It was easier to avoid the secular world when I lived in the country. All I had to do was go out into my backyard garden, sit at the piano for a few hours, spend an afternoon in my studio...my husband always heard the lawn mowers and leaf-blowers, but I guess I tended -- or pre-tended -- to hear the birds.
The city doesn't allow that. Step out the door, and it opens its maw. The sound of traffic is ever-present, even indoors, as are voices speaking many languages; airplanes and helicopters overhead, police sirens, ambulances and fire trucks; even the birds seem aggressive, competitive, clamouring for their share. Someone is always selling, someone's buying; someone is begging, someone else is showing off.
The city is much more real, much more a reflection of our world, in a human sense, or so it seems to me. The countryside, so much a part of my own identity, has come to rest in some internal space. I visit it in dreams, in memories...but my daily reality has changed. During these weeks of living downtown, on the twentieth floors of hotels, I've been able to watch the city move, watch it wake up, go through its day, go to sleep. Pigeons flutter onto fire escapes; gulls wheel on thermals between the skyscrapers. The trains come and go from Gare Centrale; the taxis swim up Boulevard Rene-Levesque, the hockey fans come to games at Le Centre Bell and stream out far below my eyes. Customers enter Chez Paree and Club LaBoom, which advertise danse contact; next door, Muslims go upstairs to their mosque. Motionless, I stand at the window and look out down, look out - toward the city stretching in all directions, toward the shiny pale blue ribbon of the great river, toward the mountains of Vermont.
This is a new stillness, not requiring silence. An urban stillness I'm learning in the midst of constant motion, crowdedness, squalor and clutter, beauty and glitter; amid things I don't understand and things I understand too well; a stillness in spite of the fact that I myself am moving, changing; a growing solitude that is, paradoxically, full.