AUDIO FILE: Calling All Angels (Jane Sibury & k. d. lang)
The following short story was written in 2010 when I was still planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in 2012. My three month trip to Spain was put on hold when my business partner passed away suddenly on May 5, 2012. Gord’s passing – and the lessons one might take from it – are definitely in my mind as I prepare for an extended break in 2014/15.
Drop into any bookstore or spend a few minutes on Amazon and you might get the impression that every second person to complete the Camino de Santiago has published a book about it. I devoured four or five before coming to the conclusion that I just don’t want to know what’s around every corner. I want the Camino to unfold for ME, in real time, not as someone has told me it should.
The last Camino-related book that I read was Shirley MacLaine’s The Camino: Journey of the Spirit. Now, if you don’t know Shirley MacLaine, let’s just say that besides being a decent actress AND Warren Beatty’s sister, she is, well, ah, “eccentric.” Okay, she’s a whack-job. Total nut-bar. Flakier than that croissant that I left in the back window of a Pontiac for three days. To be honest, I got about three-quarters of the way through Ms. MacLaine’s book before packing it in. I just couldn’t take any more tales of past lives, the dawn of Atlantis, or her first Camino pilgrimage in the time of Charlemagne.
Until that 12-hour stint of reading, I had never given much thought to Ms. MacLaine’s theory that each of us has a soulmate. Nor had I spent any time thinking about my own personal angel, spirit guide, or twin flame.
So when Brenda – a recently reunited classmate from Grade 4 through 12 – referred to me as HER soulmate on the very day that I tossed Shirley MacLaine’s book in the pile destined for Goodwill, I dismissed it as something that girls might talk about amongst themselves… on warm summer evenings… after the barbecue had gone cold and their hard working husbands had gone off to bed and they had concluded that it would be best to polish off that magnum of Chardonnay rather than re-cork it.
The fact that I didn’t immediately react to Brenda’s “SM” label didn’t seem to faze her. She mentioned it almost daily for the next two weeks. I didn’t acknowledge that there might be something to this “nonsense” until the evening of July 25, 2010.
Earlier in the day I had been walking along Queen West, about a block from my home in downtown Toronto, when I passed a nondescript poster shop. I passed Off The Wall Gallery almost daily for eight years and for as long as I can recall, the window display had undergone only minor alterations. Same old frames; same old posters. You know the stuff – a mug shot of Frank Sinatra as a young man, prints of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans, an aerial photo of steelworkers constructing the Empire State Building. Not originals, not even limited edition lithographs — these were just cheaply framed or laminated posters.
But despite the fact that the same stuff had been on display for eons, something drew me to the window that fine, sunny morning. I put hand up to the glass and peered inside. There it was – a new piece of art that I had not seen before. For some reason I felt compelled to snap a photo of a black and white image of an angel with outstretched wing. A small sign indicated that it was called “Heaven In Her Arms” by artist Alex Cherry.
Now, believe it or not, I don’t post ALL of my photos on Facebook, Smugmug, Flickr, Weebly, several blogs, or a handful of long forgotten sites that I’ve used over the years. The photo that I took that morning, which I now refer to as “The Angel”, is one that I decided NOT to post. Quite frankly, it was boring. To make it a little less boring, I gave it a purple tint within iPhoto, but it was still “just a photo” and I saw no point in sharing it.
Shortly after I downloaded that day’s photos, I logged onto Facebook to find that Brenda’s normally purple-tinted profile pic had been changed to a shot of… wait for it… The Angel. And not just any angel but nothing short of Alex Cherry’s “Heaven In Her Arms”.
What the Hell? How did she get a copy of my photo?
Upon closer inspection I noticed that Brenda’s photo had been cropped, the glare from the window had been corrected, and the purple tint had been removed. Was it a digitally manipulated version of my photo? If so, how did she do it?
The suspense was killing me so I fired off an email. Within a few minutes Brenda wrote back to say that she and her daughter had been shopping in Toronto earlier that day and she had tried to purchase that particular piece of art. Unfortunately the gallery didn’t have an unframed copy in stock so she left empty handed but had been thinking of “The Angel” all the way home. Once she was at home she found a photo of the artwork on the artist’s website and it was that image that she uploaded to Facebook.
So, I ask you, is it just a co-incidence that a woman with a purple-tinted Facebook profile photo had tried to purchase a piece of art – an angel no less – that I had photographed only a few hours earlier AND had subsequently tinted purple?
Keep in mind that Brenda lives a good 50km from this gallery and at that point she did not know that I lived just around the corner. That’s a mighty big coincidence, wouldn’t you agree?
I certainly can’t explain it. But as Shirley MacLaine would say, “All will be revealed on the Camino.”
While researching this post, I came across Brenda’s Grade 3 class photo on Facebook. The kids all looked vaguely familiar but for some reason I couldn’t put a name to a single one of them. Then it hit me – Brenda had gone to North Bridlewood Public School in Scarborough before moving to my hometown of Stouffville at the start of Grade 4. That would explain why I didn’t recognize any of the names and it was simply the wooden benches, gold curtains, and funky 1971 outfits that looked “vaguely familiar”. However, one of the kid’s names did ring a bell. Standing in the second row (sixth from the left) was a boy in a gold turtleneck who had been tagged “Dave Furnish.”
Yes, that David Furnish – as in Mr. Elton John. According to Wikipedia, David is the same age as and Brenda and I and he was raised in Scarborough, Ontario.
I now kid Brenda that if you she was somehow destined to be the soulmate of a gay boy from public school, she definitely got stuck with the wrong one.