As you know from my previous blogs, I spent some on the North Shore of Lake Superior recently. One part of this trip was a visit to Grand Marais, the main “city” in this part of the world. (Its population is about 1300 folks.) Grand Marais has been the site of a beautiful natural harbor for hundreds of years, an element that makes it a pretty popular tourist destination. Early explorers noted that the harbor provided a refuge from Lake Superior’s storms, and by the mid-1800s it was a well-known sheltering spot along the southern shore of the lake. Grand Marais anchors an official Harbor of Refuge, with a 90-mile stretch from Whitefish Point to Munising. 

The role of a good harbor is to provide shelter, as the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge does when storms and waves become too dangerous for ships sailing in this large unsalted lake. When a storm arises, boat captains and crew begin looking for harbors to take refuge in, to keep the ship, people, and cargo while riding out the storm. Once the storm passes, they return to the larger lake and resume their journey.

People need harbors too

It is getting pretty crazy in the world. Competing values, world views, and politics are rampant. When a paradigm starts to shift toward something new, those who benefited from the previous paradigm come out of the woodwork in an attempt to stop the shift. (I believe this is why the news, violence, and rigid positions are so loud and extreme right now.)

People don’t resist something when they don’t think it will create change. Resistance in a system only shows up when people believe a new thought, product, or action will fundamentally change the status quo.

As I see the system dynamics in the world today, climate change and social justice are causing people and corporations to reconsider their thoughts and behaviors. The pressure to create a regenerative economy, instead of an extractive and exploitive economy, is continuing to rise in this world. 

On the daily news, we see the dynamics of a dying paradigm trying to keep things the way they have been. We see a future that is not fully known or one we can visualize clearly. We’re experiencing a messy middle between the dying past and the future. If you are like me, sometimes I find it depressing to listen to or read the news. Some days it seems like we are regressing into violence against each other. On other days there are rays of hope and good news. This roller coaster of events begs the question or a couple of questions: 

  • How do we stay centered and bring our stubborn ounces of weight to the future possibilities we don’t fully see or understand?
  • How do we maintain hope that the future will become significantly better than where we are now and what we have done in the past?

My harbor of refuge

My “harbor of refuge” is actually the juxtaposition between the daily news and my actual lived experience. One of the places I stay renewed and hopeful is through the wonderful people I get to work with every day. They are all focused on making the world a better place in which not only to work but to live. Some focus on gender equity, others on sustainability or leading and designing regenerative organizations. Some focus on social justice, creating lives where people who are differently abled can be welcomed in the community. Others focus on strengthening rural communities so they can thrive in the future.

I get to interact with daily with these people in my work. They are respectful, kind, thoughtful, smart, committed, and hopeful. They are my harbor from the storms of the nightly news, the mass shootings, the war in Ukraine, and the politics of power and self-interest.

When you need a respite from the larger system dynamics, I invite you to look to your life and see if it represents who we can be to one another. A place where interdependence is understood and where our choices are made with the good of the whole in mind.

What is your harbor? Are you a harbor for others in this world?