Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 5: Pictures at an Exhibition and Sweet Apple Wine

A person doesn't get handed days like this too often in her job. I had to work at Capilano University today and was going to meet with John and Karen to take a tour of the department and go for lunch.

The tone of the afternoon was set by their greetings to me: John's handshake was firm and his smile was warm and open.

And Karen, after shaking my hand, said, "Ohh ..." and gave me a hug. Then she presented me with a bottle of sweet apple wine, produced at the winery of one of her friends and covered by an elegant miniature Chinese robe bottle cover. I had never met Karen in person before; but you know how you can form an impression of someone from their emails and their voice on the phone? I had pictured her as warm and passionate about what she did and caring of the people with whom she came into contact. She was all that and more. Wherever we walked, students and former students would come up to her and hug her. She knew all their names.

After the walkabout, John took us to lunch at a nearby pub, and there he revealed his first love. John's undergrad degree was in music; and although he went on to get his LL.B. and his LL.M., and now is the Chair of the paralegal program, it is evident how the music still calls to him. John submitted a song for the Hockey Night in Canada competition, and it was good enough to receive points in the voting!

Our lunch conversation swirled around William the Conqueror and the Bayeux Tapestry, and hockey moms who become hockey players, and the tea house ... with a little bit about legal citations and publications thrown in to remind us what brought us together in the first place!

And then we drove back to campus. But as we were getting out of John's new car, Karen mentioned that she liked the looks of his speakers. John's face lit up and he replied that when you're sitting in the car with Mussorgsky in the CD player, you could imagine yourself to be in a magnificent concert hall. "I've never been particularly keen on brass, but when you hear the brass in 'Pictures at an Exhibition ...' "

"Do you have it? Can we listen?" I interrupted. So we closed the car doors again and sat transfixed as magic filled the air.

And in the company of these two wonderful people sharing the gift of music and companionship under the aegis of the benevolent October sun, everything came into focus for me as to why I still enjoy my job. It's ephemeral moments like this, startling in their clarity and their purity and their beauty, stripping away all that is unimportant and transitory and bringing to the forefront of my mind what is integral to my journey and will be lasting in my memory: music, and the great kindness of strangers who make me feel, for one afternoon, like I am exactly where I should be. 


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