Moonlit mornings, and the project so far

The moon setting over the Bras d'Or lake, around 6 am, a few weeks ago.

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.”

Maggie looks off into the trees and I'm enchanted by an apple tree in winter.

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.

The cracks in the road look like purposeful artwork when outlined with salt.

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.)

My reference library - a cardboard box of books I cart around with me.

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!

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8 Responses to Moonlit mornings, and the project so far

  1. Jocelyn Bethune says:

    Oh Leah, what a wonderful piece of your soul. I walk those same steps on dirt roads and pavement ones too. I sense the past and the people who went before us, the people who also called this place home. One time, as I was walking along the Baddeck River, I saw an owl, or rather I heard him (her? who knows for sure.). “Whoo…Whooo. Then from across the river, I heard an answer. At the time I was struggling with writing about Jonathan Jones, the first settler on the Baddeck River and in that moment, I felt such a connection with the past, with nature, with the future, with all the reasons I want to raise my family here, that it brought tears to my eyes. Still does. That feeling – that CONNECTION keeps me here.
    For now anyway.
    Keep up the great work! You are an inspiration!

    • leahcnoble says:

      Thanks Jocelyn! It’s interesting that something intangible yet very real, that connection with the past, affects people so much here. That’s a theme I’d like to follow up on in future interviews and stories.

  2. nona macdonald-dyke says:

    I walk through the woods here and come upon endless cairn piles, and know I’m as connected to this island as the stones in those piles. I marvel at them, wondering how many times each stone was touched by an early settler working the land to clear a patch of spruce trees for a cow, maybe a few sheep to graze on. Those early settlers had a dream, and stuck with it turning over countless stones yearly, then dragging them up onto a stone sled before depositing them into a cairn pile. How can one forget those hard working folks with reminders such as those stones?

    Not unlike you and your dream. Your words are wonderful to read.

    • leahcnoble says:

      I love this idea, Nona. It’s very pertinent to me these days. The idea of sticking with something, seeing it through, doing the hard slog of the day-to-day work, without a real sense of what the end result will be. Thank you for this mini story.

  3. mathieu says:

    The urge to constantly check everything (every device, every social network tool) is definitely hard to resist. I wonder where it’s taking us!!

    Like any tool….and thats all these things are -tools- they can be used either towards constructive or destructive ends.

    I think you’re doing a great thing Leah, and I think you can only do it well if you first take time for yourself.

    -Mat

    • leahcnoble says:

      It’s interesting because our interactions with our devices are largely private – they become like friends that we ‘have’ to check in with. Yet when we start talking about it in groups, it turns out everyone has the same secret addiction to media and to their devices.

      I heard somewhere once – ‘the tools won’t teach you how to use themselves’ – and the Internet is a tool. Not the whole world.

      Thanks for your comment, Mat.

  4. Anne says:

    Wonderful, Leah! It is good that you can recognize the moment in time aspect! Love the photo of your reference library. I carry books around too, lending them out and tracking them down, hoping that they will reassure, or spark, or simply be enjoyed. Some of our books are the same.

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