Sitting in a business meeting, first one back from a summer pause,
enormous heavy rectangle of wood makes circle conversation a challenge.
As is our practice, my partner invites a check-in,
“Share an experience of community.”
Talking piece chosen. Stories begin.
Hearing five thousand international drummers and pipers play on the field in Glasgow.
Having her picture taken dozens of times on the Great Wall by scores of Chinese students, and loving it – this photo shy, tall and fair haired woman.
Witnessing her neighbor’s family bring an experience of “Canadian cabin county” to the recently settled Syrian family.
Celebrating every summer weekend festival our Festival City has on offer.
Mine, a simple tale – embellished here – of walking in my neighborhood and the moment of community that unfolded.
Usually accompanied by our Annie dog, these past weeks I’ve gone solo as she’s been at dog camp, running to her heart’s content over the prairies. Depending on our route, I can pass by a bungalow with a beautiful cherry tree in the front yard.
Spring time, my attention is caught by its bursting white blossoms, their soft fragrance adding to the gift of our encounter.
Weeks pass, I’m lost in my thoughts, or noticing the shift of clouds, or the remarkably early tulips and lilacs and forsythia. Not much happening on the cherry tree I notice, giving it a passing glance, until a few weeks ago.
Suddenly this elegantly shaped tree is now lusciously full of glistening scarlet globes nestled among emerald green leaves, a regal standout against the azure sky. Evans cherries, a prairie-hardy sour variety, rediscovered a few decades ago just north of here. Wished I’d had my phone to take a picture. Wished I had an invitation to pick some for a pie.
Then a week ago, just that happened. I had my phone and poised to snap a picture I heard, “Do you wanna pick some cherries?”
Hand shielding my eyes from the setting sun, I hear before I see, Janet, the owner of the tree.
“I have a ladder and could help you, if you want to pick the rest of these. I have my fill.”
Well, I tell her, I’d love to, in fact, this is a dream come true as I’d thought of knocking on her door to ask if I may. I take her phone number and promise to call before coming over the next day.
Loaded with a dishpan and couple of pails – whatever I could find as good enough cherry containers – I made the three-minute drive and there was Janet, ready to help me pick.
Not like saskatoon berries, or strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, where you could eat as much as you pick, this tart fruit tempted only an occasional taste as we filled the pails, as I filled on Janet’s stories…
…of the old family homestead an hour east of here, and the inherited section she still farms.
…of recipes and tips for cherry soup and jam and jelly and pie.
…of her husband’s short lived retirement because, when all is said and done, he thrives on his work.
…of her daughter returning home with her grandson and loving having him close by, happy to provide refuge for them both.
…of being a traditional prairie daughter, wife, sister and mother who loves her life.
When we finished, with fruit still on the tree,
and me as full as the pails,
with love for this woman’s generosity for sharing the bounty of her tree, her life,
I asked to hug her my thanks and my good-bye.
And as we embraced, I knew this to be the feeling of community
as she sweetly, wondrously whispered,
“I think I just made a friend.”