A friend called me yesterday morning.
The walls had started closing in on him.
Two weeks of constant wind, drifting snow and isolation got the better of him.
He made the call.
“Why do I do this? I swear this is my last winter here. I’m outta here, I tell ya. There are noises in this place no one should have to listen to.”
He talked. I listened.
This is his 34th winter in the Yukon. Both he and I know he’s not going anywhere.
Then his big admission:
“Ya know,” he said, “It must have been destiny brought me here.”
When he finally hung up, I kept thinking about all the possible journeys that brought folks this far north.
I thought about destiny, call it fate. Maybe faith is what it really is.
I took a walk in the wind.
Watching the snow swirl and push past me, I thought more about the callousness that keeps us here.
There certainly is a romance about the North.
If nothing else there is a sort of dramatic tension between people and place here.
Many of us stay because, like lovers, we chose to stay together because we cannot, or will not, imagine a life apart.
For others, the North is the place where you feel close to the soul of the Earth, can feel the rhythms of a place where freedom and wildness are synonyms.
But what about this whole notion of destiny?
Is it possible some of us ended up in the North because we were pulled here by chance events and accidental encounters over which we had little control?
I have sometimes felt that from a very early age many folks do know just whom they want to become, know — somehow — where they want to be.
But I also know most of us never get to where we need to be.
We get sidetracked and spend a lifetime denying destiny.
We find places and partners with which we never seem to quite fit. Not for long anyway, and not real well.
But even with these bad fits, we get glimpses of destiny.
We find lovers and are overcome in a moment: it was meant to be, we tell ourselves and tell each other.
Drawn to one another with such a passion, we could not help ourselves, did not want to help ourselves. And for a lifetime we boast that our love is fate, a certain inexplicable magic we do not tamper with for fear of breaking the spell.
We go on to achieve some level of success in our personal and professional lives and it keeps us going, keeps us feeling we are who we were destined to become.
Then we hit winter, a long spell of high wind and hard snow.
We wrinkle, turn grey, begin to stoop — and so do our lovers. We look around and the sky is overcast.
Our homes become our prisons. We feel trapped without the emotional or financial resources to break free — free to swim in that swift current of warm water that will sweep us away from this and toward that: the destiny that was really ‘us’ in the first place.
When it does cloud over, many of us prefer to batten down the hatches.
We will continue to dream and we tell ourselves dreams are fantasies to which we should work toward but must never achieve.
For if we do find the big dream and settle in, there will be no good reason to go on living. Our dreams, our destinies are always out there beyond our reach as a way of motivating us to keep reaching, higher and higher.
So we settle in, wait for the wind to stop; accept the grey as something we can do little about.
We stuff more insulation between window and wood. Colour our hair. Buy toupees.
We resist change in our own life; despise it in others.
We avoid change as our way of saying I am used to the way I am, thank you.
In order to change we must ask tough questions:
What do I want?
What is important?
What am I doing here?
The dialogue is all inside though. We move our lips, nary a sound. What we do hear though is the wind. And noises in this place no one should have to listen to.
So we make the call.
We call someone who we know is closer to realizing destiny than we are.
We can see their face. Their gracious smile. We see that content look in their eyes. They have made it, we tell ourselves, and we haven’t.
So we make the call.
We talk about all the detours we have taken in our lives.
And the more we talk the more we realize that destiny is nothing more than the truth of the matter: we are all headed for the same destination.
And as long as we continue to talk, as long as we listen, neither of us hears the wind.
Neither of us sees the snow swirling, packing up tight against the fence.
And neither of us is aware that just above the roof the storm has broken. There is a patch of blue sky.
Blue with promise.