Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Off the Road... Repacking and Regrouping...

Its been a full, very full 10 days since my last entry...

On August 16th I arrived in St. John's to begin preparations for the Annual General Meeting of the
Board of Directors of Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc.  On the 17th my colleagues arrived and on the 18th and 19th we held our meetings filled with cautious hope for the future.

I had planned ahead for the 20th.  This date would have been Anna and I's 27th wedding anniversary and I knew it would be a difficult day for me... grief and sadness mixed with all the other feelings of self affirmation and hope that were part of making a very difficult decision.  I knew that Dad would understand and I wanted him to be close.  And so it was on this day that we rose and did a little 'tour around' as they say in Newfoundland: Signal Hill, Quiddy Viddy, Outer Cove, Middle Cove, Torbay, Flat Rock and Pouch Cove.  At Pouch Cove we did a little off-roading trying to get to Biscayne Cove... lets just say the adventure spirit does not carry well in a rental car on a jeep path!  We turned around after about 30km and headed back toward town.

On the outskirts of St. John's we stopped at a Mary Brown's Diner.  Now I'd never eaten at a Mary Brown's before and I don't think I am likely to ever eat at a Mary Brown's anywhere else in Canada that has cod tongues on the menu!!  Dad had a good breakfast, Greg Rodger's had something healthy (he told me I had to write that Arlette) and I had Mary Brown's chicken.  It was all good... and we headed back to the Hotel where we met the rest of the gang and boarded the shuttle bus to Bay Bulls for a Puffin and Whale Tour with OBriens.  It was my third time on this tour... and it was still awesome!  The guide makes the trip!  Music, good information and even better stories!  Too soon the trip was over and we were heading back to shore.

Back at the Hotel it was decided that we would have an early supper before Greg Frazer departed for the airport.  Little did we know how important this decision would be...   We made our way down Duckworth Street to the Duke of Duckworth Pub, put in our orders (if I never see another french fry for a month or more I'll be happy) and then John checked his email - and that's when the wind was sucked out of our sails...

We had recently submitted a response to a Request for Standing Offers for the delivery of Chaplaincy
services over the next six years and in that moment we found out that we had been underbid.  Another organization, Bridges of Canada had submitted a lower bid and as a result, there is now an end date in respect to our plans to deliver chaplaincy services to those in the care of the Correctional Service of Canada: March 31st 2016.

We were stunned.  We always knew that this was a possibility.  We'd been very careful in drafting our response, building on our two previous successful bids.  We'd analyzed our costs very carefully against some needs we had identified for the next six years: continued increase of salaries, training and professional development, a National Chaplaincy Conference, continued interfaith policy development, increase of benefits and so on... and in the end we were outbid by a few dollars per hour over the six year period...

Our food came.  We ate. Greg Frazer headed to the airport and the rest of us returned to John's room where we continued to process the events of the day even as we tried to make some tentative first steps into this new reality.

As we shared that evening there was much gratitude in the room: thankfulness for the wonderful people we have had the opportunity to work with thus far, gratitude that we were together when we received the news, and even thankfulness that we had as much time as we did to assist the Chaplains, our employees, as much as we can in what will be yet another period of transition in their lives...

And so, with deep deep sadness for all that had been lost and what would be ending, we drafted a
"Storm"
A bottle of beer Dad
bought for me on the 21st.
communique to the employees and sent it to our translator knowing that the first way we could try and care for the Chaplains was  to provide them with timely accurate information.  We quickly realized that there will be much of this transition period that is beyond our control... the best thing we can do is focus on what we do have some control over and do that well...

Sleep did not come easy that night.  Despite the love that I experienced that night in the voices of those who care for me and believe in me, I still felt that I had failed.  Failed myself.  Failed my family.  Failed my partners and colleagues.  Failed the vision of interfaith Chaplaincy service delivery and failed the many individuals who had put their trust in KPC Inc. as a means to pursue and fulfill their vocation of service to
incarcerated women and men.

I had put so much of myself into this vision and venture... as a result there are still moments when I go to this place... but, I am more and more being able to remain grounded in a place of gratitude and hopefulness and this is largely due to ALL that has been my life to this point as I remember daily what is most important: showing up with your best self and offering it to the world.

