Monday, March 4, 2013

Setting Off From Bowen


I’m on the ferry, again. Leaving Bowen Island, again.

These past four days were a leap back to my life in the fall and winter of 2011. This weekend, I got to go back to L’Abri.

L’Abri is French for “the shelter” and that’s exactly what I find in this community way up on a hill in the woods on an island up in British Columbia.

L’Abri is a place where you’re encouraged to ask questions (frequently of a spiritual, philosophical, or moral theme) and work through them. We ask questions about “the good life” and what it does to our identity and apply it to our own lives. Three hours a day are devoted to studying. For me, this time was spent reading books about topics that I was curious about, writing out notes and reflections, listening to lectures and going for walks, and wrestling with different questions.

At lunch time, we gather together at the table and focus on one question and discuss it for around an hour or so. Dinner is less formal. Breakfast was one of my favourite meals.

For another three hours of the day, we work towards the community - doing projects around the property. I remember projects like building and painting the deck, chopping wood, picking beans, building a trail, and painting a bench and table.

That’s L’Abri.

I was there back in 2011 with one group and when I returned, naturally it was a new crew of thinkers. I was stoked that two women from my 2011 group were there, Marie-Madeleine and Melanie. I was grateful to meet Amanda, Emily, Brett, Sylvain, and Christi. They were quick to welcome me in and even though we didn’t have much time, I got an opportunity to connect, in some way, with each one.

It’s odd going back. The schedule was the same. The format was the same. The food was similar. The beds were the same. But the people were different. I wasn’t sure how that would work in my mind but I ended up feeling just as at home as I had before. I was thoroughly disappointed to leave. I felt as though I hadn’t had enough time to learn about their lives and what makes them tick.

Last night, after a dinner featuring sweet potato noodles (favourite?), we gathered to play one of my favourite L’Abri games, Fishbowl.  It was a good chance to laugh a lot. Afterwards, we hung out and talked. That’s what you do when you don’t really have internet readily available and are discouraged from plugging your ears into a personal music system. I hope to someday live in a place like that. I hope to live in a community where, a few evenings a week, the group gathers to talk about their week and entertain each other. Maybe even just read in the same room together, which happens a lot at L’Abri.

There’s a lot of aspects of L’Abri that I always hope to take with me. Maybe one or two of the following...

I want to keep asking questions.
I want to keep studying to try and find answers.
I want to find community and spend quality time with them.
I want to be able to devote a few hours a day to physical labour.
I want to take at least an hour to eat each meal and enjoy it with others.
I want to eat each Monday lunch in silence.
I want to drink tea five times a day.

What did I think about at L’Abri this time?

I read through my old notes; reviewing lessons learned and forgotten and seeing how to reapply them to my life. I’m still trying to understand the Kingdom. I feel convicted to get rid of more belongings of mine. It’s not about the rules and doing “right” and “wrong” it’s making the choice to follow Christ and to listen to the Spirit. I read for a few hours about Quakerism. I’ve been intrigued by Quakers for a while and attended a few meetings. I am considering becoming one.

We had high tea at Marie Madeleins. The theme was Switzerland.

I wanted to stay another day. I could’ve stayed another day.
But I know I need to move on.
Time to go back to Seattle.

Time to keep boxing life up and resolving questions and putting things away so I can have peace when I leave.

This morning, I got a ride down to Snug Cover with Julia, one of the workers. I spent a few hours down there at the Snug (the local coffee shop) making connections (auf dem Internet), drinking a blend of mint and green tea I had made, and ordering food at Miska’s to-go.

Every two years I allow myself to get poutine - french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. It’s disgusting and always gives me a reeling stomach ache but is well worth it. It makes me feel like a tub of lard and I embrace it. Slimey, gooey frie-friends. I had a gift certificate to Miska’s which is why I went. I had received it from the Rotary club of Bowen Island back at their Christmas party in 2011.

And then it came time to leave.
Good-bye sweet island.
Farewell L’Abri.
Until next time.

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