This is the Life: Long weekend offers opportunities to be grateful

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A wander around Canada Day festivities on Monday served yet another opportunity to feel grateful about this community and our country. Even the sadness that accompanied news of the enormous property damage caused by floods in Alberta was balanced by the knowledge that residents and government services are working to restore their homes and communities.

On Monday afternoon I drove out to Wynndel, primarily to check out the art shows. I didn’t expect to be invited to sit down for tea with the “Queen” (a.k.a. Penny, perhaps now to be known as “Ha’penny”, A.P. Anderson).  The brilliant imagination of artist Sandy Kunze, and the legwork of her henchman, Bruce Johnston, was in evidence throughout Wynndel Hall.

Upstairs was a fantastic, perfectly lit, display of pictures and sculptures by two artists, hung and arranged amid a series of scaffolds. The industrial look served works by Canadian artists Sandra Grace Storey and Randall Finnerty. People who were away for the weekend didn’t have to miss the show — the O Canada Art Festival was moved to the Ingham Arts and Culture Centre on Tuesday.

Downstairs, artists from B.C. and Idaho were represented in a beautiful display, once again serving as a reminder of what a vibrant cultural community we enjoy. And there, in a parlour setting fit for a queen, sat Anderson, looking and acting suitably regal, if perhaps just a tad younger than Elizabeth II. On the previous day, she had arrived in a gleaming red antique car and entered the hall under the watchful eyes of two appropriately attired security personnel. Only in Wynndel!

Later, I headed down to Creston and District Community Complex, my primary motivation being the dinner promised by members of the Lower Kootenay Band. My plate laden with a large chunk of fileted salmon, corn on the cob, rice and traditional fry bread, I sat down to enjoy it in the company of RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan and his wife Mary. We chatted and worked our way through the best $10 meal I’ve had in a long time.

Later in the evening, I sat at home, our home affording a perfect view of a spectacular fireworks display. My thoughts went back to earlier in the weekend. On Friday afternoon, we drove to the Sweetwater residential and recreation development on Koocanusa to meet with our son’s extended family and celebrate the fourth birthday of our first grandchild. Ryan, an RCMP constable who spends most of his time tracking down major drug traffickers and producers in and around Calgary, has been working 12-hour shifts doing general policing duties in High River. Pictures don’t do it justice, he said. You have to see the destruction caused by the flood to understand just how devastated the town is, with hundreds of homes fated to be torn down, damaged beyond repair.

It’s impossible to imagine what it must be like to know that one’s home and possessions have been destroyed, and to face uncertainly about just how much help might be available to rebuild homes that are not covered under most insurance policies. Making mortgage payments on a house that is no longer habitable and wondering about whether to rebuild on property you own, but is now without a doubt in a hazardous flood-prone area, must be frightening and depressing.

At the same time, though, we take solace in knowing that of all the countries in the world, there are few that offer a better opportunity to recover.

As someone who grew up in Calgary, and who has friends and family throughout the city, I felt a sense of elation when I saw a post pop up on Facebook, a simple statement from the Calgary Stampede. “Come hell or high water.” What better message to a city that faces enormous challenges as it restores and rebuilds infrastructure, businesses and residences in a large area, all the while keeping the rest of the city functioning.

The few negative stories about bad behavior, like the clown who was charging $20 for a bag of ice in his little liquor store, were far outweighed by those who simply rolled up their sleeves, pulled on gum boots or hip waders and ventured out to help others in need. It’s the Canadian — no, let’s say predominantly human, way.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.