When the sun goes down on the city, feelings change, moods change, and so do perceptions. When the flow of shoppers and traffic begin to wane, and the sun starts looking a little tuckered, the shadows rise seemingly out of the ground. And suddenly, it’s night.
Night is the time of children’s bathtimes, storytimes, bedtimes. Time for crime dramas on TV, for late night snacks, and for thoughts and dreams, ideas for stories, and sometimes cares and troubles too.
So, every once and a while I take a walk, often to try and let those thoughts and ideas germinate as they will. Or in the case of troubles and cares, to escape, rethink, reset. Either way, I think walks at night are something of a ritual of clarity, a cleansing of the mental palette.
On the best nights there is magic in the air, the glory of summer days leaving something of an afterglow under the cover of indigo skies and moonlight. I don’t do this too often, perhaps not as often as I should. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to dull my senses, and take my surroundings for granted. I find it’s easy to miss the subtleties once a ritual stops being a ritual, and instead becomes a habit by rote. The magic can fade, if you stop noticing it.
My new home here in New Westminster has made this ritual of mine even more pleasant. Off of the bus at 10th street and 6th avenue, right across from Moody Park, I wander, usually up to 6th and 6th. I rove past the Library and the Safeway. Sometimes, I get a snack at Wendy’s on 6th street. And I backtrack a bit, finding myself at the Blenz at the corner.
Here friends talk, drinking coffee, sometimes sitting outside, taking in the night. I see them in the golden warmth of the interior, doing the same. I’ve lived in places where neighbourhoods are reduced to post-apocalyptic wastelands worthy of T.S Eliot after dark. No life, no life!
Yet, here there are interactions and laughter by moonlight. I think that says a lot about the spirit of a place, where life goes on quite uninterrupted when the sun goes down. This is a place where people make time for each other enjoying the simple pleasures, including the peacefulness of nightfall. And by oneself there is plenty to observe, too. So, I walk on.
A gaggle of teens get off of the 155 bus, chattering to each other, on their way to making their next memory. A young mum walks down the street with her son in front of her, who is slaloming between the post boxes, poles, newspaper boxes along sixth street, on his way to his bedtime. The patrons in the Yianni’s Greek Taverna are talking soundlessly behind the front window are engrossed in their conversations, the only soundtrack being the traffic, and the sound of my shoes on the sidewalk.
I cross the road at 4th avenue, having passed the Bank of Nova Scotia, Jim’s Cafe across the street, Julian’s, and The Wine Factory right on the corner, across from the 7-Eleven. I make my way down 4th, past the wonderfully-named Bent Court, a church, and across 7th. A pretty girl on a bike sees me about to cross. “Don’t Worry,” she assures me, “I won’t run you over”. She’s like a cheerful spirit, rushing into the night, two-wheeled and otherworldly.
I reach the intersection of 4th and 8th at the two-for-one pizza, and the Rainbow Market, and pretty soon I’m practically home, energized, revitalized. Yet, sleep comes easily, and good dreams even more so.
There is something about walking at night. Some people find it unsettling. But, in the right place, and with the right perspective, the darkness is welcoming and peaceful, like a warm blanket.
And to finish of course, here are 5 night-flavoured songs, for your pleasure: