Sunday, January 15, 2023

Messing About 

Leonard Cohen knew the value of solitude.

Blessed with one extra day of vacation, what would you do? I can tell you what I did. January 3, should have been the first day back to work, but my company has added four additional vacation days over a year called a "Day for Me". You can work if you like (not bloody likely), or take a class or do whatever. It's your day. I began it by sleeping in, an act of both defiance and denial. I slipped downstairs to find Julia had already made a pot of coffee. This was followed by two clementines, the most seasonal of citrus, though nowadays you can get them any time, they remain one of my favourite Christmas traditions. This was followed by some oatmeal and a small piece of chocolate (I was still on holiday after all). I had two small errands to run so of course, I steeled my reserve with a brief after-breakfast nap.

I then set out to pick up a print job from a local office supply place, return home with it (too large to carry around for the day), then off to return two small unwanted items to a downtown Ikea. A modern day rewrite of both Homer's and Joyce's Ulysees would have included an Ikea labour. Once there, unexpectedly, it wasn't so busy and it seemed necessary to enjoy a cinnamon roll with a glass of "nordic drink" (purportedly lingonberry flavour).

Once again refreshed, I continued on to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the exhibit of Leonard Cohen's photos, writing, music and art. It was surprisingly busy. The joy of having a day off that no one else does, usually means you have most public places to yourself. Not so much on this day. Despite the crowded galleries, the restaurant was relaxingly sparse and it was lovely to have a full table to myself and enjoy a meal with only the side dishes as company. Once I left the cloistered quiet of the gallery's bistro, I rejoined the masses in the streets. Even the streetcars had returned full to the brim with the riding public.

As new years go, I recommend everyone begin with a day only for yourself. Unless of course, all of your days are to yourself, in which case, perhaps seek some companionship at least one day. There is undoubtedly a difference between solitude and loneliness. One is chosen, the other, presumably, is imposed. Leonard Cohen certainly valued the work he did alone in a room or by an open window or sitting in a café. A quote from Cohen in the exhibit was, to paraphrase, "the archive is the mountain and the published work, the volcano", which I took as meaning the mountainous accumulation of work you do in private, that no one ever sees, still informs whatever you reveal to the public. There is the value of solitude. For me, solitude isn't necessarily leaving behind everything to think quietly in a cave, but simply moments you take for yourself. I realized recently when simply walking on your own, you decide when the break between the cars is enough to dash across the street, which is not something you do when walking with others. A holiday like Christmas is seen as a cherished time to spend with family, so much so that Newfoundlanders invented Tibb's Eve to have a night out with friends before all that fam-time. I like to sprinkle days off in the year just for me. Of course, this may be considered selfish to parents with little kids, but that just shows the unusual luxury of time to yourself. There are plenty of ways I like spending a day: at a gallery, a bookstore, a bike shop, or even doing laundry or just napping. Some ways I measure the success of those days for me are how long I spent the day without wearing my glasses, which for me are worn mostly while working at the computer or how long I went without looking at a watch or clock. When you've spent a day not caring about time you've probably had a good day.

After my Day for Me my only real regret was that it wasn't a "Month for Me". It might seem a bit much to think of having more time off immediately following having time off, but as I have said before, (to quote a certain rat in literature, who I now consider my spirit animal), I can't think of anything more important than simply messing about.

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