Going Nowhere Fast

28 01 2009

stuck-in-snowWe had a little dump of snow yesterday, reminded me of something I’d witnessed during the holidays. Over Christmas, we got dumped on, as you may have read in Sirens of Snow. After the first few days, something really interesting was happening all around, as I walked thru the snowy streets. There were cars along every road, around every corner, spinning their tires ceaselessly.

People were in their cars, staring out their windshields, rocking back and forth (as if that will somehow make a difference), pressing down the peddle to the metal. The look in their eyes was almost as if they were trying to will the car to move.  Then they’d step out, kick at the snow a bit, get back in the car and start over. The thing was, with the amount of snow surrounding the tires, there was NO WAY they were going to get out. And yet they were determined that they could drive out, while remaining in the comfort of their seat in the heated car.

Now you might be wondering “Did you help them out, Shane?” And for the most part…..no. Oh I did my share of helping people out. Growing up in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic, you don’t just pass someone by if they’re stuck. So I helped folks, stuck in the middle of intersections and such. But this common scene that I’m talking about, all these people frustratingly spinning their tires were not in the middle of intersections. They were in or halfway in or halfway out, of their parking spots…..outside their house. There was no mortal danger, there was access to a phone, there was shelter and food, a bed if you needed a break. If I had tried to help everyone I saw, I would have had a full time job for a good two weeks.

All they needed to do was pull out a shovel. “Maybe they didn’t have a shovel.” Fair enough. This is true, as shovels were a hot commodity over those few weeks. But I stopped on numerous occasions to ask if they had a shovel and they always answered yes. Or rather, mumbled yes.

What I was seeing was an unwillingness to put in the “work” to get themselves unstuck.  Or to acknowledge that it was going to take a little effort to get to where they want to go. In this day and age, and especially in our western society, we are so used to having everything at our fingertips. To getting it instantly. I think on some level, we are forgetting the value of work, of hard work. We have lost touch with a crucial ingredient to truly making meaningful steps forward in our lives. All this technology and convenience shouldn’t be replacing our need to work. Rather, it should be enhancing our ability to achieve even more, making even greater gains then we ever could before. But those gains still rest on a solid foundation of work. train-in-snow

The irony is, if everyone just pulled out their shovels and did a little digging, they would have gotten out of their predicaments and to where they needed to be, much quicker.

Go for what you know to be yours, just be ready to pick up a shovel.



Sirens of Snow

7 01 2009

van-snowIt was amazing! Over the holidays, we had record snowfalls here in Vancouver. People said they hadn’t seen anything like this since 1996. I have to admit, I have a bit of an affinity for snow, so I was tickled to see it coming down. In those first few days, it was like the entire city was transformed. The few feet we got was like a thick blanket tucking everyone in  for a rest.

It muffled all sound. It stopped the usual heavy traffic. In the evening it reflected the street lights with a warm glow.  People walked down the middle of streets almost in a shocked daze. It quieted the anxious, driven energy of the city and with a big sigh fell into a state of…..peacefulness.  I felt so calm, so centered, so happy. It’s like it gave my thoughts and feelings time to unravel and place themselves into some interpretable form.sirens

Something else also came with the snow. The sirens. The city, it seemed, didn’t share this welcome for a quiet rest (even if it knew it would be brief). In the quiet of snow cover, the sound of the sirens stood out in stark relief.

As I listened to them going, day and night, it spoke of people in distress, of panic, of hurt. It saddened me to think that while I was enjoying this time with my family and having fun  in the snow, there were people who were suffering.

But it also spoke to a condition. The sirens sounded like the city itself was moaning, crying out  at being FORCED to slow down. Forced to stop. Forced to take a breath. To look inward, released of the distraction of its dizzying, frantic energy. Forced to take stock of this last year and honestly reassess what is important, what really matters. And it didn’t want to, because to do so is much harder and far more uncomfortable than speeding along blindly, not thinking about where you’re going or why.

Then I would think about all the people and the places that deal with far worse conditions than we have, for a far greater length of time. It brings everything quickly into perspective.

Let the snow come, let the city wail. Take pause. Make this next week, this next month, this next year, really matter.