Life feels interrupted.
It's amazing the things we take for granted and the importance of normalcy and routine in our lives. It feels like I'm walking around, outside of my life, feeling detached from all that I know. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo received a mandatory evacuation notice on Tuesday, May 3rd, as wildfire raged into our community. The notice came abruptly and we fled the city limits - some as fire licked at them from all sides, with the sight of their homes engulfed behind them. It still feels utterly surreal. There are over 88,000 of us scattered around the province/country now, trying to come to grips with what has happened. We are disconnected from the home we love and choking down the panic that rises up when the reality of our circumstances hits us. Many of us have homes to return to. There are too many that do not. We ache and grieve at the loss and we long to finally wake up from this nightmare. We want to go home.
It is an odd feeling to consider the busy plans of our regular lives and how life doesn't and can't carry on as normal now. Reminders of events and appointments pop up on my phone, chirping of plans we had. Deadlines pass with a sense of disappointment, but the things I looked forward to don't seem to matter any longer. As the days pass I see that even through displacement, many are working to create a new normal. There are still things we can look forward to and hope-filled notice of events that will be rescheduled. I have learned, very quickly, that the needs of people in crisis go far beyond their basic physical needs. Yes, in the immediate days we may need toothbrushes and a change of underwear, but keeping our spirits up is probably the most important of all. We need to move as quickly as possible from the label of "evacuee" to anything else that represents who we really are.
A task that I was particularly looking forward to was the position of guest-editor of NorthWord: A Literary Journal. As guest editor of an upcoming issue, I have the honour of choosing the theme as well as the pieces that will be published. I toiled over choosing the perfect theme, trying to consider a wide variety of writers and styles. And then, it hit me square between the eyes: take a deep breath. I second guessed it and overanalyzed it (as usual), but after affirmation from the President and Managing Editor, I took the plunge. Then I took a deep breath myself. The decision was made.
What I loved about this theme was how many angles it could be approached from. Why are you taking that deep breath? Are in doing it in release or in preparation? The options are endless. And a few days after our evacuation, when random things and random plans popped into my mind, I thought of this theme again... and how that deep breath was rather fitting for all that we have gone through and will continue to go through. It's a daily journey and one that we have to be strong for, long down this road. The deep breath may be one of release, or to brace oneself for all the hardship still to come. It may be one of determination, through gritted teeth, or one after a long gut-wrenching cry. It is both individual and collective.
I have now learned that the intention is to still continue with this issue and although the idea of creating anything felt completely foreign for the first days, I soon found myself yearning for that creative outlet once again. It helped me to write about what I was feeling and going through - so, I extend the invitation to you. Whether you are a seasoned writer, write the occasional poem, or have only thought about putting pen to paper, I invite you to get creating - perhaps even for a therapeutic outlet.
NorthWord accepts a wide variety of writing forms as well as visual artwork. And when you send in your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org, your name is removed before it is sent to me, so you can create with complete freedom and anonymity. Feel free to check out previous issues at https://issuu.com/northwordmagazine if you'd like to see what has been published in the past.
As for the theme, you are completely free to interpret it as you wish.
I miss you, Fort McMurray friends, and I'll look forward to seeing you back at home soon. Keep talking with one another, keep loving on one another. We'll get through this.
Theme: Take a deep breath.
Deadline: October 30, midnight
Email Submissions to: email@example.com