An invitation to slow down and connect

Willing to be surprised

Ariana on the shore

Photo by: Trilby Jeeves

It is a rainy day on Prince Edward Island. Lately the land has been looking parched—dusty even. With the number of farmers who chose to grow grains and corn this summer, driving across the rural hills has reminded me more of the Mediterranean landscape of my childhood than Atlantic Canada, which is usually so fresh and green all summer long. So when I woke to grey sky and that pre-rain smell in the air this morning I was as excited as a kid in a candy shop. It has been raining on and off all day. This afternoon it poured, the boom and flash of thunder and lightening reminding me of my years living in Arizona when we would sit out on covered decks during monsoon season and watch fork lightening shatter the sky.

In summer I feel like I need to be outside every minute the weather is nice because I know how short the season is, and am always aware that fall is right around the corner. Falls on Prince Edward Island are stunningly beautiful, but the temperature begins to drop quickly, and it means many days of sipping hot tea, reading and writing are in my future.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to accomplish this fall and winter with my writing. In addition to becoming more consistent with my own blog and my regular posts over at Baha’i Blog, I want to complete a collection of poems that I began writing this year, finish polishing them up, and start sending them off to publishers. I also want to make more progress on one of the two novels that I have started and then allowed to stall, both of which I think about regularly, but have been avoiding re-committing to because I am afraid they won’t go well and that I will be disappointed in myself. Years ago I asked a friend who is a painter how she managed to make all of her income from painting. Her answer was “no plan B.” At the time that sounded terrifying……actually it STILL sounds pretty terrifying, but with what I decided to name the year of surviving finally over, I am ready to finally face my fears and see what committing fully to my art gives birth to.

I was listening to a video by Elizabeth Gilbert earlier this evening. In it she describes an unexpected visit from a hummingbird. My mother loved hummingbirds, and promised to come back and visit me as one, so whenever I hear mention of these incredible winged creatures I am immediately captivated. Her hummingbird story was about a visit from a woman she loved, but it was also about expecting the unexpected, and welcoming it into our lives rather than allowing ourselves to become disillusioned and cynical. Over the last five years many things have happened in my own life that have been hard. There are moments when it is easy to fall into the rut of cynicism—I have lost so much in such close succession with very little recovery time in between that it is easy to presume that there is nothing but more loss on the horizon. But like Elizabeth Gilbert, I too both believe in and celebrate the unexpected. I make plans, but I believe in leaving the door unlatched so that the unexpected can slip in unannounced if it so pleases. I like the idea that not everything that happens is up to us, and that consciously allowing space for things beyond my control to happen is an invitation to possibilities and opportunities that I might not otherwise have considered exploring. I took the video as a sign that I should continue to pursue my writing goals, but to also leave a door cracked open for the magic to enter.

A few weeks ago I met someone new. She is an actor, teacher, director and overall creator from BC who lived on PEI as a child and young woman and had come to the island to visit her mother who is in a care facility here, back in February. Shortly after arriving Covid happened, and she ended up getting stuck on our little island all winter, spring and summer. A mutual friend introduced us, and it turned out that we were neighbours. As I have since learned, we are also both only children with artists for parents, and have both lived on the opposite coast to our families, flying back and forth to visit and support our parents over the years (bi-coastal my friend would say). We have spent a considerable amount of time over the last two months exploring the island together between her visits with her mother and my writing, her teaching gigs and my sorting through family paperwork and photos. Unlike many of our friends, our schedules are flexible, which has allowed many trips to the beach for evening swims, night excursions to star-gaze and even a trip to a lavender farm to harvest flowers. Last Friday we celebrated her birthday with giant steaming bowls of spicy Acadian seafood chowder at the base of a lighthouse with the wind whipping the ocean into the salty air all around us. This past weekend we drove to Abram-Village to hear a mutual friend perform live tunes and then enjoy a socially distanced feast of freshly harvested corn. We have also journaled in gardens, on beaches and along rivers, laid on our backs watching the clouds drift by, watched so many glorious island sunsets that I can no longer keep track, talked late into the night, and laughed until we cried. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not feel silently grateful for this chance encounter and the ways that knowing her has challenged me to grow and change (for the better, I think!)….She is not a hummingbird, but she certainly is unexpected, and while I have only known her for a short while now, our conversations and the reflections that they have generated have encouraged me to explore paths I am fairly certain I would never have noticed had she not pushed open the door I had left ajar that June day, and stepped inside.

I am dedicating this fall to leaving a door open to the unexpected. I don’t know what else life has hidden around the corner, but I am excited to embrace and explore the sensation of not knowing long enough for life to surprise me.

2 comments on “Willing to be surprised

  1. peicraig01
    August 26, 2020

    Lovely essay, Ariana. Makes one want to get up and unlatch the door.

  2. Susan R Wilson
    August 30, 2020

    I love your idea and visualization of leaving the door “open”. I’m sure the hummingbirds are watching you bloom and grow! I will think of you and your mom as I watch the hummingbirds at my feeder each day. Love and hugs!! Susan

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2020 by in Change and tagged , , , , , .
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