Being Alive — The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person’s story. It is a search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.
– Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building
Arcas Platz, a Sunday in July, at 2230 hours, there’s ambient light still in the sky.
The day had been a parade of chores. For most of the past year I have been with the rest of the family in Montpellier—a silver lining in the covid-19 cloud. But now back, having been away so long, the Chur apartment was in need of attention: open all the windows, run the water, open all drawers and doors to remember what was where, clean, go through the real mail, restock with adult beverages.
Now the day’s work is done. I take in the view from a bench on the north side.
A while back I took over Arcas Platz, made it an extension of my apartment. No one seems to have noticed, no one seems to mind. Here I can smoke as well as drink, while in my apartment, I can only drink. Since a cigar without whiskey or cognac is somehow incomplete, I filled up a glass with whiskey1One of the many wonders of Switzerland … Continue reading, took the elevator down. In an alleyway out of any wind, I light the cigar.
Arcas Platz is a triangle shaped plaza. It’s at the southern edge of the Altstadt in Chur, with the base of the triangle to the east and the apex pointing west. Viewed on the OpenStreetMap.org site, it resembles a bottle of wine, ready to pour.
As depicted in the bronze cityscape relief: 2See … Continue reading
It has above all to do with the elements.
Arcas Platz is bordered by buildings in stone and stucco, beige, white, red, yellow, green. Some have contrasting shutters, others have only painted sill and borders of the window. The Platz is paved in red/brown rectangular bricks. On this lovely summer evening, there’s something for all the senses. A warm wind. Water splashing in a fountain. Whiskey to taste and tobacco to smell. All of these, and to see:
The restaurant Zum Metzgertor is closing up.
There’s a Polezei SUV parked in the Platz, but it wasn’t clear if anyone was in the vehicle.
There are bicycle riders, couples strolling, and occasional pods of tourists passing through.
Later a small pizza delivery quietly goes by.
A cold October night. The sun has been down for a while. In the southern sky there’s a 3/4 moon and a bit to its right, a planet.
I spent the day sailing on Walensee with Andras on his sloop, where the blue of the sky made you want to dive into that eternity, a blue you could look at forever, while the air had enough moisture to give the view of the mountains a grainy texture. The water was a carpet of diamond refracted light, brilliant and wonderful.
Being a restless sort, I walk over to the Obere Gasse to look in the windows of some of the shops. At Musikhaus Fischer I look at the Godin hollow body guitar, the Yamaha electric violin. What is about musical instruments in that not only are they to be heard, hearing being perhaps the most important sense, but also they are beautiful to look at?
I walk down a little further to the jewelry store. Looking at jewelry that is chic/beautiful/lovely 3I sat for several minutes trying to … Continue reading, it’s like a walk thought a museum, but instead, outside on this cold, deserted Sunday night street.
In the end we can never put into words that moment of appreciation of beauty while sailing on the Walensee or that view of the moon and planet with a taste on the lips of whiskey and tobacco or the sense of time and place and being while sitting on a bench at the edge of Arcas.
The quality which has no name includes these simpler sweeter qualities. But is is so ordinary as well, that it somehow reminds us of the passing of our own life.
It is a slightly bitter quality.
I’ll be leaving here soon, continuing my same job, but full time in France.
I’m so glad to be moving back to France. I will miss Chur.
|↑1||One of the many wonders of Switzerland is that public drinking is permitted, although to be sure, I usually see people drinking beer, not large glasses of whiskey.|
|↑3||I sat for several minutes trying to find the words. Clearly I failed.|