If you’ve ever snooped around on my About page, you’ll know that I am not a native west-coaster. I have called this place home since 2005, but prior to that virtually my entire life was spent on the Canadian prairies. The past six years have been a delightful time of discovering a place completely unlike the one I grew up in. The ocean, the mountains, the trees, the rain, the endless green—even in winter! It’s all so different, so exotic, so completely unlike the prairie scenes I grew up with. At times I have had to almost pinch myself when confronted with the staggering beauty of this place.
These past few days have provided an excellent snapshot. Sunday afternoon was spent motorcycling with friends up the coast to Qualicum Beach where we sat on a coffee shop overlooking a gorgeous beach, before making our way back south for a lovely dinner at an old-fashioned English pub. Monday, it was off to Tofino for a day of surfing with another friend. It was a day characterized by meagre success on the surfboard, but spectacular views of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Yesterday, I hopped on a ferry and headed across the Strait of Georgia for a brunch with colleagues in Horseshoe Bay. At every stop, breathtaking scenes of sea and sky and sun and rock and trees. Such beauty at every turn!
I have come to love this place. I marvel at the beauty that is a part of everyday life here, and sometimes wonder if those who grow up with it take it for granted. Even in mundane activities like riding a ferry for a meeting, I feel like saying to my co-travellers, “Isn’t this cool? We get to ride on a boat!” On walks in city parks, I often look around and wonder if everyone else thinks it’s as neat as I do that there is an ocean just minutes from our front doors! Or that the rain keeps everything so clean. Or that there are no mosquitoes. Or that we can see creatures like sea otters and orcas and even the occasional dolphin!
Despite living here for almost six years, I have often felt like a privileged guest—someone who is temporarily allowed to enjoy scenes and experiences that I have no natural right to, things that are undeserved and unearned. I am allowed to snoop around and explore this beautiful little corner of creation, but it is other people’s beauty, not mine. It is, and has always seemed, a borrowed beauty.
It seems especially so as our family prepares for a new chapter in our lives. We will be moving back to southern Alberta at the end of June to take on a new challenge, a new adventure. And, of course, with so many transitions, there are (good) mixed feelings. We are very much looking forward to returning home to family and friends and the opportunity for our children to experience the gift of family in a more consistent way. We are looking forward to resuming old relationships and forming new ones. We are looking forward to continuing to learn and grow. It is an exciting time.
We are also going to miss this place and the people we have come to know and love during our west coast sojourn. Our family has experienced the warm embrace and incredible generosity of some remarkable people. We have walked with people whose faith is a testimony to the goodness of God. Theirs, too, is an unearned and undeserved beauty that we have been blessed to borrow.
So much beauty—people and place. And in both cases, it is a beauty that will come with and remain a part of us as we return to the prairies. Ultimately, I think God gives us these experiences of beauty as gifts for the journey of life, faith, and hope. This place will stay with us. The people we have come to love and who have come to love us will remain a part of our story. We are better people for having experienced this season of this love and this beauty—people and place—even when chapters draw to a close and new ones begin.
New chapters with new beauty to borrow—people and place. We have loved the west coast, but the prairies are in our bones. The wide open spaces, the volatility of the seasons, the spectacular expanse of sky and land, the blazing light of the winter sun off the snow, the people whose love has shaped, guided, and sustained us—these, too, are borrowed beauties that can leave one speechless. It is a beauty that is no less beautiful because of its familiarity. It is the beauty of home.
I think that God gives us people and places and experiences of beauty wherever we are and whoever’s stories intersect with our own because he made us to be shaped and inspired and enlarged through these things.
Beauty makes us better, in other words, wherever it is found and for however long it is ours to borrow.
Such beautiful sentiment. So beautifully written.
I think I can still imagine what you describe and believe it to be so but it is nothing like how I experience the place I live in. At best, I tolerate my envioronment. It is urban/suburban sprawl, fashioned by the seemingly limited and repetitive tastes of land developers. While I’m sure the primary motives for neighbourhoods ( the ultimate oxymoron) like mine are financial, one can’t help but think that atheism was an intended byproduct. Nothing speaks of God and grandeur like unspoiled natural envioronments. Where I live no effort has been made to reconcile human communities with the land. Land and man went to war and land lost.
A pyrrhic victory, best as I can tell.
The experience you describe is certainly unfortunate—and unfortunately common. And I should hasten to add that the ugliness of sprawl is at evident in the places I describe in the post, as well. Land is so often the loser… I guess everything depends on where you’re looking and how nostalgic a mood you happen to be in :).
Re victory, consider Emerson’s poem Hamatreya: “the earth laughs in flowers”
I pray it is so.
Thanks for your thoughts, you are truly gifted with words. I love the tone of wonderment behind your descriptions of this created order. We are looking forward to the more consistent shaping we will be making on each other’s lives again soon.
Thank you, Bonnie. We are looking forward too…
Somehow I missed this one – thanks for sharing!
We lived in Calgary in a neighborhood called Scenic Acres and it was just that. The school our children attended had the most amazing view of the mountains and people who grew up there commented that they go about their days and never see them anymore. I never want to be blind to all the borrowed beauties! Lord fill our eyes and hearts with wonder! Thanks, Ryan. 🙂