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Outside the Hospital

Now that I’ve achieved a state of relative health, 

returning to the hospital always feels like stepping into a church, into the holy. Everybody there, whether they know it or not, are in a state of pilgrimage, of prayer.


In the atrium a motley assembly of musicians formed. They were a group of people recovering from mental health and addiction issues, with a few ringers tossed in to add some structure to their compositions. The conductor, an energetic and wiry tangle of holistic cliches, worked hard to inspire her students but most of them remained tense, staring flatly at the floor rather than the crowd that had gathered across from them. Their voices were thin and straining, but still, the congregation rose with the music, an original composition called, “Coming Through Darkness.”

And how did they do that?

How did each one of them push trauma to the side to stand where they were that day?

Oh Lord, let their music, that glowing idea, comfort us all.


And then down the hallway there was a display of art created by patients as part of their therapy. Out of all the generic scenes of landscapes and flowers and pets, there was one work that stood out to me.

Mary of the Roses.


As if floating above the others, as if shining.

And I imagined the woman painting it, how with each brush stroke another layer of her anxiety fell away until this new, beatified horizon emerged.


As I left the hospital, a First Nation’s man beating a drum stood outside on the sidewalk, the flames painted on a food truck rising behind him.


We nodded at each other and I remained, watching and listening, as steams of indifferent people passed by.

A tall, homeless man shuffled down the sidewalk and when he walked into the music, without a word he started to dance. First with his fingers. Slow pointing. Cool pointing. And then his body began to move.


His shoulders, his legs, his fingers, his head, all in surprising and beautiful concert with this simple drumming. Suddenly, he was the revelation of hidden genius–he was a burning bush in our midst. He danced for perhaps a minute and then he stopped, and falling back into the broad, rigid silence from which he came, he continued silently through the day.

There was something that seemed miraculous about this, and the drummer and I– the only people who had seen it– grinned at one another.

It’s part of the magic of the flow, “ the drummer said. “I like to do this in front of the hospital. People are scared and preoccupied, and then they hear the drum calling to their spirit and it lifts them. Spirit takes them places, it unhooks them from their mortal self and for a moment they are free.  We are signposts in this world, here to help people find their way.”

Miracles, right that moment, unfolding all across the city.

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