12/16/08

Rideau Canal

I don't really have the energy to write. But below is the first thing I did in journalism school that was actually worth the paper I wrote it on. In first year university, our third assignment was to do a 'descriptive writing piece.' I went down to the Rideau Canal in late-February, and this was the result. I was very proud of it, and still mostly am. There's not much I would change about it, so here it is... largely un-edited (after that 4th draft I did before handing it in, that is).

The Mackenzie King bridge, the National Arts Centre and the Ottawa Congress Centre form a tunnel through which the otherwise calm wind whips. The benches within this wind tunnel are where skaters sit to lace up, and they emit a familiar smell of pine, bringing to mind the distant memories of Christmas. As the skaters leave the shadow of the bridge, they pass under a banner proclaiming the Rideau Canal as “the world’s longest skating rink”, and the sun reveals itself, staggering in its intensity as it reflects off of the hardened mounds of snow that have been turned grey by sand and salt. The power of the sun encourages the skaters to remove their heavy winter jackets, and a sign that skating season is almost over. The ice is slowly melting, creating puddles of slush, and closed-off sections.

The peaks of little chalets line the edges of the ice releasing sweet scents of pastries and the spicy tang of sausages, tempting the hungry stomachs of passersby. The cars zooming past the Congress Centre create a white noise hum in the background, but it is the scraping of blades on the ice, engraving the surface of the Canal that is distinctive. A man in a power wheelchair draws attention as he glides back and forth across a small patch of ice, etching unique designs of figure eights and circles. Few find him a bother and many stop to watch. There are gasps of shock as his wheels spin out of control and sighs of relief as they grasp the friction of the snow once more. Rarely do people strike up a conversation, but they smile in passing, or give ‘thumbs-up.’

The groups that pass him vary in grace and skill. The children bundled from head to toe in their winter snowsuits, providing protection from bruised knees and boo-boos, attempt his tricks, and although they cannot quite get the hang of it, squeal with laughter. The self-absorbed couples rarely pay him notice as they glide past with incredible grace or clutch onto one another for safety. But not all who pass are skaters, many are enjoying a leisurely stroll on a Saturday afternoon, alone or with their loved ones.

As they continue down the canal, these people fade from being families, friends and lovers of all ages and ethnicities. They are no longer unique for wearing boy skates, girl skates, speed skates, hockey skates or figure skates. Their strollers, toboggans, pets and children become unrecognizable. They become a mass of people, an indistinguishable group of bodies swaying back and forth, keeping time like a giant metronome.

5 comments:

Idealistic Pragmatist December 16, 2008 at 1:36 PM  

Lovely!

Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 2:22 PM  

Jackie, as a matter of fact both myself and my suitemate Devon described the rideau canal for this assignment way back in first year as well! It must have been a popular spot. Devon tricked me a little and actually described ME sitting by the canal writing when I thought we were both out there together writing about the same thing. That assignment was the only one I enjoyed in that miserable year. (Yours is better though.)

-Angela D, your BH buddy and occasional blog lurker

Anonymous December 16, 2008 at 2:26 PM  

I liked this the first time I read it and I still like it. I can actually visualize the images.....

Mom

Megan December 16, 2008 at 4:36 PM  

I wrote about zippers for my "descriptive writing" assignment in first year.

Man, I'm a weirdo.

Robyn December 16, 2008 at 10:12 PM  

remember when I described people coming out the Passion of Christ, and Nick/Jesus fell on me, then blessed me? good times :)

PS: your word verification is "jactify", which I've now decided is your own personal verb. Did you write these things or what??