Seeing the sunrise, missing the obvious

I don’t see the empty space until I come back in from my balcony. I went out there to water the tomatoes and enjoy the sun rising over the CN Tower. My appreciation for the city deepens on mornings like these, when the sun drapes a diaphanous sheath over Toronto, masking the its grit. The light makes it feel eternal.

The sun rises over the City of Toronto.

It’s rare in life on this earth to imagine you’ve glimpsed eternity. If it’s going to happen though, it’s more likely to surface when the sun is rising — or setting – rather than in the harsh midday light.

That master of song Bruce Cockburn got it right when he penned those famous lines

Sun’s up, uh huh, looks okay

The world survives into another day

And I’m thinking about eternity

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

It’s a great song  – Wondering Where the Lions Are – and I hum it softly as I pluck Tiny Tim tomatoes from vines and admire ripening hot peppers. There’s a good salsa to be made in weeks to come.

I think, without really thinking, about these things, even as I notice without noticing the empty space beyond the balcony.

With increasing frequency, the cove is calm, still and empty from dawn until dusk.

It’s funny what you don’t see simply because you’re fixated on something else.

I’m captivated by the sunrise, even though I see it almost every day and have taken scores of photos to try and capture its brilliance as it makes its way west over Lake Ontario.

I like it best when it rises over the city, its light made more dramatic by the gauzy silhouettes of high-rises and the diamond sparkle of the lake. As the months settle into autumn, the sun will slide across my view plane, eventually rising over an expanse of lake, rather than the city skyline.  I know that’s the earth’s doing, not the sun, but I seem inclined to overlook that fact.

Nevertheless, the sun’s where I like it right now. When the earth shifts, I’ll shift my appreciation to the new view. But not yet.

Toronto is waking up, I think to myself, as coffee beans ping against the grinder and cereal rattles into a porcelain bowl. These days I’m eating something called Twigs and Clusters. Lots of crunch to make the requisite morning fibre intake more interesting although sometimes I wonder if what I’m eating came from the forest floor.

Thanks to the coffee and cereal, I’m also waking up by the time I step out on the balcony, watering can in hand. Along with the sunrise, I’m focused on the plants, counting the new blooms on the Morning Glories (15 today!), cursing the aphids on the Honeysuckle (I’m losing that battle).

I know, another photo of the Morning Glories. I can’t help it. They’re so earnest the way they greet me every morning.

That’s why I don’t see the empty space until I’ve retreated from the balcony, poured my second cup of java, and settled myself into a chair at the dining room table.

That’s a misnomer, actually. I can no longer call it a dining room table, for in the small space I now call home, there is no dining room. Just floor space enough for a table and four chairs between the kitchen counter and the living room couch.

My dining room table may not occupy much space, but it is in the perfect location for catching sunbeams.

Come to think of it, there isn’t much empty space around me these days. Not inside, and not outside, where another high-rise condo sits squarely in front of my balcony and three more buildings are slowly emerging from the construction pits gouged out along the waterfront.

But there is more empty space than there was earlier this week. I see it, once I’ve shifted my attention from the sun. Once I’m no longer fixated on tomatoes and peppers; once the coffee has become commonplace.

The sailboats are gone.

Sailboats, motorboats, jet skis, canoes and kayaks….all manner of boats have cruised the cove this summer.

All summer long, they’ve been anchoring overnight in the small cove that’s part of my view. Sometimes there’s just one or two, sometimes half a dozen. I’ve grown fond of these floating neighbours, love the sense of summer freedom that swirls around them, even when their sails are down.

I’m a little lonely for their presence, which surprises me because before the sailboats arrived, I was content to look out on water and shoreline, happy for the company of ducks and swans and a resident beaver.

I didn’t know I’d miss the sailboats. But I do.

Lynda MacGibbon is a transplanted Maritimer living in Toronto. Her column is published weekly in the Moncton Times & Transcrip. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @lyndamacgibbon