January 23rd I came home from my usual Saturday morning run to the Downtown Farmer’s Market to commotion in the front lobby of my condo complex. Water was ankle deep on the main floor; someone was trying to find the key to the utility room so that we could turn the water off. We didn’t know where it was coming from. I joined the search. Ten minutes and a whole lot of damage later, we found the burst pipe. I walked into my own unit hoping that it had escaped somehow, but the water was in my master bedroom and my living room, coming up in the carpets and the walls.
If you know me, you know that I thrive on structure, routine, and order. Water washes all of that away. The walls in my bedroom had to be torn open, the living room and bedroom furniture piled and covered, the baseboards torn off. My office has also become my sleeping quarters, dining room, and living room all in one. I often eat while I read my email. Somehow between my bed and a narrow shelf I’ve managed to squeeze a yoga mat. In one corner, about four feet by three, I’ve laid down cushions, a prayer rug and a stack of books, and this is where I read every night before I go to bed.
This room reflects a distillation of the things that are really important to me. It’s a bit like living a monk’s life, except that I’m still very much in the world: I work and go out and go about my business. Of course, some days it’s an annoyance when I get up too quickly from reading and knock my head on the computer tray that I’ve left sticking out. There’s no good place to put my clock (there’s no room for a night table), so some mornings I have slept through the alarm. And I can’t get used to walking through the bedroom to my closet every morning past all the remnants of the destruction. But the months before this happened, and accelerated since the flood, I’d been working to make more space in my life, to live more spontaneously, more fluidly. It was the reason why I spent a week in February on the Pacific Rim walking the beaches and watching the storms. Why I’ve been accepting more invitations for coffee, for supper, and invitations to share my writing. I wonder some days what this might be preparation for, this opening? Retirement? That’s still several years off. Loss? A new relationship? Aging? New writing projects? Somehow it connects to a desire for balance.
Tonight I took part in the neighbourhood Earth Hour celebration at Boyle Street Plaza: Glow. As we paraded our paper lanterns down 96th Street in the dark, I felt a strong sense of optimism about the new spring coming towards us, and looking out over the river valley, about the mix of both shadow and light in our city, our world, and our universe.