Room is Needed

“Do you need room?”

This is a question the barista asks me most days. Do you want your coffee up short, so that you can whiten it with a bit of cream, or milk, or a mixture thereof? I say no, but I mean yes, not that I want my coffee whiter but I want a bit more room in my life.

Life gets busy. Days are too short. The things I crave are sacrificed to the things that shout loudest. I am not complaining but stating facts on the ground. I make poor choices and in the making of them I breed yet more. It is hard to stake out a healthy vantage point when you are hard pressed.

Making room is not so very hard, though. It means saying “no” more often. Some of us are better at it than others. I’m not great at it because I don’t want to pass up opportunities. I don’t want to let down friends, acquaintances and those I admire. I don’t want to think through the options. But sometimes I need to say “no” because I need room.

Without room, I cannot turn. Without room, I cannot stretch. Without room, I cannot step backwards. These verbs all matter. These are verbs of faith, they describe wagering another way of being in the world – one bound by neither pettiness of spirit nor brag of pride.

But having room means having less. A roomy life is less cluttered. The roomiest of all lives are lived en route with nothing save what is near at hand. A roomy life is not only a life with less but a life that gives with less, which is not the same as giving less. The one with room gives with less because they give out of emptiness and may paradoxically give what is needed most: a little room.

We neither bear nor hear paradoxes without room. There is no place for paradox in an inn full to the brim, nor in a boat battened down with fear. But love casts out our fear. Love is paradox made flesh, as are faith and hope: love in the April sun as sharp as a razor, hope in fresh buds pushing up against cynicism, and faith in friends taking time simply to be together. These three together give us voice to play the barista, offering room to thirsty pilgrims.

Bottoms up.

Of March and Mirth

These days seem weighty.
March’s time does not march at all,
but shuffles along, sometimes even losing ground.
In fact just this last week
Tuesday followed Wednesday, which
meant I had to do Wednesday twice
and Tuesday too.

Spring came but just now announced a
reversal of course. Time
it seems, is not always on our side.

Thank goodness for space. Today,
walking home, a lane announced
that hope is in order – shouting out
a colorful mural like a street preacher. And
earlier in the day
an empty parking lot said
“Take a look!” and so I
did and the heavens wrapped me round
like a quilt,
like a mother,
like life.

Meeting my Waterloo (Street)

This afternoon I went to the dentist, or rather, to the dental hygienist.  She was really very kind to me.  She gave me some floss and a new toothbrush, and after I paid my bill, and collected my things I began my trip home.  On the days I walk, I generally meander down King Street, which takes me through uptown Waterloo, and then across the twin city border, after which I mosey through downtown Kitchener, down Ottawa Street and then home.


But today I took a different route, since my normal path would have meant a significant amount of back-tracking.  So, instead, I walked against the one way traffic on Bridgeport, turned right on Moore Ave. N and then took a left onto Waterloo St, which winds through an interesting part of Kitchener that I usually only see from the car.  (These days, when I drive, I take Waterloo because the more popular Weber that I would normally take to work is under construction.  In fact, I have become rather fond of Waterloo, and have started taking it as a matter of course, but only on the way to work.  I tend to take a more convoluted route home. )


It was interesting, indeed satisfying, to walk down Waterloo.  You see a street differently when you walk what you normally drive.  The difference is doubled when walking in a contrary fashion.  Waterloo is a mostly straight street connecting, in earlier days, the not yet twin cities.  The street is now flanked by houses from the early twentieth century, brick in the main that are more often yellow than red.  Every now and then you see a house hinting at the German provenance of its builder – the odd flourish reminding me of Black Forest sensibilities.  The ethnicity of the area changes with the times, and the one house that I have taken note of while driving boasts an Italian flag above its grape vine arbor.  In the summer the home vaunts a lovely canopy of green, but in this in-between time, when the earth is hardly clothed, the yard looks vulnerable.  Walking, I noticed a dog-run on the side of the house that came right up to the street.  I wondered it this canine sideline successfully keeps raccoons at bay in the fall.


Not far from the yard-come-vineyard is a new home being built, full of sharp angles and strangely placed windows.  I must say I was rather taken by it, taken in by it until the walk along Waterloo dropped me off just shy of the Kaufmann lofts: a once beehive of factory activity making the famous Kaufmann boots.  We would buy these out West, not imagining that one day the factory floor of this profitable business would host halls leading to domestic spaces.  I crossed the Kaufmann parking lot and made my way onto Duke, where I saw down town Kitchener in various states of gentrification, modernization, and obfuscation: a city finding itself.


South of downtown I slipped past Kitchener’s Farmers Market, being guarded in its off hours by the Korean Presbyterian Church and the Kitchener Waterloo Racket Club.  Krug carried me to Weber, and I split off at Sterling, which left me at the edge of Sheppard School, where my children attended so many years ago.  I wistfully traversed the playground, a little sad that those days are behind, but proud of my three darling daughters that have never looked back.


From there, the way walked me home just as I used to walk my children home, and a kind of peace settled into my feet, my soul.