Libraries and memories

the-library-book-9781476740188_lg (2)Certain Sunday afternoons yield permission to be still. For those of us compelled toward activity, a quiet, gloomy-November Sunday is a gift. Especially with good radio. Today,  I listened to “Writers and Company” host, Eleanor Wachtel interview New Yorker writer, Susan Orlean about her newest publication, The Library Book.

“In her new book, bestselling writer Susan Orlean moves from the intimacy of her childhood library to the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library, which damaged or destroyed more than a million books. The Library Book is a compelling mix of history, biography, true crime and journalism — an ode to libraries, as well as a celebration of Orlean’s relationship with her mother, who died before Orlean could finish writing the book. ” Writers and Company web page, CBC radio

My Sunday marking forgotten, I listened to Orlean recount how her mother introduced her to the magic of libraries and borrowing books, their weekly excursions a special time for both. Orlean’s stories led to an emotional account of how her mother’s library of memories disappeared slowly with dementia, with her death occurring just before the book’s publication. Orlean’s story was both poignant and difficult to listen to: the accounting of steady loss; the powerful metaphor for memories; and my family situation. My own mother’s memory steadily is being erased by Alzheimer’s and with it, our mutual store of times together and shared experiences.

One of my first forays into independence was granted by my mother. At the age of 11, she deemed me big enough to make the 30-minute walk to the Elizabeth Ballantyne Public School library. Every Tuesday afternoon, I would set out from home, west on Chester Avenue, past duplexes and small yards into the wealthy, English conclave of Montreal West – old brick homes set back on large, treed properties. I would wonder what it would be like to live in such a large and separate home (we lived above our landlords in a duplex). Cautiously crossing busy Westminister Avenue, I walked through quiet side streets into the deep yard of the school.  Down steps to a heavy wooden side door and into the vacuum silence of the library.

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Elizabeth Ballantyne Public School, Montreal

 

There I would be greeted by the diminutive librarian, Mrs. Lanthier, gigantic in her fiefdom. She took me, with my shyness and small voice under her wing and ushered me into the world of libraries and books: Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis. I loved the way she would press and roll the stamp on my very own library card and write the return date on the book insert card in narrow cursive script. She would stack the books one by one, ensuring all plastic nibbed corners were aligned. For a voracious reader, it was a feast. Five books just for me. I would carry them home in the plastic Steinburg’s shopping bag, walking faster to beat the dark.

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Turns out Mrs. Lanthier was also the volunteer librarian at the tiny, parish library housed in the basement of St. Ignatius of Loyola church. As soon as the priest had finished the procession, with my mother’s nod I would race to the side door steps and meet my dealer, Lanthier. At St. Ignatius you could take out 7 books every Sunday. Here I entered the adult world of books – Herman Wouk, Hugh MacLennan, Agatha Christie, John Knowles, Gabrielle Roy. On the long walk home with my mother and brothers, all I could think of was which book I would start. After a respectable amount of time around the kitchen table, I would rush to my room. Lie on my tummy on the orange shag rug, lose myself in the pages.  Intermittent mother checks asking if I needed to get fresh air or would I like a piece of her green apple. Only when the afternoon sun dulled and I could see no more, would I reluctantly close the book and join the family.

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Villa Maria High School, Montreal

Once I essentially read out the shelves at the parish and school, I had access to the ancient, rumoured-haunted library of the Villa Maria, my high school from grades seven to eleven. The Villa library was beautiful in its angled location on the fourth floor but its contents were neither inspiring nor current. I relied on the Montreal public library system. In CEGEP, I found my niche in the Marianopolis College library, again in an old building, occupying much space, with long casement windows looking out over the city and St. Lawrence River. The casements were perfect for stretching out with reference books and notepad, in filtered sunlight, coat stretched out over cold knees and legs. I would meet my friends for whispered conversations and laughter snorts between the stacks. Later, after I graduated, my mother began to work at the library in the reference section. She was well-loved for her friendliness, efficiency, and kindness toward the students who worked with her. At Christmas, each employee was invited to buy a book for the library. My mom often requested that year’s Maeve Binchy novel to be put on the Current Edition shelf near the magazine racks. On breaks from university, I would sometimes meet her at the library. I would watch her from the turnstile as she conversed and moved quickly from desk to shelves. It was common ground for us. Not the books, but the people.

