Friday, July 30, 2010

the breath of shadows

The old country church was unlocked for us by the beautiful woman who has held the key for many years.  All we had to do was ask, and she wholeheartedly obliged knowing how important it was for us to touch base.  Then, my son and I were left to ourselves to take in the ambient memories, a few of which are our own.  Most are accumulatively shared with generations of ancestors who have attended services, held the hymn books, prayed together, listened to scripture. 

Generations all tied to my son were baptized, confirmed, married, eulogized within these walls. His paternal family has sat in these pews,  have sung in these choirs.  His ancestors helped build this little holy place.  He knows this inherently.  He's aware of this through the stories we have passed onto him.  The gift he feels is a sense of belonging that stretches from the present back into the breath of shadows.  The stories echo home. 

It was my son's idea to spend time in the little church during our first visit back to a place this family of mine holds close to our hearts.  Initially, his request surprised me.  I knew he wanted to walk the circle of the village road to say hello to the people in our lives whom we hadn't seen since last summer.  Though I knew it would be an emotionally charged pursuit, I wanted to as well.  

Going inside the church wasn't something I expected my son to want to do. When I thought about it, his desire made sense.  I guess I just didn't realize how much that place already held the stories for him.  As they do for his Dad.  As they do for his Aunt and Uncle.  As they do for his Cousins.  As they do for his Sister and Me.  Stories linger in the breath of the shadows.

Like everyone, however, who is attached to this village, the Spencer's Island church cradled those important ties that bind in the breath and shadows of people who tangibly represent the eternal. My son had only ever attended a few services there, the last two being a memorial service for his grandparents and a rededication of the church which included remembrance of two elders who had passed on in recent years.  The names Spicer  Currie and Gamblin touch chords in us.  Deeply meaningful, ancestral names.  At those services, he sat in a pew surrounded by an extended family  many of whom he didn't know personally but who knew him.  He is the namesake of his Great Uncle Max. This is  how he is "known."  Uncle Max was an elder and a lifelong active resident of this community.  More intimately, he was our constant anytime we visited and he continues to cast a big presence in our lives.  God, I miss him.

As I took photos from the balcony, it was Uncle Max's voice I could hear the most pronouced...........singing in the choir, telling us stories, welcoming us with a huge smile and a big bear hug when we arrived to the big old house he had grown up in, which had been left in the Will to his sister, my Mother in Law..... my son's GrandMim.  The old house is now out of our reach.  We don't have access to it anymore.  But, the visit to the church reminded us both that its not what matters.  What matters is feeling the spirits of past and present which emanate throughout the village, especially in the pews of this little church. 

While my son looked around at the dedication plaques and recognized the names of relatives, he asked many questions.... good sense of belonging questions.   I could see in him how much it meant to feel this grounding...... this sense of place and person and hoped it helped him find a settling in the turmoil we have been experiencing.  His spirits were bouyant, uplifted........ which in turn lifted mine.

I continued to look around through the lens of my camera to catch the shadows of mid morning.  It was then that I remembered something about shadows ........... one can hear the sounds, the voices, the hymns caught in their breath when there's light shining above.  For it is light which allows the shadows to form...... Light provides the breath..........the spirit.  No light.  No shadows.  No breath from the past......

As we left........... my son asked me to remind him of his first trip to Spencer's Island.......... It was November, 12 and a half years ago.  He was 6 weeks old, and slept through the night for the first time in his wee life, cozied up in a basket bassinet right beside me........ The next day, we all went for a walk into Uncle Max's woods on a beautiful crisp sunny day.......... he in a snuggly wrapped around his Dad's chest ..... content as can be ..... and when he was hungry, I sat comfortably on a log in the middle of the woods and nursed my boy.  He loves that story.  So do I.  

More to come........................


Anonymous said...

Dana - what a great reflection on a very special place. The people and the place have touched all who have had the privilege of experiencing it firsthand. The last time we visited, we had the most amazing lobster feast with Gloria and uncle Max. Thanks for taking us all back - a great "tribute" to a special place.

awareness said...

Thank you Anon. ;) Those lobster feasts were all memorable....whether they were on the front porch, in the dining room or on the beach after Uncle Max steamed them in his maple sap boilers. The comraderie over such a feast is probably what I miss the most. I loved being a part of the orchestration!

We had a bonfire on the beach and roasted hotdogs etc when we were there and then I found a sandy spot on the beach and soaked in the salty air and sun. It was glorious!!

The House on Big Island said...

