…all over the place.
I rose at six a.m. to be on a bus to Toronto at 7:30 so I could spend a day with Elspeth, an amazing woman whose blog I’ve been visiting for many months. She came to Toronto a few weeks ago for a reflexology course that ended up being canceled. Elspeth didn’t even get angry about the cancellation after flying all the way from Trinidad to be here for it. She knows there must be another reason for her journey and her stay here.
I had never taken a bus nor train to Toronto before and so emailed my friend Ada to ask her how it’s done. This is the sort of thing I am famous for botching…being in the right place at the right time and then not mis-communicating the details of the rendezvous on the other end. After so many incidents in my life where a friend waited and waited for me in the wrong spot, I have got a bit of a complex around the whole task of properly planning meeting times and places. Now I tend to spend way more energy than the average person describing and double and triple checking that we are both talking about the same day, same place, same calendar year.
So it is funny that I would not have confirmed with a little Googling that–like the trains–buses arriving at Toronto disembark at Union Station. I just assumed they do and asked Elspeth to meet me there at 9:00. She said she would.
At 6:50 I was sitting in my bus seat wondering why I’d left myself facing an hour and a half ride with nothing to read. Then through the bus door came Rachel, Ada’s daughter and my good friend and sister-in-law. City’s population: over 200,000. Seats on the bus: 60. Chances of ending up with one of my best friends in the seat next to me? Chance has nothing to do with it.
Rachel was going to Toronto for a homeopathy workshop along with her business partner and fellow doctor of naturopathic medicine, Michael. We talked for the first hour or so heading into the big city, then got quiet. As we neared the first Toronto stop, however, Rachel asked me, “where are you meeting your friend?”
“At Union Station.”
“Then you’ll want to get off here at the Royal York and walk there, it’s just a block. Otherwise you’ll have to take a subway back to Union Station from the coach terminal when we arrive there.”
And so I did. I hopped off at the Royal York and easily followed Rachel’s directions to Union Station. Elspeth and I both wandered into the deserted station at around the same time and celebrated our finding each other with the sort of long, warm, tight embrace that not everyone knows how to give.
Let’s do the labyrinth first. Yes, yes, let’s. I’d like that.
Do you already know about the labyrinth?
No, I’ve never walked a labyrinth before.
Elspeth explained to me the different parts of the labyrinth. First, you can ask the labyrinth a question or ask it for what you need. Or you can say, “labyrinth, surprise me.” You can take the walk at any pace. When you get to the middle, you can spend as much time standing or sitting in each of the petals as you feel you need to. You can do anything. Stay open.
When I was walking the labyrinth, a sort of chant came to me. I saw the winding path of the labyrinth as my journey from birth to death to transcendence. This is some of what came to me while I walked.
Sometimes you are in the shade; sometimes you are in the light.
Sometimes you trust the path; sometimes you doubt the path.
Sometimes you pass someone who seems to be going in the wrong direction; know that you share the same destination.
Sometimes you are tired; sometimes you are full of zest.
Sometimes you feel large and important; sometimes you feel minute and insignificant.
Sometimes you feel grounded; sometimes you feel lost.
Sometimes you feel cold and exposed; sometimes you feel warmly cloaked.
Sometimes you feel agitated and impatient; sometimes you feel one with what is.
Sometimes you think you are going in circles.
And you are.
But that doesn’t mean you aren’t still on the right path.
After the labyrinth, Elspeth told me about a thing she sometimes does.
We pick a clue. It can be a colour, a compass point, a number, anything. You go first.
Ok, … um… PURPLE. Our first clue is purple.
There was a large church beside the labyrinth with a big banner beside the open door: “DOORS OPEN TORONTO.”
Oh, right. Historic buildings all over the city are open for public tours now as part of this event. We can go inside this church. And we did. Among the pamphlets, Elspeth found a purple one and I picked up a scavenger hunt colouring book. I love colouring books. Elspeth suggested we do the scavenger hunt. Our whole day was a scavenger hunt, so this was a scavenger hunt within a scavenger hunt. Inside symmetry is one of the themes that would come back to us throughout the day. We found all thirteen things in the Church of the Holy Trinity, second oldest still standing church in Toronto. It is 160 years old.
