Admittedly, my first stop was a sinful treat that happens maybe twice a year--Cafe Crepe on Queen West in Toronto. I had a fantastic, savoury crepe with real maple syrup (they really DO go well together!), accompanied by a Nutella latte...yes, to my fellow nutritionists...no typo...and no apology...
Enjoying every morsel of crepe while reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall), I realized I was the only one in the crowded restaurant seated alone. This doesn't bother me. While I love eating out with family and friends, I'm also surrounded by people throughout my regular day, and sometimes it feels good to sit alone so I can make sure my voice is still present in my head. It's easy to get lost in the chatter, so regrouping is definitely necessary for my own sanity.
Once that leg of my day was done, I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario. I LOVE the AGO. In fact, I have a long-standing love affair with the AGO. When I was in school, I used to volunteer in their bookstore. Afterwards, throughout university, I had a student membership and would visit frequently, often just choosing a different section of the gallery to sit in with my notebook (writing poems to accompany some works...not sketching...no talent there!) while gazing at whatever my mood led me towards. I even did an internship there while studying Book and Magazine Publishing, editing and proofreading various things. The odd thing is that I'm not an art history major or even remotely talented in a way that most people drawn to galleries are. I'm just a lover of beauty and stories, and my GOODNESS the AGO is filled with both.
So, upon arrival there today, a sense of calm settled over me, and as I checked my coat in, the volunteer there saw the picture of my cat on my phone. She said she also had a cat, and when I asked what its name was, she answered Cyprus! My full-on grin prompted her to ask why that was strange. I told her that was where my family was from, and whether she had any connection to the country. She said no... that it was just a beautiful name that she'd always loved how it sounded. Familiarity always oozes from that place. A great way to start the next phase of my afternoon!
I went and saw a few of my faves to start with: Otto Dix's Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann (I'm always mesmerized by his creepy eyes depicting the horrifying, emotional reality post-WWI), Henry Moore's gallery of gorgeous statues, Barbara Hepworth's Mother and Child, to name barely any! But stumbling upon Patti Smith's photography exhibit was elating. I really knew next to nothing about her, but I feel that she completely gives all of herself to her photographs, and they had me hypnotized. Her relationship with her surroundings makes me believe that she is truly connected to all that she photographs. I was witnessing the love she felt for her mentors and friends through her work. I heard people commenting aloud and to themselves while passing various selections (one man chuckled in admiration, "Hermann Hesse's Typewriter! Huh!"). Of course, I couldn't help but think that this must be an artist's greatest form of flattery--whether with the written word, sculpture, photograph, or any type of artwork--to stir emotions in people as she was is just so very cool.
After the Patti Smith collection, I came across the Michael Snow exhibit (a modern, industrial installation that was unique in and of itself), and I started chatting with one of the security guards. We got into an earnest conversation about what a shame it is that galleries aren't accessible to a lot of people in our city. They're expensive! I told him I usually go to the gallery on Wednesday nights (free), and he said, "But it's so busy!" It is, but it's most accessible at that time.
Art has so much more to offer than just pretty pictures and photos. It shouldn't be an elitist luxury. Art is an ongoing statement of life, emotion, and the world's history. It connects people in its ability to "speak" in new and unusual ways. It tells stories, enrages, delights, and awes. Sometimes it bores. But that's the great thing! It's like music--there are so many forms of it and limitless ways of expressing oneself that different kinds speak to different personalities and experiences. Everyone SHOULDN'T love EVERYTHING. People gravitate towards what moves them. That's the beauty.
So, as my day draws to a wonderful close, I feel lucky to have spent it rejuvenating my heart and soul. I spent it feeling united with my surroundings, and I'm better for it. Learning something new is always a good way to spend some time. There are people who feel that they need to be busy all the time, feeling pressure to always be ON, but without these moments of solitude and immersion in something other than what NEEDS to be done, then we can get lost in other people's realities.
After a day of reconnecting with myself, and with a great sigh of contentment, I feel fully prepared and happy to re-enter the world of need...until the next opportunity for complete and utter selfish me-time occurs...maybe accompanied by another crepe, if the fates allow...