Anne M. Smith-Nochasak:
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Doug is a selfish and self-serving person, and people report to me that they do not like him. He is not lovable; he is not kind or good. He is, however, a person, and although his dreams are self-centred and mean, they come from a desire to simply be. The Dougs are not easy; they are disturbing. Yet, we must try.
Julie sees Doug, twisting in a slow circle, clutching at drifting balloons as he falls. The balloons burst into images: there is Doug teaching, Julie laughing in the canoe, the first day in North Bay, the mountains in the distance as Doug drives through Alberta, a wide-eyed young waitress smiling, a snow blower growling through the drifts. Each slips from his hands and Doug continues to fall. He will come to earth eventually, because it is, after all, such a small world.
Yes, Doug, it is a small world, and there is a place for each of us in it. There is a place for the Julies, the Rachels, the Lailas – and the Tinas.
There is a place for you, too.
Having a place in the world does not mean you fit in. Tina does not fit in, but she belongs, because in all her pain, she embraces and affirms life. Do you think it was easy for Laila? Do you think she was born living by the side of the road, being a friend to humanity? No. She worked for it, Doug, and to you, she might not fit in, but in truth she fully belongs.
Doug, the world is small, and everything we do affects the world, even as the world affects us. Be careful in your dealings in the world, Doug; not many of us like what you are doing.
We have, however, hope for you.
Why am I speaking to a fictional character? Well, all fictional characters are inspired by our life connections and experiences, so perhaps it is my life connections and experiences that I am addressing. These names I mention are fictional characters in a fictional narrative, but each is someone we know. We know them in flashes of memory and impressions; we have known them all our lives.
Julie and Rachel in the novel are introspective, introverted seekers, fumbling and not confident. Laila is Woman Arrived: she has not traveled but she sees the world; she has been hurt but she knows love. Tina is a broken and heart-breaking child; marginalized, misunderstood, and abused, there is power in her grasp of life.
Doug is a selfish and self-serving person, and people report to me that they do not like him. He is not lovable; he is not kind or good. He is, however, a person, and although his dreams are self-centred and mean, they come from a desire to simply be. The Dougs are not easy; they are disturbing.
Yet, we must try.
It is, after all, a very small world, and we cannot avoid them.
I am thinking about Doug today because our world hovers on the brink of madness. If I do not believe that people can change, that they can find their place of true belonging, then I will not believe that the world can draw back from that brink. I will not be able to look out over a calm lake with joy, because its calm is illusory. I must believe that its calm is a sign of hope for a future that will continue to nurture such joy.
I am thinking of Doug, too, because I have not been working much with Canoer since December; several events have led me to surgery, but I am now recovering and working on a new draft. I have faced that my life is changing. I cannot lift or load my kayak or canoe, but that is such a small part of who I really am. I can design ramps and pulley systems, I can break a task into its component steps, and I certainly can find joy in the calm of Wasaya.
So, Doug, open yourself to a new way, before you become one more element in an angry world. Learn a new way, or you will miss out on the beauty that is possible on the earth. Remember how Julie ditched you when she was going to the cabin? It is because you weren’t ready. It wasn’t really because you were sleeping, although that helped.
I will be fully alive, Doug, and I have no time to waste figuring out who has caused my problems. I will be on the water, enjoying the light and the shoreline.
There is a place in the world for each of us, as we come to earth in our small world, with eyes and mind open.