If I were to give 2017 a title it would be “A Celebration of All Things Canada”. It goes without saying that I delighted in celebrating our Sesquicentennial Year! Jim and I chose to spend the entire year within the borders of Canada, exploring as much of this great country as we could.
Our travels took us from the easternmost point of Canada, Cape Spear, located on the Avalon Peninsula near St. John's, Newfoundland, where we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise one June morning, to Vancouver, British Columbia, where although we did not set foot on Vancouver Island, we could see it from the shores of North Vancouver.
When people ask what I liked the best, I have a very hard time answering in a simple sentence. Of course, I loved seeing, in person, so many of the sights that I have read about in books and imagined in my mind. Standing in Bonavista, Newfoundland, felt like a coming home. Throughout my whole childhood, my sisters and I would sing ‘This Land is Your Land’, and of course the line in the song ‘from Bonavista to Vancouver Island’ was one that stuck out in my mind. The feeling I had standing there was indescribable. It was like I could feel bits of my childhood coming back into focus.
When we went to Nova Scotia, driving down the South Shore was breathtaking as was the drive along the Cabot Trail. This has been on my ‘list’ for many years now. But it was not any of these sights that were my favourite; my favourite was having an outdoor lunch at the cottage of the parents of our son-in-law, Matt. Hughie and April greeted us as if we were family, and we had the most wonderful afternoon visiting, getting a sense of where Matt grew up and understanding where his incredible sense of decency was born.
A close second in Nova Scotia was visiting a pub one evening where fiddle music was the order of the night. As we watched the sunset over the ocean and listened to the beautiful Celtic strains coming from the talented musicians, I was completely at peace. No museum or monument or sight could have outdone the feeling I had.
In New Brunswick, I loved walking on the floor of the ocean at Hopewell Rocks. I loved feeling tiny as we wandered along the beach. But most of all, I loved being with my cousins and aunt and uncle. Here is where I was reminded of my childhood summers, where I was most connected to my extended family and where I felt so accepted.
Prince Edward Island gave me the feeling of imagination as Jim and I biked along the red dirt bike trail, part of the Trans Canada Railtrail System. I could somehow imagine Anne of Green Gables passing by us on her bike as she went to meet Dianna. This gave me time to recognize where my love of reading was born.
Similarly, in Ottawa, even though we were just hours too late to skate on the Rideau Canal, I can’t imagine how that trip could have been better. Meeting up with my childhood family friend, Louanne, was the best gift ever. She shared memories with me that no one else on earth could have and our few days with her are ones I cherish. Ironically, not being able to skate on the canal means that we will definitely keep Ottawa on our list, and I’ll get to reconnect with Louanne again.
Throughout our year, the same theme appeared over and over, winding its way through our travels like a beautiful gold thread. In Ontario, I loved the sights of course. But much more than that, I loved spending a short few hours with high school friends that I have not seen in forty years. These people reminded me of who I was, and they gave me a glimpse back into a time in my life that set me on the course I follow today.
On and on it went, right across the country, all the way to Whistler, BC, where we were lucky to spend a long weekend with our whole family. Again, the scenery was breathtaking. Again, it surpassed every picture I have ever seen. Again, the thing I loved most about it was not the scenery, but the simple run I took one drizzly morning, through the trees and along a lake thinking about how lucky I was to simply be there and to have my whole family safely with us.
Even this past week as we spent time in Ontario with Greg and Cara, we got to visit some of the farmland of Southwestern Ontario where Cara was raised. Once again, the sights outside were nothing in comparison to the welcome and love we received around the table at Cara’s parents, Sharon and Dan’s place.
The gold thread that seems to have woven itself through the fabric of 2017, Canada’s 150th Birthday, is that of connection. Our travels, that began with a goal of finding as many Red Chairs as we could in our National Parks, have instead connected me to lost friends, to forgotten memories, to simple pleasures, to the importance of loved ones, and to the appreciation of sharing every minute of it with Jim.
I heard a definition of happiness this week. Rita Mae Brown said:
Happiness is pretty simple: Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to.
I didn’t know this recipe when the year started but somehow, it seems to fit perfectly with this past year I have loved so much. I have no idea what 2018 holds in store. Over this next week I will be setting some new goals, planning my next adventures and dreaming of things to come, but for now, I am content to spend some time in gratitude; gratitude for a year that brought me gifts I never knew I was seeking.
My inquiry for you this week is ‘What are the hidden gifts here?’
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Book a session with Elizabeth to learn how to incorporate the tool of gratitude into your life.
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