I was also reminded that night, and since that night, again and again, that I am valued.  Not because of what I do, or what I say, not because of what I create or even what I bring to others...  but, as I am.  I fell asleep that awful night reading again the words of a poem, that I had shared with a friend who beautifully and wisely sent it back to me:


As I am... far from perfect, but hopeful, quiet, thoughtful, gentle and generous... some of the best I have brought to the world thus far and what I will continue to try and offer to the world as the days unfold before me.

On Saturday the 22nd, after spending Friday driving around in the fog (both figuratively and literally) with Dad as we toured the Irish Loop, he got on a plane and flew home to PEI and I drove to Argentia, NL to catch the Atlantic Vision for the trip home.

While sitting in the Three Sisters Pub in Placentia Bay, having a final taste of Newfoundland before boarding the ferry, I realized that it was the anniversary of Jack Layton's death and recalled with deep appreciation his words to all Canadians:


And so, today, I regroup and I am beginning to think about repacking for a week from tomorrow I set off on a journey "down under" that will be bittersweet on so many levels - but, I will do my best to treasure the moments as they unfold before me remembering that this moment is all we really have.

"Let us be..."

Not, "Let us plan...".
Not "Let us seek to..."
Not, "Let us endeavour..."

Simply: Let us be in this moment loving, hopeful and optimistic...

... on the Sabbath Road...



Sunday, August 16, 2015

Music and its Mystic Ability to Hold Joy, Sorrow and Hope at the Same Time...

It was a rather uneventful day on the Sabbath Road... I spent the morning working in the the room and connecting with folk back home including Zack, hearing of his hopes and plans for travel and with Justin, and of his new kitten and furniture building project... awesome boys... so proud of them!

With my work done I packed the bile and headed to the Courtyard Marriott - my home for the next week.  I checked in with their new app and was disappointed to learn that my room was not ready... Oh well... there must be something to see in St. John's!

I put my meagher possessions in storage and headed off: Signal Hill, the Battery, Water Street and back to Duckworth Street...


It was hot... and humid... a rarity for St. John's this summer!!

I enjoyed the air conditioned room and ironed my clothes... and boy did they need it after being in compression bags for a week!  I should have taken before and after shots!!

With the clothes ironed I went looking for the swimming pool and was saddened to learn that there was not a pool in this facility... ah well, a shower and a beer...

While drinking my beer I learned on Facebook (you learn everything on Facebook these days) that Jane Johnston and Kelly Burke were at O'Reilly's pub... and so, with my beer consumed, I went looking for Jane and Kelly, music and fish and chips - wondering what on earth I was ever going  I was going to write about in this blog entry...

I had a brief visit with Jane and Kelly, enjoying the music and watching two senior fellows dancing...



And when Jane and Kelly left I found myself sitting next to two British sailors on shore leave.  We exchanged pleasantries and I found myself drawn deeply to the music: a ballad where the words were sad and the melody hopeful, a reel where the story was of brokenness and the tune lively and free, and a jig where joy met joy in completeness... and then, the last song of the set was a song that I first heard played in prison by a young man who, had it not been for alcohol and the demons of his past, could have been a top notch bluegrass artist: The Fields of Athenry


As I listened to the music I was taken back to to all the relationships I have been privileged to have with the men who came through the Chapel at Springhill Institution... pondering the choices that landed them in prison, their loss of freedom, the pain that was caused, the hope that some of them had for the future, and the reality that some of them are doing life on the instalment plan... and of course I remember and gave thanks for those who came through the doors, left and have never been seen again...

Life is like that isn't it... a multifaceted experience where we can simutaniously know sorrow, joy and hope... its not linear... sorrow does not move directly to joy... nor does hope easily find its way into the midst of sorrow... and sometimes they are all present at the same time...  Nor, is life clear cut.  Just because I do "X" I cannot be sure that I will know joy... or if I do "Y" that hope will sustain me...

This complexity of being can makes it extremely difficult to discern the "right" path... and so, I would suggest that it helps to listen to music and read poetry.  Music nurtures our ability to hold life in creative tension and poetry helps remind us that the most awkward combinations of syllables can make sense...

“Mysteries, Yes”
“Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.”
                                                      - Mary Oliver

I have always found myself wary of those who think they have the answers... of late I am drawn more and more to those who say "Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads...

...on the Sabbath Road...


