I feel like if I’m going to start writing a blog, I need some sort of grand introduction, but I don’t want to write with an airy sense of self-importance, as though my decision to share my cacophony of thoughts this morning with the online world, in a virtually invisible forum is of some sort of great importance. Really, I’ve realized that the way I live my life and think my thoughts is in a way that seems to require sharing. It seems to me that every perception and experience I have, I want to share. I see things through my own eyes, but immediately formulate them into a story of the experience. It’s not that I want to brag about what I’m doing or seeing or thinking, but more that I really enjoy the idea of crafting small, even mundane, details into provocative stories. When a small moment makes me smile or wonder or feel a lift of happiness, I’m ever curious about how to share it. How to communicate it to the rest of humanity.
I was thinking about this morning. I have actually been worrying about it for quite a while. Do I do things just so I can later relay the experience to someone else? Am I living my life for myself, or so I can talk about it later? Do the things I do really bring me joy, or do I just want a story to tell? Do I do things just because I think that I should? For example, this morning I woke up early, well before the sun came up, and I couldn’t sleep. Automatically, I reached for my laptop. Checked my email, looked at photos on facebook, read the news – cbc, bbc, globe and mail, the economist. By read the news, I suppose I mean browse the headlines – and they were all the same – Arizona congressman shot, 6 dead. I read the details of this story over and over on different news outlets. I do that sometimes, become almost obsessed with the details of news stories with the classic human element – average people being affected by random events. Anyways. I decided I wanted to get up and go for a walk when the sun came up. So I did. It’s apparently +2 out today, and the roads and sidewalks are ridiculously slippery. I wasn’t more than a few minutes away from our house when I felt the first drops of rain. But I didn’t care. Normally I say that I hate rain, but really I think I just shallowly hate getting my hair all messed up when I have somewhere to be, someone to impress. Today – nowhere, noone. The birds were singing, and the sky already alight, behind the clouds, though darkness was still enveloping the city, and the streetlights still casting light and shadows on the sidewalks.
I felt fantastic. I love the winter, but I found that I never realize how heavy winter feels until the air warms and it starts to melt. It feels like something has lifted, there is energy swirling around again. So I was walking along, breathing deeply, listening to the birds, enjoying the rain splattering on my forehead (just a few drops), and meandering through the streets. I was happy.
But this is when I always start to wonder, am I really enjoying this? Or am I just enjoying the fact that I’m the kind of person that gets up early on Sunday morning and goes for a walk in the rain and listens to the birds? I wonder this, not because I feel that it’s true, but because the whole time my mind is alive with thoughts and perceptions, I’m thinking about relating my experiences to someone else. Sometimes to specific people, sometimes to random friends, my hypothetical grandchildren and sometimes to no one in particular, I’m just narrating my life to the whole of humanity, knowing that that particular story will likley never be shared.
I turned away from the park and headed down another cobble-stoned street and heard the most outrageous symphony of birds squawking and calling – overhead was the most enormous flock of black birds that I’ve seen in a long time, dipping and diving in synchrony. I stopped, and watched. Somehow this made the whole walk worthwhile. A moment that I never would have enjoyed otherwise. And immediately I started to narrate the story in my head (just like I’m writing right now), which got me back to wondering why I do this – is this common? To think that you are the protagonist in a story so interesting that every small detail is worthy of narrative prose? Soon I was thinking not only about how I would narrate the story of the blackbirds, but about how I would narrate the story of how I always want to narrate a story. And so on! So, the conclusion that I came to is not that I’m so terribly pretentious that I think my life is intensely more interesting than average, my experiences more colourful, and my perceptions more vivid, but rather that I really like writing.
That’s what this blog will be. Practise. It’s almost entirely for me, though I have to admit that I would be happy if other people got enjoyment out of reading it. I know that if I was to be serious about being a writer, whatever that entails, someday, I need to know more about the greater context of the world and I need to keep it short. I can’t see myself reading such a long entry about nothing in particular – but how to make it interesting so that someone would actually want to? It’s certainly an art, and one I want to master.
Back to my walk. I decided at some point that I wanted to walk to Stortorget (the big city park) – there was hardly anyone on the streets, just the occasional elderly person with a dog. All of Sweden seems to sleep in and relax on Sunday mornings, a stark contrast to the bustle of Saturday mornings, when the shopping streets are full of people, hustling from store to store, shopping bags full of this week’s deals in hand.
