Returning from Boston by car, we saw Montreal — our home — rising up out of the landscape. Crossing the bridge, we could see everything at once: all the landmarks, all the familiar sites in one sweeping eyeful.
If I were feeling romantic I’d describe it as a shimmering oasis of civilisation. If I were feeling cynical I’d describe it as a hunk of steaming litter. The striking thing, however, was that the city looked very, very finite. It was a limited physical object in the vastness of space. It was hard to believe it could have any substantial effect on the world or on our souls. It was a thing with ends.
And yet when we live inside it, it becomes our entire world. We scurry around in it like rats in a trash pile, cognisant of a world beyond but seldom really concerning ourselves with it. We become bogged down in a detail.
I suppose it was being on the road for a while that made me notice this. We’d only been driving through New England and Quebec for about five hours. I tried to hold the idea of North America as a physical continent in my mind for a little while but couldn’t.
I also thought briefly about Pale Blue Dot again, but then I got dizzy and had to open the window a bit for some air.
It’s worth remembering the finity of our surroundings if we want to remember that escape is always an option. A city, an office, a commuter train, a home has ends.