Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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How do you know that you have arrived when you are not quite sure of your destination?
Can you still arrive, even though your world is falling apart?
Are these even the questions?
One month ago today, I came home from receiving my first dose of the CoVid vaccine and discovered that my novel was now published and available in the FriesenPress Bookstore. This was a moment to celebrate, but instead I took acetaminophen and studied the list of possible vaccination side effects. I sent messages to my friends, and they were so excited for me, but I wanted to sleep.
A few weeks later, I came up to the house from mowing and found four boxes of books, neatly stacked by the door with the dog proud beside them. This was another important moment, but first I had to finish some online work. In my geographical location, that can involve driving around the woods, seeking a consistent signal, and then finding one as the ancient laptop announces that the battery is at a critical low. My mood was dark when I finally slit open the first box, and because we were at the height of the Third Wave of the pandemic, I opened the box alone.
There were moments of stress and confusion those first days, as I threw myself into promoting my book. I worked hard, but not efficiently. Fortunately, I had expert advice and learned to step back sometimes. However, I remained driven; I should be doing more – young authors were getting it done, after all! I would, too!
What is the point of this self-absorbed ramble, you ask? In response, I draw your attention to the image at the top of this page. That is a Greenland kayak paddle, first used when the Husky and I were fleeing a forest fire that had overtaken us while I was musing along the shore. I can close my eyes and still feel the moment – not fear, but the indescribable joy of a good paddle cutting clean and the kayak skimming and the smoke drifting away. And the Husky yodeling her shoreline song as we flew down the lake, so strong and alive. It was a good day, a great day, a day to hold.
The character Rachel in A Canoer of Shorelines strives to create peace in her childhood setting, but she cannot. Along the shoreline, she discovers peace. Peace, like joy, is a response to life. It is recognized, not made. “Joy,” Henri Nouwen tells us in Here and Now, “is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing… can take that love away.” We would do well to remember.
That is why Laila is my favourite character in the novel. She lives in joy because she is fully alive in the present. She affirms the past and lives in hope for the future, but she does not miss the present brooding over either. For her, the measure of success is a satisfied mind. Laila recognizes the good and lives in that recognition. If there is a Laila in your life, treasure that person.
So I have that paddle before me, and as I gaze at it, the little obstacles and duties slip away, and I know now what the question is:
Have I claimed the joy of this moment?
I glide along the shore, and it is sweet to me. I smile, and my hand brushes the water. I sit in my little office, but I am there.
My world is whole, and the journey is all.
Thank you, Laila.