About a week ago, an old friend sent me a message through Facebook: “Gonna be camping at Qualicum beach starting tomorrow if you have nothin going on this week.”
I haven’t spent any time with Andy since high school. And even then, we usually ran in a pack of 4 or 5 teenagers, rather than spending any time one-on-one. He is “Andrew” now, which is a little hard to wrap my head around. Andrew and his wife, Joanne, ended up driving down to Victoria, jointly supporting each other’s agendas: have lunch with an old friend of Joanne’s, and then dinner and staying the night at our house before heading back to the campground.
I’m not sure what to say about the visit- not because of these lovely and interesting people, but the effect it had on me.
Joanne is a songwriter/teacher/mentor. Andrew is a train conductor, artist (metal sculpture), and although I don’t know that Andrew sees himself this way, a very good writer. I say this because many of his Facebook posts stop me in my tracks, making me sit there and really think. He speaks from the heart, asks good questions, makes excellent observations, and does so very eloquently. His sculptures are stunning.
They are both creative people, and so the conversation wondered through topics like inspiration, creative process, and intuition. They generously made me feel included as a creative person, like a fellow artist. I loved it. I remember conversations like this in college: a few of us kids from CreativeWriting101 sitting on the lawn for hours: sharing, debating, hypothesizing while drinking strong, thick campus coffee.
“Geoff, what about your writing? Are you still doing that?” Sigh. I tell Andrew about my fledgling journal, only a couple days old. That’s the extent of my recent creative expression.
It seems I’ve moved from writing poetry to writing contracts, and now to writing nothing. And my perspective has followed along, from viewing the world with the heart of a writer, to viewing it with the mind of a businessman, and now to not knowing how to see the world at all. I want to view the world with my heart again.
The conversation is uncomfortable and inspiring.
It feels like starting a garden as a young man, and though it was never fully developed, it was large and beautiful. People loved to come by, amazed that it looked better with every visit.
But then, somehow over the years things get a little more unkept, a little more overgrown. It’s not completely neglected. It’s fine, it fits in with the neighbourhood. You focus on your career. People still visit. Why put in the effort?
One day you bump in to an old gardening friend at the coffee shop. He’s sunburnt, smiling, and has dirt under his nails. You talk about his garden, the work he is putting into it, the new bed he has just filled with annuals. You talk soil and roots and bulbs. Although you keep up your side of the conversation, the realty is that it’s been years since there has been dirt under your own nails.
When he asks about your garden, you think of the empty beds, the overgrown hedges, the long, long grass and you offer up, “A as a matter of fact I pulled a couple weeds just last week…” Time to grab a shovel and get to work.
Thank you, Andrew and Joanne.