We are scattered by storms, and we are gathered by storms. Our storms may be physical or political, economic or spiritual. Sometimes, we are battered by a nasty confluence of all four. Whatever their nature, storms force us to move.
Recently, I decided to drive through Winnipeg's North End. I wanted to see for myself the part of the city that everyone tells me to avoid.
I saw heartache, felt it as a woman leaned against the dirty brick of an old hotel in a known prostitution district, where rooms are rented by the hour. Another woman with orange-red hair walked in front of my car. Her eyes gambolled beneath a glaze of overstimulation. She barely made it across the street. Old men with long, frizzy beards stood on the sidewalks, their net worth bundled up in shopping carts.
I’m folding up chairs because that’s what you do after eating lunch at church.
Or at least until you run into Harry.
Harry stops my work. He tells me that he and his wife, Margaret, have been praying for our family. They’ve heard something of the story surrounding our move to Winnipeg, but now Harry, 82, has some stories he wants to share with me. And he’s a much better storyteller.
Writing is like that. Its presence towered over most of my life with the stillness of a holy temple. Grandiose. Imposing. Until I finally flushed a toilet, heard truth echo through a cavernous sanctuary — with the noise of everyday water.
Writing, it turns out, is a place to inhabit.
Modern culture has discombobulated our sense of place. The hub of the kitchen table no longer holds together the farm and work shed like it once did. Now our most important occupations are prone to the sprawl of square miles, states, even countries. We do our best to knit together these habitations of work, family and faith, using long threads of concrete interstates and digital texts.
James runs past the front door of our church to find his coat. He sort of skids when he looks up and sees Jesus standing outside the tomb.
James slows, then stops, and pivots long enough to find the holes in the feet, and the ones at the wrists. He soaks up the image in the painting, quietly, without the help of adults. And then he’s off running again.