1500 meters above sea level. 20 km from Vancouver. 360 degrees of unobstructed magnificent view. I was sitting up high on a ridge next to a granite tower called the West Lion, resting. Hiking up from Lions Bay, I’d had over three hours to reflect on the contrast between the city and up there.

Since leaving the main road, I’d had the singular sensation that Mother Nature was dutifully looking at me. I had become an integral part of the landscape and my presence there hadn’t gone unnoticed. Birds had been suddenly quieting as I approached through the trees and had waited for me to be gone to resume their song. Later, anybody looking up from the bottom of the trail would probably have spotted the bright orange spot of my pants up high in the snow field, moving slowly and seemingly erratically. The silly song I’d been singing out loud when nearing the crest had echoed on the stone walls and had bounced back at me as if the cliff and I had formed a duo. I could have, by dropping a single piece of garbage, affected my surroundings tremendously. The mountains had been watching me curiously. A small speck of color in an immense picture, with a part to play that was inversely proportional to the relative size of my presence.

[June 20th, hiking up to the Lions]

But down in the city, it’s a whole different story. After six months in Vancouver, I have finally begun to understand a key fact about living an urban life.

The fact is I am at risk of slowly becoming transparent, and blind.

And while I accept the first as fatality, I refuse to let the latter happen. They both seem, however, to be a somehow inescapable consequence of an urban lifestyle.

For instance, I often feel like, having reached the apogee of my appreciation of beauty, beauty itself no longer sees me. I am transparent to her, she looks right through me at other sharper silhouettes.

"I can stand all night, at a red light anywhere in town,
Hailing maries left and right, but none of them slow down." [The Sisters of Mercy]
"I can cross a street, through the heaviest traffic attack,
Splitting up the flow of cars; behind me they join back." [The Brother Vinnie]

I can drop garbage on the sidewalk or put it in an overflowing garbage can, it’ll make no difference. I can ignore people around me and they ignore me back. I can melt into the crowd or try to stand out, the result is the same.

My presence has no direct impact, I am transparent. Transparency doesn’t bother me; it’s pure and simple. I’d rather be looked through than block the view towards magnificent scenery. But what nostalgia it carries! One never feels ready to leave the stage.

Blindness, however, is another story. I’ll fight it till the end.

It creeps up insidiously from the deepest places and tries to take over my senses. It wants to protect me from scenes of extreme poverty. It wants to pinch my nostrils against aggressive smells. It tries to block my ears when the city is too loud, horns and fire engines and trucks. It wants to make sure I don’t get hurt by too many strangers walking past me as if I didn’t exist. It attempts to keep my eyes at ground level because nobody else walks in the street with their head up looking at the skyscrapers. It would like to make me believe the mountains will forever be hidden in the clouds.

And if I let it, it will succeed. It does on most everybody around me. And yet Vancouver is one of the cities I know with the least amount of human blindness. It’s a last line of defense against it, an ultimate fortress flying high in the sky the flag of enjoying life and appreciating beauty.

But it’s only a matter of time before even here, one succumbs to such a powerful sorcery, the spell of blindness. And reopening one’s eyes of the mind and heart once they have gone shut must be so difficult…

Granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But maybe it’s also embedded deep into the very essence of each thing and person. To be blind, then, would be labeling our world as ugly or beautiful, without allowing for context.

Without allowing for the fact that sometimes, when we look at something or someone in a judgmental way, we might be unknowingly looking through several layers of people and things that have become transparent to us. Although invisible, they distort our perception and affect our vision. In the end, Saint-Ex’ summed it all up so well; we only see well with our heart, what’s essential is invisible to the eyes.

I’ll try to keep looking around me with amazed eyes, forever, no matter where I am. If my eyes go blind, then I will look with my heart. But if my heart grows cold, I’ll turn to stone, and then to glass. Maybe they’ll make a statue out of me. He who once saw beauty. Look through but please don’t touch. Climbing on the statue is forbidden. Keep your dogs on leash. This is not a lamp post.