marianopolis The former campus of Marianopolis College, Montreal

Other libraries gave me peace, stability and strong memories. The old Douglas Library at Queens University was huge and imposing with two or three floors of stacks that I would avoid at all costs. In first year, I found my place outside of the strictly-controlled reference room, the “purple passion pit”, with garish, mauve chairs and old scarred carrels in which one could both hide and use as an observatory to see who was coming in, who was talking to whom. In my third year, I would meet my now husband, Paul, in the library foyer at closing hours. In later years, I would often go off campus to the downtown Kingston Public Library. The large windows and private study desks offered light, peace and that sense of community when one is alone in a crowd. In intense times, I would stay there all Saturday, walking home in the dark with the same sense of satisfaction and content I had had as a child.

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The former Douglas Library, Queens University at Kingston 

 

 

 

There have been many libraries since Queens. It was one of my biggest thrills as a parent to introduce our children to Ottawa libraries. To watch as they navigated their way around the shelves, immersed in words and colours. Bringing the children to the library and returning home with piles of books was an unmediated pleasure, one of those rare times in parenthood when what you are doing feels just right.

Books gave our children a sense of space and independence. That is part of the gift my mother gave to me – the trust I could find my way and get back. As I have so often done through books. Thank you, Mom.

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Altitude requires Attitude: a trekking adventure in the Rainbow Mountains, Peru with Christie Lake Climb for Kids I, and a new opportunity – Tour de Mont Blanc, July, 2019

Ottawa: altitude 70 metres

Palomani Pass, Apu Ausangate: altitude 5200 metres

Flying into Cusco, the “city of the clouds” at 5:30 a.m. from Lima – a rising sun illuminates the dusty brown peaks, deep black ridges and high snow patches of the Andes. We, seventeen weary trekkers from Ottawa and Halifax, lug our equipment through the small airport, grabbing shrivelled-green coco leaves from a basket and stuffing them into our mouths. We have been told this helps with altitude (3,400 metres). We have not been told of the extreme gagging response and choking due to the dry dust of the leaves.

The Christie Lake Kids Foundation – an essential Ottawa service for children .      “We” are the first group to raise money for Christie Lake Kids Foundation (CLK)  Climb for Kids, by taking on an exciting and challenging trekking adventure in the Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountains region of Peru. The idea came from wanting to do something for the incredible Ottawa organization, Christie Lake Kids, that has special personal connections for our family and the many children we have taught and met through the years. The CLK Foundation provides “transformative recreation” opportunities to thousands of children through its summer camp in the Perth area and through a myriad of recreational and life-skill-building S.T.A.R. programs held in the school year in key Ottawa neighbourhoods. The Dempsey Community Centre is a popular S.T.A.R. hub. https://www.christielakekids.com/

The idea – combine community development with personal adventure .                      In 2017, Paul (and neighbour, Byron Johnson) travelled to Tanzania and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Dream Mountains, an Ottawa-based philanthropic organization led by entrepreneur/philanthropist, Shawn Dawson. Dream Mountains raised over one million dollars over the past ten years for Ottawa organizations. Paul and I wanted to bring this compelling model to CLK – combining community development with adventurous travel, providing a wonderful, defining adventure for philanthropic trekkers.

By January 2018, we had 17 trekkers and were ready to go. We held two rousing, fun community fundraisers (packed with many Riverview Parkians) and raised funds through individual donor pages. Trekkers hiked together, took fitness classes and met for information and packing meetings. By the time we were ready to leave in August, many of us felt a bond and a sense of trust – very important to doing well in a difficult climb.

We raised close to $30,000.00 for the Christie Lake Kids Foundation. We were sponsored by Investors Group’s Linda Hancock, Merit Travel and Great Escape Outfitters. It was an uphill climb and a great result for 17 trekkers and their networks.

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The trek: incredible beauty, mountain ledges, llamas, raspy breathing .                 Climb for Kids I combined physical exertion with culture and travel. We had three days in the ancient, beautiful city of Cusco to acclimatize and learn about its history, culture and citizens. Our guide, Juan, brought us to Incan ruins high above Cusco including Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay. We learned about the incredible ingenuity of the Incan people, and the cruelty of their Spanish conquerors.