I guess I am in a particularly reflective state of mind, with the loss of an old friend, a few days ago and I really found something very special in this post, Dana.

I think, what it says to me is what a great mother you are! This gift to Max is something he will hold in his heart forever - it will provide him with a deeper undestanding and appreciation of himself and as a man he will have a stonger foundation upon which his character will be built.

I am constantly amazed at how unselfish and intuitive great mothers can be. It is times like this that I see how and why we men should just sit back in awe - and thank God for Moms like you!

Carmi said...

What a staggeringly beautiful piece - in images and words. The initial shot from the balcony stopped me in my tracks: whatever our background, I believe we all share in the common need to feel rooted in a place that's familiar, comforting and supportive. We all need a home, and you've painted a remarkably vivid picture of a place that's filled that role not only for you, but for your entire family.

Their collective echoes resonate strongly in your every word. I'm so glad you let your voice go and took us along with you. What vision, on so many levels, you have.

awareness said...

Daisy.... my thoughts and prayers have been on Levi's family these past few days too. He was more like a mentor to me as a new camper, but he always returned every summer to hang out with the staff and lend a hand. His presence at Kawabi never fades.

Thank you your kind words. It was three times lucky that I finally got the strength and the nerve to head down to Spencer's Island NS. The first two times, I was on my own and only made it to The Big Stop Irving on the highway not far from here and was overcome with sobs. Max provided me with the levity and the strength to get a handle on things emotionally and arrive there intact! And, I did do it as a Mom. That is what helped me. I wanted to go myself and just get that one visit in so I could relax a bit about it and touch base with as many as I could. But, I also knew how important it was for Max to spend some summer time down there. Martha is next, but she's at camp, so I think she will go down with her Dad, bro Uncle and cousins on Labour Day weekend.
I was offered my friend Glo's house in the fall after she leaves for Florida and may take a weekend then with the kids..... beautiful autumn weekend to give thanks.
This place seemed off limits to me when my marriage brokedown, but now I'm thinking that it still may be a place where I have the option to continue to visit. I hope so, but we'll see.

love to you Daisy....... we have to continue squeezing the best out of life eh? That's the lesson Levi leaves us. xxx

awareness said...

Carmi...I love seeing your smiling face here. :) thank you for your kind words. What a year of turmoil and emotions eh? Lots of reflection and pushing through the big life stuff. May we always know the sense of home and how it really is where your heart feels the most integrated with our souls. I have another story I've been sitting on for a long time, and I think I needed a trip to Spencer's Island to kickstart it again. I will post it soon and let you know, because it truly is all about the sense of home.

The first photo? When I took it, I knew it was a keeper! Don't you love those moments???

Love to you Carmi and your family. You guys need to consider a trip East before the anklebiters get way too big for a family vacay! The Maritimes is magically filled with a sense of belonging and home.

Mavis said...

Glad you made it back to a place you hold so dear.
This osng was running through my mind as I read your blog

Oh I’d like to go back
To that old country church
To hear the songs of praise
How the people would sing
It would make the rafters ring
At that old, that old country church

Shall we gather at the river
The beautiful, beautiful river
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God

Oh I’ll never forget
At that old country church
How the Glory of the Lord came down
And the children would smile
As they shouted down the aisle
Of that old, that old country church

In the sweet bye and bye
We shall meet on that beautiful shore
In the sweet bye and bye
We shall meet on that beautiful shore

Then on Sunday I’d see
All my friends dear to me
At that old country church
When it came time for prayer
Everybody would be there
At that old country church

Leaning, oh yes I’m leaning
Safe and secure from all alarm
Leaning, oh yes I’m leaning
Leaning on the ever lasting arm

Now the years have gone by
And so many have died
At that old country church
But they are on that other shore
Where they will sing forever more
As they did at that old country church

I’m redeemed by Love Divine
Oh blessed, Christ is mine
Oh to Him I now resign
I’ve been redeemed
I’m redeemed by Love Divine
Oh I’m blessed
Christ is mine
Oh to Him I now resign
I’ve been redeemed
I’m redeemed by Love Divine
Oh I’m blessed
Christ is mine

God Bless as always

Anonymous said...


Your ways with words and the camera leave bring tears to me eyes!


awareness said...

Mavis...that's a beautiful song. Next time I see you at the Superstore in front of the melons, will you sing it to me? I mean it! :)

Nan.... I'm glad you read this piece. I have a few others stirring in my head but havent had the time to write them out....... But, honest to God, I can hardly read this one without crying and I frigging wrote it! :) Hopefully see you soon....right next door to the church eh??