I appreciate the sound of silence so much these days.
I take the dog for a walk and I’ll be marching along, my head full of thoughts that are busy and buzzing like bees. Maggie, the dog, will stop to do something important like pee on a Tim Hortons cup, and I’ll have to stop too. Then, if I’m lucky, my thoughts stop too, and I just listen to the quiet around me. To the silence. It feels so beautiful, full, and rich.
Of course, it’s not really “silence”, as there are sounds – the trees swaying in wind, or birds chirping, or the waves on the shore, but my ears appreciate nature’s quiet the way a tired body appreciates a comfortable, clean bed with a big fluffy duvet. It’s a place to rest.
With today’s technology – smart phones, television and the demanding Internet practically everywhere one goes – I find myself easily overwhelmed by noises, and by the “need” to be connected, current and in touch. I check my email often (how many times a day might be a bit embarrassing to admit) and feel that I “have” to be on top of every bit of news out there, or on top of all my tasks and projects. I feel anxious if there are unanswered emails in my inbox. My boyfriend is great for me in this regard because he takes a no-nonsense approach: “Leah, step away from the computer. Do me a favor and go put your stretchy pants on, and get yourself a glass of wine. Come sit with me in the living room. Relax.”
So what does all of this have to do with the Dream Big project? Well, everything. For one thing, the project sprang from my creative mind and it’s my creative energy that keeps it going. And I want to keep it going, for a long time, so I don’t want to burn out on it. And, I’m loving it so far – loving doing the interviews, loving having the conversations in person, loving monitoring the conversations on the Facebook group. Loving driving the Cape Breton roads, and exploring ideas that spiral from other ideas, and thinking about just what awesome things myself and others could do with this “little idea that could”.
But this creative work IS work. If you want an article that you’re proud of, you’ve got to put the time in to crafting it. And I’m an impatient person, at heart. I want something finished, and I want it finished NOW! Combine that with our instant-update culture that I’m pretty addicted to and immersed in, i.e. Facebook and its brethren, and I get anxious thinking that if I don’t have a blog post every day, I’ll lose people’s interest.
Here’s where Cape Breton herself comes into the picture. (And yes, for now anyway, I’m referring to the island as “she”.) It’s her dirt roads I walk along when I’m feeling stressed. It’s the weather here that I walk in, get wet in, feel the sun on my skin in. It’s her old homesteads grown over in spruce and apple trees that I investigate with my eyes and my dog, trying to imagine what it was like to live there fifty, a hundred years ago. It’s her crows and seagulls and chickadees that I admire as they flit and fly through the air. It’s all these elements of Cape Breton and much more that take me out of myself, my own little brain, and bring me calm, a sense of peace.
Something else I’ve been thinking about on the subject of “calming myself down” – is time. Basically, with the Dream Big project – and in my life in general – I want to help cause social change here, and help people connect with each other, to bring positive changes to Cape Breton. To make our lives feel more abundant, and come up with solutions to the reasons why we struggle to make ends meet, and end up leaving.
But, again I get easily overwhelmed and I tend to feel that each day that passes means we’re losing more people, more infrastructure, more possibilities. So I panic, thinking “If only I stayed up til midnight writing and then got up early and went and did interviews! Then I’d have a post every day! Then I could make a difference!”
Studying history is what helps in this case. Reading about the history of the island and seeing that people have been coming and going from Cape Breton for a long time already – hundreds and hundreds of years – is what allows me to calm down, and helps me to see myself, my peers, and this moment in time as just that – a moment in time. Part of a much bigger process. (I’m working on some pieces and thoughts about local history, because I think where we’ve come from is just as important as where we’re going. You need to know one to know the other, or something like that.)
So – the project, so far. I’ve done four interviews. Two have been turned into articles and you’ve read them on here. The other two are in the works. (It takes about three hours of writing to produce a story from a 1-hour interview, plus the revisions and consulting with the interviewees to make sure they’re happy with how they’re being represented.)
There are other interviews on my schedule for the next several weeks. And, I’m talking with a couple of different people about being correspondents or contributors. (And, I can always use more – so if you like to write, or take photos, or both, and if you’re interested in being part of the project, please read this and contact me and we can chat.)
At its heart, this project is about voices, about each of us having our own strong, unique and important voice, and using our voices to share our stories. It’s about collecting the current voices of Cape Breton, similar to how Ron Caplan did in the 1970’s and 80’s with Cape Breton’s Magazine, in order to connect this disparate generation with each other, with this place, with a sense of community that will support us in the years to come. So, please do get in touch. Share your story.
And, I’m so glad all of you are with me. I’m so glad my little idea has touched a nerve in people, and that you all leave comments and encourage me. I’m excited to see where this takes us!