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And then we hiked.  After a harrowing drive on switchbacks through villages, deep valleys and terraced land, the van dropped us off at the trailhead. Rushing rivers, white cacti, alpaca, golden-sponge moors, alpine springs everywhere, the Mountain of Ausangate looming ahead of us. For five days, often for 8-10 hours, we trekked through incredible beauty and micro-systems. The trek got harder and harder. By the end of day two, in fast-hitting hail and cold, many of us were struggling to breathe. On Day 4, a 12-hour day of trekking, we saw the beautiful Rainbow Mountains striated with red, orange and green. After a very scary walk along an excruciatingly long, snowy ledge, we climbed up and down plum-purple valleys and through soft-red dust. We walked in the dark, and often had to breathe with every step: breathe, step, breathe, step. Back at the lodge, escorted in the dark by herdsmen with lanterns, we collapsed. We felt and knew the relief of having pushed ourselves to the limit, and of completely trusting our guides.

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Climb for Kids II – Tour de Mont Blanc: a trek through three countries .                   And, we are doing it again, this time in lower climes, and through three countries. In July, Climb for Kids II will be trekking the Tour de Mont Blanc traversing France, Italy and Switzerland. We will be hiking for 10 days around Mont Blanc and enjoying three days of relaxing in incredible countryside. Led by an experienced guide, we will cross three borders, climb six mountain passes, cross below glaciers and wind our way through alpine meadows and villages. Our highest altitude will be 1525 metres above sea level.

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The Climb for Kids II season, starting in early 2019, will include individual and community fundraising, fitness, information sessions, stair climbing and Gatineau hikes. Great opportunities for travel, well-being, comraderie and raising money to provide many opportunities for Ottawa kids.

There a few spots open. If you are interested, please contact Karlie Reinberger at Merit Travel, 613.724.6206 ext 3415.  

 

Trust

We leave the Red Valley in late afternoon. Seventeen trekkers, guides and herdsmen hiking since early this morning. The wind that whipped and howled around us on the Rainbow Mountains subsides, the hail clouds disappear.  The sun is still warm, a late-Canadian-September kind of warm and we can see our shadows on the red soil.  We walk quietly, the occasional comment carried on a slight breeze. At the top of the line, I see the guide’s beige hat and M’s red gaiters. This is my focus.

We are all grateful – in our own ways – that we have finished a precarious, long hike on a snowy, icy ledge. Our feet and lungs take up the mountain rhythms learned through many steps. Two steps, breathe, two steps breathe. The poles kick up tiny clouds of red sediment. Eyes are rooted on the ground, with mud-encased boots swinging in and out of vision. When you do look up, you gasp. Blue, blue sky, wisps of white cloud float slowly; the glacier mountains are hard lines striking the sky.  In front of us, an uncharacteristically gentle trail with climbs and descents stretching into the next mountain.

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The light disappears steadily and quickly. No lingering sun in the mountains of the southern hemisphere. In the last light, we are enfolded by the most beautiful colours, deep red changing to a dusky purple, deep green taking on olive and black. The trail becomes dark brown. Our senses adapt. Not so much eyesight as the feel of boots on soil and the earned instinct of moving up and down, slowly and steadily. The trail takes on deeper gullies; the light of the guide’s headlamp bounces against the night. “Only two mountains to go around”, he says calmly, “and then we will be at the lodge. Vamos!”. My eyebrows shoot up instinctively in slight alarm but there are no words. Words take energy and breath.

red valley

As we round the first mountain and trek on a short plain, we see them. Black silhouettes of llamas at the top of the cliff. Mountain vigilantes. I shiver. We have not walked in this kind of dark before. The lodge is still a mountain trail away. Paul hands me a headlight that fits tightly and casts a little light. I stay close to and navigate by the heels of the guide in front of me. Thinking of very little, I am here only to follow the legs in front and trust the trail. It is very quiet.  Just the sound of breathing, my own and others, short and quick. Small flashes of life in a great dark.

Sounds, quickly. The calls of the herdsmen and third guide as they run toward us with lights. To bring us to the lodge. One more hour. Time no longer matters. My feet are now illuminated by the faint light of the herdsman’s torch. To my left, I see his bare, brown feet in black sandals, I look up jerkily. He is smiling at me, and moving quickly up and down the slope to keep pace and light. It is getting colder and I am tired. No time or inclination to worry. I just keep lifting my feet to keep pace and ground with the guide. The only immediate sign of tension is in my hands gripped more tightly around the poles.

