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dave dallies – month two

March 5, 2010

My experiment in intentional waiting, what a friend has called “attentiveness”, seems to be working. By working, I mean that I have noticed artifacts I’d not have noticed otherwise, and from those I have made images that I hope, in a year’s time, to be proud of. February’s set of artifacts and images juxtaposes two wonderful little signs, and the way that I discovered them back in the first days of the month.

Whether or not I wait often comes down to very small choices I make. Yesterday afternoon was no exception. Both kids dropped off at school, the first pick up was just one hour away. We have a dog, and that dog is also a child, with all the energy that entails. That dog needs many walks. Because my daughter attends school a fair distance from our house, the walk there is perfect to tire out a dog. Even better if you have a stout, sturdy, snow plowing Chariot stroller for the kids to ride, which I thankfully do. The only problem with this walk is that I’ve yet to time it. I have approximations of the journey, but nothing nearing predictable precision.

So I sat on my couch yesterday with plenty of work to be done, just one hour from having to pick up my daughter, with that long walk ahead of me. I could likely read for 15 minutes and then leave, still making it. I could work on some website content, and then rush over. Of course, I didn’t really know. These are the choices I’d normally make, sacrificing punctuality on the altar of “productivity”. Instead, I chose to leave early, and most likely at the other end, to wait. I had failed at this intentional waiting so far, always thwarted by some time thief. Today I could succeed! The worst case scenario was that I would arrive on time. That wouldn’t be so bad for me either.

I saddled up the horses, tucked my plastic “Yellow Peace” camera into my pocket, waited for the dog to pee, and embarked. I plowed ahead through winter, alongside my dog and an as-yet totally empty stroller, wondering if I looked insane. Knowing I probably did. But I didn’t care. Dogs have a way of stripping away grown-up pretensions.

Two thirds of the way to the school, I wondered how I was doing, time wise. I checked and to my delight, I had plenty of room left ’round the clock. I decided that I had enough time, in fact, to start the waiting right then and there. To choose to slow my pace and meander on over. To take my sweet time. To stroll.

But first, before taking a single step further, I stopped to survey my surroundings. To my joy I discovered my first artifact. Affixed to the window of the wonderfully retro Bellevue Community Hall was an equally retro, hand drawn poster. Bold black on bumblebee yellow. Not to be missed, yet I had missed it so many times on this walk before. What else am I missing as I rush forwards with nothing in mind but my final destination? I approached the sign to view drawn dancers in the midst of a joyous twirl, imperfectly rendered. Who took the time to draw these dancers? A league member? A community artist? A relative of the league president? Above the dancers, in wonderful hand-rendered script read “Dance Tonite”. I can’t recall if there was an exclamation mark, but there certainly should have been. I may have to wait a year now to find that out, when I develop the photo I snapped.

It was Monday, and I highly doubted then, as I do now, that there was a “Dance Tonite!” on a Monday. Or any other night in the near future. The sign looked time-traveled from back when the weekend sock-hop was a pivotal social event where friends let loose and lovers met. Perhaps some long-loving Highlands couple remembers their first meeting at such a dance. Or perhaps there really was a dance last night, and I have missed it. Either way, the sign got me thinking about the waiting for events. Lining up. Excited. And it got me thinking about waiting in reverse. That sort of longing we have for the past called “nostalgia”. That waiting for something to happen again once it has passed. I’d like, for a moment, to live in the time of “Dance Tonite!”. I’d like to see who my neighborhood was back then. Were there glory days in bright yellow and bold black?

I continued forward from that spot, content with my February submission for The Art of Waiting. I could relax now with no need to wait again for another whole month! But there was more waiting. I arrived at the preschool, housed in the basement of an old United Church, early. I decided I’d enjoyed “Dance Tonite!” so much that I’d better take a moment investigate here, too. I stowed the stroller, grabbed the leash and led Livie, my puppy, around back of the church to explore. I’d never looked back there before. I’d never taken the time. But this trip too was rewarding. I discovered, next to the back door, another curious sign. This was a small plaque totally overtaken by ominous dripping icicles. Looking closer, I read that the plaque was there to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this church, and I’m assuming this building. The bottom declared “past – present – future”. And yet this plaque already looked old and small and lost beneath the freeze and chill. The whole scene felt awash in metaphor, worthy of my second photo of the day.

And so etched on the film inside my toy camera are two signs. Both unearthed artifacts from another time, left behind by history’s ruthless marching forward. Both signs heralding events once central to their community, but now too often relegated to kitsch and quaint and “old-fashioned”. And bother, perhaps, connected in many other ways. Connected by the stories of this community. I wonder if anyone ever attended one of those dances, got up to something naughty on a Saturday night, and tip-toed guilty and penitent to that very church the next morning.

Dance tonite! Church tomorrow?

Dave Von Bieker

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