Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. File photo

Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident. File photo

Valley Views: Confronting Change

‘Change is our only constant.’

By Margaret Miller, long-time Creston Valley resident

This New Year’s Eve was quieter than usual for me. Just three of us together this time round. Three family members sipping herb tea or red wine, sharing a comfortable couch, and a few Christmas chocolates as we watched 2021 tick away.

We’d prepared a special meal earlier that evening and recalled other New Year’s Eve celebrations – house parties with 20 or 30 crowded into a few rooms. Bonfires in the backyard, a circle of rosy cheeks around a big orange glow. Gatherings with extended family in Australia to welcome in a summer new year, sparklers at the ready to amuse the kids.

In the last hour of 2021, we talked about the challenges of the passing year and wondered if 2022 would treat the world, and our small part of it, more kindly. We texted my Aussie siblings, 18 hours ahead of us in time.

“Is it any better in the future?” we joked. One brother sent back a cartoon – a group of bewildered looking humans cowering outside a big door labelled “2022”. One nudged open the door with a stick. A very long stick. We laughed at the shared apprehension and sent back a thumbs-up emoji.

Yes, 2021 was a very difficult year for many British Columbians. Unmarked graves. Wildfires and flash floods. COVID-19 variants. Conspiracy theories. A very difficult year.

But was it all bad?

On a global level, important strides were made last year. More than 8.4 billion COVID vaccinations were administered. Not all countries fared equally in this medical challenge, but such an impressive statistic shows the potential humans have to step up to the mark when it matters. I received two COVID shots and a booster and am grateful for the know-how it took to get these important vaccines into my arm. I thank local health-care workers for their role in this complex process.

Other medical breakthroughs happened as well. Malaria was eliminated in China, the world’s most populous nation, after a campaign spanning seven decades. Research into prostheses forged ahead when brain computer interfaces opened the door to robotic support for some patients with mobility challenges.

Weather events of 2021 clearly put climate change on the world’s radar, forcing more nations to confront this crucial issue. The wheels of change are turning – not as quickly as many would like – as governments, industries and consumers find new ways to address energy needs and protect the environment. Last year was the biggest year to date for global renewable energies and the sale of electric vehicles surged, both in Canada and overseas. Here in the Kootenays, more e-vehicle charging stations made an appearance.

Locally, growth was a sign of positive change. Real estate sales. New homes and duplexes. Renovations. New businesses including a micro-brewery, Erickson coffee shop, and Wynndel bakery. New agricultural ventures and home-based businesses. Work on the Creston Emergency Services Building and red grain elevator.

And in 2021, one important public building in Creston acquired a more appropriate, respectful name – Kootenay River Secondary School. I happily taught at our local high school for many years but was never fond of the old name. A school in the beautiful Creston Valley, the traditional unceded territory of the Ktunaxa nation, named after an English prince who would likely reign over a commonwealth with a somewhat checkered history, seemed oddly inappropriate, if not insensitive.

But no more.

On a personal level, my journey as a writer took an exciting turn in 2021. Last year, I received a grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance to help publish my first book – a memoir including descriptions of Creston Valley – that will be released locally this winter. Again, I am thankful.

Humans, it seems, often fear change as it can feel like a bewildering loss of control. Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, realized this more than two and a half thousand years ago. Nothing lasts, he claimed. All things pass. In other words, change is our only constant.

This past year threw unsettling changes at many of us. But it also offered some hope. Difficult events gave us opportunities to learn, to confront truths and to grow, to change for the better.

READ MORE: Valley Views: The Wonderful White Stuff

ColumnColumnistCreston Valley