What the Land Teaches
I have been waiting, impatiently, for Spring to really happen in my part of the world … and until recently, I’ve only been given glimmers, little teases of what might come, someday: a day of golden, sun-drenched warmth in which I didn’t need both jacket and sweater, or the first tiny urgings of new green on the tips of tree branches and coming out of garden soil. But none of these seemed more than moments or hints, tagged with the codicil ‘not yet, not quite yet’ – as the cold returns as quickly as it left, the plants seem to stop and wait, and I am left with it the feeling that the warm will never come, never stay. This has been particularly evident for me this year through the force of contrast: travel has taken me places filled with the real green of spring lately (Victoria, Toronto), places full of the promise of another season’s growth become amply evident.
It is the harsh abruptness of this place – the certain, sudden change from warm to cold, sun to gunmetal skies and bitter wind – that, for all my years of living here, I have never quite been able to get used to. We tend to make jokes out of it here on the Prairies – the weather in particular being a source of humor around its fickleness (and our frustration at its inconsistencies).
Somehow though, I think all our laughter is an attempt to mask a much deeper recognition: our utter insignificance in relation to these larger cogs of the Universe, always and insistently turning around us. This is a land of huge skies, violent thunderstorms, blizzards, blistering sun, howling wind … Rivers choked with ice overnight at spring breakup, the magical dance of the Aurora. We are less than dust motes in the face of this. And yet … through sheer perversity or tenacity, or just dumb luck, we manage to get through it, and find our reward in that very abruptness: when the change comes, it is dramatic, and feels (to me at least) as a small but crucial reward for waiting, for being stubborn enough to hang on and wait for the change to come in its own time.
And I am reminded that persistence is sometimes a very quiet thing; it happens under the surface, under cover, but is no less powerful for all of that. And from that essential will to be – that force that brings change and transformation, sometimes of magical and dramatic proportions – comes all beauty and life.
This, today – from the vantage point of literally hundreds of kilometres away from this fickle and abrupt landscape that is in my bones – is what this land teaches me.