dont look away when change happens

I watch the first veil of snow plow across the mountain. From the picture window that overlooks the lake the view is panoramic and you can watch weather happen. It's one of those incredible gifts that come with being so close to the land.

I watch the first veil of snow plow across the mountain. From the picture window that overlooks the lake the view is panoramic and you can watch weather happen. It’s one of those incredible gifts that come with being so close to the land.

Her secrets and her patterns are revealed when you take the time to look. Standing here with a billowing curtain of snow wafting across the top of that near mountain I feel grateful for the opportunity to see this.

Weather happens. It evolves. There are subtle changes occurring all the time and in the busyness of our lives we’ve learned to become oblivious. So we turn to the newspapers, the television, radio or the internet for information on what we will confront each day. Easier, I think now, to just stand and watch the world for signs. It’s less immediate perhaps, but far more fulfilling.

Maybe it’s the Indian in me that craves that. Or else it’s just the burgeoning curmudgeon who disparages the way technology has separated us from the reality of things. Or it’s just age; a yearning for a return to more simple times when virtues were more open, accessible and spoken of. Either way, I love the feeling of applying questions to things like this. It’s a measure of grace, really.

I was always a thinker. Even as a kid I marvelled at the wonder of things. I sought explanations for even the simplest things around me and when the adults never seemed adequately armed, I dove into the pages of books. I wanted to know how birds migrated without a compass, how rain happened, why planets move in ellipses. For me, there was a plethora of questions about the world that I needed answers for. As a kid, the simplest answers held the most sway.

It was the same as I grew. But age is a curious thing. You mature and as you do the questions you trundle along with become more onerous. Gone are the queries about the natural world. They’re replaced with harder things like, who should I be? How do I get there? Why do people suffer and how do things change? They’re so big that you tend to forget the reassurances that come with simple answers.

I asked a friend once how you go about changing things in the world. How does anyone address the myriad issues that threaten us as a species?

It was a heady request and I prepared myself for a long, grueling discussion. But what he said floored me.

He was busy with a project and operating on a tight deadline. As a self-employed contractor he worked at home. His wife worked outside the home so he was left to look after their 10-year-old son after school. This particular day was hectic. The boy wanted attention and he was too busy to offer him any.

So he took a picture from a magazine that showed a picture of the world taken from outer space. He tore it into tiny pieces and handed them to the boy and asked him to put it back together. Satisfied that the task would take forever, he settled back into his work. But the boy was back in five minutes with the puzzle solved and glued to a piece of paper.

“How did you do that so fast?” he asked.

“Simple,” the boy said. “There was a picture of a man on the other side. So I put the man together first and the world came together just fine.”

Out of the mouths of babes. As my life progressed and I encountered huge issues, that simple parable lifted from daily life was a saving grace. Put the man together first and the world will come together just fine. It means we change what we can right now and most of the time that means ourselves. It means the world comes together one piece at a time when we put ourselves together first.

The enormity of some questions is overwhelming. The seeming impossibility of their resolution is daunting. But when we come together as whole people, when the energy we put forward is calm, positive and centered, great change becomes possible. I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it at work in the world. I’ve seen it happen in the lives of others.

Change happens. It evolves. There are subtle changes occurring all the time and in the busyness of our lives we’ve learned to become oblivious. My people say that change is the one fundamental law in the universe. Like the weather, it goes on totally without any input from us. But when we take the time to look we can see it happening. One piece at a time.

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway and the author of Keeper’n Me. He won the Canadian Author’s Award for Dream Wheels and his new novel, Ragged Company, is out from Doubleday. He can be reached at

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