Thursday, August 16, 2012

Travelling to Moose Factory with Marilyn Munroe

It was my heart's desire to see Hudson's Bay and James Bay in northern Ontario.  We took an Ontario Northland train for 10 hours to Cochrane last week, stayed overnight and picked up the Polar Bear Express for 6 hours to Moosenee, and from there we travelled by water taxi  to Moose Factory, a Cree village on an island in the Moose River.  When we alighted this water taxi, a local family came running down the dock after us to take the boat to Moose Factory.  A teen age boy got on last because he was carrying a four by six feet photo image of Marilyn Munroe which was slid onto the floor standing up because there was not much more room on this rowboat with an outboard motor.  I asked about this photo.   Here was a story of the boy's kindness.  A great uncle had admired this photo many years ago in a restaurant in North Bay.  The owner promised the photo to the uncle when he did not need it any more.  Well, that time had come to pick up the photo of Marilyn Munroe but the great uncle could not longer travel the 10 hours it takes to get to North Bay and 10 hours back.  The boy offered to do this for his great uncle.  This row boat ride was the last leg of the return trip.  We were all so pleased to witness the second last phase of the photo's trip.  He was going to take it on foot from the dock to the home of his great uncle.  We got off the boat at our lodge and the family continued on to the village. 

If you ever get  a chance to visit Moose Factory, take it.  The air was the freshest I ever breathed.  The sky was the bluest that I ever saw and the stars at night were so numerous and felt so close that I thought I was dancing in them.  I did see James Bay which was downriver just 8 km from Moose Factory and I did see the tree line, and I breathed in that fresh air and was very content.

Friday, August 3, 2012

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian Muslim experience of the Holy Land September 4-11, 2011

Day 1.  We were less than 50 people, the first Canadian interfaith trip to religious sites in Israel and Palestine.  We have an opportunity to experience and observe the places holy to ourselves and others through their eyes too.  We only had 6 days and needed to crowd in as much as possible.  Everything we saw and experienced we understood in the context of everything else we saw and experienced.  To add even more richness to this trip, we were students and seniors and adults in their middle years.  We were urban and rural in Canada and we all professed one of the 4 faiths.  We were actively Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim or Jewish.  Our inspiring leaders were each clergy from one of these faiths.
Each day we were witnesses to the unexpected. 
On the first day, we landed near Tel Aviv and immediately boarded tour buses with our excellent guides.
We did a bus tour of Tel Aviv/Jaffa and hear Rabbi David Rosen give us some back ground on interfaith experiences of the other.  We learned that each group has many assumptions about the nature of the other faith communities which may or may not be valid.  We were sitting in an old building that was in the process of being rebuilt in south Tel Aviv.  The purpose of this building is to provide one space of many for neighbourhood dialogues.

Later, we visited a tiny Syrian Orthodox church in Nazareth, an Arab town near Tel Aviv.  It is a very old (4th century) building that is revered as the site that the parents of Jesus lived.  Afterwards, we visited a large Roman Catholic College where the parish priest told us about the small Christian community in Nazareth. He had attended this school as a boy.  The Druze minister of the Israel Department of Religious affairs entered the room laughing.  He came with his wife, a native of Nazareth and got lost and late anyway.  As a government minister, he stressed the multireligious freedom in Israel where all holy sites are protected and supported.  I will will continue this blog in the days to come.