Finally, in the black, ahead, the yellow lights of the lodge. In the distance but visible. We descend slowly and cross a bumpy plain, our soles crushing the hard moss mounds of the mountain. The other trekkers call out to us through the night, encouraging us on. I keep my head down and the light on the trail until we reach the lodge. We collapse onto the benches, our breath raspy and evident in the air. I start to cry, very quietly, surprising myself, my arm hugged around my friend. Heads down. Someone takes off my boots and rips off the gaiters. Pats me on the shoulder. A kindness we have all become accustomed to giving and receiving on this week’s trek.

I will never forget that night. It was our last full day of trekking, a day of incredible, physical challenges and beauty. A late afternoon of colours that I have never experienced. Colours that enclose and move you through the night. Lights and people that keep you safe. Colleagues who walk with you and who wait for you. A deep sense of trust and instinct that keeps you going.

The next morning we awoke to a brilliant, hard sunshine. The glacier was reflected in a deep blue, almost black lake sitting right in front of the lodge. To the right, in bright light, the narrow red trail we had travelled, on a cliff with a very steep descent.

last lodge

 

Vulnerability

A late-night, early-morning rain soaks the cottage and brings some relief to parched earth and trees.

The small, gray, cream-breasted birds that have been sustaining a nest in the cottage eaves are chirping incessantly. They flying quickly from eaves to branch to eaves. There is a difference in their behaviour – something frantic and unsettling. I watch them in the rain and wonder what has happened. At some point, I hear a thunk on the wood outside.

The rain tapers. I go outside again, feeling unsettled. Watch the birds zigzagging, always returning to the eaves. A spot of gray and black catches my eye. Under the nest, there now is a snake, splayed on the deck, its middle distended. It is hardly moving. There are black and white shards outside its crooked coil.

Breakfast quickly rises in my throat. The nest. The snake. The parent birds’ frantic reaction.

The unknown moment and the known, natural cycle. Such vulnerability, such lost beauty. I am so often taken unaware.

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What do daughters do without fathers

1961 June Vancouver6

 

 

 

 

 

 

We convened my father’s death with food he had cooked himself. Roast lamb casseroles, root-vegetable delicacies and savouries. All frozen. Retrieved by our step-mother who thought catering would be expensive.

Easter was early that year and my dad died on March 17th, a fitting time for an Orangeman who made anti-Papist jokes his livelihood. With a Catholic wife and three children in Catholic schools. He had prepared early for Easter. Organization and humour were strong traits in my father.

Livelihood. My father’s ended at 69. Near a maple bush on a sunny, Canadian, early-spring morning. March 17th. Two days before my birthday. My brother Ken had to deliver the news. At noon, by phone. “Sorry I have to do this”, he said. Ken, the unfortunate messenger.

The birthday card arrived on the 19th, my birthday, as I sat there on the couch. I was later assured by my father’s wife, Kay, that she had chosen and mailed the card, and he had simply signed it. Nice touch. I burned it after she told me. Malice should not linger.

A caring neighbour brought us Southern fried chicken almost every night, the gaping space between the phone call and the funeral. We called it “The Week of the Chicken”. We brought more of it to a Fenelon Falls motel in a blue cooler. Thigh bones and flaky detriment covered the olive green motel carpet.

The funeral was in an old house on Main Street by the water. The first cousins had made a photo collage of their Uncle John and his wife. Laughing faces reacting to my dad’s ribald, funny storytelling. Not one photo of the three of us. Not one. Ken, Gord and I grimaced but didn’t say a word. We had a few photos to offer but were told everything was taken care of, assuming Dad’s wife would have put some in.

We all spoke at the brief service. Maybe we wanted the last word. I read from Robert Frost’s “Goodbye and Keep Cold”. Unfortunate title given the event but the words fit. Later, I was told by a cousin she was surprised I showed no emotion, that I kept it together. I didn’t tell her but I had been keeping it together since I was eight. This was not new.

Nor was my father’s leaving.     

My father first left us on a July night in Halifax in 1968. We had just had a treat, a rare trip to A&W to get cold mugs of root beer for a muggy night. All three of us in our pj’s in the back of the car. I was 8, Ken, 5 and Gordon 3. A fight broke out of nowhere like a thunderclap. Our parents never fought. Now the car was full of accusations, sharp returns and then silence.

I have been informed by that night ever since – the red of the Rambler tail lights disappearing; the aftertaste of root beer; my mother’s quiet sobbing under fluorescent lights in the kitchen; her call to the parish priest. My mother was 35, a lifetime away from where I am now.

