Friday, October 26, 2007

Freedom from choice...

....would be nice.

We don't have a lot of that kind of freedom here in the big smoke. Freedom from choice. Evem just writing down the words makes me feel a little less heavy....

I was walking throught the Eatons Centre today, briefly, and was floored by the place. It doesnt matter how often I go in there...I still feel like it's so wierd how we are constantly surrounded and bombarded by images/words/people/giant billboards/t-shirts telling us how we should look and what we should buy and who we should befriend and what we should eat and how we should smell and and and and. It's friggin overwhelming. Sometimes I wonder if the idea of choice has gotten way out of hand for us in North America. I feel like it's one of the plagues. Instead of locusts we have 10 by 10 foot glossy's of a photo-shopped, airbrushed, collagen filled woman with pursed lips and a 'come hither' stare - everywhere you turn. It's as if they are magical, multiplying billboards. There is no escape from it. And all I went in there for was a coffee. It's so fucked up. Or maybe I'm the one who doesnt get's so hard to tell sometimes in this culture of more, give me more, give me more. I sometimes feel like an alien. The only thing I want more of is custard tarts...mmm....custard tarts...yummmmy..

On a better and complete opposite note, I bumped into a resident today who isnt currently staying at the shelter but who is one of our regular "community members" (thats politically correct social jusitce speak for "guys who regularly stay at the homeless shelter"). The last time I saw him he was being restricted and was in rough, rough shape. He was emotionally, physically and mentally distraught. This is not unusual for him, and even when he gets super irate, he wouldnt hurt a fly.....althgouh he likes to direct his anger at inanimate chairs, tables, chess sets, hamburgers, plates of get the drift. Sometimes it's quite helarious, if somewhat annoying. Anyway, he was actually looking really good (not to the men in suits who walked by us). He seemed really stable as well. He told me he's been at the good shepherd and going regularly to his anger management program - only 4 weeks to go. I told him I thought that was awesome, and was relieved he wasnt throwing hambugers around anymore - and he actually laughed. Then I started laughinhg harder and we actually laughed quite hard together....and it was a really really good moment. It was so good to have a conversation with him outside of work and see him somewhat happy...smiling and laughing even! I needed to see that today. I'm really glad I saw him.

I suppose it's true, and can be said, that maybe a guy like the one I was just talking about does need more freedom of choice as opposed to less. And he probably won;t ever be presented with the choices he badly needs. I, on the other hand, have choices coming out the wazoo that threaten to drown my peace of mind and distract me from things that really matter. It's so confuseing. I have choice but wish I didnt have so much of it. He has little choice (from his community/culture/world) but probably would give anything to have more choices than the meager ones he is presented with. I guess it's an age old problem....but no less baffleing. If only we could even the scales...or spread the resources...or at least cut down on those obnoxious billboards least. I'm the last person who wants to grand-stand, or preach or tell people how i think they should or should not live...but we really need so many useless billboards on everything?? Hmmm...I don't know how this turned into a rant about billboards. Ah well.

word. -jc

Friday, July 13, 2007

the ordinary and the wonderous...

the ordinariness of this day shines brilliantly...

amid rosemary plants lined up neatly in pots at the corner of this street and that street.

the July afternoon is littered with wooden boxes of orange-red peaches and ripe pears. sparrows settle on black fences and stare curiously at me with tilted heads...before flitting off to the top of street signs to watch streetcars and strollers roll past.

the ordinary turns extra ordinary...

with a stack of books lying on the steel coffee table. chipping, royal blue paint. cigarette smoke winds it's way slowly up to the overhanging tree branches until it stays, suspended, in the thick summer city air.

old mufflers chortle in beat up cars, while a bearded vagabond stoops to pick up a cigarette butt from the creases of the sidewalk. he slowly lifts his leathery face up towards the sun....his eyes squinting, fiercely, as if confused that it should be there at all.
a postman's truck pulls hurriedly up at the's red paint shines like a brand new toy.
a grandmother laughs with her little cherub baby.
a graceful, willowy brunette strides by with nose planted in book.
a hydro worker yells at his co-worker that he needs a "6 FOOTER".

then the wind picks up and the trees begin to sway....

a wondrous and ordinary day.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Introducing my God daughter

Kadence White! Her before and after pics. She's all 'growed' up.
and sooo pretty in pink.

