This statue in Winnipeg Beach is among the 74 that exist across North America and elsewhere in the world in what has become known as "The Trail of the Whispering Giants." They were created by Florida artist Peter Wolf Toth in honor of Aboriginal communities everywhere. PHOTO by MICHEL FOREST.
It was by sheer happenstance that Sandy Hook resident Ed Robbins and his wife Elsie found sculptor Peter Wolf Toth in Edgewater, Florida earlier this year this while wintering in Davenport (Orlando), Florida.
"It was mid-February and my wife and I were just driving around and exploring the area when we found Toth as we drove by a yard full of massive sculptures," said Robbins. "So we went in and started chatting with him, and it didn't take long for us to realize that he was the artist who had sculpted the large statue of an Indian in Winnipeg Beach," he added. Small world...
Needless to say, the e-mail Robbins sent me last week piqued my curiosity and I proceeded to call Peter Toth at his home in Florida this past weekend.
It turns out that our statue in Winnipeg Beach is one of approximately 75 such sculptures created by Toth during the last 40 years, starting with the one in La Jolla, California in 1972. The one in Winnipeg Beach was created in 1992 using ash and was statue number 67 in what has become known as "The Trail of the Whispering Giants."
"They're all whispering giants," said Toth, "And their reason for being is to chronicle the epic struggle of man versus injustice everywhere." He added that all these statues were sculpted as donations (!) to the communities where they were created.
In other words, the artist volunteered his time and his work in exchange for the raw materials and food and lodging while he worked. This kind of selflessness is not something one sees on a daily basis.
Which brings us to National Volunteer Week, which is taking place this week in Canada, April 15-21.
According to the authoritative Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of volunteering in its transitive form means "to offer or bestow voluntarily." And this is what thousands upon thousands of Canadians do every single day of the year, and year after year. Rightly so that they should be recognized for a week each year.
A few weeks ago, I was asked by a senator in Ottawa to draw up a list of people from the community where I grew up that should be considered for the Medal of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Some of the resumes I received were nothing short of astounding as to the amount of volunteering that some people have done for their communities over the years.
It stands to reason that the older the person whose resume it was, the more volunteer work it contained. It put me to mind to wondering what will happen to our generation or the one that follows, will we do the same or will we remain an anonymous mass twittering away in chat rooms and on Facebook or hooked up to I-Pods and X-Boxes and forget that there is a society out there that needs our time and our help. Like hospitals and nursing homes, for example. Or children needing mentors.
We should look up to the generation of our parents because they have set the bar high indeed. And before the last of that generation goes the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker, we should listen carefully to what those "whispering giants" among us are saying.
It is probably the last sane thing that we'll hear in a world that is teetering on the brink of wholesale madness.