified tenfold by the concrete architecture.

Still, I love the busy-ness of a city, and Vancouver is comfortable to me. Even though it's changed drastically from when I first learned it in the late 50s, early 60s, I feel as if I know its shape. And a place that can be comfortable but still offer excitement and surprises and welcome distractions is a fine thing. Frustrated with Paul here on our island, I once walked the complete circuit three times (walking circumference is roughly 4 kilometres). In the city after/during a fight or just restless, I head up to Davie or down to Denman to people-watch or window-shop. I have a choice between four films, generally more European or "art", at the theatre a 20-minute walk across the bridge or six or more of the latest pop culture hits at one 20 minutes in the other direction. On the island, seeing a movie means taking the boat into town and then driving -- the theatres are at the north end of town, a town very much designed around the car.

Besides people-watching, window-shopping, and movies, there are all the concerts and art galleries -- we have these in our small Island city as well and even on our little island where we have many wonderful resident musicians, including award-winning recording artists. But the city requires less commitment for these, offers more spontaneity, I guess. When we go to concerts or art galleries in our smaller communities, there's the lovely social aspect of seeing many friends, neighbours, and acquaintances and sharing responses to the art or music with them. But the city lets you experience these events anonymously -- actually, it's not so much the anonymity per se that appeals, but having freedom to express different parts of yourself, to form a completely new, albeit momentary, community with a particular audience -- to keep a part of yourself separate from the community that generally claims you as one of its own.

And I have to be honest -- a big draw of the City for me is shopping. And fall shopping -- is there anything better for anyone who loves clothes? Our little Island city is well known for its malls dotted along the highway, so there's lots of shopping if you don't mind driving from Wal-Mart to Costco and then to Sears and The Bay. Hey, we've had The Gap for years now, a big coup when it arrived, and Le Chateau and Aldo created a buzz a few years back. That's not to say there aren't some great independent shops here, mostly in the non-malled downtown -- a young woman brings in some interesting labels for a more alternative 20's-30's crowd, there's a great skateboarders' shop. I buy quite a bit at a small shop that's always packed full with great stuff -- lots of fun accessories -- shoes, purses, jewelry -- to complement a range of casual to dressy clothes. But the stuff's generally a bit too "ladies who lunch" for me, so I head to Vancouver. This trip I found some new black tops in various shapes (black being the staple in my closet) and a few cardigans at Aritzia and Club Monaco. I also bought a fabulous hat after trying on a bunch at Holt's -- I'll try to get Paul to take a decent picture of me wearing it and post it in the next few days. Bumped into my daughter on the street so got a second opinion on the Aritzia stuff and on the hat, and then we checked out fragrances at Holt's together (I discovered Creed's Vetiver -- definitely on my Christmas list!).

So yes, all kinds of excitement in the city, but I haven't yet learned to nurture contemplative time there -- it's not what I go for. And whenever I get back here after a fun few days in the city, I realize that I'm breathing more deeply, that I'm soothed without having recognized I needed to be.

Still, there must be a way to find that inner calm even in the city. As much as I love what I have on my island, it seems unrealistic to make happiness dependent on resting my eyes on an uncluttered expanse of water and mountains that few have access to or on having a large private garden, again becoming a fairly inaccessible luxury. From an environmental perspective, I'm more and more committed to urban living. Eventually, we will have to choose between our two homes, I think, not just because of the financial realities of retirement, but also because the challenges of aging will make commuting less and less fun (that said, many of our neighbours make the seventies look like a breeze, managing very active lives on the island, so it's not as if a move is imminent). At that stage, the city's going to make a great home, albeit with excitement at the expense of calm and quiet. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy having this wonderful balance between two very different homes and try to imagine how, someday, to recreate that balance in the city. Any ideas from my city-dwelling readers?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...