My eight days in Calgary and the Rockies left an imprint on my heart and on the hearts of several others.
I will tell you only about one aspect and that is the arrival of 12 Japanese at Wellspring Calgary. They arrived, after four days of hiking in the Rockies, full of life, enthusiasm and an overflowing wellspring of goodwill.
Our Japanese visitors were prepared with beautiful slideshows, inspiring talks in English and Japanese, many beautiful gifts and a high level of engagement with the participants. Perhaps it was their red and blue t-shirts that brightened the space. Maybe it was the 107 hand drawn and painted Etegami Postcards displayed for participants to select and take away. Maybe it was the way they introduced themselves in a language not their own. It could have been the 200 blank watercolour postcards that one of the Japanese members made by hand from Milk cartons, water and a blender. (that is the short version) Or the dozens of folded origami left as gifts.
Perhaps it was the stories, like the one where they cooked all their own meals during their four day hike or how one of the members at 75 was the oldest woman to climb the Via Ferrata. Or how they beamed sunshine and filled the air with laughter.
What fascinated all of us, even when they weren’t speaking English, is how they manged to convey emotion and the deep meaning of their subject. We were all laughing, crying, smiling and clapping. We mostly communicated in two different languages, with a “
little” or rather a lot of help from our friend Yoshie.
There were invitations to come back to Calgary and for Wellspringers to go to Japan, and during the time in between to become pen pals using Etegami. Etegami is a “simple, colourful folk art(which everyone can do) and is more about sending kind wishes through the mail than it is about, ‘art.’ (Thanks Patricia Madson Ryan) Google translate can also be helpful with translating kind words.
There were more gifts for the new Wellspring, Randy O’Dell House. Art supplies for the Wellspring studio. Generosity abounded by everyone. And yet…there was the serious business of life and death; caregiving and bereavement; struggling with treatment and recovery from treatment.
Let’s just say that language was not a barrier.
The messages conveyed went way beyond ordinary language and opened my eyes to a communication without borders.
And what is more, the kindness and joy of our Japanese guests was reciprocated by the Wellspring staff and members. The warmth of the Wellspring welcome was evident and small treasures were bestowed on our new friends. A delicious bar-b-que, was prepared by the managers. Later, our guests assembled in the yoga studio for a fast paced session called Moves and Rhythms. Once again language was no barrier. Barabara Cunnings, facilitator and co-founder of Wellspring, conducted the program in silence. No language. Hand signals only to indicate that everyone follow her movements.
Somethings are difficult to convey. But take it from me. The world is not as bleak as it appears in the news. As human beings we have way more in common with each other than can be imagined. Our DNA propels us towards helping each other, and when required, transcending our own fears and difficulties on behalf of another.
Our Japanese guests and all the people at Wellspring Calgary were an inspiration to everyone who was lucky enough to be there. They personified Kevin Kaminski’s morning greeting:
“It’s a great day to be alive.”
Thank you to our Japanese and Wellspring friends. I think that you are at the beginning of a meaningful and wonderful friendship.
1:) The photos on this page were taken by Nancy Wright. Thank you!
2:) My own steep climb up Wiwaxy Peak, (2,706 metres) at Lake O’Hara, is a cliff hanger. Let me just say for now that it was challenging, magnificent, fun and empowering. And not only am I forever grateful, I could never have accomplished it without Nancy, Huston, and Jenn. And countless others named and unnamed, who take such good care of this pristine area in YoHo National Park. So glad that I had this opportunity.
Note 3:) This past weekend in New Brunswick, was a celebration of love, longterm relationships, family, and community. An excellent example of the indepth research on what really fuels health, happiness and meaning. Congratulations to everyone who does their best to take care of each other.
Note 4:) A deep bow to everyone at Wellspring who had a hand in making this such a profound event including staff and members. And a deep bow to you, dear readers, who generously give me your time to read my blogs. See you next week. Live August to the hilt. Warmly, Trudy