Saturday, September 15, 2012

When Change Comes

Impending storm, SE Calgary

It started. Without warning. Without ceremony. Hardhat workmen appeared overnight with orange vests and heavy machinery, just over the rise. Throat constricting with panic, I run to see.

I spend hours each week, wandering the shore of this pond, sharing sacred space with a chorus of Canada geese, crazy laughing loons and squawking gulls. One memorable series of days includes a migration of geese so dense the sky was dark with their waves. Wing upon wing, clouds lifting and lighting on the water. I photograph sunrise flamingo pink and purple, sunset blazing orange and fire, wildflowers on the bank framing wilderness pathway. I walk midst golden fall of aspen and birch, return to gentle waves lapping, worshipping the Creator of fowl and flora, earth and wind under bluebell sky.

Female Common Golden Eye with her brood of chicks, Carburn Park

Now standing on top of the rise, my worst fears are realized. I hear the death sentence declared with a loud roar from the backhoe as it digs a deep scar, tears into the heart of the rich black earth. The unspeakable is happening: the beautiful waterfowl refuge is being drained.

Pathway beside Bow River, Douglasdale
To be fair, it really wasn’t a protected area. Boundaried by two residential developments in a suburban area of the city, this unique parcel - adjacent to forest pathways and the Bow River - had long been zoned heavy industrial. And the body of water? Only a large settling pond for rock-washing runoff from the nearby cement plant. But the utilitarian had become utopian. A fixture befitting the small forest it bordered. A watery refuge for birds and stressed out humans.  Beauty out of ashes. Now it is being removed. Drained and filled with dirt for a new development.

Blood pumping, fire flashing in my temples, I call the community association.  Can I stop it? Protest? Rally the protesting power of Greenpeace or Ducks Unlimited?

“Not likely! Remington Developments is going ahead with the first stage of preparing the land for light industrial and residential use. It will be the largest urban development of its kind in Canada. There was an information session last week.”

Community information sessions are pretty low on my priority list. I’d missed it. Light industrial? What does that mean?

“It could mean small shops like automotive repair or something similar.”

I imagine it now. Waking up at 7 a.m. with the whine of an air gun or power torque wrench removing lug nuts from a tire, carbon monoxide from idling cars, black smoke from blown engines billowing behind my back yard.

I call the neighborhood realtor.

“I’m going to have to sell and move. How much did I just lose in my property value?”

“Well,” he says, “the value of your house is quite imaginary until you put it on the market. It’s worth what someone is willing to pay. What’s happening over the rise may seem bad right now, but really, based on the type of development being planned, you should actually see an increase in your property value once the development is finished.”

“How long will that take?” I ask. I don’t really believe him, but I’m still listening.

“Oh, maybe five or more years.”

I sigh. Swallow my pride. Decline his offer of a free home estimate. Take a Tylenol for the pounding behind my eyes. Try to rest. Dream of how it used to look.

A nearby lake in Carburn Park is still accessible 

We do move. Sell the house at double the price we paid only five years earlier. Move into a slightly older but immaculate home with a wonderful mountain view. I’m still walking distance to the river, so I couldn’t be happier.

Fast forward five years.

Today we drove through Quarry Park. Once I got over my resistance to change, we have watched with great curiosity what was rising from the dregs of my favorite pond. Elegant glass, steel and stone office buildings no more than three stories high, landscaped with fountains and flower, with thematic names like “Central Campus” and “Quarry Park West”. Upper middle class residential homes and townhomes in tudor style with rear garages, all in soothing dark neutrals and beautiful sandstone. Retail and restaurant area with our favorite grocery and eating places, a salon spa and—of course—a Starbucks™. Walking pathways, green space, resting benches alongside a lagoon and creek which intersect the center of the development. Executive apartments and a high-end condo development aptly named “Champagne” – penthouse units run nearly $1 million each.

The ugly cement plant has been dismantled. No trace remains. Land is designated for a community recreational complex. Further north, warehouse space is tucked in a discreet area well hidden from residential view. Adjacent older industrial buildings have been decommissioned and moved to a new building further from the roadway. What was a narrow, bumpy, poorly maintained city street is now being widened to four lanes, providing ease of access north and south. Not a single automotive repair shop in sight.

“This is one beautiful development,” my husband exclaims. “It has really improved the entire community.”

I have to agree. Five years earlier, my panic, anger and despair was based on wanting things to stay as they were. What I saw as disaster has, in five short years, become a blessing. I didn’t know what the developer had in mind, so I couldn’t grasp the enormous benefit was going to come from losing my favorite pond.

Perhaps I should remember this lesson for other areas of life. My loving Creator has a greater blueprint for benefits to bestow on my life. What may seem tragic could actually be the beginning of one of the biggest developments in my life. 

As we pass the lagoon, two Canada geese landed softly on the water. The sun reflects a brilliant Alberta sky, and the soft breeze seemed to whisper with a divine accent:

“Trust me.”

Sunset on Pond

Photo credits: Personal collection


  1. This brought tears to mmy eyes because I knew exactly where and what you were referring to. Your words clearly made me rethink some of my frustrations with change as I too lived through major life changes in that exact area. As you put it, "My Creator has a greater blueprint for benefits to bestow on my life. What may seem tragic could actually be the beginning of one of the biggest developments in my life". My job is not to crumple up and throw the blueprints away, or to refuse to do the work the general contractor wants me to do, but rather, to do my job. To read the blueprints as best as I can, to work through the dust and the noise, and to enjoy what is being created before my eyes.

    I look upwards as I ponder these words and think:

    He knows. He created the plan. He drew the blueprint.

  2. Thanks, Joyce. Such a great reminder, and I seem to need it often! "Trust Me."