Well, it used to be that was different. If I use the words like “easier” or, “when I was walking before the time of pneumonia” there is a sense that what’s going on now I roll in a wheel chair, that my life is somehow distasteful or less than it was. This does not reflect where I am at or that I am somehow not content with all the adjustments I’ve made to changing conditions.
Let’s delve a little further: I have made the acquaintance of a quite wonderful young Persian-Canadian woman who shows up for what is called “outreach”. She and I have lots of fun doing the things that require another hand and arm to work well: like a trip to Costco for among other things, a tray of about 30 organic eggs and a 30 roll bundle of toilet paper. Not so glamorous and yet, essential: we hang out and make the trip an adventure. The downside for me is that she has many clients that share her time that I, just a little selfishly, would love to have more of.
As she takes her leave today, I roll over to Columbia Street to the side entrance to the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Traditional Chinese Garden. It is, in my view, a sacred place. The garden was constructed for all those who have come for many years to stand on the bridges and watch the now very large and brightly colorful Koi fish wander their own watery garden, to stand in the prayer pagoda on a finger of land out into the large pond; and to just sit in any season, whenever and simply, listen. This magical place is about in the heart of Chinatown, itself a treasure, and it is about two blocks from the front of my building.
I know I was noticing that coming back here to Canada in 2015 was to be an abrupt shift from wide open spaces, winding highways traversed by me and my rolling home, the old Ford van into a big city life, traffic, big label shopping up town, apartment blocks, pavement, buildings both 21st century glassy glamor and late 19th century houses and other structures sporting “Heritage Building” plaques on the front entrances! The near streets of my neighborhood are a mix of 20th century buildings that are old Chinese associations and churches, and even a block or two of apartment housing units built in the 1960’s now occupied by families for about 60 something years.
I miss the tall trees, those older ladies of the redwood and sequoia clan. Vancouver is built on an old growth forest that was ruthlessly clear cut to make the first shanties and plank walkways above the mud beginning in the late 19th century. But instead of parking in a national park amid great trees in a forest, I take my power chair and roll up town to Homer Street to talk to an older fir tree that has been preserved in her own small plot in the middle of the sidewalk up the west side of the street near Nelson. When people encounter the old lady in the dirt next to the tree, holding my hands on her trunk, they mistakenly seek to move me back to the pavement. They probably have not thought for a single second that the tree might have something to ‘say’ in her language that I ‘feel-hear’ when I touch her trunk!
And I have photographs as wallpaper on my phone of Mt. Shasta in northern California that was a favorite parking place over about 10 years.
But, if I keep myself in an agitation about what isn’t, then I do not see what is. It’s also pretty easy not to see people either in this state. Over the 2 ½ years in emergency shelter in various parts of the city, I have learned to talk to everyone I encounter without regard for any kind of opinion or attitude getting in the way of a little genuine fun. I’ve become known for bringing the fun!
This is the un-ordinary reality that I live in. some of it is the physical places I occupy here in the DTES, our world class ghetto for homeless, derelicts and hovering bunches of addicts in our town. Some of it is the “heartspace” I personally occupy as I watch and listen to the barely audible, barely visible magical realm that surrounds us. Remember, it is everywhere: simply acknowledge within yourself that it is, and you will also see/feel and learn what is for you to learn there where you are! Nice!