It’s the start of spring after a long, dark, rainy winter that in our house was 12 months tied with a marauder’s bow, a year of hospitalizations, emergency surgeries, clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, mania, two deaths, a miraculous recovery for one that later deteriorated, a business closure/metamorphosis, a beloved offspring leaving the nest (twice, double the emotional payoff, yay!), continued sobriety, a fall and chronic pain, recalcitrant diabetes.
You get the drift.
Now all of this isn’t specifically limited to my sometimes lonely planet of one. This is the accumulation of experiences from within our family, both nuclear and extended. But like in most families, there’s enough to go around for everyone to have a year that won’t go down in the history books as one of our personal bests.
And it has most always been the breaking of winter into spring, or the sudden plunge into winter, where the edges rise from the world. So these first few days of spring are bittersweet and have me longing for the year before, when Diane’s dad and aunt were still alive, when my mom wasn’t recovering from yet another surgery and dealing with bipolar medication issues for the thousandth time in her life, when both my girls laid their heads to sleep under our roof, when I felt limber and athletic and full of energy.
So it was through this lens that I came upon the article in The Coast Reporter about the renaming of Wormy Lake for John Phare, the partner of an acquaintance, the man who died last July fighting the fire that threatened West Sechelt, where I live. I was moved to tears, reading about the work of a crew of trail-builders who volunteered their time to build a memorial trail that winds through a part of the forest John died trying to save, encircling the lake that will bear his name when the one year mark has passed.
How is it that some people come to touch our lives so, when we barely know them, or don’t know them at all? We come across a person one day – in my case John’s partner, Kimiko, who was then the Curator for the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives in Gibsons Landing – and you just feel this strange spark, this kismet that seems to come from somewhere outside of time.
For many of us these feelings of connection pass unnoticed, or if noticed, unregistered and discarded as soon as they appear, like fireflies winking on and off, or pale ideas that linger in the memory but fail to fill with colour and form. For years I fought these connections, feeling them too strange and weird. Or I invested them with all kinds of expectations or self-need – to be noticed, to be appreciated – and thereby polluted the energy, and like a wrong-facing magnet, sent all that energy away.
Today I try to accept them with grace and gratitude and expect nothing of them except their own miraculous beauty. Sometimes I look at people and it’s like seeing the images from the Hubble Space Telescope: nurseries and stars and clouds of possibilities, wonders unimaginable to the naked eye. It sometimes feels like I am in a spider’s web and I can feel the distant thrum of the tiniest movement communicating itself into my world from the people to whom I am connected.
My own private constellation of important Sunshine Coasters
So I accept that because Kimiko is one of those lights in my life – though she doesn’t know it and may find it bizarre that I write it here – John Phare has a place of honour in my memory. He resides there, with other people I have loved so briefly in my own strange fashion: Daniel Kingsbury, Clifford Smith, Robin Wheeler, Eric Hoare, one of the founders of the Sargeant Bay Society (who I only know through his wife, Rowe, who became my best friend the year after Eric passed), Janet Collins, Harry Paul. These and others form my own private constellation of people integral to how I experience my Sunshine Coast life and so deeply missed today.
And when I think of their gifts – preservation of our wilderness, a boundless love for the ocean and its creatures and a talent for music, the nurturing of children and our volunteer communities, understanding the need for true food security in our isolated region, adventuring and the fulfilment of human potential, deep spirituality and creativity, courage and creativity in the face of difficult childhood, and dignity and beauty even in the grip of addiction – I ask myself often, how can I be the person they would want me to be?
I don’t know about afterlife, God, humanism, secularity… I just know I feel their energy around me, and I am grateful.