Wednesday, July 20, 2011

(Day 37) On connections: colleagues, creation and creativity...

Up early this morning and took some time to work further on the blog after reflecting some more on the day as the evening closed.  On about 7 AM Dwight and I participated in what I believe is a west coast tradition... coffee at Starbucks!  With our coffee we had a breakfast sandwich of egg white and turkey bacon on a whole wheat bagel.  Not bad!  Not as good as good ole Canadian Back Bacon... but not bad.

Leaving Starbucks I noticed the price of gas... "You're in BC now Lloyd" says Dwight, BC - Bring Cash!  Gas in the Vancouver area is $1.29 as a result of two carbon taxes and a Skytrain tax... in Langley it is about .10 cents cheaper!

8 AM found us at the CSC - RHQ where Dwight did a little work and took part in a meeting while I deleted 300+ emails from my work email account!  300+ that I will not have to deal with upon my return!  I replied to a few and then called Peg and Susan and had a good chat with them - just connecting and letting them know I was still alive!

Leaving Dwight's office we headed to Pacific Institution/Regional Treatment Centre where Dwight had arranged for me to meet with Chaplains Helen Tervo and Joe Ostopowich.  Helen met me at the gate and took me on a brief guided tour.  The first thing I noticed was the landscaping.  Flowers upon flowers, shrubs and ornamental trees so obviously cared for and appreciated by all.  Such beauty, such care and attention paid to fragile petals in an otherwise harsh and unforgiving environment.  Against the backdrop of vibrant Japanese Maples and verdant ornamental grasses and chain link fences are men being patted down as they move from place to place.  Even the grass looked cared for - no worn pathways cutting the corners on the asphalt and interlocking brick walkways.  What a positive ecological environment for both staff and inmates!

Entering the Chapel was like entering a mirror image of Springhill!  Flip the floor-print over and turn it around and with a few minor differences it was exactly the same as Springhill.  A bright, open, and welcoming space (sans banners and wooden ceiling) it was clear that the space is well used by many. Joe later told me that the Chapel here had been constructed of rock from the historic Hope slide.  There is something deeply symbolic in that.  A place that holds hope, built from the rock of a slide that crushed the lives of four people in 1965.

After a conversation with a few of the guys who dropped in and Mark, the Chapel Clerk, Helen and I shared in conversation, joined with Joe for about two hours.  We talked about the Enhanced Partnership Model, the recent conference in Toronto, some of our best practices, the challenges and celebrations with face and enjoy, and exchanged some resources for ministry.

We wondered out loud what true partnership would look like between the faith communities and the CSC and Inter-Faith Committee.  What would it look like if there were a Regional Advisory Team convened by the Regional Chaplain with a Chaplain, Contractor and IFC rep participating together to facilitate with others a vision and strategy for the region?  To advise on the allocation of resources?  Hmmmm?  My cynicism lingers... I suggested this as part of the EPM and process and and it flopped...

Not the actual burger
(no cameras allowed inside)
but you get the idea!!
Too soon it was lunch time and we headed to the staff dining room where the choices for lunch boggled the mind.  I settled on a salmon burger and salad - knowing full well that I would be having salmon that evening out on the coast with Faith and Dwight - when in Rome... do as the Romans!!  The meal was awesome - as was the continued conversation!  It is so life giving to have time to sit with others who know the ministry, who share the vocation, the challenges and celebration and listen and be listened to.  Thanks so much Joe and Helen for the gift of your presence - for creating space where I could name my vulnerability and see your strength.

Joe escorted me to the gate and right on time Dwight was there to pick me up.  We were off to Gibson.  But first we had to stop at the house and pick up the vacum cleaner!  This vacum cleaner was just about our downfall as we ended up being the second last car to get on the 2:15 crossing.

While waiting in line I struck up a conversation with the man who was in line behind us.  A musician and member of Ruff Cut, he was heading to Gibson to take part in the Sea Calvacade this weekend.  We spoke of my trip and his travels and my recent visit to his neck of the woods in the Interior of BC and my close encounter with a deer.  Looking at the line I asked, "Are we going to get on?"  "Sure." he replied, "we will."  With that he returned to his car saying, "Better go, the line is moving."  I was not as optimistic.  It was the line next to us that was moving!

