Editor: I recently had the most surreal experience at our neighbourhood park. It was beautiful and sweet and glowy, just before dusk.
People were happy, satisfied after a day’s work. It reminded me of Italy 30 years ago in a small town outside of Florence.
Everyone left their houses and cares and strolled to the village square just to be together.
That day, for a moment, all of us at the park were not strangers in the big world, but we were friends brought together by this little patch of grass and dirt known as Routley Park.
In an age when we all abide by strict rules of personal space and live largely disconnected from one another, it was a beautiful thing to see people entertaining each other as humans have done for centuries.
I didn’t see one person on their phone. Instead, they were playing, walking, talking, listening and reflecting. Sometimes we are so plugged in that it is difficult to gear down and just be in the moment. It felt like a delicious meal that was being enjoyed by everyone in attendance.
It somehow felt almost sacred. It awoke longings of something deeper and more human. We were a group rather than individuals. I met a woman and her family who had moved to Canada from Russia. I asked her if she would be willing to teach our son Russian and she was thrilled! Who knew we had someone like that right in our own neighbourhood. I observed a wonderful human interaction between a young man who was a new farmer, eagerly preparing the soil of his newly acquired garden plot and and elderly man who spoke little English who was an obvious master gardener.
Smiles and handshakes and a new friendship was born. I saw dogs of all sizes enjoying the best time of the day — when their masters were reunited with them.
I sat down and listened to acoustic guitars and new songs written and sung by local musicians who thought it would be fun to share their talent with the rest of us. No mikes, no equipment — just a barbecue, a blanket some hand drums and guitars. Friends taking turns listening to each others’ new creations and expressing encouragement and support. They were brave to do that in public and we were the richer for it.
It always costs something to really give something. I found out that they are from Bez Arts Hub right down the street and they have an open mike every Thursday night. I had no idea. Maybe I’ll write a song to share, it’s been a long time. I saw a lone woman up on the hill with her classic pedal bike parked behind her. She was just sitting and absorbing the scene before her.
It was a serene view all the way to the US border. She said that Routley Park was her favorite destination in the area.
Of course there were kids on skateboards and excited children chomping on freezies and playing tag on the playground. There was a full-out volley ball game with lots of humour and fun and a young handsome couple attempting to play Frisbee who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Everyone was accessible and open for interaction. We were all family, enjoying a single experience. Dads and moms were trying to wear out their toddlers to ensure a better bedtime.
There was a tennis match, and hockey in the basketball court.
The young man said he had bought the hockey net with his own money and dragged it up to the court for the whole community to enjoy. It looked like people had taken care of it.
I can’t explain the deep satisfaction that I felt about what I witnessed and experienced that night. I entered my townhouse feeling nourished somehow, like I had really lived. It hadn’t been expensive or inconvenient or complicated. It was like breathing. I am thankful that six years ago residents of the Township of Langley came together to dream about what Routley Park could be. It was worth every penny that was spent to develop it. It’s perfect.