My life as a wa­ter­way, in four parts

From the Avon to the Ham­mer’s Harbour, I’ve al­ways been close to the gift of life

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - Deirdre Pike is a free­lance colum­nist for the Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor. You can write her at dpikeatthes­pec@gmail.com or fol­low her on Twit­ter @deirdrepike.

“If you were to write a book about your life in four chap­ters, what ti­tles would you give them?” posed my spir­i­tual di­rec­tor as a get­ting-to-know-you ex­er­cise for the eight-day silent re­treat I had just be­gun that sunny Sun­day last Au­gust. One hour a day with Sis­ter Margo Ritchie, CSJ, would be my sav­ing grace when I could give voice to the con­ver­sa­tions stir­ring within me.

I went back to my room and within no time I had four dif­fer­ent themes in which to frame my life story, each com­plete with four chap­ter ti­tles. I could nar­rate my life in quar­ters through the places I’ve lived, the jobs I’ve held, the girl­friends and part­ners I’ve had, or the booze I was drink­ing at the time (or not). I think each of them could work quite well when I get around to writ­ing my cap­ti­vat­ing au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “Queer as a Three-Dol­lar Bill.”

Since then a fifth theme dawned on me. I could or­ga­nize the four chap­ters based on the sig­nif­i­cant waterways run­ning through or bor­der­ing some of my earthly dwelling places to date.

The first chap­ter would be en­ti­tled, “Along the Avon.” I was born in St. Mary’s where the Avon meets the North Thames, but af­ter a scant 10 days was adopted by The Pike Fam­ily at 210 De­lamere Ave., Strat­ford, just blocks from the Cana­dian ver­sion of the orig­i­nal Avon in Eng­land. I have no mem­ory of it but my mom re­ports I was al­most eaten alive by a swan were it not for her brav­ery along the very banks of the famed wa­ter­way.

“Sit­ting by the Sy­den­ham,” would give me pages to tell about my days in Strathroy. That river ran through Vic­to­ria Park where I went to nurs­ery school, learned to swim in the Lions’ Pool, had Fris­bee lessons with the Por­tuguese boys, and had my first bot­tle of La­batt’s Blue with Rob Dox­ta­tor.

My life in Lon­don would be told un­der the moniker, “The Mighty Thames,” and if I had to limit it to four chap­ters I’d skip my ac­counts of Hanover ti­tled, “Hang­over on the Saugeen,” and of Ot­tawa un­der, “Cat­e­chism on the Canal,” and head right to “Out on the Harbour,” to give some of the de­tails about life in the Ham­mer.

All of this wa­ter talk came about af­ter Renée and I were in­vited by my friend and or­ga­nizer ex­traor­di­naire, Mike Balk­will, to at­tend Water­stock at the Erin Fair­grounds a few weeks back. Mike has helped lo­cal ac­tivists or­ga­nize in Hamil­ton to elim­i­nate poverty, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to in­ad­e­quate so­cial as­sis­tance rates.

He is the key mind and co-or­di­na­tor of Put Food in the Bud­get, a lead group in the move­ment to pres­sure the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to im­me­di­ately ad­dress the mea­gre sup­port a sin­gle per­son re­ceives on On­tario Works.

He is also the cam­paign di­rec­tor of the Welling­ton Wa­ter Watch­ers, a force to be reckoned with when it comes to stir­ring the gov­ern­ment and those of us who take own­er­ship of our wa­ter for granted and will let it slip right through our fin­gers to the likes of Nestlé and the other Big 6 wa­ter hogs that con­trib­ute the ma­jor­ity of the mil­lion plas­tic bot­tles pur­chased ev­ery minute — ev­ery minute! — a day around the world if we’re not at­ten­tive.

Water­stock was a fan­tas­tic event us­ing lo­cal food and mu­sic to draw at­ten­tion to the need for Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne to stop al­low­ing per­mits to bot­tle wa­ter.

We can no longer take the risk of de­plet­ing ground wa­ter when cli­mate change makes ev­ery­thing more un­pre­dictable and the as­so­ci­ated plas­tic pol­lu­tion is cre­at­ing a global cri­sis.

I’ve never been a big bot­tled wa­ter user so that’s not an is­sue, but there’s more to do. For starters I’ve en­dorsed the WWW mes­sage to the gov­ern­ment at a su­per site, sayno­ton­es­tle.ca.

As I sit along the Mighty Thames on my re­treat this Au­gust, I will be grounded in grat­i­tude for the gift of wa­ter and pray­ing ev­ery­one sits along the side where wa­ter is for life.

DEIRDRE PIKE

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