Remembering to Appreciate

by Simon Goland, December 28, 2010

Today’s Reflection is about Appreciating What Is

I am spending the Christmas holidays with dear friends on Cortes Island, which is a combination of a drive and 3 ferries north of Vancouver. A journey of about 7-8 hours, which is absolutely worth it. While I have been many times on Cortes in the summertime, winter is different. The pace of life is much slower on the island, tourist season is over, and the focus is on individual, as well as communal, activities. My friends are renting a beautiful little place on the southern tip of the South Point of the island, on top of a mountain with stunning views of the area. Peace, silence, solitude, food, laughter, conversations about anything and everything, and two playing dogs are wonderful ingredients for a time of celebration, connection, and conversations into the night around a wood-burning fireplace.

“While history is inscribed with the names of famous leaders, it is not primarily through the actions of individuals that we have survived to this time, but rather through the actions of communities. We are social animals, and only through cooperation and communication have we been able to survive the wars, famines, pogroms, plagues, and natural disasters that beset us. Community is our basic strategy of survival and evolution.” – Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon

Except for the weather. The first few days were wild and stormy – in any “regular” place. On top of a mountain, the winds are howling, sounding extremely angry with us humans, to the point of us having a hard time sleeping at nights. The windows facing the wind are shaking from its power, and water seeps through the cracks between the windows, doors, and walls.

And then the electricity goes out. Because the house we are in gets its supply of water pumped from a well, it means we don’t have water. We also don’t have internet connection, except for – luckily – through my phone. The fridge is not working either, and we are moving the more perishable food closer to the outdoors. We also can’t watch movies (the power went out just as we started with the first one). Even if we wanted to, we could not get off the island, because the ferries were not operating due to this extreme weather. We do have a gas stove, and so can make tea and some food, we have candles for light, and we have a wood-burning fireplace to warm up the house (some rooms better than others). And I have Tobi, who, cuddled to me at night, keeps the bed warm.

Life becomes a lot more basic for us, almost to the point of primal. It is interesting to think that all of our comforts and conveniences of the modern life are very recent, emerging into existence and our use perhaps during the last 300 or 400 years. For millennia prior to it, life was a lot more basic and aligned to the world around us. And we humans made it so far.

Sitting in this little and cozy house, by the fireplace, while the weather is raging outside, feels like being in a cocoon. The feeling of togetherness is much stronger, and it feels more comfortable knowing that we are not alone. This, perhaps, is one of the secrets of the human survivals, togetherness. Being able to both experience and appreciate the situation and its gifts is currently my biggest and most important holiday blessing to take home.

“The most important things in life aren’t things.” – Einstein (I think)

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.