I remember, once, I walked home from a shift at the restaurant I worked in Toronto. It was around 10pm and, as I walked along, I took notice of my surroundings. I always take notice of my surroundings, but on this particular night, I really ‘felt’ my surroundings. I was keenly aware of where I was, my place in the world, in Toronto, amongst these city lights, in this moment; entirely present.
I noticed the Mount Pleasant Cemetery – it’s history. I noticed the endlessness of the city lights. I noticed the business of the traffic – the coming and goings of so many, going from here to there, all being a part of something, but also being a part of me and my life. I noticed the stationary store, closed for the night, but inviting me to visit all the same. I noticed the way the sidewalk gave way to the root of the tree that broke it in two and would break it further in years to come. This small town girl was in Toronto. Living. A small piece of something larger.
I think, sometimes, it’s hard to appreciate where we are. After moving from Toronto, back to BC, my day-to-day life became so busy and full. It only got more challenging as I gained more responsibility: having kids, moving forward in my career, taking care of our loved ones. Life carried me along, willingly or unwillingly. I had no choice but to move along.
Not too long ago, I was given an opportunity to go to a conference in Las Vegas. The moment I was offered this opportunity, I decided I would make the trek to see the Grand Canyon – in a day. Many questioned my sanity – it’s a 4.5 hour drive in one direction. By the time I would arrive, it would be time to turn around and head back. And yet, I needed to do this. Because life gets too busy. Because I needed to see something larger than myself. Because I needed to have a moment where I was present. Because I needed to feel my place and I needed to be put in my place. I needed to be reminded of my smallness in the world. And so I went.
The drive was long. I was happy. Then tired. Then excited. Then I realized I had to drive back and was exhausted at the thought of it. I kept going.
When I arrived, I saw some vehicles pulled over to my left. I could sense an empty space just waiting to be viewed. I refused to look. I pulled my car over. Keeping my eyes to the ground, I walked to the ledge. Once there, I looked. My breath caught. You can see the Grand Canyon online. You can see the Grand Canyon in a postcard. But you can’t ‘see’ the Grand Canyon until you’re standing there ‘feeling’ it at the same time. Feeling your place. Feeling your smallness. Feeling present. Feeling happy that I took the time to feel so small in this vastness.
What did I take away from this? Life is bigger than what we know it to be. We make the choices we make, but we have to remind ourselves of those choices rather than get caught up in the day to day. We have to remember that life is a gift and that we have a choice to treat it as such. We need to appreciate what we have been given. We have to step back and breath and look at the big picture to appreciate what happens in the smaller pictures within. We need to be grateful and thankful. I stood there and I felt this. I felt both vulnerable and invincible. I felt like everything was possible
I recognize life is hard. We make choices to move away from our families, from our friends, from our communities, with the promise of a new life. It’s hard. We don’t realize how hard it is until we have life thrown at us and we crave what we had – our supports, our community, our physical landscapes. We can try to go back, but it will never be the same. So, we make our new communities. We start with what we have.
As silly as it sounds, we have our libraries. These little buildings are our communities. We share some ideals with each of the folks who walk through these doors. We sit on these couches and put our feet up with our favourite read. We peruse the shelves for the literature that is home to us. We go to the storytimes, the workshops, and the information sessions and we become a part of something that we have helped create. Our place in the world; a place in the world for our children.