Pay Attention

SARS-CoV-2 isn’t the only infectious thing in our world: Attention is catching.

Stop on a street corner, look up, and curious passers-by will slow or stop altogether, scanning overhead for . . . something.

Turn around in your seat in a lecture hall or theatre to gaze intently at the back of the room, and others will swivel to do the same, looking for . . . someone.

In both cases, others first pay attention to us, not to whatever or whomever we’re paying attention to. Maybe it’s a hard-wired self-defence mechanism from the dawn of our species, when mortal dangers lurked everywhere and we really were all in it together.

“Watch out!
Joe’s seen/heard/smelled something!”

That safety instinct accounts perfectly for why I was recently reading about a new Calgary park. Under COVID-19 constraints, a friend’s hiking group has recently focused more on exploring Calgary’s parks and trails than nearby mountain lakes. I caught attention-to-Calgary-parks from her blog posts, which have opened up a new view on a city I sort of feel I sort of know, having sort of grown up there.

In any event, there I was, reading an article about the new Flyover Park tucked under the Fourth Avenue Overpass. Not surprisingly, the article pays attention to the happy coincidence of factors that led to this collaboration of kidlets, teachers, U of C students, and the community. It’s that vision thing.

Aryanna and her classmates reimagined the dreary area beneath the Fourth Avenue flyover as a welcoming and fun park, and they collaborated with students in the University of Calgary’s landscape architecture program to create design concepts.

What I paid attention to first was the cost: $2 million in taxpayer funds plus private donations. Who knew even a small park cost so much? Then I got to this bit.

As more people experience the lively new park, it’s hoped they’ll be encouraged to reconsider the forgotten spaces in their own neighbourhoods.

Ah. Yes.

The forgotten spaces in our neighbourhoods that could be parks or visual delights of any sort, rather than dingy spots we don’t even see anymore.

The unseen places that could be vibrant communities, rather than warehouses for the sick and the elderly.

The overlooked chances that could be life-giving relationships, rather than superficial day-to-day interactions.

The untold stories that could be sources of belonging and connection, rather than a stodgy history.

The underdeveloped skills that could be shining capabilities, rather than wasted potential.

There are lots of forgotten spaces in our neighbourhoods and in our communities, homes, lives, and selves. But attention *is* catching. It’s that vision thing.


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8 Responses to Pay Attention

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Thank you. Finding a few of those “overlooked spaces” in myself is one of my goals for 2021. I don’t know what they are, yet. And I don’t know what I’ll do with them, when/if I find them. But the process starts with looking….

    Jim T

  2. Tom Watson says:

    I agree with what’s being written, but…
    Say you’re at a Blue Jays game. The batter fouls off a ball. The fan next to you is reading the souvenir program. You see that the ball is heading right for him. The worst thing you can do is say, “Look out!” The fan automatically looks out, or more likely up, and gets the ball right in the beak.

    In general, paying attention is better, but there are times…
    Just sayin’.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Oddly, this reminds me of Don Cherry, you’ll be happy to know. He often said that hockey defencemen should either block a shot with their bodies or get the heck out of the way so the goalie could see it.

  3. The Flyover Park is about six blocks from my house. It is cheerful to walk by, seeing pink and green and blue rocks. Children do play there, in the summer. Winter is less enticing. Thanks for paying attention to one of our smallest parks.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yes, I guess most Canadian city parks aren’t used much in the winter unless they offer scope for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or feeding chickadees. I like the idea of a wee park, tucked in under the overpass and putting to good use a scrap of land that would otherwise not be good for much.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    The condo folk here scrape our moat of snow and skate around, play hockey. Takes me back to simpler times. John says the NCC woods where he often paints is so full of people walking and cross-country skiing, the parking lot is full by 9 AM, cars parked every which way.

    And re diff. between humans and dogs — if you point to something, a dog will look at your finger.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – 🙂 I think a lot of things have gone back to simpler times and simpler ways. Not necessarily easier, but simpler.

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