A friend recently wrote “There really is great joy in everything provided one’s heart remains open to life’s possibilities.” It made me recall my brief stay at the UBC residences in summer 2011. The weather was exceptional. During evening walks I encountered pacific-softened breezes that would touch and skirt around the fabric of my body. The livin’ was easy.

My room was located in a large block of older residences that the university rented to itinerant workers – such as myself – and that accommodated camps and conventions held on or near campus. In close proximity to meeting rooms, sports  facilities, and nature trails, the place where I lived was a hub of international comings and goings. It was conspicuous and enjoyable precisely because of its ill-defined demography.

As my stay was coming to an end, an unanticipated and wholly wonderful event occurred. Hundreds of brown-robed Buddhist Nuns appeared. The volume of adherents was impressive and their appearance and disappearance into the many portals that the university offered made residential life feel a little like a video game . It was a blasterless version of Invasion of the Buddha-Snatchers accompanied by a soundtrack of multiple murmurings invoked by meandering dyads and triads of pleasant-faced people.

Although the nuns were clearly in the majority their presence was by no means hegemonic. This distinction fell to the gaggles of young men and women who emerged each evening from the Fir forested trails leading to and from Wreck Beach – a clothing optional strand situated within easy walking distance of the main campus.

For most of these folks evening wear appeared to be a requisite afterthought rather than a decision and their mostly beautifully tan bodies shouted at us like a Dianetics display in a Scientology storefront. “Look, we’ve gone clear” they seemed to say, “you can too!” But their meat bodies were mostly a little overwrought. Some were drunk. Others were stoned. Still others were sick from too much drink, weed, sun, and so forth. Thus too they were loud.

As dinner hour passed and the sun ceded east for west many yoda-like figurines featuring short-cropped hair and spectacled eyes, seamlessly merged with the sun-bleached and beach-breached blather of boys and girls – and former boys and girls for whom adulthood stood in shadowless light. One part of the dancehall sustained by protocol, the other gerrymandered by a barefoot pirate known for blunt touch.

Robert Johnson, while he stood alone at the Crossroads, is said to have sold his soul for a bottomless understanding of blues guitar. Had he stumbled across this crossroad – where Nuns co-mingled with Knowns – there mightn’t of been a King of the Delta Blues.

No ache of melancholy boiled in this collective belly. No misery, sorrow, gloom or despair crackled underfoot. Here lay the lotus on its dirty pond. Prayers asked and answered in the sweep and flow of human contact. Here, with debauchery saddled on a donkey, I sat in the stillness of thrilling contradictions, my heart opening to more of life’s possibilities. Not long afterward I wrote this poem.

Ists

She was a buddhist
A raw foodist
The crudest
And rudest
Rufous

Whoever walked away from it all

A Hedonist
an Atavist
Revisionist
Recidivist

I saw her standing there about to fall

She was a nudist
A shootist
The loosest
And lewdest
Judas

Whoever had the dignity to crawl

She was a…
Diarist
Contortionist
Collectivist
Somnambulist

Whoever built and shopped in her own mall

She was a buddhist
A raw foodist
The crudest
And rudest
Rufous

Whoever walked away from it all

Originally, I performed this as a song. This is how it sounds.

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