Safely home. That is the normal response returning home from a trip.
On the road, away from the familiar and anticipated, there is always the possibility of unexpected events.
When one is safely home, those unexpected events, the unknowns of travelling, are left behind.
I understand this and how my family feels to see me walk through the doorway on the arrivals level of the airport.
But safely home means other possibilities have also been left behind. The unexpected, the unanticipated, may leave us wanting more.
To be safely home can then be as much an expression of regret as of relief.
These are odd words, you may think, with which to follow a month of silence in this space.
After a frenzy of preparation, the possibility of travelling to Kenya to participate in the 14th Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum and the 27th Session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) became a reality.
It was also the first universal session of UNEP, whose membership was just expanded two months ago to every member state in the UN as an outcome of the Rio+20 meetings.
As first alternate regional representative for the North American region of UNEP, I had no right to attend. But the possibility emerged to seek one-time accreditation through the United Church of Canada, and to ask for financial support from Red River College, as an expression of its corporate social responsibility in the area of sustainability.
In one week, I went from the idea to airline tickets, and less than three weeks later I got off a plane in Nairobi.
It has been an extraordinary time, because of the possibilities that greeted me every moment of the day. I wrote in Gift Ecology that we live in a universe of relations, not an environment of connections, and I experienced the power of this idea at every turn.
I became more than friends with people from all over the world in ways that will change all of our lives, if they have not already been changed by the encounter.
Those moments of Presence – there can be no better word to describe what took place – will remain between us, as they should, but why they occurred and with whom remains a mystery.
Others may call it chance, the expression of a serendipitous universe we use to depict what we don’t understand.
To live in a universe, not only of relations but of Possibility, is to find new roads to travel, new companions for the journey, and to feel the richness and intensity of life all around us.
We need a passion for the planet, if we, as humans, want to continue in partnership – in relation – with the Earth.
It is our passion, after all, that marks us as human, not our abilities.
I have spent nearly two weeks with passionate people, who are throwing themselves and their very souls into making the world a better place.
It is not about the scale of one’s efforts, or the opportunities provided by wealth or status.
It is about the intensity of feeling, the willingness to risk much in search of the possibility of something more – not merely for oneself, but for others.
Many of the people, younger than me, had travelled a much greater life distance than I did to participate in these meetings and required more passion to persist on that journey.
There are, after all, far more difficult roads to travel than a flight from Winnipeg to Nairobi.
Each day, I found myself, over and over again, in conversations bursting with Possibility. What purpose there might be in these encounters, or what road now lies ahead, I don’t know.
Relationships are born out of the intensity of the moment but the possibilities they contain have to be tended and nourished, like any other living thing.
The sharing of dreams, the feelings and hopes that shape our futures but are too often kept away where they cannot be challenged or hurt, is a dangerous and courageous choice.
On my right wrist I now wear a beaded bracelet, made by women in Kenya – a birthday gift from one of the new friends I made.
To me, it symbolizes the possibilities this trip has revealed, and reminds me I have promises to keep, however many more miles are left in my own journey.
So, to say I will soon be safely home is to misrepresent the truth.
I will soon be home safely, the unknown perils of travel behind me as I return to the familiar.
But that return to the familiar leaves regret in its wake, because it is so much harder to see the possibility that surrounds us as we go through the daily round of what we do.
Yet it is there. The soil closest to the plant is the most important for its nourishment, even though many things at a distance shape its growth and fruitfulness.
Home safely, but not safely home.
Like the bracelet, this trip has been overflowing with unexpected Gifts. I will not be able to travel anywhere on the planet without embracing the new family I have found. We need to share our stories, talk of struggles and triumphs, and encourage each other in our work toward a better future.
That passion rises above the divisions that humans create, of race and ethnicity, of gender, of age, of politics and religion.
Whatever we believe about these things, we need to transcend our beliefs and share a common passion for how we must live together on the earth.
As I flew over the Great Rift Valley, the place where we are told we all began, it was like coming home.
That my voyage back to Winnipeg began with a glorious sunrise over the Masai Mara, watching a newborn hippo take its first strokes in the Mara River, seems entirely fitting.
Home safely, but not safely home, because – after all – the seeds of more possibilities have been planted.
I concluded my last blog before the trip with the closing words of Gift Ecology – ideas that have now travelled around the planet as my gift to new friends. I offer them again here, not in closing but as the start of whatever new Possibilities will emerge:
“Change the game. Transform the impossible into the improbable – and then make it happen.
“For a sustainable future, we need to understand Life and our relations with other people not in terms of economy or exchange, but as Gift – not in expectation of any return, without calculation of cost, but instead as a celebration of Presence with another.
“In that moment of Presence, the universe changes in the way all of us need it to change.”
Thank you for the gift of your Presence, and know we are now separated only by the mereness of space.