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
“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.