It has been over a month since the closing evening of the Encircling Light – Expectant Silence Conference in Whitehorse. When the flux of late cancellations and registrations had come to rest, there were 181 participants who came together for one of the most remarkable events in the life of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. Those of us on the Planning Group are grateful that the mosaic of possibilities we wanted to make available for that week came to fruition. Reflections from those who took part in the Conference will continue to appear on our E-news, in Glimpses, and elsewhere over the next while. For my part, I want to note here two events that touched into our week in Whitehorse.
Owen Lange, a member from Vancouver Island, crossed the threshold on August 4th, while the Conference was in progress. Both Owen and his wife, Marilyn, had registered for this event and then had to cancel due to Owen’s illness. Those at the Conference who had known Owen on this side of the threshold were very much aware of his presence, as if he had resolved to take part in the week, one way or another. As we shared word of his passing with other participants and then spoke of Owen and Marilyn and their family in the context of the Friday evening artistic offerings, the Conference as a whole embraced the life of our friend and colleague in the work of spiritual science.
A second phenomenon was the smoke that lay over Whitehorse from a fire in the surrounding area. Whitehorse itself was not threatened, yet we witnessed the clear, blue sky that greeted many of us upon arrival darken as the Conference began. Those of us who went to Teslin on the Wednesday excursion found ourselves closer to the source of the fire, in the vicinity of Teslin Lake and the Teslin River. In the evening we stood at the shore of the lake, near the Tlingit Heritage Centre, and observed how the fire affected the colouring of the landscape; the underside of the aspen leaves turned an eerie green and a red sun burned a hole through the layer of smoke-laden cloud.
In Canada, we think of water, air and light, and earth as being the predominant elements. Yet hibernating in the earth during the long winter months, the fire element waits its time until it is ignited, one way or another, during the heat and storms of the summer. Once again, fires raged this summer in the south of British Columbia, threatening communities such as Kelowna. Before coming to the Conference, Ron and Monika Ficke of West Kelowna had to leave their home until the fire that threatened it was contained.
The presence of fire at the edge of our Conference and Owen’s death at its heart reminded us that we were truly engaged in a week that encompassed a range of human experience, outwardly and inwardly. It may also have given some of us an opportunity to practice the fourth basic exercise given by Rudolf Steiner. In order to find that which is truly positive in any event or experience, we need to penetrate with our thinking and even more, our feeling, to the far side of the emotional and spiritual reality before us*, and discover another way of seeing what has brought it about and what we can become because of it.
On our way to Fort St. John after the Conference, Marjorie and I stayed a night at the Dawson Peaks Resort, just south of Teslin. David Hett, the owner, remarked that a Tlingit elder had welcomed the fire as an agent for cleansing and renewing the land, so long as it stayed on the far side of the lake and river and did not impinge on human lives more than what was needed. For us at the Conference, the fire brought a nuance, or edge, that journeyed with us throughout the week—perhaps an unexpected gift from those beings who had carried this event so lovingly throughout the planning and living of it.
With good thoughts toward Michaelmas,
* From an image found in The Psychology of Leadership, a lecture given by Franz E. Winkler at the Myrin Institute on February 6,1957