Monday, June 14, 2010

Life is Big

Chance encounters of the close kind.
Life is Big

I met Sharon at a workshop at Mt. Shasta , California in 1992. We all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. The workshop leader asked us to buddy up, explaining that we were to work in teams of two. Sharon and I looked across the circle, nodded and grinned. Instant buddies. That week we forged a friendship.

Our lives were vastly different. I lived in a house in the woods in rural Poulsbo , Washington . Sharon had an apartment in the heart of downtown Vancouver , British Columbia . Sharon, a single woman, had traveled all over the world. She was intensely interested in alternative medicine and the healing arts. I had children, owned my own business, wrote poetry and painted. But we shared one common experience: we were both women of the prairies. Sharon grew up in Watson , Saskatchewan , just a little east and north of my own home town of Harlem , Montana . We frequently shared stories of our growing up at the end of the road, in small town isolation. We had been near neighbors and never knew it.

Over the next several years, we visited back and forth. I loved Vancouver . Sharon took me everywhere. We walked barefoot through the goose poop in Stanley Park . We explored Granville Island , its Public Market and the galleries. As time passed, our lives changed. Sharon married Ron, a chef and restaurateur from Singapore . Ron is a whirlwind of energy, full of plans, with the skills to carry them out. I liked him immediately. I became an empty nester. My children flew off into their own lives. I found myself doing something I had never thought I would do. I entered the world of theatre. Sharon attended my first play. O ur friendship grew.

One Friday Ron and Sharon surprised me when they drove up to my house in their big red pickup. They burst through the door. “Guess what we are going to do. We are leaving Vancouver . Ron sold the restaurant. We are done with the hustle and bustle, the pressures of the big city,” they announced, both talking at the same time. “We came to share our excitement with you.”

Amidst hugs and kisses, I managed to squeeze in a query, “What are you going to do?”

“We’re off to check out restaurants for sale in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland . We’re going from the west coast to the east coast.”

The weekend passed too quickly. Monday morning I waved them off with tears in my eyes. I wondered when, if ever, I would see Sharon again. I wanted to pack a bag and go with them.

A few days later, Sharon called. “Guess what? On our way east, we stopped to visit my Mom in Saskatchewan . You won’t believe this. We bought a restaurant right here in Watson. It’s called the Quick Stop. Ron has big plans for it.”

Our visits became less frequent but our phone bills increased. Five years passed. One day I called Sharon , “Guess what? We’ll be neighbors again. I’m moving back to Harlem .”

“Sondra, I am not one bit surprised. You always talked about going home. So when are you coming up here. We have a room waiting for you.”

And so we have resumed our cross-border trips, only now a thousand miles to the east. I like Saskatchewan . I feel at home up there.

This morning I called Sharon . She and I talked for an hour. We caught up on recent details of our lives. Ron has expanded the restaurant again. He added a room to house their new machine to manufacture perogies. They also bought the five acres of brush-land they took me to see on my last trip. They’ve cleared a patch and planted spruce and irises.

After our call, I stood in my doorway and watched the puffy clouds roll north, listened to the rain beat a tattoo on my red metal roof, inhaled the aroma of wet mud and lilacs, conscious that Sharon was unlocking the front door of the Quick-Stop and smelling the same fragrances. We are both back where we started. Prairie girls again.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door.
June 10, 2010

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