Friday, November 19, 2004

an architect's philosophy

Crazy how a place becomes, isn't it? First impressions: sludgy April, I was 18 and deciding about university. We took a tour, then stayed in a grubby little hotel across the grey St John river, Mat and I taking turns flipping through the television channels. The city seemed a blip on an otherwise unending highway, and we were on our way the next day. "I don't know about this," I said, and the following October got on a train and headed West.

Second impressions: Mum drove Einar and I in her little Golf, and it was a wide-open warm June day. We arrived and the smell of lilacs floated in the open car windows from the blooms in everyone's lawn. Old wooden homes glowed in the sunshine, and the charm of the city was tucked into every nook I looked into. The warmth settled on my arms and face, as we walked the spacious sidewalks of downtown, past tall trees. Einar looked up an elm and told us how he, an arborist, would cut it down. Mum pointed out bookstores, shoe stores, old buildings. I smiled at everything, everyone: it all seemed the perfect size.

Third impressions, fourth, fifth: I've lost count. I've seen the leaves turn color and enchant with the unexpected brightness, then I've watched them fall, and be heaped into piles on lawns. Now the branches are bare and the sky is often gunmetal grey. Across the river, the opposite hills are a faded purple, and the river is a subtle slice between the two sides. I joke with librarians, coffee shop operators, bus drivers. I feel I'm adding to my view of this town--and to myself in patchy, yet strong, ways.

When I was younger I remember thinking that growing older is like beginning with a small cabin, to live in, and every year adding additions. (My analogy was certainly influenced by the building M. O. of my parents and their hippie friends, a sort-of add-it-on-when-you-can mentality that has resulted in some interesting, rambling, delightful homes.) At the end you have this big old house but somewhere at the heart of it is the little cabin you began with. Well, I've been accumulating boards and nails, and I'm starting to draw up rough sketches on draft paper. Sometime soon there'll be a new room.

Blog Archive