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Winterland, Around the Historic Loop and into St. John's...

Today was a huge loop followed by a fast and direct drive into St. John's and as I rode I found myself
thinking about another individual who has come full circle and the pain and trauma that has resulted...

I was up at 6AM or so and shortly thereafter Leo arrived back from Marystown with Tim Horton's coffee.  Its a morning ritual of his... to drive the 15 minutes or so into Marystown, get coffee and sit with a few of his friends and catch up before the day begins... he'd said last night, with a sly grin, that he was taking the day off... Shirley rolled her eyes and smiled... he is retired and has been for a while!

Leo and I enjoyed our coffee and we swapped a few hunting stories.  We have this in common: the game need not fear us as we are both poor shots!  Leo then got on to telling stories of moose collisions in the area... and these stories were fresh in my mind when I hit the road that morning.

As he told stories Leo made me breakfast: toast and eggs.  Boy was it good - and I didn't have to burn a tank of gas first either!  With breakfast tucked away and the bike loaded I was off - and I wasn't 10 minutes from Winterland when I saw a car pulled over... I had to turn around and have a look... it would appear that someone didn't have a good night.  Poor moose...  I am sure the car is fine... hope the occupants are too!

I was heading for Grand Bank.  Not sure what I expected to find there - but the name is synonymous with Newfoundland and the cod fishery... and I did expect to see some beautiful scenery!

But... before you get to Grand Bank you need to pass by

Grand Beach.  I could not pass by without going in to have a look see!  And there I sat for a good 20 minutes enjoying the sounds of the morning as the ducks fed in the bay.

Gand Bank was clearly once a hub of activity and a very prosperous town.  Look at the size of the town hall - and the old home had such character.  It is however clear that times have changed...

The big boats have taken over.  No longer is there the small inshore fishery... and the processing plant appears idle...  As Leo said last night, "The inshore fishery was never a threat to the cod stocks... its the factory freezer ships that fish off the 200 mile limit."

The next community on Hwy 210 is Fortune.  Shirley had suggested that I might see the ferry from Saint Pierre and Miquelon arrive if I timed it right.  Well, I missed the arrival but I did get to see it depart.

I found my way down to the wharf and made my way out onto one of the jetty's and there I enjoyed the view and the sound of the gulls as I connected with loved ones back home...

I am so blessed... so fortunate!  To have this opportunity for travel.  To be loved and supported.  To see the sights I have seen and to meet the people I have met... it is never lost on me what a privilege this is... and so I don't take one moment for granted - seeking to enjoy every turn of the wheel and click of the shutter.

From Fortune the road swings south and the next community is Point May...  but not before miles and miles of barren scrub land and the smell of surf pounding on the shore.

I turned off at Point May and took a little gravel road right alongside the shore... until the water from the springs made the rocks I was driving over too slippery for safety...  It was worth the journey though!  The sound, the smell and sense of vastness was all encompassing... and I could see Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the distance.

I got to thinking what it might have been like to be arrive on these barren shores as a settler or as a result of a ship wreck...  and then my thoughts turned to another wrecking of lives...

Saint Pierre and Miquelon
in the distance
Last night I learned that one inmate I'd known at Springhill was dead and another was charged with his murder.  So tragic.  I don't know the circumstances... and I don't need to... I'm just so sad that one person's life has been taken from them and another life is wrecked... It is my hope that those who grieve may be surrounded by love and care and are able to cherish those memories that bring forth life and hope!

From Point May the road turns east with the next stop along the way being Lord's Cove... as I approached I was drawn to a spit of land that jutted out behind the local Catholic Church... and yes, it was a graveyard - a fitting place for those who go down to the sea to have as a final resting place.

Looking back toward
Point May
I stopped for a few minutes and enjoyed the view - understanding why someone might want to be buried in this place: a horizon that has no end... and the feeling that somehow you could reach out and touch it.

I also had to take a few moments and fiddle with the GPS as it is being a bit of a pain.  I really think that the miles and miles of being shaken within an inch of its electronic life is starting to take its toll on the components within... alas... I was able secure the battery door a bit tighter and I was good to go!

The island in the distance is not named - as far as I can find.  The cemetery is to the right on the highest rise in the photo below.  I can almost imagine the funeral procession making its way from the church carrying the casket up the hill with the horizon extending its welcoming embrace... earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust and life goes on...