Interfaith Journey to Israel #3

In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land

September 5-11, 2011

Day 2

On this day, we followed experienced the land from a Christian point of view.  Kibbutz Lavi is near the Sea of Galilee.  After a very generous breakfast at the Kibbutz, our buses drove to Tiberius where we boarded a wooden boat for ride modelled on an experience of Jesus in the Bible.  We heard the biblical text with the soft wind blowing in our faces as we looked out on the pastoral hills surrounding the water.   Next, we bussed on to Capernaum, the location of St. Peter’s home where a modern Franciscan Church now stands.  One of our religious leaders, F. Damien McPherson is a Franciscan monk and we were greeted with great warmth.  We heard a reading of the Beatitudes, also known as the Sermon on the Mount.  Our next stop was a baptismal site called Yardenit where the Jordan River meets the Sea of Galilee.  Some Christians in our group chose to reaffirm their Baptism there and stood in a semi-circle in the shallow water.  Tiny fishes darted between their legs.  The Christian clergy both Roman Catholic and Protestant undertook the ceremony.  We sat in the dappled shade and watched.  The look of quiet happiness and joy on the faces of our Christian friends was very moving to see. 

In the afternoon, we visited the Christian site of Kfar Cana a village where Jesus performed the miracle of the wine.  The roads wound up and down steep hills and the views of the valleys were spectacular from the air-conditioned bus window.  How difficult it must have been for people in biblical times to walks these hills in the heat, carrying what they needed for the journey and hoping for the best!  You could understand the importance of hospitality at that time.

Later that afternoon, we had a bus tour of Haifa, a city that lies on the Carmel Mountain range and a narrow plain on the coast of Israel.  Where the small villages in Israel are often mostly Arab Christian and Muslim or Jewish, the cities are all mixed with people from all those communities plus others who are not affiliated with those communities.  We visited Beit Hagefen, the Centre for Arab-Jewish culture, youth and sports.  We heard some speeches and saw a film about the work of this centre and I bought some postcards as a memento.    This place and the dialogue centre in south Tel Aviv both gave me some hope that grass roots dialogues can continue while the political battles and inter-community confrontations rage on.

We returned to Kibbutz Lavi, ate dinner and fell asleep immediately on the pillow. Another early start is planned for tomorrow.  It feels to me like we have been touring for a week.

Generosity of Spirit

I do invite others to share their own stories of unexpected kindness.  Today, I am sharing a friend's story:

This morning I took a taxi to the Y because the Queen streetcar is sporatic at the moment. I got in the cab and noticed that the driver had some lovely music playing. Ended up it was chanting. He turned off the music when I got in, but I told him to keep it on if he wanted. So, he turned it back on. It was a recording, very beautifully done I might add!, of the text of the Koran. Each small verse was sung and then a reader came on (Oxford Englishy accent) and translated the text in English. The chanter reminded me of a cantor or of a cathedral choir chanter. Good chanting is just good stuff(;  So we drove from the Beaches to the Y with this on. I sat in the dark and enjoyed it while I could. It was a significantly peaceful ride. When we arrived at the Y I asked if we were listening to the radio or a CD. He immediately pulled out a CD from the dashboard and offered it to me. He insisted that I take it with me because I liked it so much and said he could get another. So now I have a cool CD of the Koran with translation.

But what struck me most was the happy smile on the guy's face as he gave it to me. The whole episode was just so unexpected - and delightful.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just a regular at Union Station

We are finally going to take the Polar Bear Express to Moose Factory this summer.  I would love to see northern Ontario.  In order to reach that train, I had to buy tickets on the Ontario Northland train to Cochrane.  I confidently took the subway to Union Station and then was not sure where to go next.  An older gentleman was chatting with the TTC ticket taker so I waited my turn to ask where to go next.  The older gentleman stepped aside so that I could talk to the ticket taker.  When he heard my question, he told me that he was going that way and would lead me to the right wicket. I folllowed him into the crowded train station all the way to the empty Ontario Northland wicket.  The helpful gentleman assured me that the clerk was on a 20 minute coffee break.  We had just missed her.  He invited me to sit down while he saved my place in the inevitable line-up which would develop.  I pulled out my cell phone to return some calls and looked up and there he was at the front of the line, and there was the Ontario Northland clerk, just back from her break.  When I came up to thank him, he turned and left me to buy my train tickets.  I asked the clerk who the helpful gentleman was and her reply: "just a regular".