While we were in the chancer looking for the third of three things that should have been there, a lovely octogenarian gentleman with a long white beard crossed through and spoke to us. “Are you going to help us with this third item?” I asked him.
“NO!” he said. “You are having fun!”
He told us that is what God’s house is for…whether the space is being used to marry a Gay couple or whether homeless people are coming in there to sleep each night. God’s house is no place for dour piety without joy.
Carry on. He went on his way and left us struggling to find the next item on our scavenger hunt.
Our next clue was Seven East.
The clue East put us on a trolley. “You choose when we hop off,” Elspeth said. This brought us to Kensington Market. I looked up. “Elspeth, is that a number seven?” Yes, the shop is called Collective Seven.
We had a great time wandering in and out of the funky vintage clothing shops and other little businesses here. I was captivated by this poster outside the Global Aware information centre.
We had some lunch in the open air.
Leaving Kensington Market, we spied this little alleyway fronted by a row of tall, narrow homes. Someone has incorporated an M.C. Escher work in the facade of their house.
The next chunk of our day was a bit frustrating. Neither one of us has a good sense of direction. In fact, neither of us has any sense of direction at all. We went in circles a lot. We were trying to find some of the CONTACT photo exhibits using the festival map Elspeth had picked up. Everywhere we went to find one of the exhibits, the building was closed Saturday. Dead ends, dead ends. We walked many, many blocks and took many trolleys trying to find even one open exhibit on this tour. No luck.
Our feet were getting tired. My back was getting tired.
“Do you think maybe we need another clue?” I asked Elspeth. Yes. Yes, your turn to pick.
“The number three,” I said.
“Ok. I am sensing FRUIT.”
Three of some kind of fruit, I thought as we set off in a new direction. Very soon we were standing in front of an antiques mall and there on the door was a CONTACT sign, indicating there was a participating photo exhibit inside. One of the antiques vendors was able to direct us to the booth toward the back of the large antiques mall where we finally could see a festival participant’s work.
The first thing I noticed as we approached the booth was the apple sitting by the guest book. And then I saw the other two apples on the bookcase behind it.
“How many apples,” I said, grinning.
Elspeth found two sets of three pears in the photographs, as well. Three sets of three. More of that fractal stuff going on, that symmetry in more than one dimension that they talk about in chaos theory.
After a long outdoor dinner back in Kensington, Elspeth put me on the southbound subway to Dundas, where finding the coach terminal should have been as easy as walking one block west upon emerging from the subway station. “Nellie Elephant squirts water!” she called to me just as the subway doors were closing. That is the childhood mnemonic she was taught for remembering the compass points. It didn’t seem to stop us from getting on the subway going the opposite direction from where we wanted to go more than once. It didn’t stop me from turning the simple directive on a sign (Toronto Coach Terminal One Block West) into an hour ordeal of walking, walking, paying a beggar to get me turned back around, managing to mess up those directions and getting lost a third time. Nellie elephant! Your water is squirting all over the place!
Sylvain asked me when I arrived home after eleven and called to let him know I’d arrived safely what Elspeth is like in person.
It was nice, I told him, to be able to talk about non-linear time and simultaneous reincarnation with someone and have her get it, have her know instantly what I’m talking about without having to explain how I find this logical or why I sense these things to be true.
It was nice playing the question game at dinner with two pens and two pieces of paper, folding the paper to hide the mystery question for the other person to answer and being told, “not everyone can play this game. Some people get confused.”
Here is the product of our question game. We didn’t get to unfold the pieces of paper and see the full quetions we were answering nor the other’s answers until the whole thing was done.
What did you want to do when you grew up? Three encounters with someone who always provided a new surprise.
How many times have you smiled since Sylvain? Three.
When will you return? When there is a full moon and a song in the background that has something to do with France/French.
What is the magic of now? My dream come true.
Why do you love? Because it makes me feel strong, independent and free.
What is today’s lesson? It is something indescribable, but close to the sky.
How do you feel when you are happy? With love and curiosity.
Will a door open? Yes! Most definitely, because that is divinely ordained.