 Life goes on....

The last time I was on the "Rock" the trip was cut short by the death of Randy Czapalay - Anna's cousin.  Joan, Randy's mother had asked me to officiated at his funeral service and so, when he died and Al and I were at Walter's we headed to Port aux Basque and did not get to ride this part of the Island...  

He and Deanna have I think since been over this way... but its not the same Al!  The smell of the sea, the scent of the scrub spruce and the wind - the ever present wind that wants to push you back, put you in your place and keep you from getting ahead...  you were with me in spirit today Al... and tomorrow I hope to get to Cape St. Mary and I'll take you along on that run too!



 I stopped quickly in St. Lawrence and took the picture above of of the bay, and made the decision that I needed to make some some time... and so I did!

With the camera safely stowed and Carrie Newcomer singing reminders of the holy moments of life and love I made tracks...


Salmonier, Lewins Cove, Burin, Marystown... and back out the way I came in - riding the same road twice... breaking my cardinal rule of not riding the same road twice - but there was no other way back to the TCH!

By 2PM I made it to Goobies... yes, that is a real place!  And from Goobies I put myself into the traffic heading toward St. John's... by 3PM I was checking into the Delta... so ready for a butt break!

With the bike unloaded and safely parked within view of the front desk (their idea not mine) I shaved and headed downtown to see what I could see!  Popped into a few stores and then found myself at the Yellowbelly Pub where I enjoyed their sampler tray and an order of onion rings.  Yum!


While chugging back the third big glass (a mouthful and a half) I just about choked when I saw this lady coming toward me carrying a male blow up doll... by the time I figured out it was for real I missed the opportunity to snap a picture!  She had a veil on and there was a crowd of women around her... I added these up to equal stagette party... on George Street... wonder if they'll have to pay the cover charge for the guy she is lugging around with her?!?!

On my way back to the motel I saw a poster that may interest Dad...  and if he buys the beer I just might tag along!!  Hank Williams!!  Should be fun!  I may have to have a nap that day!  It doesn't start til 10PM!!  See you on Wednesday Dad!! Looking forward to it!!


Well, I just got back from the Signature Club lounge where I snacked on meatballs, nachos a chicken skewers and a potato skin... I'm thinking that supper is complete and i'm gonna wait for a while then go out for a walk and enjoy the warm evening air... and see what I can see...

Its been a fine day... a day of deep privilege...  a day remember the gift of deep friendship and sadly, also pondering how quickly lives can be wrecked by one choice that leads to another that leads to another...

And so, as I end this entry I am thankful... thankful for all the good choices I have made that led me to this (yes privileged) moment in time... on the Sabbath Road...







Friday, August 14, 2015

Flat Bay to Winterland via Buchans (on an ATV Trail) and the Wind Blows On...

Following a quiet evening of visiting with the Legge family and their daughter and company where I was presented with a gift of moccasins, I slept like a log and was up at 6AM.  By 7AM I'd consumed a breakfast of champions (toast and peanut butter) and was ready to hit the road.

The day was overcast but the sun was working hard to break through the clouds!  A great day for riding east...

The scenery was breathtaking!  At every turn I was reminded how small and insignificant I am in this vast land... and that I was not alone.


At the Borgeo turn off I briefly debated turning south and going to Boergeo - just to say I'd been there... and, I'll not likely be this way again... after doing the math I quickly vetoed the idea - an hour and half down, at least an half hour to poke around, and an hour and half back... too far as I had a lot of ground already to cover...

The road was in fine shape.  No hidden rim crushers... nice packed gravel and it stretched on and on... this was gonna be fun!  Lots of changing light, and my head was constantly swivelling, trying to take it all in!


The bridges were a particular joy as the vista afforded of the expanse of water always brought forth an involuntary intake of breath in sheer delight of what was on display around me - on either side - the water of life flowing onward... never to be in this place in this manner ever again...



And then... the road began to narrow...  and narrow some more until it was as if I was riding an ATV trail!  By this time I was 80 or more kilometres in.  Do I keep going or do I turn around?  I wrestled with this question at each washout (no pictures as I was too busy picking a line) and at each water crossing (no pictures as I was too busy dumping the water out of my boots)... 


