Let it Floe


I was riding my bike home a few days ago and stopped at a red light. While I waited for the light to change, I saw a woman stop by a homeless man and offer him a large bag. He fingered through the bag, and started to pull out one sweater after another. Different colours. Stabs of bright hues on a dreary day. There was a large blanket as well. The man struggled to find the words, but I could see him mouth “thank you” over and over again to the woman, who then walked away. I smiled at the woman as she passed me. I smiled to acknowledge her kindness, but she needed no recognition. A heart knit with compassion needs no validation.

As I zigzagged through the city, I soon found myself near the lakeside. I don’t often pass through that area of the city, but on that day I was moved to divert from my usual route. I stopped to take in the beauty of the cold Toronto view from the waterfront district. I was taken by the ice floes that hugged the walls of the harbour and which stretched back towards the belly of Lake Ontario. I found myself mesmerized by the pattern of no pattern, the markings, the veins of water and ice which made each piece unique. I was taken by the simplicity of this formation, yet struck by the complexity of it.

I moved forward and began to think of the inter-connectivity of those ice pieces, those floes, and of the act of kindness I witnessed earlier. I began to see the unfolding of how we interact with others, how we are in this world, our community, our circles of strength and support. There seemed to be something about the ice which stuck with me for a while. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drawn to the water for reflection, for the consumption of the cosmos sending me a message of sorts, or perhaps a reminder of who’s the boss (Mother Nature ain’t no prison bitch, if I memory serves me right.)

Don’t. Just don’t. Trust me.

If I were to map out the people in my life, of my family, my extended family, my recovery and spiritual communities, my work colleagues, and my friends, I would see a collage of souls similar to what those ice floes looked like. I would see spirits in different stages of growth, solidity and size. I would see the capillaries and stretch-like marks on and underneath the surface. I would see the singular strength that everyone has in varying degrees. I would see just how connected we all are, even if we aren’t strictly joined in some ways. When I see the seemingly fractured nature of those ice floes and of the human souls in my life, I see cohesion. I see dependence and individuality both at play.

It’s a bit esoteric perhaps. Maybe the cold has cracked a part of my brain, but (polar?) bear with me here. We understand water as being in different states—fluid, ice (snow as well) and steam. It depends on the temperature and what it being applied. Heat on ice melts ice and turns it into steam. It changes the state of the water, but not the chemical nature of it. Water is still H2O regardless of its condition. And with us folks, we are still the DNA etched into us. My state changes, but I am still Paul. I am still me, but my state may change depending on the conditions put on me. My core remains the same. Of course, we are a little bit more complicated than water, but hey, aren’t we about 65% water? I see some kind of divinity in water. It’s in us. We know that when we observe water on other planets, our first thoughts leap to the idea of other beings inhabiting those planets.

Water is life, yo.

Wrong Flo.

I look at the water between the ice floes as the connecting fluid between us all. It’s the connection we share with one another. Water which washes us clean, which transports, which refreshes, which replenishes us. We are interlocked with one another, even when we are separate. The larger pieces shield and support the smaller ones. We have our space, and yet we are so close as able to reach out and touch one another. When the conditions are right, we begin to solidify into something greater and stronger. When I am low, I know that there’s encouragement from others if I seek it. I understand that if someone I know needs some kind of refuge, they will find it with me and others. Random kindness, like that woman towards the homeless man, is part of that fluid which circulates about us. It’s part of our make up. It’s a way to stay in touch with the large current underneath us which keeps us afloat. The Great Deep beneath us is the Goodness that the Creator bestows upon us. I can feel it.

Look, maybe I’m stretching this metaphor. Maybe you’re thinking “look dude, chill” (no pun intended.) It’s just some damned ice. And maybe it is. Sure, there’s lots of strife and darkness in the world. Where’s that damn ice flow now, Pauly? It’s there. I have faith that we are meant to be connected in community, and while parts of the world go under (and hell even people in our own lives go under), that the water is still there. There is hope. If there is anything that recovery and the path of spirituality has taught me, it is that we are meant to surround ourselves with others, to be a part of and not apart from, and to be a spark for others in their lives. We don’t “do” alone very well. Even for an introvert like me, I need people. I need you.

It’s the flow of life.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. soberisland says:

    Nice. I like your humor. I’ve been thinking about how you can’t stand in the same river twice and how that relates to our spiritual sides. I don’t know- just another metaphor for water.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks! I try to use humour to lighten things up a bit – try not to get Sturm und Drang on everyone. I appreciate the kind words! I love that saying about “this river I step in is not the river I stand in”. There is a bridge I ride over daily that says that. It’s fantastic. Any metaphor for water is right by me! Thanks again – just found your blog and look forward in tagging along in your journey!

      1. soberisland says:

        I just found your podcasts. Going to give them a listen

        1. Paul S says:

          Oh thanks! I just posted a new one yesterday. Appreciate it!

          1. soberisland says:

            You are one of my favorites now. Don’t quit and stay consistent, please.

  2. Oh, oh, oh! What a pleasure to see you back here Paul. It’s forever a wonderful thing to read the messages in your bottles, so to speak. Love from The Sober Garden on the other side of the pond maybe but, yes, still connected x.

    1. Paul S says:

      Aww thanks my friend. Nice seeing you as always! I will take the love from the other side of the pond and return twice as much. Thanks for being here!

  3. The metaphor though!

    Weaved, cracked, threaded, then flipped on its head. I love the patience you have to look at it from all angles. The bum, the act, the ice. Can’t be coincedence. You had to write it all.

    Like a twitter thread I just saw. “Is it odd or is it God?”

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Mark! I totally forgot about the “Is it odd or it is God?” phrase! I used to use that one a lot, but it fell out of my vocabulary. May be time to reinstall that one. It is quite amazing how things come into our vision as needed. Sometimes I disregard, other times I examine. It depends what state of mind I’m in, what level of acceptance is available to me and where I’m at.

      Congrats again on your one year blog anniversary!


  4. Rosie says:

    Moved by the depth of your spirituality and awareness. And your writing! …brilliant piece as always. Thank you.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Rosie 😉

  5. byebyebeer says:

    That is awesome about the sweater lady. Sharing that story here, in print, filled my heart. We have a lot of choices how and where to spend our time online, and your words spread kindness. It matters.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks K – I love this idea of paying it forward, so to speak. Watching that woman filled my heart for sure!

  6. Our body IS, after all, (what…) 70% water?

    1. Paul S says:

      Maybe 75% on those days when we’re feeling bloated from too much sparkling water. Or coffee. Speaking of coffee…

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