Monday, April 30, 2007

last week at the shelter...

was a hard week.

I guess I just wanted to write about it here. I actually wrote about it in a letter to a friend (yes - the old fashioned kind that you put in one of those red boxes!) and i thought i would give it voice....because I have this weird theory that sometimes is can be good to remember the hard weeks.

Sometimes being at the shelter can feel like a boulder has landed on your last week. Some of it is a vague feeling of sadness that you can;t quite put your finger on - and some of it is obvious and poignant. In any are some snap shots of last week in the shelter.

Benny Zilber died.
It's a weird thing, but death where i work is part of the package. You become oddly accustomed to it - or numbed by it - or something. I can't say that i have come to the point where i am completely numbed by it...but it is a bizarre and weird thing to have to get used to it on some level. Benny's death was a bit of a hard hitter. He was one of the first guys I remember when i started working. I remember feeling especially comfortable around him....he had an easy presence. He was quiet, kind, intelligent and very courteous. He was one of the guys I looked forward to seeing and having small conversations with....the weather, crosswords, food. I remember feeling a bit sad when he found housing, although i was happy for him of course....
It's so strange when I heard about it...I think some residents came to the desk and told me...and then we received an email about it...and then suddenly 3 people were at the desk asking me for something or other...and that was it. No time to pause, feel, grieve. Someone else needed my time right went something like this:
In my head - "Woah. Benny died."
Guy at the desk - "Hey Julia, when is my restriction up?"
Guy #2 at the desk - "Hey Julia, I need to make an appointment with ____ right NOW"
Guy#3 at the desk- "Hey Julia can I get a bag lunch?"
In my head - "Benny...reading papers at the sunny table...taped glasses...dead."
Guys at the desk - "HEY Julia..."
Me - "OK - one at a time..."
And Bennys death gets filed away with the countless other events that i don't have the time or luxury of processing. So here's me meager.."good-bye Benny Zilber. You'll be missed."
Mr X isnt eating. I begin to notice it. Mr X is clearly very very ill. Mr. X doesn't speak english at all. Mr X plays with his pendant that he keeps in his left pocket much of the time. He is small and slight and stays out of every ones way. He likes to sit near me though when I am in the drop-in. He likes to watch me with my puzzle. He reminds me of a small, silent child. He wears a house-coat that he found in the clothing room...he's been wearing it for a week...very proudly. He often leaves me a cigarette...silently...places one in front of me...and smiles. I tell him I can;t take it...but I do anyway and throw it out later. Like I said...Mr.X is sick. But he doesn't like hospitals, or the people who work there. I can't say that I blame him. I don;t like hospitals either. he has a communicable disease, they say, and must go....he leaves with people escorting him out. He flashes a glance my way. Terror on his face. It looks like they are carting a child away.
I go out for a cigarette and try and think of something else.
We have a resident right now who annoys the heck out of me (one of them anyhow!). He tries so hard to be good, and right, and on my side....sometimes I feel like the biggest bitch in the universe...cause he still drives me nutz! Something happened with him last week that shocked me out of my annoyance - for a brief moment at least...
It was after a very very hectic afternoon. I was flustered at the front desk...and tired. 'Enter" Mr.A (for annoying). He comes bouncing in and cheery and yammering away about something - I'm not sure because I was kind of tuned out. Then he says this "By the way...Thank you."
I snap back distractedly, "For WHAT?"
Then he does something that floors me...he looks at me for a minute, smiles a huge grin, spreads his hands out as if he were Merlin the magician and says, "For Everything", as if I should have already guessed.
This may sound weird but it completely undid me. As he was bouncing off, I had to fight back a torrent of tears. And I was totally weirded out by my reaction to it. It was like Mr.A melted a black heart in that cheesy as that was like hearing the word 'Thankyou", genuinely expressed, unfroze all the forced "coping" I can do in this place.... very few people ever say it. Because they are so desperate and needy and sad and fuckedup on crack or booze or their own mental illnesses or what-have -you...they don't have time for 'thankyous'. But Mr A did...of all people. I don't find him as annoying anymore.
Miss Lonely showed up a half hour before quitting time. She was dropped off by 2 contentious citizens who found her on a idea where she was, no i.d, no belongings, just the clothes on her back. she said she got dropped off by a bus. Didn't look especially "street" or dishevelled...just normal jeans and T-shirt. She could not remember where she came from. I asked her for her name. Blank stare. I ask again. Blank stare. Finally she got it out. I ask her how I could help her...she told me that she'd been wanting to kill herself all day and it was driving her 'up the wall'. She stated it very simply as if she was used to it. every now and then she muttered something, then looked at me and apologized, "sorry - it's the voices". We decided to go to the hospital emerg and I hoped that it would be quiet so that she could get help fast - before she really had the opportunity to kill seemed to me like a very real possibility. I walked in with her and it was packed - wall to wall people....sick people, coughing people, ranting people...lots of people. I couldn't stay I asked I pleaded with her not to leave until someone saw her. She looked lost. But she agreed to stay. She asks me to stay. I told her that I really wanted to but that I had to go back to work. I walked away with a rock in the pit of my stomach. Cold evening....soon quitting time.
A few of last weeks events...out of many many many many many.
Never ending.
I'm glad to have written out.
little less heavy maybe. All the things we never talk about....
Some time I'll write about the happy or funny things that happen...which are also many many many many.
Peace OUt -j