Eventually I came to a sign.  Buchans.  This was good news.  I knew I was going the right way.  I also knew I was closer to the end then the beginning... so I kept heading onward toward the NE.


The further north I went the closer I got to Red Indian Lake.  What a huge body of water!!  It was at about this point that I came across five moose who were making their way across the road as they travelled along a power line cut.  I'm glad they didn't pay me any mind.  Unfortunately I was unable to get a picture of them.


Above is a shot of the aftermath of a 700lb motorcycle falling over when the operators stops on an off  kilter hill and can't hold it up as it starts to go...  I'd stopped to get the picture below and when I put my right foot down there was nothing... and over she went.  No harm no foul.  Picking it up took two tries... and yes, I had to put my back into it!!


I took this picture below to give you an idea of the "rim busters" that littered this road.  Sharp pointed rocks that are three quarters buried and there is a pointed part jutting up - ready to crack your rim if you hit it the wrong way.  There is no casual riding on a road like this!  Standing up on the pegs looking far ahead picking your line...


And then you come across this... a sentry in the road way!  No way was he moving... and I wasn't getting close... as long as I moved slowly along he trotted in front of me.  If I stopped he stopped... and so I putted along until we came to a "Y" in the road.  He went left and I went right... and I think that's why I ended up north of Buchans instead of coming out in Buchans... oh well, more gravel is good right!!


Another river crossing...


A final view of Red Indian Lake...


And then a ride on the pavement into Buchans to find coffee... alas there was nothing to be found in Buchans... nothing!  I'm told it was once a happening place... but there is not much happening there now.  The one cafe is closes up and even the swimming pool is empty...


From Buchans it was on to Badger and then Grand-Falls Windsor where I fuelled up.  With a full tank of gas my belly needed filling so I stopped for a lunchtime breakfast at Bishop Falls and from there is was quick moving in the rain on the TCH until I reached the turnoff to Marystown.



About 70KM out of Marystown my eye caught movement off to the left.  I pulled over and sure enough it was a Caribou.  This warranted getting out the camera...

The iPhone didn't quite capture it...
Even with the DSLR with a Zoom Lens
he was still a ways away...
And the wind blows..
As a navigated boulder strewn roads, whacked my mirrors on tree branches as the road became an ATV trail, and then sped along the TCH in the rain through Terra Nova National Park there were four  constants in my mind all day:
  1. My God its windy...
  2. What vast barren beauty...
  3. Am I ever small in the grand scheme of things...
  4. My God its windy...
And wind is not likely to stop anytime soon... so like the trees perhaps all we can do is seek to grow where we are planted... and, if you look closely at those firs that point to the direction the wind blows there is lots and lots of tender new growth... tender shoots of varying shades of green... roots planted deep they will prevail against the harsh bitter wind... and they will provide shelter for the new seedlings that sprout below their limbs in the fertile soil of the bog...  Those firs, they may not be the prettiest, they may not be the straightest... but they've grown in the harshest of conditions and in that - there is always hope for the rest of us...

...on the Sabbath Road...

717KM with an average speed of 71 KM/H
320 KM of Gravel Road

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Corner Brook to Flat Bay with White Smoke Upon Arrival...



By noon time it was time to move on... the presentations were engaging and deeply meaningful but I had accomplished what I set out to do: have conversations with senior executives, make connections with potential chaplains and reconnect with colleagues from across the country.

As I was walking out the building Commissioners were heading toward the ballot boxes for the second time to choose a new Moderator...

Why do the direct route when there is a curvy option?


And the day was spent riding in the light drizzle trying to enjoy the scenery through the drops...





It was only after arriving in Flat Bay, NL and sharing supper with my hosts that I learned that Jordan Cantwell had been selected as the new Moderator.  I had a delightful conversation with Jordan on Wednesday afternoon reminiscing about Augustine United Church and its Oak Table and the many individuals who found warmth and acceptance there - including me - as an intern during the summer of 1989.  Jordan also served there and we shared relationships with a few folk in common.  I have every expectation that she will have much to offer the Church.  Congratulations!

Tomorrow I turn eastward and head inland toward Buchans and points beyond.  Not sure how far I'll get... but I hope to be closer to St John's by Friday night with Saturday to make it the rest of the way...

... On the Sabbath Road...