My social media and all things technical guru, Sarah, came by today after brunch to help me with niggling little problems I was having with the internet. I had been making a list of things that perplexed me or that I was just too lazy to figure out for myself. Sarah is a wonderful teacher which makes learning from her a comforting process. But the truth is I can learn from her not just because she’s a whiz when it comes to technical stuff, but because she’s a good friend who I care a lot about and she cares a lot about me. There is a mutual respect and exchange of help that makes it work.
Sarah is part of my village made up of a potpourri of friends/neighbours, splish-splashers from my classes in the pool, cafe owners who always find a place for me to sit and sip chai, folks in my favourite library, my doctor who cares for me with her heart as well as her expertise, old friends who have been with me from almost my first day here, trainers and teachers, cat clients, sisters who call me up regularly, far away friends I only talk to on Facebook or a Christmas card, Queenie who calls from DC just to make sure I haven’t died, and, of course, two very furry beasts at home. (I’m in the neighbourhood laundromat right now trying to rid their bundle of schamatas of enough hair to put them back on the couch.) I don’t think I consciously created this network of people, it evolved person-by-person, year-by-year over the 23 years I have lived here. It is very much my community.
I’m taking a course right now on the history of Toronto. The wonderful lecturer — a former mayor of Toronto from long-past days — started his first lecture with a story about a book he read a long time ago about the Beaver indigenous people who lived around the Peace River. He said that the book had a series of pictures that to him, at first, looked like nothing more than scriggly lines that didn’t mean anything. Every so many pages there’d be another one only slightly different. The maps were the history of these people. The scriggly lines showed where they found food, shelter, hunting, friends and enemies. The maps showed — line by line — the history of their community as it changed from one year to the next.
I guess each of us, like the Beaver people, have our own life-time of scriggly lines showing our history and our communities along the way. We never do it alone, really, do we? I think of all my own scriggly-line maps of first living around my very close and dear family, those DC years both early and later, my European interlude and these 23 years I’ve been in Canada which started out with a “community” of one and grew into what I have today.
The truth is, now that I’m 70, I can’t so easily give up this community and start a new one elsewhere. For one thing, it took a lot years and a lot of work to draw these scriggly lines of this part of my history. And, the fact is that it comforts me to know that I can walk to where I take the waters, see the “medicine” woman, find the market, laugh and cry with friends and avoid enemies. I want to live out the rest of this wonderful life of mine with these scriggly lines in place with subtle and necessary changes, of course. But I don’t want a major upheaval that leaves me lonesome and not being around the places I love. I don’t know if that’s possible with my looming spring move but I know that it is certainly worth believing in, fighting for and trying to make happen.