Getting in the car, Dwight looked settled in for a long wait.  I told him what the guy behind us said.  He confirmed what his body language said clearly, "I'm not so optimistic.  We're in for a two hour wait..."  The words were no sooner out of his mouth and I said, "Look, our line is moving..."  We made it past the Loading Hand, only to see him stop... then let the car behind us come on as well... a high five and Dwight said something about learning something about faith from someone from the United Church... I laughed... being reminded yet again that we can often learn something... even something of faith from the strangers that we meet along the way.  All it takes is the risk to engage, deep listening and humility.

On the ferry, Dwight settled into what appeared a familiar seat and was soon pecking away on his Blackberry.  I went in search of ice cream - the soft serve stuff that Dwight had spoke of as we were waiting in the line.   Standing in line I sent a Facebook Status update: "Lloyd is on the ferry to Gibson BC.  Anyone remember the Beachcombers?"

Within seconds I had a reply from Ruth, the Administrative Assitant to the Warden at the Institution where I work, "I do, I do! Molly's Reach!!! Jessie, etc. It's on my bucket list to go there Lloyd!"  An official Molly's Reach post card will be in the mail to you today Ruth!!

Reaching the ice-cream machine, it was broken.  "Hope to have it fixed by the next crossing," said the technician.  Note to self: sometimes faith will get you on the boat but the soft serve ice cream may still elude you!  Häagen-Dazs ice-cream bars would have to do.  Dwight enjoyed his in his seat and I savoured mine as I roamed the decks taking pictures of the beauty that surrounded me.

Standing at the stern as we departed I shared a conversation with a woman who was returning to Powell River after having spent some extended time with her grand-children.  As we watched the wake fill the harbour she spoke of all that she was leaving behind and her crying grand-daughter who wanted to come with Nannie on the ferry.  She went on to tell me ath sometimes dolphins will play in the foam of the ferry's wake.  Such power is that which takes us to new places.  Sometimes it is only in gazing backwards that we see the strength of that which has propelled us forward.

Sailboats, pleasure boats and fishing boats dot the water.  Mountains suspended by clouds falling into the sea.  All around me couples and families and I was alone.  A wave of loneliness moved through me and I tried to call home.  To no avail.  NO SERVICE.  Being forced to stay in the moment was a healthy experience, taking time to explore what it is I am missing and why.  Tuesday morning, by some glitch in the cosmic cell phone universe I received a text from Anna "Enjoy where you're at."  Enjoying - yes... enjoying deep reflection that is not always light nor fun... but so healthy and life giving.

Upon returning to the lounge it was all too easy to discern who the locals were.  They were likely the ones either buried in work with papers or books, or with their heads tilted back and their eyes closed to the beauty that surrounded them.  It is so true, wherever you go, that when you see and hear the same thing and smell and taste the same thing over and over again your senses become dulled to the awe that is in the present moment.

What I would give to load up a group of the Lifer's with whom I work and take them on a trip "across the sound".  I can see them at the rail drinking in every moment of the experience - not sitting with eyes closed - they would be like dogs with their heads out the window breathing it all in.

Too soon the forty minute ferry ride was over and we were driving up the coast on Bay Rd. drinking in the beauty of Horseshoe Bay.  Houses, both grand and simple cottages clung to the hillside - all vying for a view of the water.  The beaches were strewn with flotsam, cedar logs and stumps washed up from some long past storm.

As we drove, Dwight shared some history of the area, pointing out some historical and geographical landmarks.  Coming into Gibson we drove down onto the pier past Molly's Reach and we were "...welcomed back." After a quick stop at Tim Horton's and the local beer and wine store we made our way to Dwight and Faith's home - marked by the realtor's sign at the end of the drive-way.