It seems my father had been leaving us in his head for quite a while.

We got by. My mother was determined to keep our lives going. We learned to swim in Bedford Basin, played in the woods with the other kids, went to barbecues, slurped popsicles, read on our tummies. When September came, we went back to school. My father re-entered the scene, quietly and without explanations, and brought us on afternoon excursions to beaches on the South Shore. He told funny stories, teased us and sang Spike Jones songs over the noise of the engine. He never told us why he left and we never asked. Some of those times with him were so strained I would come home and throw up – and not tell anyone.

When I was 10, we moved back to Montreal to be closer to family. My mother found a part-time job at a curling club. We joined the church, guides, scouts, and sports. My mother’s friends came around a lot. We survived months when Dad’s cheque was late and some pretty tough Christmases thanks to a very generous grandmother. Until grade 8, I told schoolmates my dad wasn’t around because he was on a really long business trip. Nobody going to St. Ignatius of Loyola Elementary School had divorced parents. How did I ever think they believed me?

My father lived in Preston, Ontario, in a flat in an old house with a huge elm in front. We hardly saw him, maybe four times a year. He still told funny stories and railed against stupidity and privilege. At times, he would suddenly look very sad and maudlin. That was unbearable for me – it would make me sad and, very angry, I realize now. I would dig my nails into my palms, clench my jaw and try to be somewhere else. My anger? That he took all of the sad space. Raw emotion and silence.

I guess it was easier for Dad to bear the pain of avoidance than to be upfront. Like getting married and not telling us until months later. Or selling the beloved family cottage and informing us casually over the phone: “The lake was getting too crowded, anyway.” Or never knowing I had a Master’s degree, thinking it was a certificate. Never any explanations. And fewer questions.

And so, my brothers and I found our own explanations, and we found our own way, creating our stories by ourselves. We convened our lives with my mother’s solid support. She finally remarried. A man who was upfront and loving, who laughed a lot but never at anyone’s expense. We found our way into being a whole family, not the “broken” single-parent family.

It was not all bad with my father. By any means. On the surface. My dad made a real effort at our wedding remarking at the end of the evening that he “never knew I had so many funny friends.” In turn, my friends thought John was hilarious. When our son was born, he was there the first night at St. Michael’s Hospital, holding Liam tenderly. There were weekend trips to the house on the river with carefully prepared meals and bad red wine. On the third glass, Dad’s sentimentality would surface clumsily and I would look away. I would take my first real breath of the weekend when we took the long curve away from the river and the house was no longer in sight. It was the same on the night of the funeral, with huge, quiet snowflakes falling on the firs that lined the road.

I tried really hard to build a story around John that I could live with and by. I told people of his artistic abilities and of life in Montreal. The family farm on the Mountain beside what is now the Oratory. His stories of growing up. I put his McGill graduation photo on the wall and I hanged his art. I tried so very hard to understand and to create a story I could live with. I tried so very hard to find connections and a legacy.

But I can’t any longer.

It has taken a while to get here. Fifty years. I process things slowly, I guess. Maybe it is watching my mother, now a widow, grow older with Alzheimer’s and know she is forgetting the details of how she held us together. Maybe it is the deposition for an annulment my brother found: my mother’s stark, unemotional accounting of my father’s behaviour before he left. Information she kept us from. Maybe it is because I realize that part of his legacy of silence has profoundly affected me despite all misguided attempts to be unaffected. When someone leaves you without explanation, it is hard to explain it truthfully to yourself.

What do daughters do with fathers who are present but absent, loud but silent?

Do they lose their way, mistaking absence and silence as a judgement of who they are?

Do they eventually find their own way raised by experience and other’s love? Do they invest all of their trust in their mother who must find her own way? And what do they do when she leaves?

I am a storyteller. I have found resilience and strength in narratives that are based on hope, and have steered away from cynicism because my own story is just too close to that sadness. I have fooled myself many times but I am still here. I have a loving, giving family and they are never silent.

In March 1969, my father gave me a birthday present. It was “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery. He said the woman at the store recommended it for a girl who loved to read. I have read that book at least ten, no twenty times. I have loved Anne and in many ways, she was my salvation. Through reading, I found a way out of persistent, throat-gripping sadness. Huddled in bed with a flashlight, re-reading passages, passing the words over my tongue. It was a gift that will sustain me forever.

It was a gift that may have been given casually, or with great love. I will never know. I cannot write my father’s part. Only my own.

