As a kid, one of the things I loved each summer was spending one to two weeks with my maternal grandparents in the small Saskatchewan town in which they lived, Kerrobert. It was me, my sister, my younger two cousins. Initially we were all in our single digit years. It was Grandma and Grandpa time. Nothing too flashy. Popcorn was a big treat. It was playing together as kids. Helping with chores. Being with grandparents for summer break from school. Giving our parents in Edmonton a break from us. Kerrobert was a town of 1, 500 people then. As kids we used to play a game to see who could first see the old water tower (above), when first driving into Kerrobert’s familiarity. Kerrobert was a place of home for me. Each of what I remember turned into 8-10 summers.
Kerrobert was also a place of getting into some trouble. Kids do that. I did that. I remember one day walking about beyond the fenced yard in a field where there were giant puddles from recent rains. Puddles that felt more like small ponds. They were deep enough for the water to easily go over the protection of my rubber boots. Grandma warned me, “You can go, but don’t get your feet wet.” I didn’t realize it then, but she could see me out the kitchen window the whole time. I don’t know why I did it. I remember being fascinated by how the pressure of the water from the puddle / pond felt against the boot on my leg. I was wearing shorts. It was summer. I remember the feeling of wanting to walk as far into the puddle as I could, mesmerized by the puddle water at the ridge line of my boots. I was about a foot deep. I was so curious about it. I took one tiny, slow step further into the puddle. That’s when everything changed. My guarded steps no longer mattered. The water gushed over the top of my boots in a total flood. There was no trickle. There was no standing in just a little. I was standing in boots filled with water. I was a bit shocked at how fast it all had happened. I knew I was in trouble.
I do remember Granny Gould being mad at me. But only a little. I think she likely laughed, watching me play with the intersection of what she’d warned and my curiosity with the puddle water. These were summer days that shaped me forever. The trouble, the fun of family, and the watchful eldering eyes of someone that loved me.
These days, one of my favorite invitations that I say out loud with people I am working with, is about getting into trouble. “Maybe we could stir up a bit of trouble together.” Or, “Maybe there is some mischief that would be just right to get ourselves into.” People smile when I say this. It feels good to see them smile, and welcome a bit of going to the edges together. I notice that I keep reminding others and myself, that we have a job to honor the traditions that we’ve come from (carry them forward), but we also have a job to evolve the edges (to explore creatively). To go further into the pond. Sometimes, maybe to feel the gush of water into our boots.
Malidoma Some, the west African writer and cultural bridge-builder, continues to teach me about trouble. About its value. About a different orientation that doesn’t avoid at all costs, but rather, that welcomes the necessity of trouble. In his book, “The Healing Wisdom of Africa,” he writes of what his West African Elders said in regard to his accomplishment of earning a university degree:
“Having been exposed to this and that and successfully endured its pain, we now grant you the right to more trouble and tribulation for your own growth and for the fulfillment of the destiny associated with you. May the ancestors continue to stay by your side.”
The gift of trouble.
The right to trouble.
The significance of leaning into it and welcoming the maturing and the learning that comes with it.
I notice that I feel a bit excited to be called to trouble. I notice I feel a bit scared too. Will I really be able to get myself through? What if I don’t make it? What if those I’m with don’t make it? What if the trouble is too much? What if there is harm to me or to others?
I don’t cannonball my way into trouble. My nature is more cautious than that. However, this reframe to the essentialness of trouble, to the initiatory potential of trouble (so that we my be blessed with more trouble) — I have the feeling that this is deep living and needed even more in times such as these. We need invitations. And friends. And perhaps a few loving people watching us from the kitchen window, like Granny, smiling as we get into it.