Nothing remarkable happened. But I feel so alive on early mornings, especially when the rest of the world feels like it is sleeping. I stumbled upon Mårtenstorget, which I didn’t expect from the road that I was on. I don’t feel lost on the streets here anymore, but when I let myself meander, turning corners on a whim, I still find myself surprised by what connects to where. So I sort of smiled to myself when I ended up at Mårtenstorget unplanned, somewhere so famliar and so close and I can still stumble upon it. I suppose I was also lost in my thoughts, and looking at small details of my surroundings rather than the bigger picture. I only mentioned Mårtenstorget, because as I walked past the grocery store I came to a big puddle on the sidewalk, (it’s January), reflecting the neon green lights of the Apotek, and dappled with splashes from raindrops. The image is imprinted in my memory now – it was one of the moments that you realize would have made a great photo.
The real highlight of my walk was the ducks. I took a different route from the way that I always run when I go to the park, and went more straight down the middle. It struck me again how European it is, to have a park with a very wide, perfectly straight, tree-lined walkway down the middle. A promenade. I was walking very slowly, it was sheer ice, and passed one other person. I always wonder about people I run into in moments like this – are we somehow kindred spirits? Both out walking in the early morning with our hair plastered to our foreheads from the rain, in the park? What reason does this person have for being here? If we got over the barrier of it being weird to strike up a conversation with a stranger for absolutely no reason, if something happened that made our lives overlap for more than a split second, would we discover we have something in common? And what happens to make lives overlap? It is possible to force it? Anyways, I was thinking about this, and my possible connection to the hooded man walking his dog when I saw the ducks. The man and I were walking towards each other, and the duck pond was off to the side in between us. I suddenly felt like we were racing to be the first one to go look at the ducks, because it might seem weird to stand next to a stranger watching ducks when you’re the only two people in the park. I won the race.
I had been noticing what an amazing symphony of sounds the birds were making in the morning. So alive! It reminded me so much of biking and camping and waking up to the electrifying energy of nature every morning. I remember thinking how terrible it is to spend the majority of your time within the confines of a house. It makes me appreciate morning walks like this one much much more. I was stopping and looking up, watching the birds in the trees and in the sky, raindrops splattering on my glasses. Listening to their bizarre sqwaks, and the peculiar creaky call I’ve been hearing outside my window in the morning – like a pump on an old well. But the ducks! There were hundreds of them, all chattering together. As I approached, they were alarmed and moved in a big push away, and up onto the ice. I just stood there and watched them for what seemed like ages. Hundreds of mallards, 2 swans, and 2 smaller ducks I didn’t recognize. I’ve never gotten so much enjoyment out of watching ducks before. Swimming and dipping and honking and fighting – so much noise that I don’t understand. I can only guess why they’re doing the things they’re doing. I arrived at the conclusion that watching all these ducks was just as understandable to me as watching a crowd of Swedish people in a busy town square. This is probably an exaggerated, ridiculous metaphor, but it amused me for a while, wondering what I understand more just by observation – ducks are probably following their instincts. Simple. Maybe this is easier to understand than humans who I can’t communicate with and who are acting on emotions and societal pressures and norms. Either way, ducks are much much funnier. I was thinking I could literally stand there all day, but that I should probably leave, when the flock of weird black birds that had been sitting on the shore (they’re crow sized with raven sized bills and are grey and black) got in a huge flap and flew away, prompting all the ducks (literally hundreds) to rise into the air, almost instantaneously, and fly directly towards me. I ducked. They sort of hovered in the air for a few seconds, creating an enormous wind and seeming to add so much energy to the air, then dropped back down to their spots on the ice and in the water, making the most outrageous racket. Hundred of pairs of flapping wings and it smelled exactly like I remember the duckhouse from my childhood. The swans rose up and flapped their wings, and when they settled down and started to shake their tail feathers, I laughed. Smiled to myself. The rain had subsided a bit, and eventually the ducks noises were back to their less frantic chatter. As I stood and watched, they suddenly, all at once, erupted in quacks and honking again, for no apparent reason. Within seconds, it started to pour. I watched them for a few more minutes, then tore myself away and began walking home.
As I said, nothing remarkable happened. And this is pretty self-indulgent, writing a blog about ducks. It might even be pretentious, writing about my non-life illuminating observations of my Sunday morning walk in the rain. Now I’m sitting in front of my window with a blanket on my lap, drinking a cup of tea, and writing a blog on my macbook. Pretty cliche. It feels fantastic though – I really love writing about my thoughts, no matter how self-serving of a task it is. My dream is to one day have thoughts to write about that are so educated, cutting edge, articulated, and important that other people will want to hear about them. That I could have a career of thinking and sharing. That would be terrific. A lofty goal.