Tuesday, April 26, 2022

All in the neighborhood

Years ago when my husband and I would visit his parents in their small New Brunswick town, I'd usually sneak a few moments of alone time to hop in our car and sightsee around the area, stopping to check out any place that caught my eye.
One time, it was a home decor shop selling items in the Primitive Country style which was something my mother liked so I would stop in sometimes. 
When we moved back to the area in September, I noticed that the shop sign was no longer up and in fact, I couldn't even remember where it had been. That's because the shop was actually a small part of a home and you entered through a small porch into the store. You never tried to enter the home, because the entrance was well marked but you also knew you were in their private laneway. So every time we would drive past the homes where I remembered it was, I kept looking for which house had a 'store' attached. 
And for weeks and weeks as we sailed by in our car, I would look carefully trying to remember how the slope of the driveway was. One day I mentioned the now defunct shop site to my mother-in-law wondering if she remembered where it was and if it had moved. My mother-in-law who knows everything about everything in her small town had no idea what 'shop in someone's home' I was talking about. 
I tried to describe it to her from my memories but she was not aware of any such place where I told her it had been.  
A few weeks after I mentioned it to her, I finally figured out which house it was because the slope of the driveway only really fit one house and sure enough, there was a sweet little porch entrance from the driveway that showed itself to be the shop entrance once upon a time. 
That little attached area to the house that functioned as a store blended in with the main part of the house but if you knew where to look you could see the entrance and would likely have qualified to be called an ACU, Accessory Commercial Unit. 
Last year, this article from Strong Towns, The Best "New" Ideas in Planning Are All Old News discussed this topic in more depth and I think if you look around your own area or perhaps where you grew up, you too will find places that function in this way.

Where I grew up in Pennsylvania, all manner of ACUs could be found. I've been traveling down memory lane on Google maps, hunting down all the store fronts and services attached to dwellings that I can remember my parents going to . There were farm stands, barber shops, small convenience stores and larger antique stores in houses. Mixed use buildings with sidewalks or small laneways for quick stops. 
In one of the small towns in Ontario where we lived when our children were small there was a house on the main street that still had a take-out window and tiny deck built onto the front of the house. It was bright cheery colors and the small house was older, but well maintained. It closed before we moved there and it never appeared to be operational again for the ten years we lived in town, but I always wondered about what it might have been. 
After we moved out of that small town, we moved 30 minutes away to a historic town with a vibrant downtown area and one of the houses had a small storefront built adjacent to it but sadly it was never in operation for the three years we lived there. Occasionally I would think I saw items being moved around in the storefront windows, but nothing ever materialized before we moved away.
These are examples that I thought of quickly and could easily show because they haven't changed or I used my own photos. Others exist but the buildings have changed or been demolished so you can no longer see how it once functioned as an ACU. This concept of a shop or service operating out of a home or residential building is also represented in stories, television and movies from many different time periods from the Little House series to Gilmore Girls and much in between. One of my favorite stories for beginner readers is called The Doll Shop Downstairs and the sequel The Cats in the Doll Shop where the owner and his family live upstairs and host an immigrant girl during the war. Shows like Doc Martin and Gilmore Girls both feature main characters that live in their places of work, Luke above his diner and Doc Martin in his surgery. 
In our new neighborhood, several places of business are marked on Google maps at residential addresses including an upholstery business, a disc jockey and a local taxi service.  None of the places marked have any signage up so I can't confirm their existence, but if you look in your neighborhood, you might find some interesting entrepreneurs as well. I would love to have a cake shop as my neighbor!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

tell Him of my trouble

An evergreen sapling growing from an unlikely place: a decaying log.

Part of growing in our understanding of what it means to be a person or rather a child of God is learning how to accept suffering and grief of all kinds as part of the human experience. This morning I copied two of the passages from the Common Book of Prayer readings that I use as an app on my phone: Hosea 6:1-6 and Psalm 142:1-2
The passage in Hosea begins with "Come, let us return to the LORD, for it is He who has torn, and He will heal us; He has struck down, and He will bind us up." Psalm 142 begins "I cry aloud to the LORD; to the LORD I make my supplication. I pour out my complaint before Him and tell Him of my trouble."

And the Hosea passage ends with "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice. the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings."
Then in my notebook after I copied those passages down, I listed very quickly the several things that came to mind that I would consider troubles or difficulties for me at the moment. These are things that I pray about but actually listing them made me more aware of how vulnerable I felt about these struggles that are currently unresolved. I like to locate problems and then solve them, not linger in their shadow as if caught under a cloud and wanting the warmth of the sun. So to dwell on these difficulties as areas in my life that I need the Lord to heal and bind up however He chooses to move was an act of seeing myself suffering and know that it was right to look to God for help. 
I was reading an older blog post from Kathy Weitz's The Reading Mother which I have always enjoyed reading and I saw that she had shared a quote from an essay written by C.S. Lewis in 1948 called On Living in an Atomic Age. I read it and found the same comfort that she expressed.
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors — anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

And after several pages, Lewis ends with this perspective for all of us who have ever felt afraid or uncertain over difficulties facing us.

It is enough to say here that Nature, like us but in her different way, is much alienated from her Creator, though in her, as in us, gleams of the old beauty remain. But they are there not to be worshipped but to be enjoyed. She has nothing to teach us. It is our business to live by our own law not by hers: to follow, in private or in public life, the law of love and temperance even when they seem to be suicidal, and not the law of competition and grab, even when they seem to be necessary to our survival. For it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that the survival of Man on this Earth, much more of our own nation or culture of class, is not worth having unless it can be had by honourable and merciful means. The sacrifice is not so great as it seems. Nothing is more likely to destroy a species or a nation than a determination to survive at all costs. Those who care for something else more than civilization are the only people by whom civilization is at all likely to be preserved. Those who want Heaven must have served Earth best. Those who love Man less than God do most for Man. 

Shortly after reading that, I found this lovely article, The Third Thing written by author and poet Donald Hall who I associate firstly with the children's picture book he wrote entitled Ox-cart Man but who published many books of poetry along with his wife Jane Kenyon. Hall engages in a brief recounting how of two poets, a husband and wife, Donald and Jane, spent their days together. It is a stirring piece of writing and I commend it to you for your enjoyment and thought life.
Sometimes you lose the third thing.
Poetry gives the griever not release from grief, but companionship in grief.