A Sense of Time
At about 7:30 in the evening Tuesday after the September long weekend, I was walking the couple blocks to my house after shopping at Overwaitea. The sky was half dark and the sun still reflected off the clouds over the Lizard Range. On Second Ave, in front of the bus barns, two pickups idled in the middle of the street. Elbows out the windows, the drivers chatted. A woman and a man. A couple kids in the second seat of the woman’s truck. Neither one bothered looking in the mirror for other traffic. They just sat elbow-to-elbow and talked. A couple cars passed unbothered and unnoticed in the parking lanes. They talked on. I reached the three-way stop at Ninth Street. The conversation must have finished for the woman slowed for the sign and drove on down Second Ave.
What is it about time in Fernie?
I don’t mean Fernie Time where half the town thinks it’s OK to show up for a meeting anywhere from ten to an hour late. That’s lame. I mean just time.
I became a little stuck on this piece and walked down to Freshies for a cup of coffee and change of scenery. In front of me at the till was a friend I hadn’t really talked with for a month or two. We picked up our coffees and sat at a table catching up. Her daughter broke her arm a few days earlier on my friend’s birthday. Happy birthday, mom. They spent part of the day in the hospital here and then drove over to Cranbrook for a bit of touch up. Happy birthday, mom.
We laughed. We drank our coffee. We shared our lives. Our lives of choice in Fernie. At the end, I said something about how Krista would kill me for being late again with my Fix piece and she laughed and said she had to get back to work too.
The point being, we spent real time to share our lives and where we were. Much like the two in the pickups talking in the middle of Second Ave, we took the time to step out of our lives. Today in so many communities people are pressed to take even the time to say, “Hi, how are you? Fine.” And move on to the next meeting, school pick-up, soccer game, gymnastics or whatever.
How does our town allow the time to connect and spend “quality” time with each other?
I don’t think the answer to the question is a single point, rather it is a collection of situations and decisions that led folks to choose Fernie as a home. The simple choice of living in Fernie is made by both those who were born and grew up here (not leaving) and those of us that, for a variety of reasons, migrated to this flat spot in a bend of the Elk River.
The first point would be Fernie is young. Only a hundred years. We are all explorers. Every one of us left our original community to forge a new life in Fernie. Fernie’s cultural memory starts and stops with us. If you walk the streets, you can find someone who would know someone who was an original settler. Think about it for a minute. If someone moved here as a twenty year-old at the turn of the century, lived to be 80, they would have died in the 1960’s. Downtown at ten o’clock in the morning, it’s not hard to find someone who lived here in the 60’s. That someone would know someone who told them about the fires at the turn of the century. That’s a short cultural memory.
Many of us no longer have a connection with a ”hometown”. In my case, my family moved while I was in college and I have only rarely returned. Visiting family became simply “visiting family” without the context of going home. Where I lived became my home. The mountains of Colorado. The Gorge. Fernie. I am not alone in this situation. The modern world is one of constant movement.
Being transplants, we are a little more adventuresome. We are willing to open up a little more and discover other folks. We are willing to open up and let folks discover us.
For a bit of perspective, take the second resident situation. The Ktunaxa Nation has lived in this area for thousands of years. The oldest known habitation in Canada, over 14,000 years old, is near Creston in the south central portion of their traditional lands. Their cultural memory of this land extends back almost 600 generations. Ours? Four.
We are the Newbie's.
We’re trying to figure out where we fit in. And that takes time.