Breezes wafted over my head sending scents of Indian food and ripe fruits through the crowd. I was well aware of the temptation, my stomach growling in response, but I stepped past and continued my way, bypassing the aroma of baking bread, fresh herbs, and frying pastry. I had my music plugged into my ears for the first time in a long time, and instead of listening to the city around me with open ears and eyes, I gave the bustle of the market area a soundtrack. I normally never do that, preferring to immerse myself in the sights and sounds, but the need to distance myself ever so slightly from the melée felt like the comfortable option as I padded forth in the concrete jungle.
As I walked, I enjoyed the sunshine, relishing the coolish late summer weather that was just right. I etched into my mind the characteristics of people around me, the wealth of personality and eclecticness more than I could gather into my overflowing muse basket. I sat for awhile with my back to the War Memorial, after a relaxing and much-needed solo meal at a favorite eating place. I watched Elgin street traffic meander by, a mix of dinner hour couples, frantic bicyclists, and young artsy groups talking and smoking with overly-dramatic animation. I took in the dramatic vista just visible in teh space where the Chateau Laurier and the East Block face over the canal, the tourists gathered on the bridge to watch boats go through the lochs, their bodies creating an multi-coloured mosaic along the ledges. The slanted, late-afternoon sun poked through between the buildings, giving the Gatineau Hills a soft, far-away feel. I kicked myself for forgetting my camera at home to capture it all and share.
I perused the National Film Board display in front of the old train station on a whim, conciously aware as I did that I was looking at snippets of cinematic treasures owned by our country. I felt saddened, knowing that these films were likely slowly crumbling on nitrate-soaked film reels in some windowless, cold room at National Archives. I silently hoped that someone was preserving these images for future generations to know what life was like for us. An image of a teen and his best girl on a motorcycle crossing the big bridge onto Montreal Island, an Indian on his pony practicing his roping, a cartoon about a cat, an award winning film about neighbours. Images that are evocative and important to our cultural identity.
As I walked to my destination for the evening, I felt with-it, I felt at peace, and I felt open to suggestion. The evening was mine, after all, and I was reveling in the relaxation and time to just be with myself and my thoughts. For the first time in awhile, I was enjoying the city as homegrown tourist instead of commuting professional.
I realized, once again, that although I miss my quiet country forest and peaceful silence, I love parts of this city, and it is indeed part of my landscape.