I live in a neighbourhood that was recently named one of the most desirable in Canada. It's one of the more vibrant in Winnipeg, hosting not just wealthy artsy/academic types but also several low income housing units. My building is a five-storey yuppie haven with newly reno'ed hardwood floors, large windows, AC, and a bathroom with one of those bathtub shells that fits over the old one, with lots of shelves and stuff. I've only seen one tenant over thirty-five. His name is Daniel and he is a suspected alcoholic who sits on the front stairs in a stained tank top and fisherman's hat, smoking until even his eyes grow wrinkles. But enough on Daniel.
The building next to ours is a mere three storeys and, while not low-income housing, is certainly at a lower price point than my overpriced pad. It's a sunny day here. Warm without being hot, and the first time in weeks that the humidity has lifted and the sunlight comes down pure, as though swerving through and around water particles had somehow tainted it before now. Against my lease's regulations, I have removed my window screens to feel the sun and look out on the neighbourhood from above.
Below, in the shadow of our building, I see a woman. 30's, 40's. Hard to tell. She is dressed in a striped tank top and shorts, a cigarette in one hand, a tote bag in the other, with two more tote bags on each shoulder. She lays them down by the dirt beneath what I assume to be her window. From the three bags, she begins to remove rocks, varying in size from about that of an apple to a spaghetti squash. She lays them carefully, one by one, in an arch from one end of her window to the other, the tangent just touching the edge of the dirt where it touches the grass.
After ten minutes, she steps back, same cigarette in hand, to admire her work. I want to yell down to her, "Hey! You won't be able to grow anything there! There's no sunlight."
But I think maybe she knows that already. She's clearly a functional person, one who can afford nice-ish clothes, cigarettes, and means of transporting three bags of rocks. I feel like she knows something I don't. Maybe something philosophical about how in a world without flowers, rocks become things of beauty. Or some shit like that. I don't know. But it makes me sad. Not for her, but for my own lack of understanding.