Thursday, June 11, 2009

Learning from tears.

The kitchen table is my island of solitude. It is here in the quietness, I sip my coffee and my sight shifts between the spring green from the kitchen window and the mutiple windows opened on my laptop. Back and forth, nature and technology.

This morning I read Makoto Fujimura's: Empathic Creativity: Generative Transformation. Mako's thoughts drove deep into the heart of an artist's role by first telling the story of Fred Danback - who fought to protect the Hudson river in NY from industrial pollution in his role as a factory custodian.

Mako points out through the story of Fred Danback, that artists need to:
  • Be willing to be demoted.
  • Remember our first love.
  • Take notes with tears.
These points conjured up painful and joyful tears as I recall my previous experience as co-proprietor of the Wired Monk, a community cafe on 4th ave. My family sold the cafe about May of this year. I have been off the floor for 5 months and this sabbatical has given me clarity and strength to look into the rear view mirror and shoulder check what I missed in the last three years. Allow me to reflect.

"Cultural stewardship comes with needed sacrifice." This sacrifice Mako speak of, we (as in myself, my family and staff) practiced with sweat and joy daily. We organized and maintained the space in which "art" was being created and performed in a safe, cozy environment. From the onset, my vision was to connect our small business with the old "grass roots" movement which Kitsilano was historically anchored in. Green Peace, David Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver's vegitarian cuisin trend, to name a few examples, all hold history in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. To foster this little subculture, we declared a corner of the cafe, the "stage" and began playing music. The Open Mic Night started with our staff and friend Johnny playing all his favourite Bob Dylan tunes. We got some curious looks but people were slow to pick up our vibe. Our "keys" of humility, integrity, determination and hope for things to come that kept us going, even in financial instability. Over the span of a year, we started to get busy with closet musicians coming out of their comfort zone as well as strong singer songwriters practicing their craft. After a more months of success, we passed some of the "keys" into the musicians' hands and they became good stewarts to the community. The community took ownership and it became for the most part self-sustainable ever since(host, promoter and equipment fund were all volunteer based).

Open Mic Night.

And so we had a rotation of musicians, comedians, flamenco dancers, poets, high school recitals, political rallies, church chores, fundraising parties and threatre productions share their stuff on our "stage" (which by now was upgraded with an ol' thriftstore carpet). Full house was common as we built a reputation for down-to-earth "good local acts".

Dotted Loop jewelry launch party.

To keep a long story short, at the end of three years, we-my family and I- got totally burnt out and sold the busniess. I felt a mix of sorrow and burning anger, yet in this process of failure, I can now thankfully say that God gave me humility and health. And it is at this very moment, I remember my "first love"

I recall the "first love" of playing music at my church with people that poured their souls out in love and adoration of a Creator and Lover. The music was formed by a community of voices who believed that someone was listening and lovin' it! And it was my "first love" which forever imprinted my love for two things: 1-community 2-music.

A Vancouver Film School student named Margaret fell in love with the open mic scene here and decided to create a 7 minute documentary as her project for a class. She shared with me that her "first love" was experienced at Canterbury High where she studied music and art in Ottawa. When she discovered the open mic at the Monk, it fulfilled a craving. "We all crave comfort and creativity as individuals." I remember her saying. From a custodian perspective, I saw this craving being fulfilled in the audience clapping: in old men with long white hair, in groups of styling 20 somethings in jeans and plaid shirts, in an Olympic athlete on wheelchair, in UBC students under the glow of their cellphone or laptop, in yoga instructors, in yuppies in business suites and the list goes on.

And so with tears, I take these notes. Tears not with anger or pain, but with peace. I know with all my heart now, that my family co-created a small humble history here in Kitsilano that people will continue to story-tell about.
Angelina led joyful Christmas carols with friends and church family.

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