Monday, July 19, 2010


The original coffeehouse with Lea-Ann's clothes hung out to dry :)

There are wounds that leave no scars, and I'm sure there isnt a person living on the planet who doesnt carry a fair share of them. My psyche bears the imprint of my beginnings in a violent, alcoholic household. It took years for the scar tissue to form around my numb and frightened heart, decades more to scrape away the layers and rediscover its beating presence within.

My childhood had been followed by a soul-crushing marriage, and then an affair with a man who time revealed to be a con man and an alcoholic. Now I was alone. For years I lived only for and with my four children. I felt safe only with them, beating a path between the library, grocery store and home. We did everything together. We hiked up Knox Mountain to fly kites on the grassy slopes, we went to the lake, or for bike rides, me leading the way on my big bike, the kids trailing behind me on their smaller ones like a brood of ducklings. My entertainment was their all-night sleepovers, when they danced and played and had popcorn fights, and I was their audience.

When I found Brock and Friends coffeehouse in Kelowna in 1980, there was a fozen Siberian wasteland living in my chest. I looked out at the world through frightened eyes. But something drew me through that door - something that wanted me to live.

I was shy, self-conscious almost to the point of muteness. But the minute I stepped through the door, something in my spirit knew I had come home. Here was the other side of life I had been searching for, here were dreamers and seekers, people who lived gently on the earth and with each other. Here people were accepted as they were; people gave freely, unafraid, unconditionally. Here people who felt they didnt fit in anywhere else, fit in. I watched people come in the door and be greeted warmly, by name, and wondered: Could there ever be a day when I'll be one of those people?

Brock and I in the new bigger coffeehouse. I preferred the old one.
In this little old house full of plants and stained glass and glorious music, my life turned down another pathway. Out of their abiding kindness, they offered me acceptance and safety and space just to be. My life as I now know it could never have been, had I not walked through that door.
The coffeehouse was run by volunteers, so I pushed through my shyness and put my name down for some shifts. Local musicians signed on for evening performances and, irresistably, the music drew me forth.
Brock loved the stage :)
At first, I was afraid to come out of the kitchen. I prepared the food, served it, then scuttled back to wipe down the counters, over and over. People were kind to me. They never pushed. They were the same to me whether I was happy or sad, mute or awkward. Still, if a man came into the kitchen and walked up too close to me, I froze completely. It was easier with the women.
Brock often said, "Come out and enjoy the music, Sherry. You dont have to stay in the kitchen."

Brock was a true clown. I never laughed so much in my life as I did with him.

In time I crept as far as the doorway, to watch and listen. Finally, I leaned up against an old treadle sewing machine just inside the door, and let the music take me away. I listened with an ache that was almost physical. All my life, I had wanted tp sing. Buit my self-conscious "not good enough" inner self held me back. I sang in private. Once, thinking I was alone, I was singing along with the tape deck as I chopped vegetables in the kitchen. Brock came out of his office and said "Sherry, you should be singing here with the others. You have such a beautiful voice."
Too shy. Too self-conscious. One part of me trying to break and fly free, the other holding me to the earth.
Lea-Ann with the voice of an angel

Magical evenings happened in that coffeehouse. Once after a public performance, some musicians from a symphony orchestra came to the coffeehouse and jammed with the local musicians. One of the regulars, Roger Sparks, had written a song called Gentle Jonathan about his brother's suicide. It was one of our favorite numbers. The musicians took that melody and improvised a fifteen minute riff on it that was utterly magical. Everyone was blown away.
At the end of the evening, as we were closing up, Brock came up to me and, for the first time, gave me a hug. "What a magical evening this was!" he said.

Lea-Ann, Brock and Roger, tuning up
I walked home under the stars with an awakening heart. Other than my children, this was the first hug anyone had given me in many years. I woke up the next morning in tears. I was coming alive, and it was painful.
I called Brock. "It hurts to feel! It was easier to be frozen!"
"No, dont ever say that," Brock chided. "It is always better to feel, to be alive. If you dont feel the pain, you cant feel the joy either."
It was while Brock and I were chopping vegetables side by side in the kitchen one afternoon, giggling and joking, that I realized I was standing next to a man and that I trusted him. I had never trusted a man vefore. But Brock was as safe as a brother. He had given me space and acceptance and time to heal from the traumas of the past and, unforced, the bud of my being slowly began to unfurl.
I realized I was giving of myself, and getting back something I never had, the sunshine of others' joy, and a reflection of myself I had never seen before, in all of my friends' eyes. What I gained in those years was so much more than what I gave. I gained back my life there, the life I was meant to live as the person I was meant to be. No small gift.
Here, I found my true home, and a family.

