Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Digging dahlias in the dark

I’ll apologise in advance if anyone reading this is expecting it to be full of tales of adventures, because you’ll be disappointed. It already feels like years, rather than a little less than six months ago, that I was waiting at Gatwick airport for my flight to Toronto, full of anticipation mixed with intrepidation at the unknown and maybe a little bit of anxiety thrown in for good measure. I was however fairly confident that I knew pretty much how my summer in Canada would pan out. How wrong I was.

In a couple of weeks time I have to leave here and to be honest I’m not really looking forward to it at all. Not because I’m not excited to move on to new adventures, but because I hate saying goodbye to people and there are a few people here that I will find it very hard to leave behind. I guess that’s one of the downsides to travelling that the guidebooks don't warn you about.

Since mid October I've been back in Georgian Bluffs, enjoying the pace of life typical of rural Ontario and loving it. With most of the summer cottage dwellers now back at home, it’s an even quieter place...hard to imagine when the population here is so tiny to start with. Still obvious though is the wonderful community spirit that I loved so much the first time I was here. It’s a very different place in the fall to how it was in the summer, but still a place I love very much and I don’t want to leave, so you’re going to have to put up with my slightly irritable mood for the time being.

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With the onset of wintery weather and the nights drawing in there has been less time spent out in the garden, but nonetheless there has still been plenty to do outside...tidying up for the winter, packing away furniture and pots and trying to squeeze hundreds of plants into greenhouse and outbuildings. There has even been time for a few new projects such as building an old ruin-style wall and planting bulbs. Days when the weather hasn’t been so good have been put to good use working on new information boards for the nature trail and evenings spent at the homes of friends who are braving the bleakness of winter up here. There have also been enough nice days to allow for trips out up the peninsula....a few weeks ago a beautiful sunny Sunday spent walking on the beach at Singing Sands and Dorcas Bay, and another day a trip out to the grotto at Cyprus Lake – all on my favourite stretch of lakeshore.

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Now the snow has arrived too, only about a foot so far, but enough to warrant the daily shovelling of paths and to be wearing an extra couple of layers of clothes and warm boots. With the temperature during the last week or two well into minus figures, it has felt decidedly wintery. Last weekend was the laziest one I’ve spent so far in Canada – on Saturday I spent the day with a friend sat in front of the wood stove watching The Wire and drinking tea, and on Sunday some neighbours visited in the morning and then I went with Susan to a very festive concert by a local choir at the church in Wiarton. I never thought I’d say it, but I could get used to this way of life.

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On the whole though it’s been quiet and I’ve spent a lot of my time thinking. I’ve realised a lot of things in the last few weeks as a result of conversations I’ve had with people I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with, things that have given some clarity to how I’ve been feeling about this trip, what I should do next and various other things that have been on my mind. As cliched as it sounds, I’ve come to realise a few things about myself too, which is good because I think learning has probably always been my underlying motive.

I found a poem today by Sylvia Forges-Ryan, the prologue in a haiku book I got in a thrift store, that sums up all of this quite well and most importantly has reminded me not to look for too much meaning in things or to over-analyse; that sometimes it’s better just to let things be...something that's not a strong point of mine:
We try to believe
the wide shawl
of the black
night sky
is stitched
with infinite
care and design.

We want to feel
in a garden of ten
thousand flowers
one life
means something
or anything
at all.

Some have found joy
in visions grand
as a celestial rose
or humble as heaven
in the palm of a hand.

But why this need
to elaborate
the mystery
of all that is?

Is it not enough
and more
to leave it all
To simply name
and let it

As here
in this patch
of violets, in this stone
and in the encompassing

So, I finally bit the bullet the other day and booked a new flight to Mexico; I leave Canada on 18th December headed for Cancun as my visa runs out on Christmas Eve and the cost of flights after the 18th rises steeply. My kiwi friend, Sharen, is coming with me and we’re going to go on an adventure that hopefully will also take in Belize, Cuba and Hawaii, so I’m trying to be positive and look forward to what awaits rather than count down the days until I have to say goodbye to this beautiful country and my friends here. I was hoping that I’d be more accepting of the thought of leaving by now but if anything I want to leave even less. I still have a couple of weeks to get my head round the idea and to sum up some enthusiasm for new adventures, but I have a feeling I’ll be back here before too long.

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