To avoid the taint of modernity, I'll lie and say that a friend once remarked, apropos of nothing, "'Welcome' mat in an empty field."

Some weeks later, I was walking behind the University of Toronto Press warehouse on Dufferin when I saw the item in question. It was about noon early in the summer, before the oppressive, July-August Toronto heat scorched the colour out of the city. There was a welcome mat sitting on a low, grassy hill, where the back of the warehouse faces G. Ross Lord Park and the West Don River.

What strikes me now is the minimalism with which the idea was conveyed.

Were I first to see it, I might have tried to write haiku. Another friend, a photographer, would have stepped back and pulled out his DSLR camera for a shot, which to the average Flickr browser would have even odds of being carefully staged. Others I know would write contemplative short fiction.

Instead the concept was presented bare, without even an imperative — "Imagine an…", or, "Ask me where you can see the…" — anchored only by the unmentioned existence of the thing referred to. It took me some time to realize the elegance of this method.

And, full disclosure: It was his instant messaging status!


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