Reflections on Ordinary Time at Blake Street

Kathleen Norris is quoted saying that “it is the paradox of human life that… it is the routine and the everyday that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation.” This is the heart behind the arch of Act Five’s program each year: we do incredible adventures like canoeing in Temagami, extraordinary travelling, and other outdoor wilderness adventure, but the bulk of the program is spent in Hamilton. Here, we do our chores, engage in a couple of courses, make dinner for each other, commit to a local church community, and get to know our neighbours. And it tends to feel very, very ordinary; yet in the midst of it all we trust we are putting our students on the path of possibility of great transformation.

Our student Joel writes the following:

I went into Act Five looking forward to making new friends and exploring new places without thinking too much about what life would be like at home in Hamilton. And although I have made lots of new friends and been to so many awesome new places, I was surprised to discover that there was so much to be learned in the normal, everyday life at Blake Street than I could have ever imagined. 

When we returned from our incredible trip up north with Coldwater Canada and started to get into our regular, weekly schedule, life became less exciting. Realizing that not every day was going to be full of experiences that would leave me breathless was a difficult but necessary step in shaping my perspective on how I view the more mundane days in the program. 

I didn’t think I would learn anything from making roasted red pepper alfredo with Gillian for my family group, or hauling my overflowing hamper to the laundromat on Main Street, or even doing the dishes, but the more time I spend just “living life” in community the more I see the lessons there are to be found in the little things. I learned the importance of paying attention to the details of a recipe, and how I need to make time to do my wash before it becomes an overwhelming task. I’m learning to listen to people and I’m trying to become more disciplined and less distracted. 

We have talked a few times about having rhythms in our day since the beginning of Act Five; although I don’t fully understand why they are important or what my daily rhythms should look like, I can see how the way in which I go about my daily life has an effect on who I am as a person. A quote was shared with us near the start of the program from Annie Dillard that says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Although this quote seems to state the obvious (hence the words “of course”), I often get distracted by where I want to end up and worry too much about the future. 

Learning to trust that my future is in God’s hands, who is in control of and knows all things, has allowed me to spend less time worrying about the things I can’t control and has given more time to explore how I can glorify God in my daily life. Even though this isn’t always easy I find comfort in knowing that God sees me right where I am and knows what is best for me, even on the “boring” days. 

Our student Julia writes the following:

The past little bit of time finally living in Hamilton has brought a lot of hardships, but also so much beauty. We fill our days going to coffee shops, hiking around the city, taking classes and simply living together. Community can be hard at times, but the growth and friendships that have come out of it have made it all so worth it.
We’ve began to start storytelling and listening to other people’s stories. We’ve been hearing of people’s paths to where they are now; both people on the streets during deedz and guests who come to the yard to share. These are the stories of how this city came to be and it is such a beautiful thing to be a part of this growth. This growth is only the beginning though, we have only just arrived to this city, but we settling into a place that feels like home.

This weekend we are heading up to the Kawartha Lakes region to visit Russet House Farm and hear how theologians and farmers Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat are loving their land and place. From there we are going up to a set of cottages to learn about the enneagram and engage in self reflection and soul care.
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