Friday, April 20, 2007

Springtime in the city...

Spring has arrived!

I am looking forward to (yet another) move as of the middle of May.....
I found a very nice apartment here in TO - all to myself!! After thinking about "next steps" post community living made the decision to continue working at the shelter here in Toronto for the time being, and try and find a home of my own, and live as "normal" of a life as I possibly can right now! I am looking forward to setting up my own little home, and staying put in one locale for one year at least. It will be nice to get reacquainted with myself after a very hectic couple of years, and have a space to just 'be'. It will be the first time I've lived alone in over 4 years - since Ottawa! I think it will be a neat experience to live by myself in the big city! It would have scared me 3 years ago - but I'm primed and ready....and even researching house plants!

I am still working full-time at the shelter and it has settled down quite a bit since the weather has warmed up.....very relaxed as the residents are out and about enjoying the sun. A welcome change, for sure!

I'm also in the market for a new bike, a keyboard and a double futon (frame and mattress). If any reader lives in Toronto and wants to get rid of any of these items let me know!!

I have some gigs lined up for the spring as well. It will be good to be playing more again after a long hiatus. It is a bit nerve wracking playing in front of an audience i feel very rusty....but am hoping to be doing a lot more of it...and finally finishing the EP! For a sample check here
(under Julia Churchill)

Thats it for now!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

In memory...

Hi there cyber space world.

My Poppy, Jack (John) Vincent, died at the age of 91 on Monday March 19 in St. John's Newfoundland. It was a sad day for me. I just recently got back after having gone down for his funeral. I have always been very inspired by Poppy. I loved him very much. I wrote this poem during my trip, about Newfoundland, my grandparents, their history, my childhood and the feeling I have every time I go there....the very vital attachment I feel towards the land. So here it is:

for Jack and Nellie...

Many stories have been told
Most of which I've never known,
But i can feel them growing stronger in the marrow of my soul.
The legends wait and whisper in the ancient parts of me -
On the island,
On the island of my birth.

My Poppy had a fighter's heart,
and Nanny's was the same.
Their years were etched in rock and sand; through mists and driving rain.
An ocean held their deepest love and loneliness and pain -
On the island,
On the island of my dreams.

