In April of 2016, I made the decision to close this blog, posting a farewell message at the end of April.
Mere days later, the devastating wildfire that changed our community forever struck.
In February of 2020, I embraced this blog once more, realizing I had missed writing about the community that has been in my heart for two decades.
Mere weeks later, the pandemic that will change our world forever struck.
Coincidence? Absolutely, but it was enough to give me some pause when considering that this blog seems tied in some intimate way to these significant events.
Since the beginning of March I have struggled, immensely, with writing in this blog. Like, what else could be said about this pandemic that wasn't already said, written, broadcast, Facebooked, podcasted?
Well, maybe nothing. I wrote a couple of heartfelt posts that I never published, not knowing quite why but knowing that I just didn't want to, perhaps because they felt too close and too vulnerable.
And maybe that's the point. Maybe the pandemic - like the wildfire, like the price of oil, like the flood this spring - made us feel vulnerable. Made me feel vulnerable, much like sharing my personal thoughts in a very public place do.
The older I get, the less I like feeling vulnerable. And the longer I am here, the less I like this community feeling vulnerable, too.
Fort McMurray has now officially been pummeled repeatedly by forces beyond our control. One of the mantras I have always lived by is that while we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it.
That's true for me and my experience so far in 2020 (and frankly 2020, I can't believe I stayed up late to celebrate your arrival given what a rotten guest you've turned out to be). And it's true for our community.
We have a lot to think about in terms of our response. Recently I have been disheartened to see an increase in negativity about life here, likely fueled by the many changes we have seen. And I have felt it too, dismay over the closure over local stores and services, the sense of things changing and not necessarily for the better.
And while we cannot control much of what is happening to us, we can control how we respond to it.
And so I have chosen to write again, to lean into the feeling of vulnerability, and to begin to explore how we can respond to the changes we are seeing while working towards a stronger and better community.
Because here is another truth: no level of government is responsible for building community.
Governments build roads. They build schools. They build critical infrastructure.
They don't build communities.
We - you and I - build community. It is what we do that determines the tone of where we live; it is our actions and choices that define what type of community we live in.
And given that truth, the question we must ask is what we are doing to build our community. What is our contribution? What is our goal?
What is our response when we are caught in a situation we don't control?
This is what I find myself pondering lately as we continue to face unprecedented (word of the year right there!) challenges.
While I don't have the answers, I know it's something I want to explore. So I am kickstarting this blog (again) and starting to write (again) and hoping it doesn't result in another "coincidence" (NOT AGAIN, you hear me universe?).
Being vulnerable is hard. It can be uncomfortable, even painful. But it is where growth happens.
Here is what I know: Fort McMurray has changed, and is changing. And to some degree we have zero control.
Here is what else I know: We can control how we respond to these changes. We can define and determine the community we want, and we can build it.
Where do we go from here?
We have a new challenge. And a new opportunity.
And I've never known Fort McMurray to back down from either.