Behind Yellow Tape

From a distance the park in our neighbourhood appears to be surrounded by police tape. Yellow plastic fluttering in the wind prohibiting children from swinging, climbing and sliding.

It’s a park we’re at frequently. Practically daily. Kids play, parents socialize, our community comes together.

Not anymore. You don’t. I don’t. We don’t.

Profound changes in our world affecting us all. For how long, none of us know. A virus that knows no borders has crossed all borders and injected itself into every moment of our lives.

Victims suffer. Their families grieve. Health care professionals risk their lives. First responders hold the line. Heroes work in grocery stores, pharmacies and in the utility companies that keep us warm, lit and connected.

The rest of us continue in a sort of limbo. Working from home, digging in our gardens, walking our dogs, avoiding strangers, standing six feet from friends.

For introverts this new world is familiar – introversion on steroids. For extroverts, it must be awful.

For the millions of newly unemployed it’s hell.

Where it all ends none of us knows. Hopefully well and soon. With shops and restaurants reopening and airlines flying and life returning to something like normalcy.

In uncertain times I embrace normalcy and routine. I ran on the trails near our home every day this week and savoured fresh air, pink blossoms and random beauty – a heron swooping down from the treetops towards the stream below. Another day, another run, I explored a different trail – darker and secluded – as the path ended I found a burnt chair surrounded by beer cans. A reminder that not all is right with our normal world. That some people seek out beauty and then desecrate it, dragging in their garbage and leaving their trash behind. The world we long for isn’t always that good.

Today, normalcy meant starting a quiet Sunday morning in the living room. Writing while my daughter sat beside me, crying real tears because her mom brought her peanut butter and jam and not peanut butter and honey. There is something very special about watching a 4-year old’s sadness that is so real and yet so fleeting.

Before the Strawberry Jam Incident my daughter had asked for the book and pen which were on the stand beside me. I always read with a pen in hand – constantly underlining passages. She has seen me do it a million times. And wanted to do the same. She took the book and the pen, and turned away, so I could not see what she was doing. As she drew she repeated over and over, “You’ll never guess what this looks like.”

This is what she drew.

Molly's Drawing

She was right. I couldn’t have guessed how beautiful her drawing would be.

“You’ll never guess what this looks like.”

Words that apply to our world right now.

A world living behind yellow tape.

 

 

In This Together

Wounded Rain PictureWe started in the rain. We finished in the rain.

Port Hardy to Victoria in eight days. Over 600 kilometers of running.

One cause. Support our Wounded Warriors. Honour the fallen. Support the living.

Eight intense days. Fast running. Slow jogging. Gruelling hills, treacherous declines, glorious flatness.

Eight humbling days. Meeting heroes in Legions up and down the island. Veterans of long ago wars. Veterans who still wake at night reliving those horrors.

Eight days of overwhelmingly gracious receptions. Men, women and children flooding those Legions, and community centers. Preparing meals for us, wrapping their arms around us, digging deep in their pockets and thrusting cash in our hands.

Money to support the injured – our veterans, first responders and their families. Injuries caused by the horrific things so many of them have had to see and do. Trauma after trauma, experienced over and over, and imprinted on their minds.

Our team barely knew one another at the start of the run. By the end we were a family. We loved one another. We watched each fight through tough miles. We shared stories, laughs, and bathrooms. No secrets. No egos. No attitudes.

We succeeded as runners because of the people around us. Warriors themselves. They organized this run, drove us, fed us, clothed us, housed us and cared for us. Unconditionally. One big family.

In This Together. That mantra inspired our run. We repeated it a hundred times that week.

In this together. Those words have taken on a new meaning these last few days.

Our world is experiencing a crisis unlike anything most of us have ever lived through.

Daily life continues, and grinds to a halt simultaneously.

Our run squeaked in under the wire. Before mass cancelations and social distancing. Before we had to stop hugging and high fiving. Before a gathering of hundreds became life-threatening.

Life. That’s all that matters. Life and everything that goes with it. Physical health. Mental health. Love. Family. Community.

For weeks, maybe months, all our lives will change.

We’ll get through it. As a team. In this together.

Cathedral Grove WW

Sarah – A Run for Life.

A few years before she was killed on duty, Sarah Beckett worked in a homicide unit.

I worked with her on a couple of cases. I did not get to know her but I formed impressions. She was “very.” Very professional, respected, hard-working – and pretty. It was hard not to notice her.

Sarah returned to working on the road. That’s where she was killed.

