May 02, 2005

Looking Up


You never know what you’ll see when you look up.

Architectural details go unnoticed day after day as people walk by, self-absorbed with eyes downcast or horizon-bound, unseeing. In Copenhagen, I walked along the streets craning my neck to see what delights awaited discovery atop towers and beneath eaves, and invariably I was rewarded by glimpses of vignettes and narrations that delighted my imagination. Such situations are far less frequent here in Wellington, although I do lift my gaze by habit at particular points along my walk to work. As I pass by the now-Forest and Bird building on Taranaki St, I glance at the second window from the street, where my father used to board during his brief stint as a student in the early 60s. As I cross the Taranaki St/Vivan St intersection, the line of Pirie St disappears under Mt Victoria, past where Stacey used to live. Crossing Jessie St, the painted balcony on the apartment across the street behind Amalgamated Video catches my eye. I’m always nervous of looking up as I go by the building site on the corner of Wakefield and Tory, as if some stray tool or lump of two-by-four is poised to plummet onto my head.

In the heart of Lambton Quay, shafts of sky punctuate tall buildings. As I sit and wait for my boss to finish his telephone conversation, Mt Victoria rises, beautiful in her green cloak. Looking up is the best way to blink back tears, should the need arise.

When events in life take a turn for the better, we say that things are looking up. I imagine this means that metaphorically, one’s situation has dragged its focus from a mundane eye-level to trace the path of a soaring hawk or follow the line of a mountain. The sight of these things raises our consciousness from the little things and reinforces a sense of perspective. Again and again I learn that almost without exception, when life threatens to overwhelm me, it’s due to a skewing of perspective. I'm continually amazed by the way the slightest shift in viewpoint can have such a profound effect.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jessie said...

I know, I know, yet another "when I was in Copenhagen.." story.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Pix said...

Yes, yes I can relate to that. Both the thing about perspective, and on a less philosophical level, how different Wellie looks when you look up, like I noticed that recently walking up Cuba. I thought, I have lived here for a long time relative to my life, and I never noticed that up there or that or that. And now I look up quite a bit.
Power was a-o-k at our whare, so I'm no help sorry. There was another earthquake on the westcoast i think however, maybe 5'6. Prob not related huh.

12:47 AM  
Blogger David said...

I grew up in Wellington (well Upper Hutt actually, but I try not to frighten people) and always orientated myself by hills. One glance around in an upwards direction would be enough to tell you where you were and which way you were pointed. I got terribly lost the first time I visited Sydney on business... it's fairly flat and the lack of visible reference points meant that I'd come out of a building and have no idea which way I should be heading.

Now I've become a fan of looking down on things. Climbing to the top of a tall building, a hill, or a church tower is a great way to get a feel for a place.

1:19 PM  
Blogger supergood said...

Heh, well where I grew up, I mostly saw blue if I looked up. I think the tallest building in town might have been three stories high, and that was the Town Hall. When I was on the farm it was much more interesting to look out. From the highpoint you can look out right across the plains formed by the Manawatu river and across to where it forces its way between the Tararuas and the Ruahines. Then you can turn to the right and watch the latter ranges disappear into the horizon. In Wellington, I mostly look down to avoid the dog shit.

8:24 PM  
Blogger llew said...

I am fascinated by old signs proclaiming the original inhabitants of buildings. Sometimes the companies still exist, but are now accommodated elsewhere.

And sometimes, like L. de Berry the dentist, they're long gone.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Jessie said...

Like when old buildings have big block letter names on the top, you mean? The Hope Gibbons building on Dixon St always strikes me as a particularly grand example.

David, I see your point re looking down - doesn't tie in with my little metaphor quite so well though! Same with your point Jimmy. I haven't found dog shit to be much of a problem, but then you're more in the 'burbs than me.

3:10 AM  
Blogger llew said...

Yeah, like that. There are some good ones in Cuba Street if I recall. But I couldn't at this moment name any :-)

3:19 AM  
Blogger supergood said...

Hey! The burbs are awesome! But yeah, I didn't really make much of an effort to tie into your metaphor, oops :-)

11:31 AM  
Blogger Jessie said...

While I'm on the topic, take a look at this site - features a consistent flow of great pictures taken in Detroit. Very cool.

11:21 PM  

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