The walk: Seeing downtown in a new light
By Keoputhy Bunny, News Editor
With the recent daylight savings time change and the weather flip-flopping every which way, it’s safe to say that spring is on the way. The semester is quickly drawing to a close and with it comes a desire for adventure. Whether it’s taking a yearly trip to B.C., or remembering a warm walk around the city and capturing special moments, we hope these stories inspire you to think differently about your surroundings and take time to see what the world around you has to offer.
A chinook came through earlier that week and the last remnants of warm weather was starting to break off. The weight of the school semester seemed to stare us down, like a tidal wave about to smash down on its prey. I decided to take a final stroll through the streets of downtown Calgary before winter and schoolwork shackled us to dimly lit study rooms. So my friend and I grabbed our cameras and headed off.
We parked in front of the Harry Hays Building, where across the road, shades of reds filled the streets. Chinatown’s street lamps, paper lanterns, benches and accents of buildings all wore various shades of crimson. Time and cloudy skies seem to offset the red though, making what used to be a passionate, strong, colour into something detached and dreary. Some of the paper lanterns seemed beaten and bruised, suffering from the whim of the wind. It felt rugged but real, a place well traversed and lived in.
We walked deeper into the heart of downtown and the forest of buildings started to envelop us. I felt an unsettling sense of uncertainty, like second guessing words you spell everyday. These buildings, I had seen before. So why did I feel so impossibly small when standing in front of them? I wondered absentmindedly about how many of myself it would take to measure the entire height of one of the buildings. The cacophony of urban sounds drowned the rest of that thought out. The honking of cars and the constant chatter of people talking amongst themselves or into their cell phones swelled the air.
No one looks up in downtown, not really. People are too busy looking down to avoid trash ahead of them, so they don’t run into other people or looking beside them to make sure their friends are keeping up. But they never look up. Maybe they just feel like they’ve seen it all before. For me though, standing at the base of a glass megastructure made me feel like an ant staring up at a boot. It made me feel like I was a tiny being in an infinite city.
Over the years, I’ve learned the importance of looking up. If I stopped to look up, really planted my feet in one place and studied the buildings, the buildings become something else. They have characteristics comparable to people. The details come out to those who look for it. I saw graffiti and posters, calling my mind back to the tattoos that inked my friends’ skins.
I often looked at buildings as details of a larger vision. Sometimes, everything fits so elegantly, like a puzzle meant for my viewing pleasure. Or maybe a painting not yet painted, simply simmering until someone is brave enough to embrace it. If I was at the right place at the right time, it looks as if the buildings had purposely left a little opening for me to glimpse at the sky.
It got dark quickly that day, I watched as the sunlight started to dissipate under a layer of clouds. Sunlight softly caressed the top of buildings lingering ever so slightly, a hand not ready to be let go.
We approached a familiar street, one that I knew I had taken pictures of before. I scanned the skyline for a familiar scene: a ray of sunlight tenderly kissing the top of buildings, a last goodbye before the sun gets swallowed up by the night. No luck, the boundless sky was cloudy and grey like it was holding back tears, a pin-drop away from unleashing a torrent of wet droplets.
We continued walking, pausing every so often to take more photos. My eyes landed on the nearby buildings. By themselves, they were solitary — alone in a busy world. But if I stepped a foot to the right and shifted my perspective, the middle building became flanked by its brethren. A trio of human ingenuity facing the everlasting test of time.
If something like this could be altered by a perspective shift, I wondered how that might apply to travel. I was reminded of photos I’ve taken on earlier trips downtown. Is the sky any less radiant here in Calgary than somewhere else? If the sky belonged to somewhere we deemed exotic like in the hills of Italy or Spain, would we learn to appreciate it more?
Deep in the urban jungle, the sound of cars and their engines seemed to have settled like tattoos on skin. Some construction workers were mulling around, perhaps to fix some piping or something beneath the street itself. Part of the concrete of the street had been removed and a trio of construction workers stared into the depths below. What were they peering at? It seemed to take all of their attention and I wondered how many people I’ve caught in such an intense moment of focus and how many people have caught me in the same.