In fact I wasn’t entirely sure what the language was, and I would have entirely ignored it had I not caught three words that meant something to me: Zhen Shan Ren. I copied the entire email, pasted it into an online translator, and connected with a blog reader from across the world.
It is always a remarkable feeling when something you have written reaches an audience you didn’t even know existed. It is even more remarkable when that audience reaches out to you and tells you what your written words have meant to them. In the past couple of weeks this has happened to me repeatedly as the blog post I wrote about the recent Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition at the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery spread around the globe.It all began when the post was shared on a Facebook page devoted to the exhibition. The administrator of that page contacted me to let me know she had posted it there, and I was delighted to see that it was being well received. I was even more delighted, though, when emails began to pour in from several points across Europe, all connecting over an incredibly profound art exhibition that had tremendous impact on me. But the readers didn’t just drop by to read that post. Some of them stayed to read about a little community in northern Canada, far removed from their worlds and a world apart – and then they contacted me with questions.
Some of them wanted to know about job opportunities here. Some wanted to know about life in northern Canada. One asked if I had ever seen a polar bear (the answer is no, they are found much further north). Almost all of my new correspondents expressed interest in our community and in life here. Most had never been to Canada – and most had never heard of Fort McMurray.You never, ever know what will happen when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. A little post, heartfelt and written after you have experienced something deep and meaningful, can connect to a far wider audience than you expect. Even more than that, though, it can mean that you have introduced someone from far away to your community – not through a magazine article written by a visiting journalist, not through a documentary filmed by a visiting film crew, but through a community resident who lives here, works here, plays here and has found her heart here.
In the past two weeks I have welcomed several “virtual visitors” to Fort McMurray. The found me – and us – through this blog, and I am once again humbled by the opportunity to share my story of life here every day with you and with them. On occasion I have wondered if this blog had meaning – and on days like today I suppose I feel it does.On days like today I open my email and find yet another email in a language that is not English, and I translate it quickly to discover a new correspondent – and a chance to continue my small effort to connect Fort McMurray with the world.