Clio and the tigers


A sidewalk "engagement strategy".

"Wonder doesn't come from outside, somewhere spectacular you drove to see; it comes from within. It is a union of the natural world we are already in, and the mind prepared to receive it. (Nathanael Johnston. Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons).

City Hall, Urban Planners, Licensing Agencies, Universities and Architect firms are important. They have things to tell us too, suggestions to make about how to live. But any single person anywhere can also do this. Everyone anywhere can make a hundred thousand small, cost-free, seemingly-insignificant changes to, and in, the spaces of collective living, which in fact can and will and do improve the lives of others in that space, even just a teeny bit.

Here's what one graduate Architecture student said after one of our rants about the lofty neo-liberal concept of "engagement strategies": I found your point for us all to understand the systems at work in our home places, being observant and connected,

to find those gaps and use what means and passion we have to respond to those gaps or mismatches in critically engaged but pragmatic ways on the ground particularly salient."


A doing, not a thinking-about-doing.

Small shifts in the tuning forks that are our brains in the places that are our streets.

Ping! Listening to the place where we already are.

Ping! Listening to what the other inhabitants of our streets, our sidewalks, the air above these and the ground beneath them, have to tell us about what would make it better.

Ping! Remembering with clarity the place we once were: what made our minutes, hours, days wonderful when we were children....wewere all children once....on streets, on sidewalks, on paths, living our lives with open minds, open to wonder. The children around us and in us will tell us.

But we have to pay attention.

Remember what it felt like getting ready to go down the street to daycare, or kindergarten or school? Remember how the mornings were dark and cold and slow? Remember how you had to eat even if you didn't feel like it yet? Remember how it was hard to get your coat on without the sleeve coming up? Remember how your rubber boots felt clammy and wet, and too big or too small? Remember how it felt to have to walk a whole block holding onto your mum or dad's hand: they had long legs and long steps and you had small legs and small steps. It always felt to you like they were rushing, hurrying. It always felt to them like you were dawdling, too slow. About half-way there, you would pull downward and look at ants or sit on the ground. They would pull harder and cajole and sound desperate to get you moving again. Sometimes yelling. Sometimes tears. A détente, digging in of the opposite positions: momentum and inertia. Watching out your front window, or watching from the porch, or watching down from your balcony or up from your basement apartment window, we promise that, wherever you are in a neighborhood living side-by-side among many people, people you know more or less, you will see these small beings pass by. You will see these daily dramas happen. They will happen with the neighborhood children and their caregivers. Twice a day: on the way to and on the way home.

If your home is along the route that these children travel, daily, consider leaving something there for them. Something durable. Something that cost you nothing or practically nothing. Something in your basement that your kids used to play with. Something small enough to fit in their small hands. Or low enough for them to look at, or into. Something for them. Something you remember you would have loved to touch, or see, or look at, or look into, when you were on your way to kindergarten or daycare. Something that you seemed to never tire of finding there, on your way. Something small that, without you even noticing, had the power to make your little legs move quickly from your front door to that halfway mark in the morning. Something that, parents smiling, made your little feet move quickly from the daycare to that halfway mark in the late afternoon.

Clean them occasionally. If you're in a global pandemic, clean them more often than that. Reposition them if the street sweeper knocks them off, or if some older kids fiddle with them and leave them in a different spot. Clio will be looking for them tomorrow.

 Clio's tigers.


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Bonne Fête Bicyclette