Topline: The practice of being present

How taking photos while out on walks is helping one Toronto resident stop and notice the beauty around them

Lito Howse

Hi folks, this is Lito Howse, a non-binary dog dad and video producer at Xtra. I’m writing from Toronto, Ontario, where the province is in lockdown yet again. That’s right, 13 months into the pandemic and we still haven’t figured out a way to control the spread of COVID-19 here.

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What’s the buzz 🐝?

After a few false starts, it feels like spring has finally arrived in the city. But just as the weather was reaching tolerable levels for folks to get outdoors, the Ontario government imposed a four-week stay-at-home order on Apr. 3—one that managed to avoid many of the public health measures experts were actually pushing for (such as paid sick leave and vaccinating communities hardest hit by the pandemic). What was initially included, though, was a provision allowing police to stop and card people for being outside. After much backlash, the  directive was changed: Now, police will only target those participating in “organized public events or social gatherings.” Still, as Toronto began padlocking outdoor sports equipment, walking felt like one of the few outdoor activities we could do while waiting our turn to get vaccinated. I decided to make the most of my walks with my 10-year-old dog, Maya.

What were we thinking 📷?

After a winter that seemed to drag on in monotonous isolation, I began feeling like I was on autopilot, not fully engaging with what was around me. I wanted to start doing something to emerge from my winter haze: I aspire to be one of those people who journal, but I don’t want to connect with myself that much, and meditation currently feels impossible for my anxious brain. Instead, I landed on taking photos during my walks with Maya.

Credit: Lito Howse

Since I’m usually walking with a bulky retractable leash in one hand and a poop bag in the other, I’ve been bringing small cameras that can fit in my jacket pocket. I used my iPhone with a free app from Moment that allows users to control the shutter speed, ISO (how sensitive the film or sensor is in detecting light) and exposure. Sometimes I attach a small lens to my phone made by the same company. Otherwise, I snag my partner’s hand-me-down digital Fujifilm camera, circa 2012 (which essentially has the same functionality and megapixels as my iPhone).

 

Credit: Lito Howse

I’ve enjoyed watching the early spring flowers blossom alongside the tiniest green leaves, or stumbling upon the creation of public art in my neighbourhood.

One morning, as Maya and I were walking near a busier street with lots of shops, a goose began slowing down mid-flight, as if it was about to land on top of us. After a very awkward panicked shuffle on my part, the goose landed on the roof of the building right above us. While I often see geese and swans at nearby High Park, it felt jarring to see such a large bird atop a city building. I took a few photos and continued walking, hoping the goose would find its way back to its crew.

Credit: Lito Howse

I mostly capture urban life and whatever nature I can spot while living in a large city. I’ve posted a handful of the images to social media, but I’m mostly doing it as a sort of practice to stop and notice the beauty around me. 

While I’m not going to win any awards for my photos, I am feeling more present and like I’m absorbing more of what I look at each time I walk the same streets that felt dullen by the pandemic winter just a couple of weeks ago. I plan to continue taking a small camera with me on my walks with Maya until I stop enjoying the process—perhaps even after the pandemic is over.

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉If you need some levity, check out my latest video edit for Lucky Stars, Thomas Leblanc and Tranna Wintour’s astro-pop odyssey where they roast queer heroes born under each sun sign. This installment focuses on Taurus season!

👉For many of us, body image issues arise as it gets warmer and we start wearing fewer layers. Check out our interview with the co-creators of Maintenance Phase, a podcast about confronting weight stigma and taking on the wellness industry.

👉The reboot of Queer as Folk is being spearheaded by Canadian writer-director Stephen Dunn. Read about his journey—from moving to L.A. in January 2020 to returning to his hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and getting the new iteration of the series picked up while working from his family home.

👉When it comes to LGBTQ2S+ rights, two sides of the Conservative Party of Canada have emerged: A progressive camp eager to modernize the party, and a socially conservative camp clinging to regressive ideas. Xtra’s senior editor Erica Lenti looks at how this will affect the party’s chance at winning the next federal election.

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.

Gifbox 

This is basically my dog’s reaction each time we stop to snap a quick photo: 

Credit: Lito Howse

Lito Howse (they/them) is a queer and trans/non-binary identified videographer, editor and producer based in Toronto. They previously worked for the CBC where they wrote TV stories, edited and control room produced for News Network. They also produced videos for CBC Radio and wrote web articles for shows like The Current and As It Happens, among other roles. They speak English.

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Culture, Editorial, Xtra Weekly, Media

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