Last January, I wrote a story about how and why I became a vegan. Putting myself out there in my blogs is nothing new for me, but that story was different. In the end, it wasn’t about me. It was about the choices we make and the impact they have on others.
At the time I wrote my veggie blog, I was coming up on my five year life altering anniversary – the one where I left my 20 year corporate career so I could spend my days surrounded by nature with my critters in our rural community, and so that I could experience new challenges and to stretch outside the same job I had for half my lifetime.
As my anniversary approached, I was feeling it was time for another stretch. I started asking myself, what next? What did I want to invest my time in, and what could my latest and greatest enterprise be? As a habitual planner, I wanted desperately to strategize and chart my next steps. But for all the fish in the ocean, I couldn’t figure out WHAT it was I should be planning.
Just as my frustration was hitting an all time high, a friend posted one of those life inspiring quotes that read, “You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Cross each bridge one step at a time.”
It reminded me of five years ago how I didn’t have it all figured out. That my WHY was so clear and strong, I was able to take a leap of faith and move forward.
It was time to get clear on my WHY again. Did I still want to spend time in nature? Was freedom still important to me? Did I still want to experience new challenges? Hell ya, but I also had one or two more things to add to the list that stretched beyond my own internal little wants and desires. So I wrote out an intention. I have shared this with very few people, so hear it goes….
To use my passions and gifts to inspire and help raise consciousness so that we honour and protect our environment; have respect and ethical treatment for all beings; and all connect with our hearts, health and calling in life
I put my lofty intention out to the universe. I meditated on it. I journaled and made vision boards. I even googled it. And I waited. I waited for something to show up in my life where I could put my passions and skills to work to help preserve our planet or at least my little corner of the world.
My mentors told me to be patient and to wait for “the signs”. Not one to take a hint, I politely asked the universe to send me clues that I couldn’t possible miss. And then she sent me a dolphin.
Sign #1. My husband and I were on our winter adventure sailing through the Bahamas when we spotted a lone dolphin on our starboard. I couldn’t get in the water fast enough to meet my new friend. I knew I would be lucky to get a few fleeting moments with this amazing creature. After a breathtaking 45 minutes of swimming, interacting, being so close I could give him a kiss on the cheek, I said goodbye to “Buddy” and made a promise to him that I would find a way to help protect him and the other sea creatures I came to admire through our travels.
When I returned home from that trip, I kept reminders of Buddy around me. A video of him stayed on my desktop and a dolphin birthday card from my friend who shared the experience with me is still proudly displayed on my desk.
Buddy was actually my third wild dolphin encounter in recent years, although none as intimate, and he wasn’t going to be my last.
I spent the rest of the winter and spring plugging away at my consulting work and enjoying my hikes with my Muddy Paws clients. As warmer weather approached, I started organizing my life so I could spend the majority of the summer at our cottage. I moved horses, rescheduled dog hikes, and limited consulting work so I could optimize our time in, on or near the waters of the Northumberland Strait.
We settled into summer cottage life with ease – Riding my horse at a nearby stable in the mornings, and afternoons on the Strait boating, swimming, waterskiing and paddle boarding – a dream come true for this water bug. But something was rattling inside of me. I was unsettled and lying in bed at night I was feeling anxious. An unnerving feeling that I was taking way more than I was giving.
Sign #2. One Friday morning we woke up to sunny skies, no wind and flat water. Perfect weather for a cruise over to Pictou Island to enjoy their pristine beaches. The warm air breezed by me as I sat on the bow and looked out over the horizon. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a dark fin. I asked my husband to cut the engine and as we floated we found ourselves surrounded by a pod of porpoises (an equally smart and adorable close relative to the dolphin) breaching as they enjoyed their mackerel lunch. This time I exercised control and admired them from inside the boat.
Sign #3. As we made our way to Pictou Island I was feeling an enormous sense of gratitude for having had another experience with these intelligent creatures. Once anchored, we waded into shore. I could make out a large foreign object on the beach and as we got closer, I saw it was a lobster trap entangled in a mountain of fish netting that was buried deep in the sand.
I started digging. No way was this net getting anywhere near those porpoises. I had visions of a fierce winter storm and pounding waves pulling the net out of the sand and into the Strait where it would be of danger to marine life. The net was massive, but I kept digging hell bent on making this one small contribution to protect our environment. As I dug, my husband saw how futile my good intention was and continued walking down the beach. A few minutes later he returned to inform me there was at least another dozen even bigger net enmeshed lobster traps scattered across the shoreline. I stood up and walked down the beach with him observing a grave yard of old fishing lines, traps and nets. As we turned around to make our way back, I spotted a massive piece of white plastic partially buried below the wet sand, shallow water lapping over it. The plastic had a logo clearly exposed – Irving.
The dolphins, the traps, the nets, and the black & white message written in the sand – The universe was laying a trail of things to come.
I spent the rest of the summer enjoying everything Pictou County had to offer – riding on the beach, trips to the farmers market, and time on the water. I made a few attempts to contact the right people to get the lobster traps and nets removed from Pictou Island with no luck that I know of. Mother nature would have her way with them and I would have to pray that winter showed some mercy and they would be where we left them next summer.
