Making beauty in the city

My first flower of springThe air feels cold like late winter, but the light is early spring: more intense, direct and engaged, having shaken it’s winter detachment. My partner and I went to Kensington Café in Kensington Market (Toronto) for brunch. They serve hard-to-find gluten-free dishes, like crêpes. I tried the lasagna and it was good.

This morning I read about one naturalist writer who finds it necessary to withdraw from city life. It depresses him. I have felt the same at different points in my life, but don’t know what to make of it now. Cities may seem unnatural, and yet we made them and we are part of nature. We might as well call an anthill unnatural. Humans are becoming colonial primates, and this is what we do to our environment. One way or another, things will find their balance. I doubt that it does any good to extract ourselves. We must remain engaged and work to shift society along a less destructive course.

Walking home we saw these yellow crocuses on the street where my partner lives: my first sight of spring flowers. While I crouched there photographing them, a woman came out on the porch and asked me what I saw down there. She didn’t seem to know anything about them. Maybe she rents.

Of this I am certain: if no people had made this city, there would be no crocuses blooming amid snowdrifts in late March on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It may be an exotic species, but it’s part of the world now, for good or ill. To my eye it is simply beautiful, and I’m grateful.

4 thoughts on “Making beauty in the city

  1. I love the idea of becoming colonial primates – though one could almost argue the becoming, having colonized for as many years as we have. Love the crocuses. Such a sign of coming spring and hope. I have none at my home. Instead I settle for potted hyacinth and daffodil, dying after having shared their blooms, and hope for the snow to melt. That, too, shall happen. There is always hope.

    1. I’m intrigued by colonial consciousness of bees, ants and so on. The intelligence of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I wonder whether this is true of us or not. So far, we seem to have trouble contributing to a greater good.

      I don’t have an outdoor garden of my own, either, but this is one nice thing about living in a community: we can share the beauty.

  2. I have to confess that I’ve ended up leaving city life behind, because I feel so much more at home and alive in the countryside. But I don’t think that’s a prescription for all of us, nor do I think cities are wastelands. A lot of my own early noticing of the wonder of the natural world came in some pretty grimy streets in Edinburgh. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. I grew up in the country (at least, after the age of eight), so in the past I had trouble reconciling myself to life in the city. What has won me over is the ready access to community. I can walk 10 minutes to meet my writing partner for a creative date. Now it would be hard to give that up. I walk lots of places, and it makes me happy to rely less on the car.

      Have you seen the 2010 animated movie, The Illusionist? Much of it is set in Edinburgh, and part in a remote Scottish village in 1959. I loved the sense of light and landscape, and wondered whether it was authentic to the actual feel of the city and countryside.

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