The Grove in Newton is one of those places that for many years, was nothing more than a place you had to pass through to get to somewhere else.
To get to the bus loop from the library or Newton Rec Centre, you went through ‘the grove’.
To get to Safeway from the bus loop, you went through ‘the grove’.
And funny enough, it wasn’t really ever a ‘place’ as much as it was something to endure at times, a haven for the lost, the disconnected, the unsavory, which in itself was a crime for the sheer beauty of the trees that make up this grove.
For years, as crime after crime after crime was committed in and around the grove and rec centre, it was my thought that the damn tree’s should just be cut down,such cover they provided to conceal and hide those intent on harming or robbing others.
And then the unthinkable happened and the spotlight was shining bright on Newton, the rec centre and the grove in a way that made dealing with the area unavoidable.
The brush was removed, the tree canopy raised, David Dalley appeared along with others and The Friends of The Grove started working their magic.
The Newton Festival was moved out of the back alley ( we love Perry and Poonam!) and into the Rec Centre parking lot and The Friends of The Grove hosted fun and fantasy in the shade of the mighty trees.
There have been hammocks where friendships were forged, drums, music, hope. Tables painted and chairs for relaxing. For a while, there was a public piano that made sweet beautiful music played by strangers and sometimes people would dance… forgetting the place and time and just lived for a moment in the sound of laughter.
And as with all things where people are creating something new, and good, and CHANGE is happening, there are setbacks, and push-backs. Chairs were broken,and were fixed. The piano suffered an untimely incident but was soon replaced. A group of drunks harassed women and have been, it seems, stopped.
But The Friends of The Grove persevered, looking for solutions instead of condemnation. Dreamcatchers hung from the limbs of the trees caught not nightmares but the forsaken hopes and dreams of those whose lives took turns for the worse.
It was, in an imperfect way, perfect for how much humanity this one stand of trees has become the symbol for everything wrong, and everything right, about Newton. It has been an exercise in place making, at it’s worst and best.
Yet something always seemed to be missing though, in late evenings commuting back from Vancouver, or work though the Newton bus loop area. The grove was dark, unwelcoming under cover of darkness.
Many people worked to change that, and today The Friends of the Grove hosted their Tree Lighting ceremony as strings of lights that have been strategically strung between and around the trees were to be officially blessed and welcomed.
I was honoured to be able to take part in an intimate gathering of Newtons unsung heroes today. Blessings, prayers, poetry and quotes were offered and heard. Drums were played, hugs and tears were shared and maybe it was just me… but it seemed as though when the lights were lit, a weight lifted and the area felt lighter not just in illumination… but in spirit.
David Dalley and friends inspire me more than words can say. For those of us who concentrate on the politics, the corruption, the less than inspiring, people like David are like water after walking through a desert. When I thought the solution was to cut the tree’s down, David showed me the solution was in fact, to be found in the tree’s themselves.
There will be no more darkness in this space.
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”
― Wendell Berry