But I was just a small bird in the sky of such a place,
And yet it lit the passion of my tiny heart ablaze -
The day I set my eyes upon the face of Mother Sea,
It was the home,
It was the home inside my heart.

Shining days like crystals dropped upon a childhood land.
The moon, reflected on the deep, would take me by the hand,
And lead me to a silence where the beauty gently sang -
It was the magic,
It was the magic of my youth.

The bluest eye I've ever seen has rested on me here,
I can see myself inside it; I've inherited that stare,
Of worlds within the worlds of deepest blue and salted air,
Upon the island,
On the island of my birth.
---------------------------------------------------------the end.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I'm looking out my parents window onto the Rideau Canal - it's a skating wonderland out there.

I arrived in Ottawa today around noon.

I will put on my skates today and sail away.

Truthfully - they are not my skates...they are my moms. Who knows where my skates are. Probably buried amongst a mountain of other childhood/adolescent memory's.

I remember skating down the canal as a kid, eating beavertails and singing "A Bicycle Built for 2" at the top of my lungs.....just to see my breath....and I remember having skating races with my Dad and other neighbors who we used to go with. My ankles were never strong enough...but skating at it's best always felt a bit like what flying might feel like.

Flying on the ground.

Gotta fly....see ya.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Update on my life - Fat Tuesday

Hi there friends and strangers,

It's been awhile since I have written about my life...thought I would give an update. Especially given the sheer madness of the previous months... I always feel a little uncomfortable writing about my life...mostly because there are so many more interesting things to be writing about. I guess thats the wierd thing about blogging in general.

Anyhow - a fresh chapter is beginning and a lot is changeing and shifting right now. I think it may be time to bite the bullet and clear the blogger here is the dealio:

I moved out of Zacchaeus House - Toronto Catholic Worker - as of January 1 of this year. I finally made the decsion to move as of late November. It was not an easy decision for me...but it is nice to be out of what became, in the end, very very difficult (as some of my previous blogs will attest).

I have moved in with friend (and co-worker) Elly Green. Living the high life on College and Beatrice. Little Italy is a far cry from Parkdale. I do miss Parkdale very very much. It is my home in Toronto - that is for sure. But it's been good to have a break...if a little dis-orienting.

Since leaving the CW I have been working full-time front-line at the Gateway - shelter for homeless men in Toronto. I have been working there for a year and a half - but took on full-time when I left the worker. I enjoy the work...but it has taken a big mental/emotional toll over the past while. I have strong urges to retreat to a place where I only have to take care of myself.

I feel that I have learned more in the last year and a half than I have learned in all of my life thus far. No jokes. I figure that is a good thing...if overwhelming - power packed, man!!!. Right now I am seeking a way of simplicity...and un-complication (is that a word?). I also feel, in an effort to begin to process my experiences living in intense community, and living/working with the marginalized of Toronto, I would like to start writing more about the expereince and what I have gone through, and how it has changed my life and my evolveing thoughts on community and it's major impact on our increasingly individualized and isolateing society. But it is so much I barely know where to start.

So I won't right now. But I will be useing this blog as a processing tool over the next while. I also want to say thanks to those of you who have been praying with and for me over the past months. It has been a rough go - and I am thankful for those of you (known and unknown) who have helped me through it in some way. (Are we ever really "through it" I wonder?)

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


My Sweet Crushed Angel

You have not danced so badly, my dear,

trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.

You have waltzed with great style, my sweet, crushed angel,

to have ever neared Gods heart at all.

Our partner is notoriously difficult to follow
and even his best musicians are not always easy to hear.

So what if the music has stopped for awhile

So what if the admission to the Divine is out of reach tonight.

So what, my dear, if you do not have the ante to gamble for real love.

The mind and body are famous for holding the heart ransom.

But Hafiz knows the Beloveds eternal habits

Have patience

For He will not be able to resist your longing for long

You have not danced so badly, my dear, trying to kiss the Beautiful One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style

O my sweet, O my sweet, crushed angel.

Our -Hafiz c. 1320-1389