If we are open to it, there are teachers and guides all around us as we journey through life. Their lives may be running parallel to ours with the occasional intersection. They may be in disguise as parents, children, sales clerks, colleagues, authors, spouses, even enemies. Perhaps especially enemies.
If we are aware (don’t you hate that it always comes back to awareness?) they can measurably improve our experience, lessen our suffering, or add insight to our lives.
A few days ago I got one of those blanket email invitations to something. Unlike many of those creatures this email was something I was interested in: a production entitled “Strings?Through Struggles and Success.” It was to feature a mandolin ensemble playing traditional Ukrainian music, plus choir performances, and a narrated slideshow.
Because I thought my mom and aunt would like to attend, I invited them. Because it was Sunday afternoon, starting the day by attending a Divine Liturgy seemed the right thing to do. Planning took on a life of its own but eventually we decided to attend All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church in St. Paul, partake in the meal and fellowship offered, and then enjoy the production all in the same complex. The priest, Reverend Peter Haugen, was wonderful. His sermon was delivered from his head and heart, without notes or patching together cribbed content from various sources. The choir augmented the experience. We were then treated to a delicious hot Ukrainian buffet accompanied by an eight-foot long table of desserts. And we hadn’t even gotten to the main event yet!
I discovered I knew a few of the people who would be performing so had a chance to connect during the meal. The forty or fifty some performers came from Edmonton on a charter bus. With the driving taken care of, they had been free to visit or take in the scenery.
That’s when I learned that at least some of these city slickers had noticed what this farm kid quite often takes for granted: the beauty of our natural environment. Many would think that this is hardly the most attractive time of the year what with the colourful fall leaves gone. Through Natalia’s observation I was nudged to remember what I love about the season. The stark artistry of bare branches against the blue-grey of our endless Alberta sky; the burnt sienna, gold, and ochre of the dried grasses; the purple, pink, orange, and red of an early sunset. Barreling down a highway they likely didn’t see a coyote, moose, or deer in any field. Or have to brake, like I did, when a waddling porcupine struggled to escape my oncoming car one recent, dark night.
This unintentional reminder wasn’t lost on me. When I decry the lack of services or amenities, this is the tradeoff. And a choice we continue to make year after year. It’s good to remember that what we have (or lack) is largely a matter of intention, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..