Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

On Mother's Day, love gets showered on ladies young and old, who have created, nurtured and sustained life - incredible women who soothe, encourage, scold, support.  I hope you all have a beautiful day. You deserve it.

Uncle Joe, an ardent reader of the Wood Buffalo Update, is probably ready to send out carrier pigeons in search of this post.  Unfortunately, the confluence of circumstance and timing has thwarted my best intentions. With a free and clear Sunday and the arrival of Mother's Day, I finally have the time, inspiration and impetus to sit down and bring you into our world, if only for a few minutes.

This was a week.  The things I've been blessed to do - and not do - in the last seven days make me shake my head in amazement.  As Heather was away for most of it, attending a spirituality retreat in the Canmore/Banff area, and as my calendar was packed every single night, I had to find something to drop to spend at least one full evening with Dylan and Ben, who are graciously independent when we need them to be.  When the least important thing I had to give up were two VIP tickets to see Bill Cosby, you can begin to get an appreciation for the week that has just floated to an end.

A week ago, I had the honour of being in Edmonton for a couple of arts presentations, including Catalyst Theatre's The Soul Collector - which is outstanding by the way, and a panel interview for the Premier's Council on Culture.  This will be a government committee of about 20 individuals that will report directly to the Minister of Culture.  I'll find out in June if I was successful or not, though I feel incredibly good about my chances.

My good friend and MLA Don Scott was treating me to lunch before the grilling, when former Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education and current MLA Stephen Khan walked into the restaurant.  He came right over, asked what I was doing in town - we had met several times previously and discovered a natural kinship - and pledged to put an encouraging word (or two) in the Minister of Culture's ear.

As I am like to do these days, I spent several hours in preparation for the panel interview, synthesizing the job description and the role of the Council into a series of pictures, arrows, boxes and words - a mind map.  I had two pages in front of me as they peppered me with their standard set of questions.  They couldn't help noticing my reference notes and went off script to ask about them.  It was an excellent experience, and I got the sense that I might have been better prepared than the average candidate they had interviewed to that point.

A Council meeting back home that burned the midnight oil, a two-day think tank called the Nexus North IDEAS lab, the screening of an award-winning documentary film, and a fundraiser for our athletics program with NHL greats like Mark Messier, Theo Fleury and Glenn Anderson rounded out the week.

There were many highlights, but getting to host a panel discussion after the red carpet screening of Oil Sands Karaoke stands out as something special. Filmed in and around Fort McMurray in the summer and fall of 2012, the film follows the lives of five people who work in the oil sands and their off-hours lives as talented karaoke singers.  It might seem like an unlikely premise for a documentary film, but it works.  In fact, it earned the distinction of being the most entertaining entry at the recent Hot Docs festival in Toronto, the preeminent documentary film festival in the world.

 I was joined on stage by Mayor Blake, Iceis Rain - the drag queen alter-ego of Aboriginal entrepreneur Massey Whiteknife, one of the stars of the movie, and Charles Wilkinson - the director of Oil Sands Karaoke.  It was an amazing opportunity to lead a fascinating discussion.  The comments when I was done were encouraging and effusive, a preview of a comment that would blow me away the following morning.

The moment I saw Alex Jadad at the Nexus North gather on Thursday, I felt an uncanny connection, but it was illusory - I couldn't pin it down, though I had a intuitive sense we had met before, whether in this life or another (if you believe in that kind of thing).  It turns out I wasn't alone.  Alex (short for Alejandro, an accomplished innovator from Toronto, originally from Columbia) was intent on seeking me out, as he had a similar sense of connection.  He also wanted to express appreciation for the movie and panel discussion the night before.

"The movie was brilliant," he began, "but your performance was even more so.  It was a thing of beauty to watch how how balanced the discussion. It was wonderful."

It is a little awkward and embarrassed sharing the comment, as it feels rather self-serving, but the way he said it, equally imbued with both sincerity and awe, blew me away.  In a way, it reinforced the feeling I have that I'm in exactly the right place at the right time doing the exact things that I'm meant to be doing.  That's an intoxicating sensation, one worth sharing, despite the discomfort.

Heather is in a similar place right now, intoxicated with the notion that she is living her passions and finding her voice.  She has recently re-discovered a love of writing that has brought her into the blogosphere. Her level of intuition, spiritual connectivity, and impact on people has never been greater - at least from my perspective.

Watching her soar is a thing of beauty!

She and Dylan went for the final screening of Oil Sands Karaoke last night while Ben and I darted for the bank of the Athabasca River so I could get my hooks in the water for the first time this season.  We had to traverse iceberg-like chunks of ice to get down to the water's edge - a scenario I have never seen before, at least not this late in the spring.  I gingerly climbed down to the bottom, carrying all of my gear, doing my best not to slip and fall into the water.  I placed my tackle box up on an ice shelf, put on my rig, skewered my minnows, and tossed the line out into the water.  Not a minute later, a large chunk of ice, probably 100 pounds, calved off from above and came crashing down, narrowly missing me but propelling my tackle box and all its content into the water and into my chest.  Momentarily stunned at the near miss, I looked down to see multiple spoons and jigs hanging off my shirt.  It was an amusing moment, but a sharp suggestion that I should probably wait until the ice melts away before giving fishing another shot.

As Dylan progresses toward the end of Grade 8, consistently coming home with reports of successful tests and projects, he will soon have to decide where to attend high school in the fall.  His heart seems set on a school that offers the opportunity to get involved in the theatre arts.  My sense is that it will either be Holy Trinity or Westwood, both facilities at the other end of the town with well over 1000 students each.

I am happy to report that I am no longer at a professional crossroads in my life.  The die has been cast, the road chosen, and very soon I will be able to speak publicly about the next step in my career.  An announcement and press conference is set for Wednesday morning, after which I will be able to share the news.  I am very excited about the opportunity that I have accepted and the challenge I have undertaken, as it aligns with my passions and my experiences.  It also addressed a pledge I made to myself in January 2012 as to how I was going to change the world.  Stay tuned!

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