There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

never stop exploring

Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

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Maritime Love for Fort McMurray

Most of you will know by now that wildfire swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta yesterday, forcing the evacuation of the entire city.  Many people escaped just in time and with only the clothes on their backs.

The fires within the city have been put out for now, but the wildfire still looms threateningly nearby.  Some 1600 structures have been lost to the fire; entire neighbourhoods are gone.

I know I speak for many when I say that we grieve for you, Fort McMurray.

The Maritimes has always had strong ties to Alberta, and Fort Mac in particular. Every Maritimer has a family member or friend working in the area.  We keep you in our thoughts; we pray for a speedy and safe resolution to this nightmare you find yourselves unable to wake up from.

If you would like to help, you can donate to the Canadian Red Cross Alberta Fires Appeal here or by texting ‘REDCROSS’ to 30333.

If you are still trying to locate family or friends in the area, you can contact the Red Cross, or Facebook has activated its safety check feature.

Fort Mac
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael De Adder

 

Third Shift: A Night of Art and Magic

I wasn’t planning on writing another post about Saint John this week.  But last night, something pretty special happened and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What happened was that the folks at Third Space Gallery put on Third Shift, Saint John’s first (and hopefully not last) interactive outdoor art show.

Comprised of 17 exhibits from 29 artists and spread over the Trinity Royal District of Uptown, this event was all kinds of magic.  When my husband and I arrived Uptown around 8pm, the event was in full swing and the streets were pulsing with people and excitement.  The Saint John fog was thick and lent a air of mystery to the whole affair. There was a large crowd enjoying Acre Architects’ re-imagining of public spaces, The Park, which transformed Grannan Lane into a sparkling urban oasis, where only a street had existed before.

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Another favourite of mine was I Love You More With Every Remembering by Amy Ash, which asked participants to write a love letter to a place they had left behind and pin them on strings located around Canterbury Car Park.  The exhibit made excellent use of this property, currently undergoing construction.  Picaroons’ was giving away free samples of their brews, soon to be sold in this very location.  The entire property was aglow in red light and looked spectacular, even in it’s unfinished state.

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Crossing the street, we played with the ingenious Light Graffiti exhibit by Kate MacDonald and checked out Photomatic: Travelling Tintype Studio by Karen Stentaford and Christie Lawrence.  Venturing a little further up the street brought us to another magical exhibit, Field Recording by Jud Crandall, where bubbles were floating across Canterbury as an audio recording from a winter snowstorm earlier this year played.  The effect was dreamlike.

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And there were so many more wonderful exhibits.  I don’t think we even saw them all. The event was an unequivocal success.  It gave the people of Saint John, myself included, a chance to experience art in a totally new, inclusive way.  It caused you fall even more in love with your city while at the same time seeing it in a whole new light. And I guess that’s the point of art, to push our consciousness to expand and develop. And Third Shift certainly succeeded.

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I walked by Grannan Lane today and the grass is gone, but the magical feeling remains. And I think few who were Uptown last night will soon forget the experience.  Thank you to all the organizers, artists, contributors and volunteers who made the event a night of art and magic to remember.

Canada Love

Today this blog might as well be called Canada Love.

It’s all love, all day.  That’s because it’s Canada Day!  The one day where Canadians go wild with red and white pride and plaster that classic maple leaf everywhere (except maybe during the Olympics).

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And we have good reason to be proud.  We have an embarrassment of natural riches in this country, and so much space to roam that it’s ridiculous.  We are the second largest country in the world, with the largest amount of water area and the most coastline.  It’s no wonder we’re such water-loving fools.  Our landscape is also incredibly diverse: from the red clay soil of PEI to the forests of Quebec to the expanse of the prairies to the majestic Rocky Mountains to the lonely arctic tundra.  It’s all impossibly beautiful.

People like to find fault with the places where they live.  It’s natural.  To complain is human.  And that’s one of the ways we make things better.  Canada is not perfect, but we have freedoms and opportunities that some people in the world can only dream of.

We should never forget that.

In Canada, girls are free to go to school and become whatever they want to be.  We are free to protest the decisions of our government without fear of persecution or death. Our country is run by people that we elect.  Medical care is considered a right, not a privilege.  People are free to love who they choose.

