Stratford Hearts

It was the perfect summer afternoon, tucked away comfortably in late August.

The summer heat was fading, the skies a bright blue and the sunshine felt as though it would stretch on for days at a time.

I was in need of a day off, with my dedication to several events at once, causing my heart to ache for some rest from the busy afternoons that hadn’t really slowed down since May. When a really good friend of mine called and asked if I wanted to join him and his family for an afternoon taking in a play at Stratford, I knew my only answer was ‘yes’.

There’s something I so deeply appreciate about live theatre that has only served to increase my hunger to see more shows. It started with seeing Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury last Winter with a friend who had an extra ticket and expanded into seeing “Gingers In Love” at The Annex in Toronto, to fully subscribing to the 2015-2016 Mirvish season. When that friend said that it was going to be a play in Stratford, Ontario, I knew I was in, because it was a first for me. It was also the perfect way to forget the world and settle in for some very much needed down time.

We arrived and immediately I was struck by the beauty of the river winding through one part of town, across from our theatre.

Cheryl Costello Stratford

Its waters were so still, matching the air around it. We met up with the rest of my friend’s family and enjoyed some time spent catching up over a small lunch, before heading in to see the show.

The harsh edges of the roof had me wondering just how this venue would manage to fit a performance as big as “The Physicists” was deigned, by the reviews I read before attending. Once in the building, I couldn’t fathom who constructed all the lighting or came up with the idea to convert it into a theatre but I was immensely glad that they did.

Cheryl Costello The Phycisists

The show itself was magnificent and though some time has passed since, I can still vividly recall the brilliance of the play itself and the way each actor fit their own brand of spice to these roles. I had never heard of the play prior to the show and I was so incredibly grateful I learned of it from such skilled ambassadors of the craft. Throughout the performance it was so quiet you could almost hear the actors breathe, and they were nothing short of the embodiment of perfection as their characters. It was hard to believe they could be anything else, though I was going to find out later, as my friend’s family was also friends with the lead actress and we were going back to their house to celebrate with wine, food and great company.

The thought that I might have a moment to speak with such creative minds was humbling; Years of experiences I’ve yet to know, that I can ask about or hear wisdom about from others are what I’ve learned to cherish. What ended up happening though, was far more than just mingling and getting to know others. It was one of those events, whose power stretches beyond introductions and past the day itself.

What I came for was to enjoy a beautiful play, but I left with so much more.

Those attending the party afterwards were a group of friends whose appreciation for one another stretched over thirty and forty years. I looked around at these rooms filled with people who had the span of my lifetime in friendship together, and then some. There was an intimacy with which they shared jokes and spoke of their children’s experiences and knowing that it wasn’t just about seeing one another for coffee every once-in-a-while but an honest-to-goodness being there for another person for that period of time, which made me long for that in my life. It was a rarity to see that many people dedicated to maintaining a friendship because my generation is so on the move that planting roots in one place is deemed fairly uncool, let alone planting roots in other people and finding your home in them. It was a deeply moving thing to see this many people celebrating one another and I remember having my small glass of wine in hand with appetizers, moving between the edges of conversation and diving right in, talking to people I didn’t know, feeling so much gratitude that I could witness this much joie de vivre in one room. My heart has always longed for a home like that with others; The kind that even after all this time still wants to forge onward because family is a gift and friends who become family are like the warmth of home who help you understand and appreciate what family means because they don’t have to care that much or love you like they do- they choose to, through it all.

As we were leaving the house, heading back to the city after an incredible day, I was stopped by a heart shaped leaf near the sidewalk on a neighboring property.

Cheryl Costello Stratford Heart

I watched the sun sink lower into the sky on the drive home, with my neck craned so that my eyes were focused on the sight behind me. I could feel the familiar rumble of a part of me waking up after an extended respite, wherein I thought it would just be a short time that I shut down the part of me which believed that so much good could exist in others like that. There are times where we do it without thinking because we simply cannot grieve the necessary parts of life’s leaving because there is so much going on so that if we stopped, our lives would not be as effectual. The way life felt like it was rocketing through me once again after that day though, the heart confirmed that the doorways we least want to walk through are the ones we most need to in order to stay and feel so vitally alive that our hearts fill up with the same anticipation and energy that filled the theatre that afternoon.

We saw a hot air balloon soar over the car and the intermittent traffic as we sailed through the punctuation marks that small towns left on the long stretches of farms on our way back home. The way it was silently gliding through the air and captured my attention reminded me that my heart is supposed to feel this open. It’s supposed to feel this good. I’m supposed to see this much wonder and anything else is simply a barrier I’ve put up to experience less of the good and less of the love that exists in abundance around me.

It acted as proof that sometimes the greatest joys come not from accomplishments or anything we do, but from saying yes to spending time with others and less time with phones, or accolades.

I resolved to make more time for ‘yes’, as the dusk’s burnt orange gave way to a twilight blue, blowing that incredible day a kiss goodnight.

Cheryl Costello

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