Off the Board, Opinion

Grounds for delight

As winter rolls in, my gait has begun to resemble the shuffle of a dejected penguin. Head permanently bowed for fear that one poorly planned step will result in death by slippage, my walks to campus now provoke a deep sense of mourning for warmer, and more posturally vertical, days gone by. These long consultations with the Milton sidewalk, however, have enlivened my affection for all things ground-related.

The establishment (romantics, well-being experts, my mother) is adamant about the importance of looking upward. Look at the sky, they say–quit slouching and ditch that grumpy aura. Sure, the sky has its perks—the sun, for instance—but can we stop with the looking-down slander? The ground is where life is!

The sky may be magnificent in its grandness, but the ground houses endless intricacy, from the cushiness of rich soil to the dotted coarseness of asphalt. Tiny creatures can, at any moment, crawl over a pebble and into one’s view. Even the scratchy gray of a sidewalk square is, in my view, far more texturally interesting than a spotless slice of clear blue. In the fall, I love to see leaves descend from their pompous treetop perch and gather playfully at my feet, and to hear their snicker as I sweep them aside.

The summer camp I went to as a kid laid claim to a large rocky ledge looking out on Georgian Bay. Slightly removed from the main grounds, it was a special space for reflection and commemoration. Laying flat on its sandy surface with my cabin-mates as we peered down at the lake, the momentousness of our girlhood and friendship would wash over me with all the drama of a coming-of-age movie. We staked our entire life’s trust in that big rock, our bodies glued to it as it held us above the drop in mighty stillness. 

In more recent times, some of my fondest memories have been formed sitting slumped on rocks after a night of outdoor dancing, suddenly so much more aware of their comfort. Leaning on one another in silent exhaustion, my friends and I would watch the new day materialize from the safety of this sturdy, ancient surface. So often depicted as unwelcoming and harsh, rocky terrain can offer the peace of constancy in a world of haste.

Winter grounds, covered in snow and ice, have their own ways of communicating life. Criss-crossing tire marks on snow-dusted roads, diverse in their density and opacity, tell us about the directions in which people have been travelling. Sled marks and scattered pilings of snow reveal a world of people making space for themselves and their kin. A mess of footprints on a busy street corner, a rare animal track on a doorstep. Every day, new paths and patterns can be seen stretching all around. The winter ground offers us an ephemeral tracing of life as it is lived and skirts away.

While I miss being able to plop down on an outdoor surface of my choosing without immediately turning into an icicle, I have found the floor of my apartment to be a respectable substitute during the colder months. Being at the bottom of a room summons a feeling of cocoonedness, of being held by the walls and furniture that tower on all sides. Sitting in a chair, legs hidden underneath a table, or sinking into a couch, I tend to grow irritated by the feeling that I am abandoning my corporeality. Cross-legged on the floor, I find myself whole and compact. Additionally, a migration to floor-level always generates a more satisfying feeling of closeness with whomever one is sitting, removing all possibility for stiffness or pretension. Knee-to-knee on our living room rug, silliness and vulnerability flourish together.

What was the point of all this mushy recounting? I want us to build a world of curiosity and affection from the ground up. Armed with an appreciation for what is too often cast as mundane, cold, and rigid, there is very little that can bring you down… except for the boundless allure of the ground, of course. The floor is yours!

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