Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Bitter Sweetness


Our time here is quickly coming to a close; we are busy saying good-bye to the friends we’ve made during our 15 years on the island.  It is hard – the bitterness of it rises up each time I hug someone – knowing this may be the last time – for a long time.
And yet, at the same time, it is sweet – very sweet.  The recognition of just how connected I am to each one warms my heart.  A few short years ago we were strangers, and now we are like family – maybe even closer.
I wish I could pay tribute to each and every one of these special people, but words would not be enough.  And I know that I would fail to mention many wonderful people and special memories.  So, instead, I will highlight some of the groups that have connected me to this place and grounded me in a way I have never known before. 
Of course, there is my family – without them we would likely never have ventured to the island at all.  Being here with my parents and brothers, who have been here for almost 50 years, connecting to their families, my cousins, nieces and nephews, has been special.  Being here gave me a chance to have an adult relationship with each of my parents and to support them as they aged.  I also was able to get to know my wonderful brothers, who had been children when I began teaching, in an ongoing dynamic fashion.  We discovered many ways in which we were similar, and others in which we were quite different.  How fortunate I am to have brothers like them!  We have supported each other in so many ways, and have become very close.
And then, there is the Haven Society, the first group I worked with after I got my “sea legs”.  Working with such a great group of women connected me to my new community in a unique way.  We had great times together, but we also addressed important issues and worked to make our community a better place.  Many of these friends remain woven into the pattern of my life.
Some of the people I will miss most are my hiking buddies.  With them I have explored thousands of kilometers of trails on the island – as well as other places.  I love the woods and walking through the west coast rain forest is a treat all on its own.  But the thing about hiking is the people who hike with you.  There is something about huffing and puffing up a steep slope that deepens your relationships. No pretenses here!  Connecting with each other in this down-to-earth way is like a glue that binds us together.  In a way my hiking friends became a great big loving family.  We supported each other through challenges; we celebrated each other’s joys, and, when we needed help they went out of their way to be there for us.
And then, then there’s my book group.  A few years ago I joined my first book group.  I thought a book group was simply that – a group of people who got together to discuss books.  I quickly found, however, that my book group was much, much more.  These women became like sisters to me.  Besides discussing our book, we shared each other’s lives month by month.  Sometimes a few would go out to see a play together or we might meet on a one-to-one basis for lunch or simply to visit.   Even though I have known these women for only a few years, they brought food when my mom passed away, and helped celebrated her life.  And, even as I made preparations to leave, they were there - they helped me pack and clean.  And now, they won’t let me leave – at least not completely.  They are including me in their monthly meetings via Skype.  And they even gave me a gift certificate to purchase eBooks for quite a few months to come.  They are just so special!
Many of our neighbours have become good friends too.  And of course, through all these connections, other doors have opened.  Abe and I took up Bridge and, for a while played two or even three times a week.  Even though we aren’t able to play now, we are finding other things to enjoy with our bridge buddies.  One of my friends and I have even started playing on-line and hope to continue that after I move.
I have also had the opportunity to discover an artistic talent, that I never knew I had, with my friend Ellen (a hiking buddy and also in my book group).  She is a talented artist and invited me to join her and a couple of others in her home Monday afternoons.  In her own gentle way she taught, modeled and encouraged me to explore watercolours – a whole new world of fun, relaxation and creativity.
Finally, I want to mention my ARC friends – the people who took “The Return to Consciousness” training with me.  I owe them a debt of gratitude, for without them the course would not have been offered on the island, and I would have missed out on this life-changing opportunity.  One of the things that I sought when I retired was to become more of “a human-being” rather than a “human-doing”- which I had been all my working life.  And ARC has helped become more present to myself – for my own life.  The support of my fellow ARCies, together with those who willingly became my clients as I practised and others who later joined my meditation group has encouraged me in my journey along this path.
On reflecting, on these past 15 years, however, I realize that becoming a human being is not simply about being more connected with myself – important though that is.  It is about being more connected with others.  It is about being more connected with nature.   It is about being more connected with my community.  I realize that this is what I have become while living here on the island.  And this – this is the incredible sweetness.  
So this is not good-bye.  You, my dear friends, will be part of my life even as we move apart.  And you, my special soul mates, will be in my heart forever.  Until we meet again!