"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."
– Joseph Campbell
I was biking west bound along the Parkway past Parliament toward the sunset on the last Friday of July. I had the audiobook, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius playing in my headphones and a smile from ear to ear from the beauty laid out before me. Cruising along with the philosophical insights calmly theorized by a Roman Emperor almost two thousand years before my time, I couldn't help but feel humbled by the privileges fought for the future in a history we could hardly relate to. To my surprise, I came across dozens of intricately placed stone figures mysteriously gazing out from the cusp of the dark waters of the Ottawa River. When I pulled my bike in for a closer look, or rather, when I was pulled in, I couldn’t help but notice the nordic fairyland feeling drifting in as the sun slowly descended. The kid-curious suspicion in me questioned that these fantastical figures weren’t created, but perhaps just came about. Maybe even walked about.
There was a man moseying over to each individual, couple, and family, answering questions about the display of self-expression. When he made his way to me he slowly became shorter than I had perceived, which somehow made the experience more enchanting. He was white haired and weathered, with a spark of knowing in his eyes that held my attention. For a split second the thought of shaking him down for secrets and gold coins crossed my mind, but passed at the immediacy of the social proximity. The man smiled and simply said, “Hello”. I excitedly and promptly asked him if this was his handy work, with what I’m sure looked like a bug-eyed expression of whimsical wildness across my face. He explained effortlessly that it was his heart. His pursuit in life was that of truth. He worked in accordance with nature, and discovered an absolute amidst the relentless conviction of change that nature negotiates with time. “Nature is Truth”, he said. It took me back visibly in the choke of words for a second, before fumbling out a sensible sentence. I told him that the last words of the audiobook I was listening to before pausing at the spectacle, was of Marcus Aurelius saying the exact same thing. He looked at me with a surrender and said, “That’s beautiful”. We both acknowledged the oddity of the meaningful coincidence before he extended his gnarly stone crushed hand with the introduction, “I’m John”.
John Ceprano is a painter, photographer, and rock sculptor who has integrated himself into the heart of Ottawa tourism and into the imagination of those who encounter his creations. You can discover more about John here. I've found that when exploring more of my own community, I'm continuously surprised by the beautiful nature of the land, and it's people.