There’s a certain serenity that comes from a walk by the ocean. A sense of comfort and peace that rejuvenates the soul. This evening, as a way of embracing the warm summer air and showcasing our beautiful city, I took our exchange student from Japan down to English Bay for a stroll along the seawall and dinner on the beach. Together, we walked Price (our family’s 100 pound golden-doodle) along the shore. Accompanied by thousands of tourists and Vancouverites, we embraced the beauty of the day and watched the sun slowly set across the horizon.
Two miles away, another woman had the same idea. In search of serenity she offered to take her neighbor’s dog for a walk. Searching for a place of acceptance she chose a lesser known shoreline – the ocean’s edge at the foot of Main Street, just North of Hastings. Although she passes industrial lots, metal fencing and faces not wanting to be noticed amidst the shadows of Gastown, she experiences the same joy as she walks by the ocean. She hears the sounds of the waves, feels the slight breeze of a summer wind and watches night fall along Vancouver’s shore.
Aware that our student may want to buy some souvenirs, I offer to stop in Gastown. The streets are alive and parking is scarce but we eventually find a spot two blocks off the main strip on the periphery of the cobbled streets. Recognizing that the night is too warm to leave our dog in the car, I open the hatch and invite Price to join us. The odds of passing another dog walker are slim as it’s a different place to walk a dog. Urban sprawl has covered every available inch in concrete. Side walks, business, condos and industry leave no space for grass. We begin to walk along Powell towards Gastown. Meanwhile the other woman strolls south on Main Street, making her way back to her home. As a relatively new dog owner, I’m still learning dog walking etiquette but I recognize that most dog owners like to greet one another, often letting the dogs meet while strangers exchange pleasant hellos. As our paths cross, roughly ten feet apart, we smile in acknowledgement as dog owners do. I keep walking.
Now fifteen feet away, the woman offers a friendly greeting. I turn back, smile again and say hello back. I notice that she looks happy, walking with confidence with her well groomed dog. I keep walking.
I hear her again.
She has stopped walking and has turned back to call out. This time I recognize the voice. A friend from the past. Joy surrounds me and my heart bursts. There, on the corner of Gastown, is my friend Cindy. Cindy, whose story I have shared through TEDx. Cindy, who I wonder and worry about never knowing if she is alive. Cindy, whose dream, when we met in 2013 was to one day see the ocean. Cindy, the first woman I blogged about with Beyond Hello. Cindy, who I drove to Stanley Park the day we met so she could dip her feet in the ocean, only to have anticipation turn to trauma as the laugther and delight of regular folk hit her like a ton of bricks. Cindy, whose addictions used to chain her to Hastings Street like an invisible fence. Cindy, a woman who has survived abuse, illness and addiction. Cindy, who my students helped reconnect with her daughter Paige. Cindy, who has survived years of homelessness. Cindy, who looks so happy and at peace that I did not recognize her. Cindy – who by a power greater than I can explain keeps stepping into my life at just the right moments.
You see, just this May, an old student of mine, Miranda, wrote to me to say that she had discovered that Cindy has siblings she had never met. Miranda had blogged about the journey of helping Cindy find her daughter. Cindy’s sister Nancy found Miranda’s post this year while googling Cindy’s name. She emailed to tell us that Cindy has three sisters and a brother from the same biological father. My attempts to find Cindy to share the news had failed, and like many times before, I worried and wondered if she was still alive. Tonight I didn’t find Cindy. Tonight she found me.
Just hours ago, standing on the street corner, I read Cindy messages from her sister Nancy who has reached out and hopes to connect. I shared the news that her brother who she had yet to meet passed away last October. We hugged and cried and marveled at the coincidence of us meeting again and having so much to share. I asked if she was ready to call her sister Nancy. Always a planner, Cindy decided to think first of what to say, and thought perhaps she will start with a letter. I copied Nancy’s number down for her. Cindy’s eyes sparkled and we hugged some more, both grateful that we were once again meant to meet. She asked if I would return tomorrow for breakfast so we could talk some more. I promised her yes – I would be there. She promised she would be too.
With a bounce in her step and a smile in my heart, we both continued to walk our dogs. Two women, so different and yet so much the same: rejuvenated by love, life, tiny miracles and a walk by the ocean.
(More to come after breakfast J)
Previous posts about Cindy and our journey together: