This is a strange photo: We have all sat at some time or another in a pool or hot-tub luxuriating in the moment of being; in the physical luxury of warm water and blue sky; in the visceral pleasure of perfect surroundings. In Huntington Beach, California when I am visiting the kids and grandkids, I love to go to the town-house pool and hot tub. Swim a couple of lengths; watch the tall palm trees ululating in the breeze; run to the hot-tub; delve deep into the heat and the physical shock of hot; then sit and chat to the locals about the big political issues. The BIG ISSUES in a town-house complex include which trees to prune, which trees to cut down, and what species of tree to plant to replace lost trees.
I often wonder why I do not join them in a daily soak in the tub and daily fight about trees—it all seems so important when you are with them. Their passion is so intense; their concerns so real; and the political factions so urgently organized. And then you know why you would rather fly to far-away, exotic places like Fort McMurray and Yellowknife. There, there is snow and temperatures that plunge to minus forty and nobody notices. There are banks of snow that sparkle bright in sun and changing clouds. There is a vast river running between banks of sand oozing oil. There are problems to solve that really affect the well-being of individuals and families, of nations and democracy.
If you follow the news, you must have noticed the turmoil in the Arab world. Youth in revolt. Entrench men of incredible privilege ready to bomb the oppressed—and to maintain secret Swiss bank accounts. The waning power of an upper class that has long denied the basics to a population that is enslaved in all but name. And to know that this should not continue but to fear the Islamic Shari law.
Whatever way it turns out, the Alberta oil sands will have to continue to supply honest, decent, moral oil to the greedy SUVs of American, Canada, and maybe even the EU. There is no sitting in the pool contemplating the infinite, when decency and democracy depend on a reliable supply of honestly-gotten oil.
I have come to this Albertan town many times over the past five years and it has become like a home-from-home. I know the stores, the places to eat, the houses of friends, the ladies at the security desk where I have to plead anew everytime I visit to get on site. I have come to know the patterns of the snow blowing across the road, and the way the huge trucks struggle up the last hill to the mine. I have come to know the by-ways of the downtown and where drunks gather at mid-night to celebrate a big cheque. I have been in the local library and know it is stocked with erudite literature and there are always people taking out the classics. This even though the fellow at lunch said: “I do not sleep around in Fort McMurray as I do not want disease. I would rather go to Hawaii to do that.” Not sure he comprehended the double meaning in his statement.
I have come to admire the skills of the people on the mines. They are well-educated. They work incredibly hard. They are committed. They are proud of what they have done and what they are accomplishing. Fifty percent are women, so this in not a sexist judgement. For this is the place for people of mining ability of all persuasions. This is a place of opportunity. I just wish I could get my out-of-work, but able, son-in-law from Idaho to come here. He would shine. As the U.S.A. struggles to pay for it debt and its oil, maybe they should send their best north to mine for oil. A far more noble activity than sending their best to die in the deserts of Arabia.
The point I am trying to make is that what is ordinary to me from five year’s of exposure, is nevertheless exotic, new, and a fantastic challenge to those from other places. Maybe this blog posting prompts you and others to celebrate the ordinary and the extra-ordinary in pursuit of career, family, money, democracy, and individual freedom.