Strangers and other loved ones

I have been dislocated, isolated, discombobulated. I’ve been away from my children, across the country from all that’s familiar, inhabiting a world that I left more than 20 years ago–a daughter, a west coaster–and of no fixed address. Physically, that is. Psychically and emotionally, I’m wherever I’ve needed to be: on the phone, in the backyard, behind the steering wheel, wrapped around a loved one. This summer has been all about what’s needed. It has also been about what’s wanted.

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And it has been about delighting in the wholly unexpected, the wonderful moments where humanity is at its most beautiful and generous, even at a time when it seems like all the old certainties are actually taking pleasure in their own destruction. I get fed by people who love me, who look forward to my company. I’ve been to a little league baseball game with a friend I’ve had since high school, wearing a baseball cap I found on the sidewalk and cheering on her kid. “She’s from Ontario,” my friend would say, to explain my enthusiasm for those sweaty kids hitting worm burners into the sunset. I’ve been given incredible gifts by strangers: knowing I was going to spend time in the country with my parents, Cheyenne, the proprietress of the most amazing campground on the Sunshine Coast, loaded me up with presents: fresh rhubarb, eggs, zucchini, maps, blueberries.IMG_5459

Dorianne Laux’s poem “For the Sake of Strangers” captures the essence of what such human kindness does for us: it pushes against “this temptation to step off the edge / and fall weightless, away from the world.” As Laux says, “No matter what the grief, its weight, / We are obliged to carry it.” But loaded with granola, homemade chai latte, a game of backgammon, and fresh eggs from a stranger’s backyard chickens, somehow that weight doesn’t seem quite so heavy.

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