The morning she died I was working in the same homicide unit Sarah had been in. Her death rocked our office. One of my colleagues – one of the strongest and toughest people I’ve ever met – both physically and mentally, wept in front of a desk. Mostly there was shock, and silence, and whispers. For a few minutes it looked like our unit would be investigating Sarah’s death. Fortunately that changed. It would have been too much for too many.

Yesterday, I ran in the inaugural Sarah Beckett Memorial Run.

There were many families there. A community rallied behind Sarah’s family, her friends, her co-workers.

I witnessed stirring moments. A West Shore cop sprinting to the finish line. Sprinting at ten in the morning after being up all night working a nightshift. Sprinting when he could be sleeping, with another nightshift looming just hours away.

Canine cops running in full uniform. Weighted down by boots and vests.

Families running together. Strollers and children. A pregnant mom, herself a cop, who did not have to run, but did because she could.

My most abiding memories of the run are mascots and Mounties.

Our three year old daughter Molly came to watch the race. What she saw were giant furry figures, like Marty the Marmot, towering over her. She was terrified. She cried and cried, tears running, snot flowing. Molly finally calmed down on the drive home. But she remained fascinated by the mascots. And by her fear. She kept asking me to tell her the story over and over, about how she was scared. So I did. And I told her that I was scared too. I said that she was scared because she was too young, and I was scared because I was too old.

Molly is too young. Too young to understand what Sarah’s 5k was all about.

I am old. Older than Sarah Beckett of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ever got to be.

The Mounties get a lot of bad press, much of it undeserved. What rarely gets reported is how close knit they are. The RCMP is a national family. Tens of thousands of members and one large family. I’d experienced that first hand when I’d marched in Sarah’s funeral – me and dozens of my Victoria Police colleagues lost in a sea of Red Serge.

Yesterday that sea of red didn’t march. It ran. At a run for Sarah. A run for life. A run that everyone there felt privileged to be a part of. A run that everyone there wished never had to happen.

Beckett 5k

 

Toxic

Our home is in a subdivision regulated by bylaws. In British Columbia this is called a bare land strata. We’re all bound by rules and regulations that relate to how our properties look.

Recently, our strata council resigned en masse. In the letter explaining their actions, they wrote that “there is a split within the community” and called the current situation “a toxic community environment.”

The professional property management company that the council had hired quit too. Their letter to us said, “we wish you the best of luck moving forward and healing the divisions in your community.”

As so many neighbour disputes do, this all started over a fence.  It’s gone way beyond that now. If the strata council hadn’t resigned, they might have been voted out. Special meetings have been called. Letters from opposing sides tell us about tribunals and Supreme Court.

I don’t know which side to support. I see merit in the arguments of both sides. And blame too.

But this toxic, fractured community is not the neighbourhood I know.

It has snowed, pretty much non-stop, for the better part of the last two days. A region where snow is a novelty has been hit very hard. Our roads remain unplowed. Our children and our dogs step outside and disappear into banks of powdery fluff. Our driveways require shovelling. Over and over and over again. I’ve done mine at least 8 times in less than 48 hours. Last night I was sorer than I have been in years. A 50 kilometer trail run hurt less than 50 centimeters of snow.

And it’s been glorious. We live across the street from a park. It’s been filled with kids. Constantly. Toboggans and crazy carpets and remote controlled ski-doos. The sounds of delighted children fill the air.

The park has been full of adults too. Parents revelling in two consecutive snow days. No work, some shovelling and much play. With their children, and their friends’ children and the children of people they don’t even know.

The sidewalks have been alive. With banter between friends and strangers. Commiserating about the non-stop shoveling. Sharing stories of blizzards long past. People slowing down, taking time to talk. To be in the moment. To share both the beauty of our snow-covered community and the frustrations of winter.

Everywhere I look I see neighbours helping one another. Stuck cars don’t remain stuck for long. An older woman falls. A younger woman rushes over. Sidewalks and public paths get shovelled. I just watched a man push his snow-blower up and down our street, clearing the road itself. In the absence of snowplows, he’s doing it himself. Doors get opened to share hot chocolate, and snacks, and some laughs.

Nothing is toxic. Nothing divisive. Entirely the opposite. A community coming together.

That’s exactly the kind of neighbourhood I want my daughter to grow up in. One where we can tie a rope to her old baby’s bathtub and pull her down the snowy streets, to play with her friends and rejoice in the glories of winter. A neighbourhood of nice homes, stunning scenery and wonderful people.

It doesn’t take much for a neighbourhood to become toxic. It started with a fence.

But maybe it doesn’t take much for that neighbourhood to heal either. Maybe all it takes is some snow.

 

Snowday