Simply to expect that we will be given what we need for our own growth—that we will be invited again and again to awaken, pay attention, learn, stretch into love in new ways, practice discernment, exercise generosity or rest and be held in a rich and joyous way of life.
Marilyn McIntyre, Adverbs for Advent
One thing about Victoria, where I live, is that there is always something new to discover, unexpected encounters with people, places, and things. I am sure this is true wherever I’ve been and I was too preoccupied with other things to notice. Victoria invites walking and biking and not having access to our car most days encourages me to take alternative forms of transportation.
This wasn’t true in the city where I used to live. Early one spring evening, I decided to walk to a meeting just a few blocks from my house. Without my dog walking alongside me, three neighbours stopped to see if I needed a ride, asking if my car was out of service. At the university, where I worked, I regularly walked through a steep winding path to teach in a building that most of my colleagues and even students drove to instead. On that path, I met squirrels and birds and even a muskrat swimming in the narrow creek. Neon blue dragonflies dotted the grasses near the edge of the water and just off the paved walkway; a wooden porch swing, hidden among the foliage, invited reflection.
I don’t know if Marilyn McIntryre was thinking of these kinds of opportunities, nonetheless, taking time to walk, alter my usual route, or ride the city bus creates an opening for noticing. Invited by a slower pace and immersed in the freedom to look, I see my surroundings differently.
And maybe, the people who choose to offer a sense of community and abundance, like the owner of the Poetree I discovered, extend those invitations to someone like me who happens by.
In the winter here, the sun is a glorious gift in the midst of cloudy, rainy forecasts and walking or biking is common, no matter what the weather. I walk home often from Fernwood, a gentrified by still funky neighbourhood, where I go to yoga, get my hair cut, and monitor offerings at the community theatre. Meandering toward home, I pass through Haultain Corners in the adjacent Oakland’s neighbourhood.
Haultain Corners is two blocks of friendly places: Koffee (yes, a coffee & lunch spot), two small groceries, a community collective offering creative classes, and even a “General Store” that has everything you might need from fresh bread to vegan leather handbags. I bought my thermal French press coffee pot there a few months ago. Even if I don’t stop in, there is a sense of belonging and welcome there.
The shops are nestled between residential streets of early 20th century houses, many lovingly restored and some in need of a handy person. The Poetree was just around the corner from the shops on Scott Street.
Victoria is filled with unexpected “libraries”—some kind of structure on a post with a door for access and a shelf for books— like the one near the corner of my street. Neighbours and strangers who happen by exchange books with no need for a special card or incentive to “sign up,” – an unconventional way to build community, belonging, and shared lives.
The Poetree was one of those unexpected encounters.
At first glance, I thought it was another inventive container filled with books to share. Startled by the narrowness of the frame, I took a closer look.
One lone poem, handwritten on a scrap of paper, was on the clipboard behind the glass door.
I delightfully lingered. I wondered: Who put this poem here? Who is Edwin Markham? Why this poem? (I had many thoughts about the timelessness of this message.) Who had the idea to create this Poetree? Can I put a poem here, too? Questions that may never be answered and that is part of the delight. Wondering expectantly without expectation.
I don’t expect much, or do I have too many disguised expectations? Maybe I expect too much of myself—that I am the one who has to figure things out, do something, decide, right now. So I want to hold Marilyn McIntyre’s words close, to simply expect that I will be given what I need, and maybe even that what I need is already here. It is not a one-time invitation.
I am grateful for whoever chose to put up the Poetree. I am grateful for that one who penned that poem on a scrap of paper and opened the door to share it with me. I am grateful for Edwin Markem who risked sharing his thoughts so long ago. The Poetree reminds me of what a joyful encounter looks like, to notice, to take a closer look, and extends an intentional pause along my way. Wonder. Questions don’t have to be answered or even answerable.
… invited again and again to awaken, pay attention, learn, stretch into love in new ways, practice discernment, exercise generosity or rest and be held in a rich and joyous way of life.