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dave: waiting to wait – month one

January 29, 2010

Who knew that waiting could take so long?

It feels a bit like planting seeds into dirt and believing that somehow, months down the road, great ears of corn or stalks of grain will fill the now desolate landscape with yellow sunshine.

It feels a bit like sending away for a new suit in a mail-order catalog, not even knowing for certain how it fits, then biding my time until the delivery man makes his way through town with all of our goods.

It feels like any number of things we don’t do anymore, because we have all-but-eradicated waiting.

The lost art of waiting.

My personal Art of Waiting journey is an attempt to relearn that art. I feel the slow-down will do me some good. I feel like I could stop and smell a few more pretty flowers.

My plan is simple. Each month at least once I will arrive for an appointment intentionally early. This is no small feat for me. I will show up, at minimum, 15 minutes early. I will force myself to wait for the event or person or bus, or whatever it may be. In my hand will be my little yellow toy camera. Waiting with me. We will open our eyes for something interesting or beautiful or ugly. We will search for some glimmer to capture our gaze. And then I will push its little yellow button and capture, hopefully, an image that would not have presented itself had I not been waiting. My hope is that, in a year’s time, I will see before me a parade of moments I have reclaimed from the tyranny of rush and speed.

Of course, I could also be handed an envelope of 24 underexposed, washed out or blank prints.

A couple of weeks ago, the grand experiment was to begin. It did not begin. I am still waiting to wait. Or, I should say, I am still waiting to wait in this romanticized, idealized way. Because of real-life waiting.

On that fateful Saturday, my shift-working wife was to come home from at an agreed time, passing on the vehicle to me, so I could drive to my lunch appointment early. I’d park, loiter the lot outside of The Urban Diner, and watch for my image. Instead, my wife had to work late and the car never arrived. I had to cram a dog-walk and a bus ride into far too little a span and found myself rushing to the subway train stop. The LRT only took me into downtown, and not all the way to lunch, so I had another choice to make. Walk the 15-odd-blocks or wait for the next bus. I decided, wisely, that even with the wait a bus can drive faster than I can walk. I found myself sitting at the stop, now 20 minutes late for lunch, with nothing to do but wait. And in this waiting, I was in no mood for photography.

I made it to lunch 30 minutes late armed with apologies. I also had apologies for myself. I had failed at waiting with intention, but succeeded at having waiting imposed upon me.  I learned something important about the difference that day. Our approach to waiting has everything to do with its perceived value. And, perhaps, if I’m trying to wait, it’s not waiting at all. Perhaps it is only in that kind of waiting that is thrust upon me that I have the chance to gather wisdom and patience and that inner slow.

But also, perhaps, my “pretend” waiting is good practice?

Only time will tell, as I still await my first real (pretend) wait.

Dave Von Bieker

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