Breaking Dormancy

Here today…

Start. The word is chalked and underlined across the sidewalk.
With that, two little girls have transformed a walkway into a bike and scooter race course. As always, the instant the ice and snow recede, wheels and chalk come out and sidewalks in every neighbourhood bloom with the first pastel colours of spring.Each year there are recurrences and advances. Trikes come out from hibernation. A wrench must be unearthed to remove training wheels as a new milestone in two-wheeler competence is achieved. Yesterday a skateboard made its debut. A rainbow-haired girl has appeared on the concrete front porch floor. Near her is Stuart, the boy from a favourite book who sewed himself a magic cape made out of his father’s neckties.
Click on either photo to enlarge

Then with one spring downpour the concrete is blank again, a fresh canvas. Nothing is more ephemeral than chalk.

But not every spot is vulnerable to rain to the same degree. Standing at my front door, my glance moves from the porch floor up…

…up the brick column in a protected inside corner where other, older chalk marks remain still visible, made by junior high boys twenty-five years ago. One giddy spring afternoon they found an absurd humour in the orthographic concept of ‘silent K’. On the way into the house they wrote their names beginning with K.

The box of chalk stayed out there on the porch, and as other kids turned up after school on other days names were added, though no more silent K’s – that moment had passed. It was the illicit pleasure of writing their names outdoors, not as spray paint vandalism but with the assumption that it was temporary. It was only chalk.

One name stops my eye. Always.
Elsewhere that name is carved in stone.
A beloved boy whose sudden death is a permanent shock and absence.Through another cycle of children and spring I pass across the porch and down the steps on my way. Here among the jostle and exuberance of flowers and names scrawled in chalk, that brick keeps bringing back his laugh and smiling face.

– Schuster Gindin
Photos by Schuster Gindin
Chalk drawings by Ruby and Mollye Lyons


“Sidewalk chalk is something that you can blow on and it disappears. It’s literally just coloured dust on the ground,” said Amina Vance,18, one of the organizers of a student protest at Queen’s Park and a member of the Students Say No movement. But Ontario’s Tory government has a much harsher attitude to sidewalk chalk. When the students (aged 10-18) protested the cuts to education and wrote their protest messages in chalk on the Legislature’s grounds they were sent a clean-up bill! (See Toronto Star, Fifteen-year-old student protester gets bill for $1,444 for clean-up of sidewalk chalk slogans) “Really the question is, what exactly do you value? Why was that so egregious of an action for children to take when children are responding to this much more serious thing?”

This article can be found in The Big Issues in the section Breaking Dormancy.
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So beautiful to see his name in his own handwriting. Amazing memories seeing his name so close to you. Thank you.
Linda Perez, Toronto

Wonderful, I needed a reminder that spring is here.
Alexander Moyle, Toronto


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