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Looking Back: Going Down the Trail


John Kinnear

Jun 14, 2023

The walk is a reminder to all of us that we are all in this together and to watch out for those who are struggling and are uncertain what trail to take.

Last Saturday I attended the Darcy’s Nature Walk for Mental Wellness at Fireman’s Park and it proved to once again be a wonderful gathering of community, united in a common interest.  The t-shirts some volunteers were wearing that day were designed to acknowledge the life of Kris Ruzek and had the lettering One Day at a Time on the front and the image of a man and his dog on the back.  

As I walked the Frank Slide Trail that day with several hundred others, in picture perfect weather with the pathway freshened by the recent heavy rains, I realized something. It came to me that we all walk another trail together; the trail of life. Some stay on course through to the end and some lose their way. The walk is a reminder to all of us that we are all in this together and to watch out for those who are struggling and are uncertain what trail to take.

 Kris’s brother-in-law Craig spoke briefly and profoundly before the start of the walk and talked about who Kris was and shared a great story that spoke to the character of the man. The story was that Kris would tell his family members that the way to tell if pasta is cooked is to throw it against a wall. If it sticks its ready.  Craig then urged everyone to “reach out to somebody that may have a problem and offer them help. Once you start talking about it, it helps. “  

 It was certainly food for thought and as I walked along the edge of the slide that morning I reflected on my own journey down life’s trail, which will reach the 75 year mark on the 21st of June.   Everyone’s trail is different and full of both rewards and road blocks. How you handle them helps form your character and how you are raised and nurtured at your trailhead (home) is a big part of it also. In my case it was in an environment of love and learning and laughter.  

 I was born on a Monday, which my aunt complained bitterly to my mother that it was “wash day”.   Clothes were to be hung on the line, not birthing a son. I was delivered with the help of a midwife in West Coleman, as the old hospital was still under construction then.  

Growing up in the Pass was divinely simple and involved uncomplicated things like marbles, picking saskatoons, bike riding and “kick the can” in the evenings.   I transitioned from the old high school (now the museum) to Horace Allen, when it opened, and graduated with Senior Matric.  We were always told that if you didn’t have that qualification you would wind up in the mine, but I discovered that a technical institute was an option and so chose to study architecture for three years.  Long story short, it was not for me in the end. Architectural designs I noticed were, as the song goes, “all made out of ticky-tack and they all looked just the same.” 

 The trail took some interesting turns along the way for me after that and led me back here in 1970 where for a couple years I worked with my father as a draftsman/surveyor helper  at Coleman Collieries.  Not many sons get the chance to work for and with their fathers and it was a time I will always cherish.  What happened from that point in time until 2020 is documented in a four part series available on-line at The series is called A Moment in Time and it walks you through the next 48 years of my life’s direction, if you care to check it out. Suffice to say I didn’t see what was ahead on the trail for me in 2020 but that’s the way it is.  We don’t all leave at the same time. 

The older you get the more you realize that there is much you have no control over. So you learn to lean into it as it comes and as my newly found, wise friend, Beatrice Little Mustache said to me, “Learn to turn it around.”   The Rinaldi family have worked hard to turn it around and are an inspiration to all that walk along their life trail with them.   

I can hear my mother’s words clearly in my mind as I reflect back to my childhood. She would tilt her head and say, “Remember.  Always be kind”.  This world could use a lot more kindness in it these days. It is really quite simple actually, to open your heart and have empathy and understanding for others as they stumble down the trail.  Smooth the path a bit for them with a helping hand and listen to them closely. There may be a clue as to what is really going on inside them that could be missed. As Craig stated on Saturday, “Kris helped everybody. But he didn’t help himself. He didn’t want to reach out for that help.” 

 I made mention recently, in one of my columns, to an expression that a young girl laid on me some years ago.  She said, “I can’t do everything, but I can do something and if everyone does something, everything will get done”. There are lots of lessons one learns as one heads down what the Beatles called in their song, “the long and winding road”.  The bumps and detours are all part of the journey and whether you want them to or not, they will happen. While you may not realize it at the time, they actually help build your character and resilience.  It is said that if you help the butterfly out of the cocoon it will not thrive. It must fight its way out of that transformative chamber to strengthen its wings, so that it may fly by you on its own journey. If we fight every battle for our children and don’t let them face any challenges or struggles they will not thrive as well either.  But we should never forget that an act of kindness and a helping hand can be so important to those around us. 

Like most people around me my age, I continue to face the life challenges head on, large and small. These days it seems like most conversations move almost immediately towards health issues; worn out knees and hips, failing eyesight and hearing and other chronic issues ad infinitum. Recently a special friend pointed something out to me. She showed me a tape measure, on the centimeter side, and asked me to consider where I was on its length life-wise.  Then she suggested I contemplate what the next five or ten years going forward should look like for me. What would I like to do? It was a sobering moment of recognition that forced me to acknowledge that I am pretty far down that measuring tape on the trail.  Her message was simply - carpe diem. Seize the day.  Waste none of the time you have left.

So I will continue to share in pictures the magic that surrounds me here in this beautiful place we call the Crowsnest Pass. And I will reach out wherever possible to those around me who need a helping hand or a sympathetic ear.  But I will also rise up from my bed each day with the knowledge that I have been blessed with more years than many and that each day is a gift.

I have chosen to reach out to you, my readers, in this column, with an invitation.  An invitation to come join me at the amazing Blackbird vacation rental home, the former Coleman Catholic Church on the 21st of June. It is where I was baptized, confirmed; saw family married and family buried and I cannot imagine a more perfect place to celebrate life than there. 

The 21st is the first day of summer and the day that the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. It is the longest day of the year sunshine-wise and a day to celebrate the solstice. So come linger with me in the power of the longest, lightest day of the year in this beautiful setting. Have a piece of birthday cake and a coffee. Find a few minutes that afternoon, between 2 and 4 o’clock to drop by via the east entrance and say hi. I’d love to see you.

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