The last time I went to the big mall was 4 months ago to buy the new computer monitor. Today we went to the mall, Future Shop store, to be exact, to buy a photo printer. The trip there was a nightmare of stop and go traffic, and finding parking almost impossible. There must be gods who support my hatred of shopping in malls, because it seems that I have a Parking Angel, so that exposure in the mall is limited to simply parking, running into the store, scanning the signage to find the appropriate section, finding the item needed, and then pay for it and leaving. This all took about 10 minutes, which is marginally tolerable. It took longer to leave the parking lot than to initially find a parking spot, parking, scooting into the store, buying and leaving to go back to the car. Unbelievable grid-lock exit problem there was – it took us a half hour to get outside the parking lot. Drivers were short-tempered and rude, pedestrians careless and seemingly oblivious to the agressive tendencies of drivers. It was completely crazy making!
On the drive home, I scanned the false-front architecture of the chain stores lined up along the highway, the standardized signage on them and the design of the back-up lights on vehicles as we drove along. Everywhere one looks is the presence of things made out of plastics – shiny, in primary colours, or matte and grey. Things look jerry-built, temporary and impermanent and have the feel of a Potemkin village. There is a feeling of constant and aimless motion, a mass migration from place to place, of collecting and dispersing items on the way. Perception is assaulted, distracted and incoherent in such a setting.
When I am a passenger in a car, riding with a trusted driver, I find myself scanning the skies, marvelling at their constant shifting quality of always different and variable forms, colours and texture. Trees that come into view, seen against changing skies are my reality touchstones. Their forms, in all their variety, are compelling, elemental. This is the beauty masked by suburban squalor, so that even a trip to the mall by car becomes tolerable if one troubles to be reminded by glimpses of such persistent beauty.
The Navajo have a mantra – ” I walk in beauty, around me beauty, below me beauty, above me beauty – in beauty I walk.” This is a mantra that I have adopted and repeat to myself, daily, while scurrying through my daily life in the suburbs. Maybe the new photo printer will allow me to share some ordinary perceptions with others, to show the beauty and tawdriness of suburban life, of which we need to be mindfully aware.