Thursday, May 13, 2010


I showed up today at one of my favorite bookstores, but I was 20 minutes early. I had time to kill before they opened, and didn't want to move from my primo parking spot, so I walked up and down the street for a few minutes.

Tattered Cover, the location I frequent, is on Colfax Avenue, the street that's famous for all kind of reasons (not least of which, Jack Kerouac's journey down its long expanse). Colfax Avenue is known for lots of things ~ being a nice, pleasant street to walk down is not one of them. But I had time to kill, and didn't want to walk too far ('cause I'm lazy, as you could tell if you could see the way I'm sitting in this armchair). So I wandered a few blocks up and down Colfax. And my wandering surprised me.

I ended up across the street from the bookstore, where the historic East High School is located. Now every school day, the bookstore is inundated with students from over there, and I pass by the school regularly on my bike. But until today, I'd never noticed the statues and other artwork that once adorned the south entrance to the school grounds. The statutes and other artwork is still there, but I don't think it adorns the space any longer, because it seems to be mostly neglected.

Once I noticed that artwork, I looked at the school building. It, too, is surprisingly beautiful, designed and constructed as what I would call a fortress of learning. Again, I was surprised that I'd never really taken the time to stop and look at this icon of Denver's history.

When I'd noticed that side of the street, I turned to see the building where the bookstore is located. It, too, took me by surprise. I realize that we don't seem to build buildings to be looked at any more. By and large, recently-constructed shopping malls, restaurants, and office buildings pale in comparison to the beauty of former generations' architecture. In the same way, the houses in my neighborhood (built mostly between the 20s and the 50s) are vastly better than the mcmansions being thrown together in housing developments these days.

Of course there are exceptions to every generalization, but I wonder if we're losing the ability to see beauty in our mad, multi-tasking rush to get to the next place we believe we need to be.

I stopped on my walk, and wrote the following.

How often do we walk?
How often, when we do walk, do we see what we walk past?
The beauty of nature, of children playing in their yard,
of public art and thoughtful architecture
is lost on us when we go by riding on rubber
and encased within steel and glass
and absorbed by the radio/ipod/phonecall

Children walk, but when children walk, we watch them
instead of the world around us ~
but children are fascinating, so that makes sense

Teenagers walk, but we don't want to walk with them
and mentor them into noticing beauty ~
do they see it?

Old people walk, while they still are able,
and probably notice the beauty ~
do we listen to them?

Poor people walk, out of necessity
but they're not rich, so they're not important to us who are
so we likely don't listen to them speak of beauty

And the rest of us seem to be too busy or important
(in the world of our own minds)
that we don't see the beauty that surrounds us.

This is not meant to be condescending ~ in fact, I implicate myself more than anyone else with these thoughts. And, more than anything else, my accidental morning walk prompted me to wonder about how we establish and live out our priorities.


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