Even after hundreds of hikes through our city's dozens of parks and mountain trails, even after ten years living in the city of Vancouver, there are still days when I catch sight of a new bird that I had never seen before.
It happened again today as I spied a striking white and black fellow with a tell-tale red spot on the back of its head. A diligent internet search suggests that I saw a downy woodpecker, but I didn't know that at the time... As usual when I see something so beautiful in the woods, my instinct is to look around and invite any stranger nearby over to share the good fortune. Today this was the older Asian gentleman armed with a rather large camera that I had passed a few moments before, along the trail. I waved him over, explaining that there was a bird here worth filming.
Turned out he couldn't speak a word of English, but my spontaneous pantomime act eventually made things clear, and judging by the look on his smiling face he was as happy as I was by this unexpected treasure found in the park.
After a while we shyly went our separate ways, each unable to find words the other would understand, but the expressions we were wearing said as much as anything sociable we might have thought to say to one another.
A few twists and turns later and we crossed paths once again, each stopping in place as we realized the trail was too narrow for both to pass simultaneously. I fell back to my pantomime skills again to infer that he should have the right of way, and I stepped aside (into what turned out to be much deeper muck than I expected! Oh well) to give him his space; mountain trails like that one tend to bring out the chivalrous side of we hikers, especially when things are all iced over as they were today.
Once out of the park I whimsically continued walking to take full advantage of the day's gorgeous weather, letting me day-dream about a day when I might possibly own one of the beautiful houses nestled among these trees. Eventually I was approached on the slippery sidewalk by two very well-mannered young Japanese women, probably English Second Language students. With the same exemplary courtesy that all these ESL visitors seem to display, they gently asked for some clarification on how to get to the park that I, coincidentally, had just come from. Their English wasn't much better than the older fellow I had met in the woods, however, so with a practiced patience I went over my directions three or four times, and then once more just to make sure. Reading their smiles I could tell when they felt they were back on secure footing for their trip, even if the state of the sidewalks promised otherwise.
After a few more blocks the hours of walking were starting to take their toll, so I pointed myself in the direction of the nearest bus stop to begin the long journey over bridges and rivers, suburb after suburb, to head home. Then I saw it. Lo and behold, sliding towards my feet, escaping puddles and slush, glides a crisply folded twenty dollar bill.
If I had breezed past the two lost and confused teens on the sidewalk, if I hadn't stopped to be of service to the elderly tourist in the woods, would I have had the same timing to arrive at the same spot inside the same time frame to scoop up this twenty dollar bill?
As if I still needed it, here came ever more evidence that it pays to patiently search for ways to connect with people, it pays to try and be of service to each other, it pays to be curious enough to look outside of oneself and imagine what the world may be like from another's point of view.
Today's date, February 2nd, couldn't have been a more appropriate occasion for me to undergo my humble adventure, for it was on this day two years ago that I first met my current Covenant Zone co-bloggers, Dag and Truepeers, and started participating in our weekly Vancouver meetings. Searching for words to describe how I feel leaves me as silent as earlier in my pantomime escapades back on the mountain... I'll settle for saying I am grateful for such a rewarding association, for what our weekly meetings have taught me about our world; often a painfully disillusioning revelation, yet nevertheless one still leaving room for hope.
I didn't quite know what I was in store for that cold wet night, two years ago this evening... but it seemed an adventure worth pursuing then, and remains so now.
Here's to another year of agreeing to disagree, of not knowing what to do beyond the knowledge that something positive must be done, and that therefore trail after trail must be explored; that each encounter along the way be undertaken in good faith that the exchange may add value to our lives; that despair over the difficulty of the task ahead can be overcome through a willful renewal of effort, an impossible challenge made so much easier from the continued practice of searching for a common thread despite a lifetime of uncommon experiences.
What's a Covenant worth? Faith in the future... and a promise of Peace.