Sunday, October 14, 2018

Why Toronto?

I met my friend Terra in March, when we both went to Churchill, Manitoba to see the Northern Lights. We live half an hour from each other in Tucson, where I spend the winter.

Both of us have husbands who are five years older than we are. Both of us still want to travel even though our husbands are slowing down a bit in that area. So we decided to take a short trip together to see if we were compatible travel companions. Our requirement was that that the selected trip must be something neither of our husbands are interested in (I'd be going with Art in that case).

We decided to go with Road Scholar to Toronto for "Experiencing the Religions of the World." Today we finished up our last day of class. Tomorrow the group will visit the Royal Ontario Museum, with the afternoon free and the group gathering for a farewell dinner. Our plane leaves the next morning at 8 a.m.

We've had a busy, sometimes intense week. Our lecturer, Brian Carwana of the Encounter World Religions Center, has been fabulous, funny and knowledgeable.  Here's what we've done in the last six days:

Tuesday evening: Talk on Intro to World Religions

Wednesday: Morning lectures (1) "To See, To Be, To Do: the Landscape of World Religion" and (2) "Hinduism: Thou Art That. Afternoon visits to the Hare Krishna Temple and a Hindu temple. Evening visit to another Hindu temple.

    OBSERVATIONS ON THE HINDU VISIT: Lots of light, sound, activity. Water. Fire. Food. Spectacle, I'd say.

Thursday: Morning lectures (1) "Buddhism: All is Mind" and (2) Mormon: the Gospel Restored". Afternoon meditation at the Zen temple and a visit to the Cham Shan temple. Evening visit to a Mormon church.

     OBSERVATIONS ON THE BUDDHIST VISIT: Very peaceful meditation time. And in the temple, I felt like I was in China - lots of red (happiness), icons, a prayer wheel. I think the Buddhist community in Toronto has money.

     OBSERVATIONS ON THE MORMON VISIT: A conversation with a convert, a just-returned-yesterday-missionary, and an elder. Kindness everywhere.

Friday: Morning lecture: "Islam: And Muhammad is His Prophet". Afternoon visit to a mosque and participation in the service. Evening lecture on "Judaism: A People Set Apart".

     OBSERVATIONS ON THE ISLAM VISIT: I loved this. Many men, many women, in everyday clothes, prostrating in unison. It's a devout and humble act. So beautiful.

Saturday: Morning visit to Holy Blossom Synagogue and participation in the service. Afternoon lecture  (1) "Christianity: But I Say Unto You" and (2) "Evangelicalism: A Religion for the Modern World".

      OBSERVATIONS ON THE SYNAGOGUE VISIT: Beautiful. Wonderful choir, gifted cantor and exceptional rabbi, Yael Splansky. We celebrated a bat mitzvah.

Sunday: Morning lecture "Sikhism:Disciples of the True Name" and Guided visit of Evangelical Church and participation in the service. Afternoon visit to a Sikh Gurdwara.

     OBSERVATIONS ON THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH VISIT: The Meeting Place is a megachurch with Bruxy Cavey as the Teaching Minister. He is a wonder. After the service he spoke to our group for half an hour.

     OBSERVATIONS ON THE SIKH VISIT: Simple architecture, straightforward faith, many turbans! (I learned many Sikhs do not cut their hair or beards as "God has made me this way". They cover their hair with a turban.) We were served a simple meal.

As it turns out, Terra and I travel well together. She reminds me when I leave my hoodie on a chair and I leave her alone when she seeks out a quiet place to read. Neither of us is a shopper. There is easy silence between us. We got separate rooms and found that allowed us to share meals and have conversations but still have privacy. I've never had a separate room when traveling without Art. I like it. We have begun a discussion about when and where a next trip might be.

Intense though this experience has been, it has been good to have time away from the busy-ness of volunteer obligations and decluttering. When I get home on Tuesday it will be time to prepare for the end of our summertime in Seattle and our journey to our Tucson winter.

Monday, October 1, 2018

There's a fine line

There's a fine line between curious and nosy.

I was recently taking my two-mile neighborhood walk when a young man approached me from the opposite direction, nearing the end of his own walk. He had passed me earlier, and this time I said, "You're a faster walker than me." We exchanged a few inconsequential remarks and then he said, "May I walk with you for a bit?" I thought it was a little unusual, since it would mean retracing his steps, but I said sure.

We walked half a mile together. I asked him about his job and he said he works with preverbal autistic kids. I was curious. I asked at what point a preverbal kid becomes a nonverbal one. He said that was an interesting question, and we talked then about how kids can learn a new language quite easily until they are about twelve. He said that's about when the preverbal/nonverbal distinction is made. We wondered if there is some kind of neural significance to that, or whether it's just a coincidence.

It wasn't a typical walking chat, but it was unusually interesting. We covered several other topics. Our mutual curiosity kept the conversation going. I asked him what his ideal job would be. He said, "Training service animals. When an autistic person goes from one room to another, it can look like a whole new world. A service animal is a familiar comfort." I found out he had moved here a couple of years ago from a southern state. I'm pretty sure it wasn't for the job, but he didn't say, and I didn't ask. I did ask if there was someone special in his life, and he said, "Not right now." Again, he didn't say anything more, and I didn't ask.

My experience has been that if I ask an open-ended question, the other person will say what they want to say. It may be quite a long story. Or it may be only a few words. I honor their choice.

When we got to my street, we stood at the intersection for a few minutes to finish up our chat. We introduced ourselves and I gave him a hug. "Good bye, Jay. Thanks for the walk." He said, "Thank you, Linda."

I haven't seen him since.

I've had a few other conversations recently where a person responded in some length to an open-ended question of mine. And, a couple of times, someone needed to talk and I happened to be there to listen. In those cases, I don't ask questions. I just listen. I'm still curious, but I know they're only telling me what they need to say. Sometimes I never hear the rest of the story, or any outcome. And that's okay.

Like I said, there's a fine line between curious and nosy.