Myself, my dear friend Jeane and Guy, the "regulars"

Now, when I walked in the door, other faces lit up and called happily to me. One day while I was cleaning the toilet, down on my knees, scrubbing away, feeling satisfied that I was tending those I loved so caringly, the realization hit me: "THIS is the love I've been seeking all my life." I had thought I longed for a partner to give love to me and fill the empty places that had lived in me unfilled my whole life. Instead, it was in giving love, that I was filled. It was a revelation.

I began to write again, and to flower, and my shyness fell away. The coffeehouse marked a turning point in my life, set me on a kinder path than the walkways I had traveled, pointed me in the direction of my dreams. From that time on, I was on my own journey. I was on my way.
We had poetry nights. One evening the little Suzuki violin players came and played for us. Musicians both famous and not famous played for us, many of the undiscovered with surpassing talent. I adored the music and was expressive in my appreciation. Strangely, while the local bars were packed, most evenings we had only a scattered handful of people to enjoy the amazing offerings. Bu the musicians used to say "We dont need an audience when we have Sherry," because I loved it all so much.
One day Brock told me, "You must know you're a healer, Sherry, dont you?" I did not know. I only knew I was happiest in giving. I took home and housed one or another of the young girls who found the coffeehouse, until they found somewhere of their own to live. At the cofeehouse, as we prepared the food, there was so much laughter, there were times I could hardly stand up from laughing so hard.
Jeff with his face painted. Lisa and Steph were around there somewhere
One glorious afternoon, we had an outdoor musicfest in a huge grassy field outside of town. As a Celtic band called Mullingar began to fiddle their lively jigs, spontaneously most of the audience leaped up and began to dance and whirl all over the field in a glorious circle, against the setting sun. A moment that will live in memory forever.

Four year old Stephanie is on Guy's shoulders

I longed to join them, envied their joy and abandon, remained stalk-still at the edge of the field, imprinting the sight on my retina.
By the time the coffeehouse closed, a few years later, I stood on the stage and addressed eight hundred people, telling them of my gratitude for the years we had shared. One of the women came up to me later with tears in her eyes and said "Your power and your beauty made me cry."
Brock and Friends healed the inner wounds, and gave me wings to fly. With music and kindness and time and gentleness, they raveled a warm cloak of love around me that I carried with me forever after. I tip my hat to the universe for those golden years, when I burst out of my shell of pain and emerged into the land of the living, assisted by the kind folk at Brock and Friends, my family for all time.
My time there had been al about following one's heart and so, the next leap was a huge, trusting move to Tofino, the home of my dreams. Tofino was like one big coffeehouse, full of the alternative lifestyle folk with whom I feel most at home. I came out of myself even more, but still sang and danced only when I was alone.
In Tofino, at every musical event, the entire crowd became a palpitating, writing mass of ecstatic gyration. I was far more open now, much braver. But still not liberated from my self-consciousness enough to get out of my seat and gyrate with the crowd. I thrummed with the beat of the drums all through my being, but could not leave my chair.
All this lifetime, one part of me longed to be Out There while the other held me fast. I could reflect on so many wasted chances to fully participate in life, many missed opportunities to fully savor joy - and yet, still, all those times, inside my heart, I danced.

Thanks, Big B :)


  1. oh! i love this and love the pictures too :) i remember alot of the Brock and Friends people, so many of whom brought some wonderful things to my life too. I was SO heartbroken when Leanne moved away, but am so grateful to her - she was like a big sister to me. There always seemed to be fantastic food around too!? I have a picture of Richard and I on the Brock and Friends stage, my debut and finale all at the same time, lol. So glad to read this. xx

  2. I'm so glad you stepped through that door, Sherry! This was a journey to joy - with good friends, music and love. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. Thanks so much - happy days. Hey, I cooked the fantastic food (too bad we couldnt afford it at our house, hee hee.......

  4. I believe the key to our long friendship is in this piece, Sherry. We were both damaged souls, carrying the weight of childhood betrayal, yet we saw clearly in each other the spark of life that would not be dimmed.

    I'm proud of us both! Today, we shine,
    and share joy...yay!!!!

    That was beautifully written. I remember the long letters you sent me as that life unfolded around you. So glad you're getting it out into the world...

  5. Sherry, I am speechless. This was truly a joy to read I did not want it to end. I knew I liked you when we first connected, but now I love you lady!! Have a bright wonderful day. * Giving love with bring love, so so true!


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!