Archive for January, 2012

Social Worker


Healing the wounds of untold sorrows; mending souls of broken dreams; walking paths of concerns; empathizing; animating & encouraging. She doesn’t keep time; always available, present, serving; engaged. What’s her name? Her station in life? Does she have someone to soothe her own sadness? A companion to listen quietly, tenderly, respectfully, her many stories from the front line …

I have seen her move from one voice to another; her hands like a magic wand resolving, this, that and what is to come. Helplessness is a word not in her lexicon; she’s a woman of change, justice, love and of an enduring compassion. She sings; chants, travels light like none else I know. A supernatural gifted healer; she has the hands that bring comfort to those falling between the cracks. There she goes, reading files, memorizing names, her aura illuminating the moments of guidance, lifting the downtrodden, accompanying the abandoned; giving voice to those who have temporarily lost theirs.

Softly; she moves with the grace of a flamingo, always aware of her surroundings.  That call is important to us, she tells her co-workers; don’t give up; funding is coming through. They kept coming in; a seasonal diner with no end date; dispensing hugs, shivering inside by the tears of a child receiving a comforting word from a stranger, a snap shot to remember. This time of the year is always heavy …, she said to me on an email. I also knew that, like many among us, she struggled with seasonal affective depression – indeed, jingle bells could be borderline torture.

I saw her recently at a downtown café; she looked wearily, her sight blurred, her hands trembling. I said a greeting in Spanish, she recognised me with a smile, revealing many sleepless nights; the night shift is a killer, she complained. Are you still at the same place? I asked. No, she said, I burned out badly, and then I got sick, took a leave for a while, but couldn’t return to it; the intensity of the place was too much for me to handle.

Of course, I added with empathy. I always thought you were extraordinary amiga – day in, day out. Seating at the outdoor café we sipped our cappuccino watching people going by in a hurry, some talking to themselves, or their cell phones, others strolling along at a leisured pace. I took her hands gently; she smiled. Don’t give up amiga, I murmured; you did what you could, and then some.

We said our goodbyes that day; I remember watching her disappear in the crowd in slow motion; as if it was a carefully orchestrated sortie, perhaps opening the salvos for her next act. Her lavender aroma in the air – I knew then someday I was going to be amazed by her glow. Common friends told me not too long ago she had gone to Africa, her calling of a bigger nature. Most fitting, I thought. Me? I was still at the downtown café holding her hands, silently.


© Leo Campos Aldunez

Edmonton, AB (Canada)

Light As a Feather

While driving errands on a sunny morning she said “a walk in to the wood would be nice” … It was her second appeal. I was thinking rice and beans; a move to San Juan del Sur; open skies and sandy beaches. Just a pair of jeans, some nice guayaveras. The essentials for living large, and perhaps some tobacco. I could feel the salty breeze on my face; savour a nice drink of rum, watching the evening go by. You know, she added “we need to lose some weight this year” – of course, I replied, perhaps some serious Pilates workout?

My plan was simple; establish a new centre for intercultural studies and social change. “Yes! She exclaimed, I agree. But, what about the kids? Do they need a special diet too?” Not sure about that, I replied; they look fine to me. Indeed, given my spouse’s obsession with body shapes, she could be in charge of all matters exercise at the venue. “You’re missing the point, she retorted; they look OK but, could be better, much better …”

I was conflicted during the drive; all my grand plans where in still in my head, had not mentioned to her for fears of a cultural clash of sorts – she tended to be impatient, needed results, yesterday. After all, our financial situation was rather ‘fragile’ to put it mildly. Days later, after a passionate interlude of beds and pillows, I managed to reveal my new venture to her. She was attentive, the idea was ‘intriguing’ – she commented, lukewarm. Could the kids adapt to a new land? New language, unknown food; they’d miss their friends too much.

Let’s pause on this, I suggested, there’s no rush. Then, for the first time in our long journey I felt out of place; it was as if our bodies where on distant lands, and the geography of my 3 year plan evaporated. You know, she added gently, “maybe there’s something deeper we need to talk about …” That was the clarion I wasn’t quite expecting, but, I also knew then and there that a walk into the woods was indeed in the horizon.

A month later, we separated. The plan gone; suddenly our marriage converted to ashes. It was hard to find something to hold on to, except the kids. Angels of a different kind, they were beyond the fire that slowly consumes institutional routines, predictability and good intentions. And that was a good thing; as they kept me sane amidst the turbulence. Their love constant, the intimacy of their domain strong. Divorce followed. We survived.

Years have gone by now; dark spaces an occasional companion. After the collapse, catharsis, for a few misplaced affections and suffocating commitments do not make for a whole life of richly nurturing emotional exchanges. I am now surrounded by solitary stretches of roads; some painful breakups; new kisses, promises to honour, the possibility of romance and lovingly journeys and of course, the perennial ghosts in the house.

Notwithstanding the overshadowing sense of solitude we all carry deep inside on our way home, the sacrifices we make, our service to duty, overburdened at times by futility, we keep, like a mystical phoenix, rebirthing. Let our imaginary wings take us further into the woods I say; who knows? We may, like an enduring love, find each other again, miraculously, light, as a feather.


© Leo Campos Aldunez

Edmonton, AB (Canada)