Sweet inspiration

Oscar Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man on no legs”, became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics at the 2012 London games. When he was 11 months old, his legs were amputated halfway between his knees and ankles. Oscar is shown here with Ellie Challs, a quadruple amputee.

The theme of this blog post has been nagging at me for at least three weeks: Where and when do I find inspiration? How is my hope in humankind renewed in the face of daily reports of cruelty, incompetence and indifference? Who are my heroes, my mentors?

I think we have all been inspired by physical achievements: moments in sport, like the picture of Pistorius above. Both of our sons inspired me with their dedication and discipline in their chosen sports… and other exploits and adventures. They thus have both encouraged me in my endeavours. My husband has shown me what is possible by believing in a dream and working to achieve it; from climbing 75 mountains for Alberta’s 75 birthday to founding the Canmore Tennis Club to laying carpeting down in McMahon Stadium for the ’88 Olympics Opening Ceremonies…and beyond.

Then yesterday afternoon when I returned from my daughter-in-law’s baby shower in Calgary – baby’s due October 29 –  my husband told me a story of incredible act of bravery performed by a good pal of his. Here’s the story he told me:

“I ran into Christa Ratchford on the edge of the Bow River. She was feeling a little low and took the day off work. While playing on her lap top, she happened to glance out the window to see a hang glider soaring high above, doing lazy circles in the sky. A moment later and the same hang glider plummeted into the Bow river in front of her home! She called 911 and, clad only in her dressing gown, rushed to the river bank. Christa ran upstream and using her long forgotten skills as a life guard and clad only in her skivvies, she dove into the strong current to rescue the downed pilot. Amazingly she intercepted the downed glider; the pilot was face down in the water with a severe head injury. Christa applied mouth-to-mouth and the man began breathing on his own and threw up in Christa’s face. She then set about extracting the guy from his flying harness in order to get to shore. This must taken some time and the water is very cold and the current strong. Once untangled from the glider, Christa then swam with pilot in tow until she reached shallower water and pulled him to shore. After all this she was alone on the west bank by the boat launch with not a soul to help and the victim bleeding heavily from a head wound. . EMS didn’t show for another 10 minutes or so. Usually the river bank is full of hikers and dog walkers at this time of day but Christa was alone. Seeing as she found the man face down and lungs full of water, I would say she saved the guy’s life – no question. If she had not risked her personal safety, but only waited for help, a life would have been lost. Christa is a heroine of the first order and a lifesaver as well.”

Wow. Just wow. Such selfless courage…that’s inspiring. Coming just after Neil Armstrong’s passing, it nudged me into sharing some of the people, things and music that give me heart as we launch the school year, here at Canadian Rockies Public Schools District. Perhaps you’ll find something new to boost your spirits and re-energize.  Please share some yours in the comments section.

TED talks are often uniquely fascinating and motivational. Here is a list of the 20 most watched. The top three stayed with me; I have watched them each at least three times.

Ever since I heard Vin Garbutt do this poem – “If” by Rudyard Kipling –  in Canmore some 30 years ago, it has been my favourite version of this exhortation to “…be a man, my son.” A friend recently pointed out that it would be wonderful to have an inspirational poem like this for girls; any suggestions? Or could we just change the words slightly here?

Hiking in our wonderful mountains, where the air does fizz like champagne, the wonder of the views brings me joy…

Part of the territory around Mount Assiniboine. Taken July 2012.

and the tenacity of windblown plants to adapt and grow…

Taken at the top of West Wind Pass Trail, off  Spray Lakes road (Hwy 742), Kananaskis Country

…this is a persistent reminder of resilience and strength in harsh circumstances.

Twitter, that trivial-sounding social medium, inspires me profoundly on a daily basis. It also angers me, makes me laugh, introduces me to people I never would have met otherwise. Some of these folks are very brave. They state their views unvarnished and it can be hard to read because the truth is hard to swallow, sometimes. One of these is Laurie Penny or @PennyRed –  her twitter handle.  Her bio: Author, journalist, feminist, reprobate, tea-drinker, gentlewoman of fortune. Writes for The Independent and many others. Views my own. From the responses to her articles, Laurie provides inspiration, comfort and courage to many. If you visit her blog, be aware some of the content may contain foul language and adult subject matter.  It will also move you and make you think.

I  am very lucky to have family and friends who encourage and inspire me. I won’t embarrass them all by naming them here; I am pretty sure you know who you are. I do want to mention my sister, Judy Evans, and my father-in-law, Eldon Comfort.

L-R: Linda Evans, Judy Evans and Esmé Comfort (née Evans)

My sister Judy is 67. At age 21, she was diagnosed as suffering from catatonic schizophrenia. Judy has taught me about real day-to-day, duking-it-out courage. I just want to give her a shout-out for her toughness and her positivity. Some day I’ll do a post just about her life. Also shown in this picture is my sister-in-law, Linda Evans. She has been there for Judy for decades without any family obligation – she and my brother separated over 30 years ago. Linda gave me some of the best advice I got in my life and has inspired me with her honesty and affection.




Eldon Comfort will turn 100 in about six weeks. Sound of mind and (pretty) sound of body, he is an amazing individual. He has taught me about lifelong learning and activism. I admire him greatly. We are planning a dandy birthday celebration. Oh, and the Grey Cup is 100 in 2012 also; it is taking place in Toronto, Eldon’s home.  Seems like a no-brainer to me to put the two together, but so far #CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon has not seen the beauty of my logic.  Should any of you out there hold any sway with @canadiancommish, please use that influence for good.


I had better pull up now. I realize there is a multiplicity of inspirational influences which act on me: art, creativity and more music. I could be here all night. So this will do for now except…

…”the kids”, our students, inspire me. And our teachers, administration and staff. I feel privileged to serve as a trustee. I can’t wait to see the mountains we’ll climb and the vistas we’ll see. Welcome back.

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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8 Responses to Sweet inspiration

  1. Nancy DaDalt says:

    Wow Esme. Thank you for this piece of inspiration, on so many levels. I read your message from start to finish. That’s hard to do these days. I look forward to another year and tip my hat and thank you for your commitment and courage and time for our schools, our children!

  2. Esme, I am inspired most by nature. When things get me down I go outside and a tree or a mountain or creek remind me that the divine is all around us, we have only to open our eyes and breath in. The people in my life, the ones I love and and the ones who drive me crazy, inspire me. It may be true in fact that the greater lessons come from those I am less fond of. You know I am a reader and books are windows into the minds of great thinkers all through the ages. Art and music inspire me to reach beyond everyday aspirations.

  3. Wendy Bush says:

    Awesome Esme! !!!!!!XXXXXXX

  4. Lovely thoughts shared today Esmé. Sometimes I forget to look closer to home for inspiration. Thank you for the reminder.

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