Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, in one of her famous songs, crooned that “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” In the same vein, you sometimes don’t realize what you had until it’s gone and then comes back and you have it once more.
Such is the case with this year’s return of long-running events like University College of the North’s Leslie W. Turner powwow, which took place June 18, National Indigenous Peoples Day festivities outside City Hall on June 21, and the annual Nickel Days summer fair, which kicked off for the first time since 2019 on June 22, including the Lions Club parade and National King Miner contest, which took place on Saturday.
When events like these take place year after year after year, they can take on a ho-hum sort of quality and become the kind of thing you practically sleepwalk through, just routine matters, everyday life stuff that you take for granted. But after a couple of years in which large-scale gatherings were basically unheard of, particularly indoors, simply being able to gather with people again, inside or out, and not see them through a screen, can feel like a breath of fresh air.
Judging by the number of people who turned out for National Indigenous Peoples Day events on June 21 and the powwow three days earlier, the need for real, face-to-face connection is stronger than it was before the pandemic. And while COVID-19 has not actually gone away, slower transmission has enabled people to get back to doing things in a way that feels much more normal.
The Class of 2022 will be the first since the Class of 2019 to graduate with friends and family watching from the same room. UCN’s latest crop of graduates will actually get to have a graduation ceremony again, not a virtual equivalent which, let’s face it, no matter how much work goes into it and how much the effort that organizers make, is just not the same. Canada Day will be back to the way we remember it, with food and musical performances and children’s activities and, of course, fireworks, which didn’t totally go away while the pandemic was raging in Canada and elsewhere around the world.
There’s something special about having your eyes opened to what you really have, like Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Unfortunately, it often takes something horrible, like a near-financial catastrophe, or a pandemic that kills millions of people worldwide and continues on for far longer than anyone was prepared for. In one way, it would be nice if we could remain so appreciative all the time, no matter how much a regular event takes place like clockwork, never forgetting that nothing in life is guaranteed. On the other hand, getting complacent is a good sign in itself, a non-reminder reminder that disasters have, for the time being anyways, been averted. The hot days that Thompson has had in June and even in May, some of them unseasonably warm for what was, until the summer solstice on June 21, still spring, lift people’s spirits and remind them that winter is really gone, at least until, oh, October or so. This year, they did it even more so than usual, acting as a sort of rebirth of normality after the extra-long, extra-dark symbolic winter that the first couple of years of the COVID-19 era represented.