There is a quote about Canada on the wall of the Peace Tower in Ottawa that has always resonated with me and so beautifully sums up our country:

“No Canadian can stand and look at this cluster of buildings (…) without feeling that somewhere on this Hill, perhaps by a happy accident, architects, masons and stone carvers have managed to grasp and materialize the beauty of Canada, the vastness of its land, its loneliness, its youth and its hope” – Bruce Hutchison, The Unknown Country, 1944.

I love this country.

I love it for its beauty but also for so many other things.

I love our commitment to living peacefully and helping others to do the same.  I love our diversity.  We are a mish-mash of cultures and backgrounds and I love that we are always ready to welcome more.  I love that we believe the less fortunate of our population deserve to have their basic human rights met, and we are willing to work a little harder to ensure it.  Mostly, I love Canada for its hope.  A hope that there is a future where many cultures can live harmoniously together through mutual respect and cooperation.  As Bono famously said recently, “The world needs more Canada”.

I couldn’t agree more.

Here’s a song I usually play every Canada Day, from a proud Maritimer and Canadian, Classified.  Happy Canada Day!

I’ve Been Marked

I’ve been marked.  Literally.

By fate, by God, you decide.   But the truth is there is a large, splotchy brown birthmark covering most of the left side of my neck.  The type I have is called a cafe-au-lait birthmark, because it looks like spilled coffee.  Needless to say, it’s quite visible to the rest of the world, unless I’ve chosen to wear a turtleneck that day.  A babysitter once scraped my neck raw with a washcloth thinking it was dirt and she could wash it off.  I don’t know whether it occurred to me to tell her it was permanent and she was wasting her time.

As a teenager growing up in rural Nova Scotia, this aberration irritated me to no end.  I realized that people were struggling with much greater problems in the world than an innocent birthmark but to me, it felt like a big deal.  I looked different from everyone else and when you’re a teenager, being different is not good.  Your adolescent years are all about fitting in and sameness.

And I wanted to fit in.

I wanted to be the same.

I got teased about it some (kids called me dirty) but my worst bully was myself.  I hadn’t asked for this stain and I didn’t want it.  No one on TV or in magazines had a big birthmark on their neck.  I thought of it as separate from me, something that I had been burdened with enduring for all time.  Naturally, I started asking my parents if I could either cover it up or get rid of it.  My mother could see that it bothered me so she indulged me a little bit.  We tried a couple different types of makeup but nothing really did a very good job of hiding it.  And removal seemed out of the question.

One day my uncle Chappy was visiting during one of my tirades.  I don’t remember if I was asking for a new kind of makeup or some procedure I’d heard about that could laser off birthmarks but I was definitely making my distaste for my ‘mark’ known.

My uncle just looked at me and said, “Why would you want to cover it up?  It’s part of you”.

I was stunned into silence.

From that moment on, I stopped asking for makeup or laser treatments.  I realized Chappy was right and the birthmark was part of me, whether I had asked for it or not.  I’m not going to say I got over it completely right away.  I was still self-conscious about it sometimes but I never tried to cover it again.  After a while, I kind of forgot it was even there.

And the strange thing is that once it stopped being a big deal to me, it stopped being a big deal to everyone else too.  Occasionally I still got asked about it but that was rare and usually a new acquaintance.  One thing I’ve found is that people pick up on our insecurities about our so-called faults much more than our actual faults themselves.  And in kind, people are often much more willing to overlook our ‘faults’ than we are ourselves.

My uncle probably doesn’t even remember our conversation that day but I will be forever grateful to him.  He said exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.  It was not THE birthmark, it was MY birthmark.

A part of me.

Not something to be looked at as a burden but as a single puzzle piece in a much larger picture.  And now, with the benefit of 36 years of self-reflection, I’ve come to think of my birthmark not as a blemish but as a symbol of what’s unique about me.  I’m not like everyone else.  And that’s a good thing.

Just as we celebrate what is unique about the Maritimes here, we must also celebrate what is unique about each other.  Our differences define us.  They don’t make us better or worse, just individual.  Sometimes we need someone to tell us when we can’t see it – like I did.  In case you are struggling with a similar issue and don’t have your own Uncle Chappy to tell you, please allow me to pay it forward: some of the things that you might dislike most about yourself now is what makes you, you.  It’s part of you.  Embrace it, celebrate it, learn to love it.  You’ll be happier for it, I promise.

It’s true, I’ve been marked.

By fate, by God, I’ll let you be the judge.

But I’ve been marked.  And I like it.

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