Seeing their home and the view that spread out from the many window facing the water, I asked the first question that came to mind, "Why are you selling this?"  Of course, I know the answer and understand fully their decision... but wow... what a beautiful home in such a beautiful setting on the Sunshine Coast... and as if on cue, the sun had come out as the ferry docked a while ago.

With a warm greeting from Faith, and Dwight telling her a bit of our travels thus far (including my visit to the beer store) she marched to the fridge and placed before me two pint bottles of local beer.  "I told you she would have something special for you Lloyd," said Dwight.  Special indeed!  Phillips Amnesiac: Double IPA and from the Russell Brewing Company, A Wee Angry Scotch Ale.

With the Double IPA in a glass Dwight gave me a tour of the home and grounds then we settled into the kitchen as supper was prepared.  Faith shared of her new appointment and her excitement to be returning to a teaching setting that would allow her to continue to work with Dwight on the IPCA front and I shared of some of my experiences and learning thus far on the journey.

With supper prepared we moved down to the point to eat.  What a lovely meal in such a beautiful place with people I am so privileged to call friends!  Thank you.  The mushroom risotto, the beans, salad and sokeye salmon were all wonderful - as was the company and conversation!

As supper concluded I was starting to feel a bit of a buzz.  I confess now, I was embarrassed.  One beer, whats with that!?!  Must not have had enough food in my stomach.  It was weird.  I am so glad it was Dwight to unfortunately dropped one of the beautiful bread plates.  I would have been mortified!  I did manage to make two trips up from the point with dishes and leftovers... and with things put away we were in the car about to drive into Gibsons.

In the car, Faith asked me how I like the beer.  "Very tasty," was my reply.  Somehow the question was asked what the alcohol content was, and in a New York minute, Faith was in the house and then back in the car with a huge smile on her face.  8.5% alcohol (for those of you non-beer drinkers, a "normal beer" has between 4% and 5% alcohol content).  No wonder I was feeling a buzz!  We laughed about that for the rest of the evening as we strolled around Gibsons.

In Gibsons I had my picture taken in front of Molly's Reach - just as I remember it... except in grainier RCA colour!

A walk down the promenade and back onto the dock brought us to Liz's houseboat.  A floating garden!!  Liz works at the local thrift store and lives here next to Bill from Bathurst, NB who lives on a 1911 Tug Boat.

What open and gracious people.  Liz shared some stories of work at the Thrift Store, Bill spoke of how he came to arrive in BC from New Brunswick and before we knew it almost an hour had passed.  Leaving the pier I suggested dessert and Faith and Dwight indulged me but did not partake - except for a taste each of my Black Berry Pie and Ice Cream.  Dwight had to save room for a Gelato!


Just above Molly's Reach is the Persephone and some plaques telling the story of the Beachcombers.  Reading the plaques and being in that place took me back to Sunday evenings - dad and mom, Brian and I watching Walt Disney World and the Beachcombers.  Good memories.  Stories that always had a bit of a moral to them, characters in whom you could see members of your own community and a humour that was and remains uniquely Canadian.

Returning to the house I soon headed down to my room where I took some time to jot some notes from the day and ponder all that had been.  Dwight had pointed out two unique trees on the property: a Monkey Tree and an Arbutus Tress.  The banana tree regenerates itself each other and grows 10 to 12 feet.  The Arbutus tree is unique to the BC costal area and is a broadleaf evergreen tree, up to 30 metres tall, usually with a crooked or leaning trunk that divides into several twisting upright branches and an irregularly rounded crown (BC Forestry Department).

I was really struck by the Arbutus tree as a metaphor for prison chaplains and chaplaincy.  We are a unique group who find ourselves in places where few others dare to go with the fullness of their selves.  Not perched on rocky dry places but in other dry places set apart from the rest of the world.  When serving as lone rangers, singular and isolated, out there by ourselves, like the bark of the Arbutus we can become thin and coloured.  But when surrounded by others through whom and with whom we draw nourishment from the ground of our being we grow strong and find ourselves reaching further and further into the vastness that is the world of brokenness, pain, hope and wholeness.  We thrive in light - and come to share the light.

...on the Sabbath Road...

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