My intention still intact, I still wasn’t clear on how it would manifest. I knew I wanted to protect the ocean but didn’t know how to put my skills to use. I was having a hard time envisioning how I would fit into the world of environmentalists, scientists, activists and lobbyists who were the catalysts of all environmental good doings. I dropped out of grade 12 biology, didn’t have the stomach for politics and kept my head in the sand when it came to current events – as far as I was concerned, the news was just a big downer.
Sign #5 (Sign #4 comes later) As summer came to a close and getting back to reality was on the horizon, I received notice that both of my long-term consulting clients were being acquired by larger companies on the exact same day. Holy mother of panic. While I had wished for more time to spend on important matters like saving dolphins, I was having a hard time letting go of the steady stream of income that landed in my mailbox each month. So the universe did it for me. In one fell swoop, she freed me of the ties that kept me from fulfilling my intention. I now had the time to invest in what mattered most to me. No excuses. No distractions.
Sign #6 While I may have avoided traditional news like the dried up jellyfish on our cottage’s beach, I did spend a few minutes perusing Facebook most days. It was there that I saw a petition against Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent pipe into the Northumberland Strait.
Northern Pulp sits at the opposite end of Pictou Harbour from our cottage. For years, the community has been subjected to the mill’s air pollution and the destruction of Boat Harbour – a once pristine tidal bay used by First Nations people for fishing and recreation, now a settling pod for toxic effluent.
When we pass the mill in our boat, I close my eyes, hold my breath and imagine a marine research centre in its place. When we have lunch on the Pictou waterfront, I sit with my back to it so it doesn’t ruin an otherwise serene Nova Scotia coastal view. And when the smell of its smog gets so bad you can’t breathe, we retreat to safer coast lines beyond the stench. Like most Pictounians, the mill would often come up in our conversations. We would criticize them for their shoddy environmental practices and blame our local politicians for not doing a better job of protecting us from this goliath. Then we’d move on to other pressing matters like what colour to paint our fixer-upper of a cottage.
I signed the petition, but knew I needed to help in a bigger way. There was an active group in Pictou County advocating for clean air with a local singer/song writer leading the charge.
Back Track to Sign #4. We had made one more trip to Pictou Island last summer. We got wind that Dave Gunning, was performing a fundraising concert on the island. Last minute, we booked a room at the island’s only bed and breakfast and ventured over on our boat with storm clouds chasing behind us.
I had only heard one of Dave’s songs in the past and with front row seats, we were in for the highlight of our summer. As Dave sang and told funny tales, he also shared lyrics about the devastation of our province’s natural resources and the misguided well-being of his community. As he launched into “Preaching to the Choir”, I knew the song would become an anthem for me as it was for others living in Pictou County.
After signing the petition against Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent pipe, I found myself reaching out to Dave to see if I could help with his group. I shared my professional experience with him, that I recently came into some free time, and was ready to get to work. Dave suggested I would be a good fit for a newly formed community group – Friends of The Northumberland Strait. The name of the group alone had me hooked.
Friends of the Northumberland Strait had their first meeting on November 20th. Fisherman, fisherwives, business owners, concerned citizens, professionals, experienced advocates, and cottage owners like us met to discuss what we could do to stop Northern Pulp’s proposed plan to dump 90 million litres of toxic effluent daily into the Northumberland Strait.
In the first month our group has pushed municipal councils to pass resolutions in favour of a more thorough environmental assessment; helped plant over five hundred “No Pulp Waste in Our Water signs” throughout Pictou County and beyond; distributed factual hand-outs on the impact of the pipe; stood with our fisherman and Pictou Landing Fist Nations at Northern Pulp’s public consultation meetings; created a platform to share facts, science and opinions on the consequences the pipe could have to our economy, our environment, our health and our quality of life throughout Atlantic Canada; and started a #nopipe trend that spread through social media engaging support, conversation and opinions.
It was an intense month where I could put my creativity, strategic planning skills and love for collaboration to work. My long-time mentor has asked me a number of times over the years what is that “thing” I would get out of bed every morning to do for free. I could never answer that question with certainty until now. The last two months, I have bounced out of bed with an intense purpose I have never felt before.
The fact that I’m getting a sense of purpose from Northern Pulp’s latest threat on the environment isn’t lost on me. That while I work along side fisher families who are trying to save their livelihoods, I’m getting fulfillment and a sense of joy out of the collaboration and working towards a purpose that is so meaningful.
I am optimistic that this pipe will not be going into the Northumberland Strait. And that hopefully no pipe means no more pollution of any kind from Northern Pulp. That Pictou County can finally grow to its full potential where its natural resources are cherished and celebrated. I’m hoping to be part of that transformation – to being part of a community that is aligned with my own values. It is clear to me as the waters of the Northumberland Strait.
Have you ever written an intention for your life? Have you ever gotten so clear on WHAT your heart desires and WHY, that you’ve witnessed the universe conspiring to help you succeed? Trust me. It happens! My long-time mentor, Stephanie Allen, is sharing the same tools and daily practices I’ve used to create a life than aligns with everything I value most. It’s currently free, it takes just 15 minutes a day, and if your intention is anything like mine, maybe the universe will bring you a dolphin. Visit Gateway Developments.
Footnote: Both of my consulting clients eventually offering me contracts under their new ownerships. I accepted one – the one that provided the most freedom and flexibility, so I could focus on a life with purpose and porpoises.