I cross the bridge over the Rideau River and quickly scan left and right, glancing at the smear of dark water underneath me and see new green tree branches leaning over the banks disturbing the surface. I look for the Great Blue Heron who fishes in the same spot every morning, still as the rock it perches on. At 6:45, traffic is light and I can slow down if something catches my eye. On Friday, there was nothing. Just the slippery black water, supporting mallard pairs bobbing in the weeds, hunting for breakfast.
But a few weeks ago it was the bend in the road that made me go “ahhh”.
For five years in all seasons I’ve commuted this same route to work. I know what lies around that easy bend among the bland one and two story buildings. There’s a small independent grocery store operated by a Lebanese family, who also run an in-store take-out counter serving tabbouleh so fresh, the parsley tickles the roof of your mouth and you can smell the yellow in the lemon juice.
There’s a dry cleaner’s, and a bakery that makes the best butter-tarts in the city, a pet store, and my favourite indy coffee shop where I stop every morning. The same people sit in the same spots at the same time of day. There are no surprises.
But on that day a few weeks ago, the bend looked different. It looked like a hint, the kind whispered behind a cupped hand to an ear. I could hear it but the words weren’t clear and I was straining to listen. I rolled down the windows and heard humming like the start of a familiar song but it was only the car tires whirling on the asphalt. In my gut I felt a quickening, as though the street were a cable, pulling me forward and there was nothing I could do to stop it; but I didn’t want to stop because it looked like the start of a smile. Just at the corner of my mouth.
The store signs read like a poem, the kind you memorize and carry with you forever, or maybe some wise old saying you lord over your kids, a reminder, a correction. The road was a thick tree limb crooked over the river that you clamber on and drop sticks into the water from, then watch them float away slowly until they are caught by the current and swirled into the middle. You lose sight of them.
For ten suspended seconds I was excited and happy and I felt lifted as though my ordinary street had become a conduit. A busy city street, so familiar I can name every store in every block on each side of the street from the bridge to my workplace, was transformed in a moment. It was like a black magic marker had outlined everything and made the world sharper, clearer, understandable.
Now, as I approach this familiar bend, I wait for the feeling to come back. It hasn’t. It probably won’t, at least not in this spot because the numen has shifted, tucked itself into another place in another ordinary scrooping day. If I’m lucky and not waiting for it, maybe I’ll feel it again. Sometimes I feel silly and I think maybe I’m loopy, but I can still remember the feeling, and the easy bend reminds me that it’s possible for a day to shift in a moment.
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.