This afternoon M. and I met to run an errand at a store. It seemed a mundane kind of a thing to do, but when we got to the store, the mundane errand was transformed into an amazing sensory experience. The errand was, in a mouthful: to choose a fabric for M. to bring to Barcelona this weekend to give to the restorer who is refurbishing some antique chairs for us. We had already run into difficulties, as other places had limited selection in stock.
So today, on a recommendation, we went to Le Chien Vert, the Green Dog. This place was incredible: a huge warehouse with luxurious, artistic and unexpected details. And the fabric! No little swatch books for them. Everything was in huge rolls, hanging on undulating chains. The texture, the color: I wanted to swim in it all. The metaphor is appropriate because everywhere boats were hanging from the ceilings, and water was flowing. Click here to see more pictures of what I'm talking about. (The picture above is just one of the store's beautiful fabric displays.)
I left the place feeling fed, and so was well-disposed toward Brussels as a whole. From there, I set out to do some Christmas shopping before meeting fellow choir members to do a final publicity push for our concert this weekend.
As it turns out, today was the day of putting up the city's Christmas decorations, and setting up the annual Christmas fair. Everywhere I walked, baubles and sparkles and lights and greens were being strung around the city by men perched precariously on ladders. The lights spanning the streets were partially up and partially turned on, and it was like watching a gray old lady put on her spangled evening gown.
(My favorite non-Christmas Christmas decoration of all was a street strung with rows of black umbrellas beneath cascades of "rain" in light; under just one umbrella could be seen the silver sillhouette of a man clicking his heels. How perfect for this rainy city!)
As night fell, and I walked around to the central hotels with my choir buddy/fellow leafleteer, a lovely Hungarian girl, the bright blue lights climbed further up the tallest spire in the Grand Place, a sparkly spiderweb woven by invisible bugs. The desolate streets of the city were made alive with light, so that even the cold and the drafty spaces usually so unfriendly to pedestrians were somehow welcoming with warmth.
When I finally managed to drag my weary legs home, I had to laugh at the only Christmas decorations visible in our outlying neighborhood. Pitifully small (live) Christmas trees, without lights, were lashed to all of the lightposts and traffic light bars. They looked for all the world like fir-tree imitations of Odysseus' crew, trying to withstand the sirens' lure by being tied to the masts of their ship. The siren tonight was Brussels, singing Christmas carols with light.