Late last week a friend and I went out together to walk her dog. We went to Queens Park, the same park I’ve described here a few times before. This was the first time in a year or maybe more that I went to that park with someone. Usually I go alone, walk around a bit, and stop at one of my favourite spots to meditate.
This was a social visit, and I didn’t expect to have any sort of spiritual insight about it. Spirit is clever about laying in surprises when you least expect them. I thought I knew the park quite well. I thought I’d walked nearly all its paths. But then we took a turn that I’d never thought to take and we ended up in a section of the park that I didn’t even know existed. Despite circumnavigating the park on many occasions, despite having stood at the top of the hill by the flag pole and looked all around at the city, despite having padded through the little back pathways in the park in the summer and sloshed through mud in the winter, I’d somehow completely missed a section of the park. Just like most people miss the mostly-buried earth works at the top of the hill hidden in the trees behind the flag pole, I had completely missed this obvious little corner of the park near the rose garden. The mind boggles at how I could possibly have walked so close and yet not come to that spot.
In that moment I was reminded how much I need other people in my life to show me the paths that I miss. My friend and I walked up a little footpath and found some lovely rose hips on a wild bush. We debated whether to pick them or not. She has a recipe for a rose hip marmalade, I’m rather fond of rose hip syrup, but the bright colours were so beautiful on the bush. In the end we decided to pick a few, but leave plenty on the bush to shine brightly and bring cheer to other passers by. There would be other bushes to pick more from.
We turned another corner, deeper into the park and away from the paved paths, where I suddenly felt a jolt of surprise. I don’t know what it was that surprised me, a loud sound or an uneven step, I only remember the sensation that I was going along normally, talking with my friend, when my attention was brought down to my feet as if to ensure that I didn’t stumble. I looked down to see one perfect young Amanita mushroom, and to each side of it, a foot or so away, more mature Amanitas that had released their spores and looked a bit rougher for wear. I acknowledged the mushrooms and wondered what fae voices had grabbed my attention so that I wouldn’t step on them. A few more steps and we found sloes and blackberries. We picked a few as we shared recipes and conversation about foraging in different places we have each lived. We looked at a tree full of acorns and considered whether the nuts were ready to be harvested just yet, or if they should stay on the tree a little longer. Acorns make good flour. Mixed with other flours they can make lovely breads and pancakes. Europeans may consider it poverty food, but the tribes of the American Pacific Coast considered acorn a staple.
It is hard to express to you how much that walk meant to me. I felt in that hour as if the park itself embraced me even more deeply than it had before, sharing its abundance with my friend and I in a way I hadn’t experienced in my solo journeys. There is certainly a time for solitude, but unless you are a hermit far from humanity, you cannot be fully connected to a place until you’ve connected with community. I recognized that back in July when an ad hoc angel sat with me in a grove of trees in that same park.
As we left the park, my friend and I started talking about a project that’s been on my mind for a while. I thought that I was going to have to do this project on my own, but I was thrilled to find that my friend was just as excited by the idea as I am. It’s a project that will certainly sink my roots more firmly into this neighbourhood, and now I know that it will strengthen the ties of community that have already started to build.