I used to have to painstakingly describe where Heartroot is: “Oh, so it’s not north of Montreal – where is it then? The Eastern Townships? Past Sherbrooke? Wow – that’s so far away!”
Our “so-far-away” community has exploded across screens around the planet for a week now – Before and bucolic; During – apocalyptic conflagration; and After – a charred swath of grief cut through the lives and land of Lac-Mégantic.
For much of the community – the town and its satellite villages – the whole thing is still surreal. As I write, many of the evacuees have been allowed back into their homes, but not all. The Red Zone epicentre of destruction has been quarantined, out of sight of the media hordes and the general public. Most of us are relying on the internet and tv, images of roiling tsunamis of smoke and flame now giving way to tears and shock, placards and rage.
I keep hearing people say that the tally is of almost 100 dead, which somehow doesn’t match with the figure of 50 announced by the police this evening. The “official” count mounts slowly as the Missing one by one move to the Lost, the remnants of their physical lives – teeth, bits of jewellery – identified by people in white coats in a lab somewhere else.
The Red Cross and community volunteers have done such an incredible job of providing a structure around the distressed and dispossessed amassing in the Polyvalente ( the high school); this is what the women around here have learned do best – organize and make sure people have enough food to eat and beds to sleep in, constructing havens of order amidst chaos.
Media tents and vans lay siege to the building – I am relieved that they are not allowed inside. CNN is conspicuously present, its reporters desperately scrambling for translators, “Does anyone here speak English?” “How do you spell that?”
There are almost no physical wounds to treat – those who were close enough to be burned died instantaneously. It’s the same for the buildings – those which were destroyed have just disappeared into rubble, the neighbouring ones are completely untouched, even the flower gardens seemingly unperturbed.
I hear story after story of people who were supposed to be there that night, but got sidetracked or left early – this was the case of many of our close friends….
Here in the New World, we‘ve been spared the ravages of modern warfare that parade across our screens from Over There. The land still weeps with the spilled blood of millions of indigenous people, but that was before images were delivered to our living-rooms, and now, to our ever-open palms. Even a hundred deaths are so insignificant in the global context of uprisings, famine, genocide and natural disasters. We have had no Bhopal, no Fukushima – we are light-years from Cairo. The towers of flame and black mushroom-clouds of smoke and despair have belonged on the screens of video games and the evening news… until now.
Although some in the community are angrily flailing in a sea of detail, determined to get to the bottom of “Why?”, what I hear more often is already looking to the future. The deep spirituality of much of the population, nourished by a land formed of granite and crystal and one of the clearest sky-fulls of stars on the planet, is serving them well. The region is as full of artists, healers and original thinkers as it is full of crystal, many of us having been guided or called here from distant places by dreams, intuition or strange confluences in the currents of Life.
There is also a layer of the community that has dug itself out of the rural Catholic misery of a pregnancy a year, wrenching food from the land to put in every mouth and incest as a norm… and it has sworn to never return. Conflictually attached to the land, these are those who returned from their studies Away, bought or inherited chalets on the Lake, and set about to make money and live well. Those who sought power and have wielded it for ages were in the initial generations to push against and away from the Earth – conservative in the worst Stephen Harper sense of the word, they have barricaded themselves on the upper side of a cement ceiling and played by their own rules. No different from their brother escapees of this same reality in developing nations around the planet, they were willing and ready to sell any resource at hand for cash in the pocket. The imported buzz-word of sustainability was spottily and selectively applied to make more regulations and hire more tight-lipped paper-pushers. A mean spirit of competition took hold. The alternative life choices of the artists, organic farmers, natural landscapers, eco-friendly builders and healers have been seen as threatening – the weapons against this wave of consciousness has been a trawling net of sticky red tape and the pulpits of committees and board-rooms.
There were signs and portents: several people have spoken for years of having ‘seen’ a large black cloud over Megantic. About a dozen years ago, I sat in the Parc des Vétérans where the inferno flowed to the lake last week , and ‘saw’ a scene of devastation. I did not have a timeline for it or exact details, but I had a profound sense of loss. In the week before the train bombed the town, many expressed a malaise – something was just not right, but no one could quite put words to it. At Heartroot, emotions ran high, old history stirred up to be resolved and eventually I felt a very rare need to define limits and establish boundaries.
The hierarchy of power has been shaken, and a quiet revolution seems to be underway. The powers-that-have-been were going to cancel the Lac en Fête festival and the Thursday night Entre Chien et Loup concerts, but other voices prevailed. The Farmers’ Market has been moved to give people another centre of focus and gathering than the high-school. Musicians and other performers are showing up – not so much to distract as to help with the healing process.
What remains of the population of young adults in Lac-Mégantic will perhaps have a better chance of being listened to: maybe they won’t have to move to get jobs in sustainable energy or flourish with their environmentally-friendly businesses. Perhaps Art, Culture and Spirit will take their places in the forefront of the life of the community. A confluence of so many issues vital to the future of humanity – our dangerous and unnecessary dependence on petroleum, the pollution of our water sources, the valuing of business over people and capital over culture….layers upon layers of meaning will be gradually digested and assimilated, and not just by the residents of our relatively small community.
I have always felt and often repeated that the Megantic area has a special place in the future of the Earth – it occupies a key place in the geomagnetic grid, on the Heart meridian of the planet. I alone have received messages and calls from around the world with prayers and condolences – the community as a whole has felt itself connected to and supported by not only the surrounding regions and the province, but by a global Family as well.
That Something-not-quite-right has been shaken loose. A clearing – an awakening – has occurred. I believe that once Megantic has moved through the shock and anger, once the mourning is over, there will be an opportunity to tap the full potential at our disposal – to spread our wings and soar….
p.s. We will be holding our 3rd Picnic-Concert on Saturday, August 17, and are thrilled to welcome Ragleela (Uwe Neumann, Jean-Marc Hébert+ Shawn Mativesky: www.ragleela.com) and The Visit (Raphaël Weinroth-Browne + Heather Sita Black) . Bring a picnic, bring food to share for a pot-luck, or make a donation and share our meal…. Bring a tent if you want to stay overnight! The concert will continue, rain or shine….