INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIVING A LIFE:
TELL ABOUT IT.
– MARY OLIVER
In the process of editing this magazine, I’m often awestruck by the stories that appear in my email inbox. Each one contains some delightful surprise: an insightful sentence, an elegant metaphor, a deadpan phrase that makes me laugh-snort.
Sally Podmore’s draft article on wild gardening contained one of those surprises—a brief, beautiful verse from the late poet Mary Oliver. Those dozen words blew me away. I liked them so much I shared them on my Facebook page, and when a friend commented on my post, I replied: “I’ve been struggling lately with gloom and rage, and finding this cheered me up and reminded me that there’s always beauty to be found.”
She replied, “Yes … gloom and beauty often coincide when it comes to things we’re passionate about.”
Struggle, gloom, and beauty, with a dose of passion thrown in—the perfect introduction to our QUEST issue. I don’t think there’s ever been a quest that didn’t involve every one of these elements—and maybe even some rage, from time to time.
That potent combination of dark and light is what makes a quest so compelling, and why it’s been a perennially popular trope since humans first began telling stories. We see it time and again in the movies: a plucky underdog with a big dream. A reluctant heroine with a seemingly impossible task. A wisecracking gang of lovable misfits with the deck stacked against them and a plan so crazy, it just might work.
Fictional quests are irresistible precisely because the characters must go through the wringer before they ultimately succeed. They remind us that there are supposed to be times when the journey seems impossible, the goal unattainable. In real life, things aren’t as certain, but it’s helpful to think that eventually we, too, can overcome the obstacles in our way.
In late winter on the Island, when the days are short and soupy, I sometimes feel like my personal challenge is just to hang on until the season changes. Viewed through these grey-tinted glasses of mine, the world is an awful place, and humans are just the worst.
With luck, when things are feeling impossible, something will happen to change my perspective, like the Goose Spit sunrise I saw not long ago: a small sliver of gold and pink underlighting a band of heavy clouds and reflecting on the sea.
Oh, right, I remember: the world is also a miraculous place. And humans are also the best.
This issue is filled with stories of Comox Valley humans taking on some remarkable challenges.
There are tales about adventures most of us will never embark on (climbing high mountain peaks, sea kayaking for months, participating in an international competition). I’m in awe of people with the skills and bravery to attempt these types of physically daunting, even hazardous, pursuits.
You’ll also find accounts of quests that are less potentially dangerous, but no less impressive: learning a new language in a foreign country, building community, protecting the planet, blazing new trails, adapting to old age, and more.
I’m equally admiring of these folks, who maybe aren’t risking their lives, but who display passion and grit and determination aplenty.
What better subject could there be to pay attention to, what better source for astonishment, and what better thing to tell about?
Welcome to spring! May all your quests be beautiful.