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.
Remembrance Day is tricky
There are those who fought in service of their countries
We pray for them
And there are those who as conscientious objectors did not
and stood for peace
And we pray for them
There are those who lived through and died in combat
And those who lived and died imprisoned
by their own countries
We pray for them
We wear poppies
red poppies and white poppies knowing we need to remember
But to remember what?
Heroism and loss and death and judgement and hope
and quietly just carrying on through the destruction to keep families
and communities alive
And mostly to remember peace
And to mourn our inability to keep it
And to look into our own hearts and heal our wounds
To heal our greed and our fear of difference and our sense of being right
and our belief that we know what’s best
That we learn to pause
And to breath
And to connect to the peace of Christ
To learn to be in companionable conflict with each other
Our families and communities
Because if we cannot talk about the things we disagree about
with those we love and care about
we will not know how to talk to people who look different
and speak differently and see the world through a different lens
And we will never learn that perhaps they have something to teach us
We remember that everything is created twice
The first when it is envisioned and the second when it is made real
So we pray that what we envision is God’s kingdom
That we see ourselves as agents of peace in every aspect of our lives
That we envision a love that both holds the other
And holds each other accountable,
With compassion and kindness,
as we walk this journey together
Remembrance Day is tricky because we boldly remember the ways we have failed
Then boldly lay that aside like yesterday’s wilted wreath
Honouring each piece as we take it apart
And, taking the seeds from the dying poppies, plant a garden
Plant a garden
Today we remember and we pray
We remember the past so we can join God in co-creating our future
We remember the past because our story emerges from these stories
We remember the past and remember that
We live the kingdom of God
Or we don’t
Lest we forget
~ Kimiko Karpoff, November 11, 2017
musings of someone spiritual and oddly religious
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