I am always learning. I would hate to feel like a man who believed that he knew more than enough, and perhaps that is why I read books that challenge me to remain open to new ways of seeing. My closest friend sent me home with a novel that she had read years earlier, but that she felt was influential enough to pass on to me. I seldom read recommended novels, but when one is passed on, then I know there will be value in the process. The novel that I have been working through today was Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B.
Set up as a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance meets The DaVinci Code meets Walden, The Story of B forces the reader to question our belief systems in the West. From the first few pages I felt like I was going to be asked to abandon a few ideas so that I might pick up new ones. The two main ideas that I am wrestling with are the belief in animism (that living creatures and the land itself have spirits) and the idea that “Language ability made you valuable as a hunting partner – therefore in also made you valuable as a mate.” as it relates to the human desire for story-telling. Personally, I believe that I will now classify myself as an Animist when asked about my religion, and I have new inklings of how key my ability to tell stories has been to my life’s success.
First though, I did get to spend another morning at my new property, Varjupaik. I wanted to go alone into the woods, tape out a trail towards my private sacred area, and cut down enough underbrush to make a simple path. I spent time there just breathing in the fresh air. I walked through the forest like I had when I was a young boy. I spent time in the middle of a tree while listening to chickadees chirp and dive bomb me. I tracked little paw prints through the fallen snow, and felt the wonder of the land. Undoubtedly this is why The Story of B. connects with me; I feel how the spirit of a place can represent the idea that the gods are here. We just need to look for them and to open our hearts to little moments.
I then rushed out to Belle River to spend a glorious dinner with my mentor, Reg Porter. Porter always gleans the changes that overtake me, provides astute comments, and weaves the most engaging tales while the red Italian wine flows into crystal goblets. As I was aiming to head back to Toronto I could not stay for as long as I would like, but before I took my leave I was able to snap a simple photo with my phone of his fountain and the full moon in the sky. I felt at peace as I drove towards Charlottetown.
When I did not feel peace was when I attempted to make my way home this morning at 5am. I had hoped to drive through a possible storm, but my efforts were not up to the wrath of this storm. I drove just beyond the Confederation Bridge (yes, I paid my $40) and then was forced to turn around. I have never been so frightened on the road before. Drifting was tornado-like, roads were full, there was no light, and the visibility was 5 feet. It was a nerve-coterizing two and a half hour drive to nowhere, but I was thankful for having a friend who convinced me to turn back. Three months ago I might have just rode on to my doom, but now I know better. I will make another attempt tomorrow at 7am. I hope for better. I just want to go home.
My final act tonight, storm-staid as I was, was to hang the art of my friends about the family dining table. As noted in a previous entry, I had commissioned three pieces from my very talented friends to give as a Christmas gift to my mother. In the end, I decided to include a photograph that I had taken in Paris, France above the pieces. The installation represents my work and the work of the most important people in my life. I am most proud of how this is now appreciated in my family’s home.
So now I head back to Toronto. I have many miles to go before I sleep, but I do pray that the weather gods offer me a safe journey home to where I belong in the winter, especially this winter. The Story of B has taught me that I am part of the community of life and I will return to this world some day. Before that day comes though I have much to give, much to share and much to create. Life will become very interesting in the months to come.
“Believe me, my friend, you’re just beginning to understand.”