Monday, January 24, 2011

Beauty in the Downtown Eastside

Photos I took in DTES

Since my workplace recently moved to the Downtown Eastside (DTES), I have been contemplating beauty in this part of Vancouver. In as environmentally harsh a place as the DTES that the media exponentially portrays it to be, there are tender moments to be found.

I have experienced such moments, but wanted to observe things of beauty in this neighbourhood. Of finding, or rather seeing (i.e., witnessing) beauty in the midst of this poorest neighbourhood in all of Canada, where drug use and homelessness are rampant. Where intersecting iron or steel bars form some interesting patterns of art while protecting window panes and doors, whether commercial or housing, not to mention its occupants and contents inside.

Despite this, I knew there was a sense of community in the DTES before my work transplanted its roots there. I had witnessed it to a degree. It was events, such as a memorial walk, in the neighbourhood where I observed a strong sense of this.

This walk and its ensuing ceremony were held to commemorate the many DTES women and other women, mostly Aboriginal, who had been missing or found murdered, some along notorious Highway 16 (dubbed “Highway of Tears”), between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

As I write this, I have a recollection of an Expressive Arts Therapy instructor specializing in addictions, who shared some stories of her experiences working with people from the DTES. How they watch out for each other and help one another. You may not think that that would be the case in such an area, but it does happen.

You also may not think that, as I was walking in the area during a lunch break, I might discover an angel - yes you read that right - in my midst. And it is located relatively close to my work. Interestingly enough, I hadn’t noticed it before while walking on the other side of the street. It is as if she is guardian over the area, keeping watch over the community and its residents.

The angel is formed of various materials including some grey, gauzy flowing fabric. She hovers overhead on the side of a building facing an empty lot that is covered in grass. I wasn’t sure of the materials that made this amazing art form, but what struck my curiosity the most was how it got there in the first place! Who put it there and how?!

Never mind the why! I didn’t care much about the reason(s) why she might be there. Although I wonder if it was simply to provide some aesthetic beauty to the area. Perhaps someone who just felt inspired to do so.

Or was it simply meant to inspire others? If so, how? Could it bring even more beauty? A sense of grace or peace, or even hope? To an individual or group of people? To the community?

I was in such a state of awe, that as I was walking away, I kept looking back at her as she faded away in the distance. I suddenly turned around to face the direction I was heading in and almost bumped into a tree! (Silly me.) Though just as I turned my head, I saw a man gazing in the direction where I had just looked and then he noticed her too.

He immediately made the sign of the cross in front of his body as Christians do. His gesture in juxtaposition with the angel was a symbol or sign of beauty. This rare and precious moment felt like a gift, a treasure to behold.

At such times, a camera or videotape would be incredibly handy to record such instances. But though these touching experiences are so profound on an emotional and spiritual level that is challenging to articulate, they are also personal and intimate. I imagine it would feel extremely intrusive if I had captured this on film (if I could even do so in the first place!).

Instead, I believe my mind’s eye will remember this image as I witnessed what seemed a sense of grace, both in the physical form of the angel and of the signing of the cross.

I wonder: What else can this and other pieces of art (or moments of beauty) inspire? Especially in the DTES where it seems like it's needed the most, but also in our homes, our workplaces, our communities ... overall in our everyday lives.

How can we ensure that we see beauty? Can we see it even in the midst of chaos? Or if it is barely visible? Does it really matter? And if so, why?

Just some questions to ponder though I'm certainly open to your comments and feedback.

Till my next blog, ‘see’ you then! ; )

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lost ... and Found

For my faithful blog readers (whom I appreciate very much, thank you!), you may have wondered what happened, as you haven’t heard from me for awhile. What happened to me? Perhaps you thought that I died or that I’ve been super busy and/or had writer’s block.

Two main events occurred that prevented me from writing just over two month’s time!

One circumstance was that I changed from looking for a third roommate to share a room in a house to looking for a place to live. It took time and energy as well as with associated tasks like removing belongings from storage, and downsizing (which included donating and selling items).

December rolled along which is usually a very busy month for me. This year I attended various vocal concerts as usual, but I also baked my family's favourite traditional cookie recipe: my Mom's delicious European cookies that she usually bakes for Christmas. I decided to start the tradition by making them for Christmas gatherings and friends. My birthday then came two months to the day that I last wrote my blog.

I have an expression that I made up about myself to describe some of my passions: If I don’t sing or dance, I’m either sick or depressed.

Similarly, I sometimes can't write. It’s usually a matter of being either really busy and/or not feeling inspired. My preference is to write ‘in the flow’ when words come intuitively to me (as they often do) or through my fingers when I type (or write). When they don't, I prefer not to write.

Unfortunately, not all my writing comes from Spirit, that state of natural flow and grace (though I wish of course! That would be ideal!). Though ideas for my posts flow for the most part, I usually have to 'work' at my writing when I force a deadline upon myself.

Acquiring writer's block (if you can call it that) was the other situation that took place. I was so excited and ready to post a blog, an inspirational piece entitled ‘A Tribute to My Parents.’ Not only did the words flow easily and effortlessly across the page (that I know came from Spirit), but also did my tears flow. I really FELT what I wrote at such a deep level as I was in an incredible state of deep gratitude to my parents.

Even though I was certain I had saved this writing piece somewhere in a computer file, I realized later that I actually hadn’t because I couldn’t find it anywhere (either on my home or work computer!). Now, how frustrating is that? Have you ever experienced that? If so, you understand what I’m talking about!

Well, since I didn’t feel like rewriting it because it wouldn’t be serving the original script justice, I’ll explain the essence of it and write about something else briefly.

As I mentioned earlier, the essence of my tribute to my parents was written in a tear-filled expression of gratitude. Somewhat similar to the ‘Tribute to a Stranger’ piece that I wrote in a previous blog in terms of gratefulness but probably at least 10 times more (than that).

When I phoned my parents asking for help to find a place, my parents suggested that they pray for me asking if that was ok with me as I was looking for a place to live (detailed in a previous blog).

Essentially, they called me occasionally that month to see how I was doing and how things were going with my search for a new home. I was truly appreciative of their emotional support and their love. And, I think for the first time in my life, I really felt my parents love for me. I really got it...this time. Wow, it only took me just over half a century! ;)

To celebrate my recent birthday, I attended a powerful healing circle facilitated by an extremely gifted healer. The theme revolved around healing issues and blocks associated with money and relationships that stem from family roots, primarily parents.

For me the healing was around living my passion and not giving up on my dream and myself. Apparently I was close to fulfilling it but then got stuck or blocked. The healer spoke directly and also indirectly about patterns using the word ‘transgeneration.' She used this term specifically when addressing me and a few others in the group.

Interestingly enough, I heard bits and pieces of myself, rather pieces of my life in other people’s stories as they shared parts of their life. This was not only for my healing but the group as well. I believe we could all relate to aspects of each person’s story in the group as I did.

Part of the information that the healer shared with me was that I am a very creative person (implying that I am to use my creativity) and the importance of being vocal. When I questioned if vocal included writing, she concurred.

As often happens when I consult with intuitionists (a term I coined), they confirm what I already know. I know that aspect about myself, i.e., that I am a very creative person with an abundance of ideas (such as creating inventions). I also feel the need and desire to be vocal (namely to express myself whether through speaking, singing, and writing).

These are some modalities of how my soul wishes to express itself. How about you and your soul?

Perhaps I will share more about this in my next blog.

In the meantime, wishing you a wonderfully joyous and abundant New Year!