Day Tripper

Back in June, I took a week off work. Highlights of my vacation include an intensive, possibly unhealthy, viewing (all five seasons) of Mad Men, getting sun stroke while shopping in Greek Town, and on Friday, June 20th, a day trip to Ottawa to see the van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada. I thought it was beyond ridiculous to go to Ottawa again considering I’ve been there the last two years in a row and I almost decided not to do it, but I’m glad I did as it was an important exhibit and the only Canadian stop on the tour. It’s on until September 3rd and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Here are some excerpts from the journal entry I wrote on the train home:

Maman, The National Gallery. June 20, 2012.

Thinking about Ottawa
I left town on the 6:40 am train bound for Ottawa. Five hours on a train is a good long time to consider the other times you’ve gone to a place, the reasons why and how it will feel/be this time.

I wore a new skirt
At 5:30 in the morning, I thought it was a good idea to wear this new ankle length wrap skirt I bought at Alchemy on the Danforth yesterday. As a result of this decision, I suffered the following calamities:

  1. 1. I tripped on it going up the stairs between the TTC and GO Transit at Union Station, wiping out completely and causing a fork to rocket out of my purse, some minor bruises, and the embarassment of being helped up by a more practically dressed woman.

2. It whipped up around my waist during a sudden gust of wind while I was eating a cup of blackberry gelato in Byward Market. Seriously, how is this even possible – this skirt is SO LONG.

3. I had to be rescued from the sliding door of a van by the taxi driver who for the duration of the ride to the train station had been trying to convince me to let him rent me a room to stay for the rest weekend (“Please? I never beg anyone before in my life! Swear!”) because I got it caught when I got in the taxi. AWKWARD.

3.5.  The impatient traveller behind me tromped on it as I disembarked from the train upon arrival back in Toronto. I’m counting this as only half an indignity because the skirt remained on my body and didn’t rip off as could easily have happened.

In conclusion: Who knew such a modest garment could be so potentially hazardous?

Amazing sights I saw looking out the train window
TO Ottawa: a doe bounding through the long grass in an open field

FROM Ottawa: a whooping crane perched on some rocks, light rapids cascading all around it / a man skinny dipping in a reedy water hole / then, at dusk and almost home, another crane! I read recently that there are only 380 whooping cranes left in North America – so to see two? This is a very special day, indeed.

The Quebecois couple across the aisle
They are drinking something delightful looking. Lime wedges have sunk to the bottom of their retro plastic glasses, which are decorated with stylized red and yellow flowers. Now comes the voice of our attendant over the speaker system: THE ENJOYMENT OF PERSONAL ALCOHOL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED ABOARD THIS TRAIN. WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION.

I mention this only because I’d come with a croissant and nectarine (breakfast), salad and apple (lunch) and granola bar and trail mix (snacks for the ride home, as I’d planned to eat an early dinner in Byward Market before leaving town) and considered myself prepared. It would never have occurred to me to pack actual glasses. Or lime wedges. I managed a water bottle and a coffee, but really.

After the van Gogh exhibit
When I finished van Gogh, I decided to visit some favourites from my last visit but before I could figure out how to get to them, I ran into a Janet Cardiff installation. Being a big fan of her work, The Whispering Room, there was no chance I would miss this one: Forty-Part Motet situated The Rideau Chapel.

One step into the chapel activates the first of forty speakers placed around the perimeter of the room. A lone male voice rises up. More voices join in with each step, more and more until a full forty-part choir surrounds you. You can do nothing but stand very still, arms folded across your body, rapt. Grown men will sit down, so overwhelmed are they by the beauty of the chorus. You stand there, staring up at the vaulted ceiling with that prickly feeling at the back of your throat. Maybe, if you have no faith, you will feel nothing when you hear the Forty-Part Motet. But if you have a little, even a shred, you will feel it amplify, radiating through you – a great, white light. You’ll wonder if you can ever leave this room. But, of course, you do, because your train departs at 5:06.

“What a wonderful room to work in,” you’ll say to the little Italian security guard on your way out.

“Yes,” he’ll beam. “Yes, it is.”

In summary
The train is pulling into Union station now. I am happier and healthier than when I left this morning.

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