In the shadows

Notoriety is rampant.  Bad is the new black. Well, it always was on the dark side.

But seriously, everywhere you go, there is another story of flagrant, bad behaviour. Philandering, poisoning politicians. Conniving corporations peddling privacy. And there seems to be this helpless, hapless acceptance of it all. A big, black wave that no one can stop.

On the other side, are the winners, the people who are publicly recognized for their accomplishments. Found and noticed, or promoted and validated, over and over. And that is just fine. There are many successful and important people out there.

There are many who do not move in wealthy, well-promoted circles who do something important that promotes good and light. Like Autumn Peltier, the 13-year old Anishinabe “water warrior” who recently spoke to the UN General Assembly about the crisis of water. She will inspire many.
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What I am writing about today are those behind the lines, the people who do not get recognized or promoted, who move in the shadows but believe in the light. The veteran school bus drivers who do not write books about one-year forays in driving but who, day after day, do their routes, deal with behaviour and keep kids safe. The waitress in the bakery who makes sure the table is clean and the milk is warm. The palliative care nurse who moves quietly, lightly and carries a heavy load.

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I have a colleague and good friend who never asks for recognition but she is a star. Through fatigue and long, noisy days, she treats her students with care and magnanimity, shining light on their accomplishments and ushering them quickly through mistakes. She cares for her family with a quiet intensity that would burn through stars.  In the past few years, she and her husband have travelled in the night to care for sick mothers, forsaken weekends and given days and days to relatives that need support and hard work. All quiet. Nothing promoted or featured.

This article is for M. and for all of you out there who stay in the shadows but intensify the light.

 

 

Thanks, VoiceEd Radio

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We had a great afternoon. On the first anniversary of VoiceEd Radio started by radio-entrepreneur, Stephen Hurley, we (Paul McGuire and I) had the opportunity to create and host one hour of live radio.

We were nervous and for some reason, I cleaned the house (ok, lower level, after two weeks of report cards) before the broadcast. Visuals matter in radio, right? We had scheduled two interviews, with some important participants online. And, we have an Airedale terrier. A lovable, fuzzy dog, but completely unpredictable and predictably unreliable when it comes to protocol. Would she bark throughout the broadcast, throw herself on the floor with loud, teenage groans when silence fell?

It all went so well. Son Liam zoomed in at 2:25, dog, Dory plunged in from the backyard at 2:26 (because she was barking so much outside), daughter, Mairi and partner, Joe settled in digitally from Kingston and our opening number “Big League” opened. Thanks to Stephen, we were ready to go at 2:30.

Our topic: “Dealing with Challenging Children” was interesting with stories and perspectives from people who love what they do and understand we are all culpable. Our first interview included Liam, Mairi and Joe. They are experienced counsellors and workers with children at Christie Lake Kids Foundation and summer camp, and different recreation programs. Frankly, they are child whisperers. Liam is the most patient person I know and will help a child who feels they are never listened to feel respected and noticed. Mairi has a penetrating-to-your soul gaze and humane power that would conquer ancient armies – children feel secure and held. Joe, the musician, plays piano until the wee hours and sings for children who cannot sleep. We had the right people.

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the fam at Christie Lake Camp

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Joe

The front door quietly opened at 2:40 and Nanci and Tom let themselves in as we were broadcasting. Dog lovers, they endured the 80-lb nudges and entreaties of Dory, and waited patiently as Paul tiptoed in and said hello. They came in quietly, Dory in tow, settled herself on Tom’s foot after she properly prodded and brushed them as they began to speak.

And did they speak! We listened. In the fall of 2017, Nanci and Tom led a team of 25 Nepali youths from a Child Haven orphanage on a trek through the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayan mountains. These youths had never seen their country outside of dusty Kathmandu. Tom and Nanci were committed to giving these children the opportunity of seeing their own country and realizing a potential and future that might only come when one is removed from what they know. My eyes (and Nanci’s) teared up a few times as they related the youths’ joy, resilience and wonder as they trekked through their national landscape. Liam listened. Nanci and Tom are wonderful storytellers and humane, committed people.

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Afterward, we lit a fire, put on some music, munched on cheese, bread and pears, and drank cool beer and wine with our radio colleagues. We had told some essential stories, stories that work their way into our hearts and blood.

Thank you, Stephen, and our on-line colleagues who believe that voices need to be heard. Especially affirming voices.