Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Square 57: Ottawa

Square 057

Until last weekend I had spent about eight hours of my life in our nation's capital. While I was a journalism student in 1987 I visited Carlton University to interview a professor, and I took my daughters there for a summer afternoon in 2004. But I had never had the opportunity to hang out and explore, get beneath the skin of the place with people who know the city.

My friend, Sylvie, recently moved there to attend teachers' college at University of Ottawa, but she had lived there before. I spent some time with her on Thursday and Friday. We went to Byward Market, where a visitor can easily spend a day, strolled along Rideau Canal in the moonlight, and shopped for groceries. Danny and I walked around Parliament Hill, saw an exhibit of Renaissance Roman Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and looked around the Canadian Museum of Nature, which is under renovation. We also shared several meals with our friends, Larry and Ethan, and witnessed karaoke at a tiny gay bar named Swizzles down a flight of stairs at the back of a parking lot.

Ottawa is a beautiful city. This square is an impression of the parliament buildings with their odd stonework and copper rooves. We had some of the finest weather of the summer, and the sky was impossibly blue the morning we walked around the hill.

It's not so far: less than seven hours by train. I can imagine myself making time to escape there more frequently to relax and work.

The dark blue yarn is a fragment Danny gave me, Handpaint Originals from Brown Sheep Company. The variegated green is an odd ball I picked up from Knit-Knackers Yarn Warehouse in Ottawa.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Square 56: Hotel room

Square 056

I like hotel rooms. They remind me of childhood road trips with my family, mostly alone with my parents after I was eight years old. We all looked forward to and enjoyed exploring new places, seeing new sights and learning things.

This weekend I'm on my first trip to a new place in more than year: Ottawa. I'll probably write more about that later, but this story is about the first morning in this room at Albert on Bay Suites Hotel.

For the first time in weeks, I didn't have anything to do, at least nothing necessary. The room was so deliciously quiet, I flopped on the couch and stared at the ceiling. It was stippled white, the walls a pale pear. The moment I lay stationary, several things crowded my mind—things I could do with my time, like knit, read, write, phone someone, or go for a walk and explore this new city.

But those neutral colours absorbed my gaze, and I resisted the imperative to act. For what seemed like the first time in months, I let my thoughts drain away and my mind lie empty. Whenever an idea presented itself, I watched it cross my mind, let it pull away, peeling like a layer of onion to approach a core of stillness, let it abide within me. With each skin, I noticed which thoughts underlay the others, and realized what thoughts were most essential to my current situation.

When we're not attentive this way, it's easy to let urgent motives crowd out the truer priorities. When I get home, I want to take more time like this to be still. I have room for it in my new apartment, quiet places to sit in a deep blue room. The power to observe one's self and be mindful of inner processes is an important step in the cycle of creativity.

In this square I used light grey Létt-Lopi and an unknown pale peach oddball yarn purchased on this trip to represent the neutral space of meditation. The quick sequence of vivid, diverse colours represents ideas and motives that divide my time; they are all valuable, but when they fall over one another I tend to feel hurried and frustrated. With further reflection and stillness, some threads peel away and I choose how to concentrate my attention.

Even after selecting the azure wool (probably Briggs and Little), I allowed it to suggest a subtler related shade, the blue-grey fragment of Noro Silk Garden, to finish the square.