One autumn weekend, I joined some friends hiking up Sumas Mountain when skies were clear, air was crisp and the view went on forever.
We took binoculars with us so that we could zoom in from the heights above, on life below. As we gazed over the valley fields, it was easy to see the source of life in our crops and flocks and herds. We remembered Thanksgiving and sensed deep gratitude for the producers and processors who raise and harvest the food that is served at our tables. We saw beside the river, the fishers and the gleaners gathering contributions that would go to the Food Bank. We realized that no matter how technologically sophisticated our lives have become, survival depends on access to the basics of life — water, food, clothing and shelter.
Turning our gaze from the fields, our binoculars picked up the cluster of houses around a local church. We could see a wedding party, with family and friends gathered for a reception laid out in the nearby garden. We heard bells peal and laughter drifted up on rising air currents. The value of kinship and the marriage ritual reminded us warmly of the family dinner awaiting us on our return.
We climbed higher to get a view of the track-and-field stadium. We could see hurdlers, jumpers and racers leading the pack – inspiring roars from the crowd. Our binoculars picked up the winners on the end-zone stage and we glowed with memories of our teenagers who seemed so invincible, they couldn’t imagine the danger of no boundaries.
We climbed another 100 feet. Turning around, city hall clock became visible above the fire hall, police station and two schools. Around the corner we could see the hospital and further beyond vehicles in the public works yard. Then a holiday harvest parade marched past in multi-cultural pride with a First Nations hoop dance, followed by a Christian brass band in blue uniforms, Sikhs in their orange turbans, a Chinese red dragon masquerade, a Japanese lantern float, a Dutch flower boat, and Scottish bagpipers. We smiled at the organization of the parade – it revealed the essence of what makes our community work so well – municipal chambers, school board, health authority and social services bringing systematic peace, commitment and duty to the practical obligations of life.
As we continued our upward path, we could see beyond the city, the international airport, with a steady stream of planes exporting and importing people, cargo and produce to and from the four corners of the globe. We recalled when unintentionally we imported the mysterious avian flu and became aware, that despite our modern technology and world-class strategies, we are still vulnerable to invisible micro-biological life-forms.
That was a wake-up call! We learned that reaching out to one another matters more than ever – especially to those who are different than us. Our neighbouring communities shared care-giving capacities and reminded us of the importance of inclusive social networks to solve tough problems.
At the apex of our trek, stretching below us in the valley, we saw the other cities that connected with us in tough times. The river that flows through all our centers connects us as one ecological system through water, air, soil and even our wastes and pollutions.
With our seven “stations” for viewing life from the valley floor to the mountain top, our hike showed us how our different value systems have woven together a bio-psycho-cultural-social web. Our values of survival, kinship, power, order, success, caring and flex-flow are not only meshed together from the past but are dynamically reinventing the future all the same time.
Every step of altitude on our hike expanded our appreciation of the magnificence of existence and our many blessings as community members. We hope it reminds others of their many blessings too – especially at this time of Canadian Thanksgiving.