I found myself grinning as I stepped out of the doorway of the Old Crow Coffee House into the blustery night. As I walked I looked back over the evening, noting each gratitude. The space. The people gathered. The event.
Finn’s friend Andie had organized a clothing swap. A theatrical lighting designer by trade, she is someone who cares deeply about a just world and endeavours to live intentionally to that end. More than clothing, this was a political and community social event.
The coffee shop had offered space for the swap in their back room. Andie welcomed everyone with an acknowledgement to the Qayqayt First Nations on whose unceded territory we were gathering. The good-will entrance fee was to be donated to the Coast Protectors and the legal fund for those arrested for standing against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.
Andie had collected clothing, and other goods, for months. People were invited to take as much as they wanted, whether they had brought anything to swap or not. All leftover donations would be taken to Big Brothers with a tax receipt to the high school music program. This was a pre-Christmas invitation to get out of the malls, to “shop” thrift, to re-use and recycle. It was both gathering and anti-consumerist activism.
I think that all parents must have moments of imagining what they want to offer their children. I imagined a renaissance household, a salon around the dinner table bantering into the night on big ideas, political discourse, humour and life. And Finn on the edges, eagerly listening to good natured argument and eventually joining in. He would get to know musicians, politicians, poets and anarchists.
As I walked home I ran through the litany of blessings. My grateful heart gave thanks that in fact my child sits at many tables with artists and activists, people who are engaged, outspoken, funny and creative. But in a glorious twist, these are his friends, people he has exposed me to, not the other way around.
The pre-Christmas time of Advent is seen as a time of awaiting the coming hope. This evening spoke to me of hope fulfilled. Blessed be.
What is resurrection when it’s all fallen down around your ears? When the person who believed you could do anything is gone? When your imagined future peters out, the path dissipating with every footfall until there is just a vast open landscape?
Resurrection is the pause for breath. It is re-seeing the emptiness as liminal space and knowing that what will be is the other side of what is. And it will be life anew, reimagined by the Divine Yes for one who is beloved. Thanks be.
The rain is driving and thick tonight. It’s like walking through a constant bead curtain. Fat drops clatter on the garbage laden sidewalk, piles of peoples’ belongings, and the cars negotiating Hastings street. A man wrapped in a hoodie and plaid shirt sits tucked in a doorway, an attempt, I suppose at keeping out of the deluge. There is no dry place in this weather.
As the traffic light turns red, a woman darts into the street. Luckily the drivers are watching and wait for her to cross. Between the dark, the rain and people, cars move cautiously through this area.
This is the gritty heart of the city. And despite the pouring rain there are a lot of people out here. Some, like us, are headed some place. But many are just out where they always are, meeting with friends, trying to score something, watching what’s going on. For many people down here, the sidewalk is the only place they can gather to share a smoke, a drink or even a conversation with friends. There’s a sense of place here.
The Downtown Eastside is notorious. This is the area that reporters always write about because it’s a poor postal code rife with drugs and all that goes along with that. I know people who are nervous about coming down here or just wouldn’t. This is not my neighbourhood and I don’t exactly feel it’s home turf, but for tonight I am part of it. I’m enjoying the walk, the vitality of it and connections that are here, even the rain. People acknowledge us, some with nods, some with stares. I don’t sense hostility, just interest. Still I stay aware. But I’m a city girl so I always try to be aware of what’s around.
We’re headed to Pat’s Pub in the Patricia Hotel. As we step inside we see friends. My jeans are damp, leather jacket and felted hat dripping, which we laugh about as they come over to hug me. We’re here to celebrate a record release for our friend Tim Chan’s band China Syndrome.
I’m sure the rain kept some people home tonight. Rainy nights are good for curling up with books and cups of tea. But I’m glad to be out. The darkness enfolds me like a quilt and the wet and wind remind me that the world is a living thing and life is all of this, the grit and glory. I don’t want to shut myself away from that because God is out here in the heart of things, in the community that gathers under awnings and doorways, in the music played for the love of it, in sharing a damp hug and a glass with friends. Blessed be.
Six years ago, our dear friend Jim Williamson died. I wrote this then.
autumn is a good time
when leaves blanket our paths
soften our steps and
quiet the earth as it prepares for winter
autumn is a good time
as we pull our blankets from closets
to wrap ourselves
in quiet contemplation of anticipated frosts
autumn is a good time
if any time must be good for the sorrow
of the empty chair
of the bare branch
even as you drift away
we will gather the red and gold memories
and prepare for the winter of your absence
and anticipate spring when we will greet you
with the budding of the trees and
return of the songbirds
oct 17 2012
When I was 15, Bruce Springsteen released the River, a song rich with images that played like a movie. His ability to tell a story drew me in. I longed to plunge myself in the river, to wash away regrets I did not even have.
Years later, Brother Where Art Thou created a resurgence for old spirituals about the river. I did not know when I saw it in the summer of 2000, that I soon would wade my way on a journey to deeper spiritual life as an ordered minister and healer. Even with that, ultimately I found my greatest spiritual home on the blackberry river and I truly would go down to the river to pray as I picked, finding connection, release and a quiet place to listen to God’s whispers. This is the place that fills my soul and continues to give me insights into the Divine.
I went down to the river today to check the berries. The first thing I noticed was the river bank. Previously a gradual slope, the edge has been worn away by the high, fast waters of the spring run off. The river was flood high this year, and even now runs faster than usual, requiring careful attention to foot. But it felt good to step into the flow of it. As I did I could feel myself ground, my energy wash clean.
The berries are, for the most part, not quite ripe. Happily this means I’ll be back many times in the next few weeks. I’m kind of glad of it because I’m busy all weekend and was fretting that I would miss peak picking days. But apparently not.
In a few weeks blackberries will, once again, fill my freezer and pantry. In the winter, when their flavour graces my breakfast, they will bring memories of the river that provides them with their juice. And while I don’t go to the blackberry river in winter it continues to nourish me, continues to pray for me. Indeed continues to sing in me. Thanks be to God.
musings of someone spiritual and oddly religious
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