On Wednesdays I have an hour and a half break because the CLSC (a government health agency) sends someone for a respite service. During this time my grandmother exercises by walking in the hallways of the apartment building with the help of a worker, and I get to do whatever I want.
I may go to the library, have a ride on the bike, go to the gym or to the calisthenics park. But this time I felt like doing nothing of the sorts. I was tired and edgy. My grandmother had a difficult morning and my patience battery had run out. I came out of the apartment building not really feeling like doing anything.
I asked myself "what would make me feel better" and the answer emerged "to experience beauty". I'll be honest here: there are many different senses and ways in which one can experience beauty on this earth. You can experience being lost in music, have a great culinary experience, soak in a great piece of art, rapture in nature, and so on. But one of the most accessible ways of experiencing beauty is through the observation of people you are attracted to.
I'm sure the reader will picture the author leering at women, but the experience is completely different. Where leering would chugging down a bottle of wine, the aesthetic experience of observing women to me is more akin to that of sipping on a glass of wine and savoring it slowly. Where leering is wanting and hardens the face (and possibly other parts of the body), aesthetic appreciation is letting be, it relaxes the face and brings a smile and a twinkle to the eye. You do not stare, you capture a moment and savor it.
So I went to the gym in search of beauty, but I did not find it there. I had already worked out in the morning and didn't feel like repeating, so I went outside and dejectedly grabbed a bixi to bike instead. The day was gray and humid. I did not feel like biking, but I didn't have anything better to do. I have a usual route along Lachine channel which I began to trace, but in order to at least add some variety I crossed to the other side of the channel. The path on that side went astray from the channel, and soon I found myself in unfamiliar, ugly territory along the docks of the St. Lawrence river. I wondered where this path would take me, and if I should turn back, but I decided to follow fate.
After passing abandoned grain silos and docks, I got to Habitat 67 and crossed a bridge into Jean Drapeau park. By then I was sweating profusely and I took off my shirt, I felt my prickly state smooth out and the sun came out. I biked along the dirt paths in the wooded areas of Jean Drapeau and I had my aesthetic experience, not from the appreciation of women but from a rapture between the inner and outer experience. I pedaled hard on the bike and experienced my body in its full aliveness alongside with the aliveness of the city, and finally my reeling mind quieted down.
I came back into the city through Jaques Cartier Bridge at full speed, and the city which was once ugly had become beautiful again. I sped home, not out of fear of arriving late, for I hadn't even seen the time but time-perception told me it was perhaps time to head home, but out of the aliveness that was bursting through me.
What I discovered yesterday is that I am seeking beauty in things outside myself. It is possible to have the same aesthetic experience through an intimate contact with yourself that escapes words. My biking that day had done way more to inspire me than the appreciation of women. I came back home with my patience battery renewed and expanded.