Plot Twist



I take it back.

When it began to snow a few days ago, I cavalierly told a friend I doubted it would last, and that this was just a taste of the winter yet to come. After a weekend that can only be described as a fall snowpocalypse, I recognize winter has arrived and has no intention of departing.

It seems it is just the latest plot twist in what has been a Fort McMurray year filled with them.

It’s a bit surreal at times, like we are living in some made-for-television melodrama in which every episode includes an unexpected pivot of the story.

The examples are endless.

Plot twist: a community that had become so accustomed to forest fires that it had grown a bit complacent about them suddenly finds itself under one of the largest evacuation orders in Canadian history, and almost 90,000 people flee.

Plot twist: local hero firefighter beats cancer into remission, but just hours after returning home from extensive and exhausting treatments is driven from his home which is then lost to the flames – and then his cancer returns.

Plot twist: local canine superstar who rode to fame on the back of a motorcycle returns from another of his infamous trips with his owner and dies just days later of an undiagnosed tumour after being unable to secure emergency veterinary services.

Plot twist: a friend’s house survives the flames, only to be destroyed days later in an explosion that levels several homes.

Plot twist: the firefighters fighting the flames lose their own homes to the very same fire they are fighting, but bravely battle on.

Plot twist: the tens of thousands who evacuated come home almost a month later to a landscape and a community forever changed, realizing the crisis hasn’t ended but really only just begun.

Plot twist: the very same media that once dismissed a community as the home of crime and drug abuse and the last stronghold of a “Wild West” mentality suddenly tells stories of it’s fortitude, courage and resilience

Plot twist: the region becomes famous not for the “tar sands” industry (as those outside the region are prone to calling it as opposed to oil sands) but for a natural disaster virtually unprecedented in our nation.

It is, in a word, dizzying. Frankly, it is perhaps the least believable television series ever aired, the kind where viewers would throw things at their screens as the latest absurdity was revealed by scriptwriters who clearly think they can stretch the limits of credulity.

Except this is no television series, and these plot twists are our lives.

It has been an entire year of plot twists, and many of them have not been positive ones.

But there have been other plot twists, too.

The remarkable bravery shown on May 3rd and the following days. The way neighbours help each other in new ways and with renewed intensity. The way we all look at each other, knowing that we have shared something both tragic and unique and compelling and, in some very bizarre and terrible way, special.

The truth is that life is a series of plot twists. So many of our favourite adages, like the ones about our best laid plans, focus on the fact that life rarely, if ever, goes the way we think it will. Just like the quote in Jurassic Park, “life will find a way” – but in this case it will find a way to surprise us, enlighten us, teach us, floor us, amaze us and sometimes even bring us to our knees.

And that is life, filled with crazy plot twists and unusual characters and moments that are sad and funny and sometimes both at the same time. What a boring existence it would be without these plot twists, even though when they are occurring we likely wonder why we are being subjected to yet another one.

It can be hard at times to remember that nobody is writing this script. Unlike television, there is no crafting of especially dramatic moments just to thrill the viewer; this is simply how life unfolds sometimes. And what we take away from it?

Well, that is up to us.

Plot twists happen. What matters is how we respond to them, and whether we allow them to break us or make us.

And the next plot twist? Well, that is unknown, of course. All that is known is that there will be one.

Because there always is.


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