Image credit: MakersWindsor.com
I knew we were “in trouble with a capital T” when she got up out of her chair. Her name is Catherine. We met earlier this spring when I was in Nova Scotia helping our son transition through a move. We’d spent our day off in the Annapolis Valley. On our way back to Dartmouth, we stopped in Windsor for supper. I wasn’t sure why, but it felt important. It’s the kind of omnipresent small Canadian town situated beside a major highway and more times than not, is overlooked. Much of rural Canada is met with similar challenges of survival – social, economic, cultural and environmental. In this context, Windsor stands near the top of its class. We parked far enough from the downtown so as to have a suitable walk and to gain some sense of its pulse. Inherent vitality didn’t come to mind as we observed vacant storefronts and beleaguered businesses. That is until we passed by a window displaying artfully arranged hanging spindles overtop a wood lathe. I looked up for the sign. One word: “Makers.” Other windows displayed fresh flowers, pieces of ceramics, paintings and a deliberately selected array of beautiful handmade things. These things, I would suggest, were not professional, but rather intentional. Made, without a doubt, with a sense of purposeful pride.
Jacob and I agreed that we were intrigued. Hmmm. While it was clearly after hours on a Saturday evening, we were surprised to find the front door propped open. I could make out some music in the background and a mystical kind of thrum to the place. We looked at each other and without words agreed we should go in. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
There was a cluster of very comfortable looking chairs; some women were chatting away. Other folks, adults and children, were clearly up to things. We made our way to an area of items for sale when one of the seated women got up and welcomed us. Did we have any questions? Well in fact we did. “I can tell there are a lot of things going on here….can you tell me the gist of it?” I asked. Forty-five minutes later, Catherine had essentially told us her life story mixed in with the most remarkable vision for this studio/shelter/kitchen/refuge/sanctuary/workshop/incubator for ideas/library/gallery.
Apparently Makers is a thing in Nova Scotia. There is another outlet in Dartmouth. They are a facility that offers the possible. They are privately funded and gratefully receive donations of things, experience, skills and funds. In short, wow with a capital W. Catherine was born in Windsor. With a grade six education, she left town largely because she was afraid of what might happen should she stay. Twenty-five years later, she returned with a vision. She started putting the pieces together and, when the time was right (just this spring), Makers opened its doors.
The art of offering the possible is a skill very few possess. Having the inclination to procure a venue to meet the needs of pretty much anybody who passes through the door, is truly a gift. Was there anything this woman or this space couldn’t do? I don’t believe so. Though in its infancy, Makers, Windsor, stands to become a hallmark of greatness. Not in a conquer-the-world kind of way but rather in its ability to reach out, welcome in and say “yes, your idea is totally possible.” Regardless of age, sex, skillset or financial means, Makers empowers in people the right to access and create pretty much anything. After our tour, I asked where we should have dinner. “Around the corner; ask for haddock, but have the rice instead of the fries.” I love it when I get a straight answer.
After eating we returned to the centre. Catherine was up to her eyeballs in the instructions for hooking up a newly donated Bluetooth compatible big screen TV. She was a little bewildered. On the one hand she wanted to impress her young protégés with her savvy; on the other, she was totally willing to acquiesce and admit defeat. “Wait,” I proclaimed. “I’ve got just the man for you!” Within a few seconds Jacob was able to unlock the mystery and enable her to return to her compadres fully armed with the means to make things happen.
Reaching out with a willingness to ask for help is a gift. Fostering an environment for teamwork and empowerment is also a gift. Adding up the pieces of this remarkable puzzle called Makers, Windsor, is absolutely the best definition of synergy I can offer.
What better way to “culinize” this experience than to create some Humble Pie! It’s kind of like creating something from nothing. There are so many life lessons going on here. I came away reflecting on our own journey in the Grey Bruce Region trying to create a culture of the possible. Clearly it’s an uphill climb. The thing is, when we dare to venture off the proverbial beaten path, it seems that is where the magic can happen. So yes, let’s create some humble pie that offers the possible. Choose sweet or savoury. Choose ingredients locally sourced. Better yet, make a point of connecting with the grower or maker of your ingredients…be they the potter, the planter or the stockperson. Your favourite pastry recipe is on page 119 of the MarketSide Cookbook. Assemble and prepare ingredients accordingly. Bake at 425 degrees for the first 15-20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30-50 minutes.
Now the challenge becomes interesting. You need to share this masterpiece. Here’s your chance to connect with someone you’ve been meaning to get to know. It may be someone who needs this humble pie more than you. Drop it off at their house with best wishes. Whatever its destination, share the story. Develop as many layers as possible in its creation. Start to finish; full circle.
I now know why I needed to visit Windsor. I will enjoy revisiting Makers whenever we venture east…you should too. It’s an amazing example of what can happen when a group of like-minded citizens work together on a vision. Makers making it, is absolutely possible. Please check out www.makerswindsor.com. Eet Smakelijk!
*From the June issue of Grey Bruce MOSAIC, your local source for arts, entertainment and community. Get yours now in print at Ginger Press Bookshop and Cafe or online at http://greybrucemosaic.com.