December 03, 2009

in the early morning blog

Three days this week, I have risen with the intention that I would get out, enjoy the weather, meet a friend, Christmas shop – anything to get me away from this house. All three days I have spent in the house, with only one foray to the local postal outlet. I blame this on agoraphobia (which disappears when a magic word is uttered: Staples).

When I’ve been able to wrestle this affliction into submission (read: get off my lazy bum), I walk. My proximity to a large wooded park makes it difficult to whine about no-place-to-go, so I sometimes head that way. This park holds another attraction for me: leash-free dogs (before 10:00 a.m.).  To watch a dog play is like, er…watching a playing dog.

The city core is less than a stone’s throw from me. Dentist, haircutter, grocery/liquor store, newsstand – all a walk away. A small city is a convenient city.

But it was grim, that first year we moved back. Lots of unexpected difficulties came our way. Because we had rushed the decision to move, because I was away for seven unthinking weeks and got home just as the moving truck was pulling up to our old house, I came to Halifax unprepared for the reality of living in a city that oozed personal history.

In early days, I read a restaurant review that said if I visited the place in the evening, I would be delighted by the romantic lights of the refinery across the harbour. My father had worked at that refinery. It did not seem romantic, given that he was, at that time, ill with something that had probably been caused by overexposure to romantic refinery lights. Or petroleum products. Not sure which.

There is a difference in the tones of every city. They’re sounded out in how shop clerks greet you, painted out by where the sidewalks flow, when wreathes go up, how work gets done.  This city? Generally speaking, friendly folk. Sidewalks are shared, and wreathes go up early. Work gets done -sort of.

Aside from all that, every city has a less visible characteristic. That which is in the groundwater. Some images capture and express it.

The first Christmas after having returned, I was walking home from a night class. It was late – cold and windy, vaporous snow ghosts were swirling on the street. Shops were closed, street was deserted. Across the street, I saw a window dressed for Christmas and I could make out some movement. Of course, it was a Christmas diorama in the window of a small department store, the sort of thing that would cause children to stop and dream for a minute or two.  I crossed the street to see it. I’m always happy to stop and dream for a minute or two.

Lying in a tiny decorative coffin was Snow White. Surrounding her were seven sad dwarves. On their cheeks were little crystal tears, and their arms moved in a way that suggested they had been trying to wipe these tears away. I watched Snow White, stunned to see a dead fairy princess in a shop window at Christmas. After staring for 20 seconds or so, a little bump popped up and down on the left of her snow white side dress. 20 seconds later, another bump. I took it to be a heartbeat.

This image remains, for me, the essence of this city. A whimsical and romantic vista that upon closer scrutiny reveals some sad and disappointing truths, all underscored by the occasion heartbeat to inspire a drop of hope.

Later – what I love about this city.


One Response to “in the early morning blog”
  1. Jane Greening

    Beautifully written as always.