By Susan Weisenburger
“You may never be completely home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – anonymous
There are some people in life who seem destined for adventure. Their eyes glance beyond the immediate; their spirit unafraid to wander. Lillian seems to be such a person. She has made a home in different parts of AB and on the other side of the world. She carries a certain wisdom that helps her appreciate the opportunity and bounty all around her.
Lillian is an Alberta girl born and raised in Daysland. After high school she set off for Edmonton and the U of A to pursue her teaching degree, and then in 1977 she used that degree to associate herself with CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas). CUSO (a non-profit development organization) “matches highly skilled volunteers with local partners who, together, work on specific projects that are designed to help communities thrive and grow”. As a teacher Lillian gave of herself to eliminate disadvantage by improving access to good education. She was sent to Papua New Guinea and she made a home there for nine years. She thanks that home for her two sons and for the many ways it changed her perspective in life.
Lillian remembers being “shell shocked” when she came back to Canada. There was stimulation and choice everywhere. She found it difficult to deal with the noise, the lights, so many people and “all the stuff”. Although she returned home to Daysland she was in pursuit of a full time teaching position somewhere in the province to support her family. She eventually found that in Whitecourt. At the time Lillian was a single mom but says that teaching and parenting did not feel like too much. She’s the type of person who puts one foot in front of the other and just does what needs to be done. That attitude also bid her well in almost 30 years in her profession.
Eventually Lillian remarried and came to realize that her bungalow in Whitecourt was just a little too small. She had always dreamed of an acreage for a little more wiggle room and a quieter lifestyle. One day Lillian and Bill turned to one another and asked, “Why do we have to live in Whitecourt?” They didn’t. In 2003 their search for that perfect place to call home landed them on an acreage 13 km west of Stony Plain near the hamlet of Carvel. This was a big transition for Lillian in more ways than one. She left Whitecourt, she left teaching, and both her boys were now grown. Without a place of employment and association to a school the couple found it difficult to make human connections while living the country life. They knew they’d have to put forth extra effort. Lillian decided to build her new identity in a Master Gardener class at the nearby Devonian Gardens and in volunteering for the CKUA radio station.
While driving around the area dotted with old family farms Lillian and Bill noticed the Carvel Ukrainian Church and a friend said, “We should go”. People were surprised and happy to see new faces and helped them get involved in both the church and the hall. Lillian’s volunteer work started out by helping to clean the buildings and then, all of the sudden, it turned into positions as Treasurer at the church and Vice President of the hall. The hamlet also started a Thursday evening market a couple of years back from May to August. The market began as a way to make money for the hall but Lillian says the real value is the gathering of people with their children to have fun and visit one another. “Friends connect over a hotdog”. Lillian is now the Market Manager. These are three very key positions in a small community. Lillian enjoys them all, but she is 65. She understands that without active members this aging community will not survive in a healthy fashion. She would like to see younger families pay more attention to keeping the community alive and connected.
Lillian admits that she was a hippy before being a hippy was a thing. She is unafraid to wander. She loves the land she lives on and loves working outside with the flowers, bees and trees. She feels a personal connection with every little thing she works with. The teacher in Lillian still has a heart for struggling students and believes money spent now on counsellors and educational assistants to help give children a leg up will prevent more money being spent in the future to dig them out of trouble. She also notices that isolation can be a big problem for a growing number, especially out in the country. People need to connect with other people so that their stories are heard (for an enduring sense of identity) and their physical needs met. She believes that lonely people may be easier to spot in town, but out of town these same human needs may be hidden in the homes dotting the countryside.
There is always a price to pay for the lifestyle one chooses. Being by yourself can be both a hardship and a blessing depending on your circumstances. Right now it is a blessing for Lillian but she remains active and committed to doing her part to make acreage living as wonderful as possible for a great many in her community.
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