microbursts of bliss

Oh, the silence of a blog neglected! It’s been a hectic few weeks (months). As The People’s Poetry Festival creeps ever-closer (two weeks!?) paired with my ever-crowded schedule (Folk Fest, Fringe Fest, random artsy things to see and enjoy) it’s becoming harder and harder to just, y’know, find time to sleep and whatnot. Couple that with a recently-acquired new job that actually requires me to, y’know, work, and you’ve got one proper busy woman on your hands.

Now, I like being busy. Those who know me best might describe it as a problem. When I do, finally, rarely chisel away a small block of time with which to do nothing, I inevitably get bored. Unless I’m on a beach in Maui, in which case all bets are off. So when my new job—which requires me to travel perhaps once a month—took me on my first business trip last week just days before I was to jet off for a friend’s wedding in Vancouver, and just two weeks before the poetry festival launches, I’ll admit I was a tad on the frazzled side.

Before you get all excited on my behalf, I should explain that my regular travel schedule isn’t terribly exotic. Unless you consider Edmonton exotic, in which case, yes! Very! Listen Calgarians, I was born here (in Calgary, that is) and lived here nearly all my life—there was that brief stint in the U.K.—and I understand the deep-rooted tradition and friendly pseudo-rivalry with our neighbours to the north, but I’m going to let you in on the deepest truth every Calgarian secretly knows but is loathe to admit: Edmonton is kind of awesome. Set aside the giant mall and the -50C winters, and The Festival City has a lot to offer. While Calgary seems to be perpetually closing the doors on its few remaining art house cinemas—that’s another tearful rant altogether—Edmonton’s Old Strathcona continues to thrive. And while the Glenbow boasts one of the largest collections in the country, the Art Gallery of Alberta is nothing to sneeze at, either.

My sister office in YEG is conveniently located in the core just blocks away from Churchill Square, which boasts three of my favourite Edmontonian delights: The AGA, Three Bananas Cafe, and Churchill Square itself, with its rotation of outdoor sights, sounds, arts and more. Being ever so Shannon, I resolved to pack my already tight schedule as full as humanly possible—meeting with a friend and former Calgarian, @ajproc, for a tour through the art gallery and dinner; a stroll through downtown; whatever I could do to snag some “vacation-like” moments. And the strange thing is, amidst all that hectic busyness, the goings and comings, it worked.

Art Gallery of Alberta

The evening of my arrival—after I’d flown in first thing and spent the greater part of the day at the office—I fit in a tour through the art gallery and, much to my pleasure, fell head over heels for an artist I’d never before heard of. Alex Janvier is an Aboriginal, Albertan artist whose work harkens to one of my favourites, Wassily Kandinsky. I couldn’t get enough of his use of fluid lines, the play of colours, both tranquil and abrupt. And arriving just an hour before closing, I had the gallery all to myself. After I met up with @ajproc, we wandered downtown before settling for noodles at Oodle Noodle. Following a great evening of noodles and conversation, I focused on the most important aspect of my trip—lounging in the soaker tub in my Fairmont hotel room. Spoiled thoroughly rotten, I know.

Artwork inside AGA lobby

The next day—following perhaps the best sleep I’ve had in years (from exhaustion or the plushness of my king-sized bed, I don’t know) I breakfasted at Three Bananas (amazing latte! Yummy croissant!), lunched in Churchill Square and went back to The AGA—I have a Glenbow membership that gets me in for FREE—at Janvier’s Fly, fly, fly for a good 15 minutes. It was about that time I realized: this is the best pseudo-vacation I’ve had in ages! Two short days in a city I’ve been to dozens of times in my life and I was (exhausted, frankly) exuberant. How easy it is to find joy in the simplest things—an hour at an art gallery; the foam of my morning latte; the way the cheese on my breakfast croissant melted to gooey perfection; noodles from a cardboard box with a friend.

If I could find the time to just enjoy myself, even for 15-minute bursts, every day, think of the minutes of peace otherwise wallowing in obscure busyness. Is that being mindful? One of my favourite mediations from Thich Nhat Hanh goes something like, “When I am breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. When I am breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” So simple, and yet… When I drink a morning latte, or read a particularly beautiful passage, sometimes it’s just enough to recognize the subtle beauty of that single moment. (I say sometimes because I fully recognize, particularly in myself, how not possible this is sometimes, for instance, when I’m pulled in a dozen directions and can’t tell one thought from another).

GIANT chess in Churchill Square

When I’m staring at Fly, fly, fly—the first work of art I think I have every deeply felt and truly adored—I know that I’m staring at a breathtaking piece of art that makes me smile just to look at it. And sometimes that’s enough. Now if only I could summon that image, and that feeling, simply by thinking of it. Add that to the to-do list.

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