Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Travel Chronicle

I've not made a diary-style entry on this blog for quite awhile, but it seemed the best way to record our recent trip to Canada with the few pictures taken along the way.

It all started with another of Caleb's Canadian cousins deciding to get married, to our great delight, and on Memorial Day  (for us) weekend at that! So we planned our vacation days, booked a little motel in Smith Falls, Canada, and departed from Virginia with well-diapered toddler, safely enveloped passports, too much luggage, just enough food to get eaten up before the Canadian border crossing (homemade beef jerky in the border dumpster wasn't an appealing thought), and having a prized pot of flowers safely deposited in care of our 92-year old neighbor Rosa.

We stayed a night going to and coming from the north country at my parental home in Pennsylvania, where we enjoyed attending Wednesday night prayer meeting at Grace Baptist Church (for Caleb and I, who met at the church, this is a little like going back to the coffee shop where you had your first date) and spending time with two of my brothers and their wives. Here's Uncle Benjamin and Auntie Megan regaling Walter before bedtime with one of Grandma's books.

The trip up to Canada was rather long and weary, especially as it was Walter's first road trip longer than 2 hours. We stopped frequently, including one rest stop in New York where we met two Pakistani couples (one US residing, one visiting for the first time) who asked us to take their group picture and then promptly invited us to sit down and eat with them from their generous supply of spicy chicken curry, naan and mangoes. We asked them to return the photo favor so we could remember the unique moment. Walter was too busy stuffing down spicy chicken to smile for the camera.

Who thinks of hospitality on the road? I certainly don't make a practice of packing enough food to host unexpected guests at a rest stop. It was such a sweet learning moment, and a blessing. I wish we'd gotten another passerby to get a picture of all of us together. There probably would have been enough food for them too! It was superbly delicious, but as we got back on the road, thoroughly bespattered with curry sauce (guess why?) I was already thinking about doing laundry when we got back home. I obviously needed a vacation!

The drive through the Canadian countryside after we crossed the dreaded border (where they didn't even ask if we had any meat or produce) was lovely. I'd never seen the northern profusion of lilacs that bloom across the Canadian countryside in late May like giant lavendar-plumed hedges. I didn't get a photo of them, but it probably wouldn't have done them justice. And there were the sandy-earthed stretches of birch, aspen and ferns that my Michigan-born heart loved. It was good to be north. Our travel listening encouraged this sentiment - C. S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy with Bree whinnying for "Narnia and the north!"

When we got to the little hotel in Smith Falls, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Indian family who operated the hotel lived on the premises. I never told them that I grew up playing with Indian children in Guyana, but it made me feel quite at home to see their shiny black braids and hear their distinctive high pitched voices chattering. Their three little girls all ran out to see "baby boy" and invite him to play on their swing set. He preferred to investigate the riding lawn mower.

After a trip to the slightly bewildering Canadian grocery store, we returned to the motel to cook our supper of chicken and green beans on the camp stove in the chilly evening breeze. It was a decidedly northern evening - light and cold at 8:00.

Grandpa and Grandma Smith had reserved the motel room right next to us, but they didn't arrive till the following afternoon. We visited the nearby locks and canals in the morning, which was very interesting (and slightly terrifying until the very curious toddler was finally strapped into his stroller where he couldn't fall off 8 foot drops into canals). I didn't get any pictures as the phone was charging in the car, but here's one off of a local website (credit) of just one section of the locks where we walked. The path continued along the canal through woods and past houses and was quite lovely.

The afternoon was simply the best of hotel life - microwaved hotdogs, naps, books, and no dishes or laundry.

Friday evening the grandparents arrived, Grandma and I whisked off to Walmart to try another round of bewildering grocery shopping, and then all of us trooped off to see the cousins at Josiah and Jenn's wedding rehearsal. The fact that the wedding program on Saturday went off without a hitch was probably due to the fact that the groom being his own excellent wedding coordinator drilled everyone with remarkable thoroughness in their steps and duties. My husband was thrilled to discover that some assistance was needed with the cordless microphones  and therefore he could technologically participate in the wedding ceremony, which made his pleasure complete.

And then,  Saturday, the wedding! It was simple, sober and sweet with navy blue and baby's breath all round and much singing. We both got teary eyed as the bride came down the aisle in her simple and elegant hand made dress (Caleb and I did - not Walter, who was more delighted that we were keeping him quiet with a tube of kid's toothpaste from my purse). We sang both new and old songs, including one new to me from Psalm 127. Considering that the groom is among the oldest of a family of ten children, the hearty singing of "Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them" gave hope of an equally fruitful future for the newly wed family. We hope that God will so bless them as they show characters fit for being fantastic parents. 

I left partway through the reception to put Walter for a nap at the hotel, and when he (and I) woke up I returned to find the bride and groom still not departed and Caleb helping with clean up. I managed to get a picture with him in the remnants of our wedding finery. And look, I did get capture one of those magnificent lilacs after all - right in the background. Good job, Abby.

The bride and groom finally left the church in united Newton-hood, and back at our motel the evening was clear, crisp and cool. I had such a whim to go and look at the night sky declaring the glory of God in some part of the Canadian wilderness that my rather tired, but kind husband agreed to take me on a creation-gazing date in the direction of Murphy's Point while Grandpa and Grandma agreed to watch Walter at the hotel. We hadn't done anything like this for many moons and it was delightful. We stayed out much too late waiting for it to get dark, as we drove down winding woodsy roads, but it was worth it to see the crescent moon hanging in the deep blue above a forest-enclosed lake, the wind rustling so cool and sweet in the silhouetted leaves and the peepers singing softly. My wish to see the stars covering the unpolluted dark sky wasn't satisfied as we hadn't realized how late full nightfall was already beginning to be at this time of year far north, but it was all beautiful nonetheless.

Sunday was spent with the remaining Newton family, attending church, preparing and eating Sunday dinner with much conversation, and poking around the ever-interesting Newton property which included things like young John's souped-up lawnmower, beans and corn seedlings in homemade seed pots, and two sweet brand-new kittens in the garage. We had a windy walk down their country road, seeing new sown fields and marshy woods sprinkled with ferns and trillium and watching young Tim and Sam spar with sticks. Somewhere my skirt pocket holds gifts of snail shells and leaves, and one shaped like a heart, from those rough but tenderhearted three youngsters who accompanied us. 

Monday morning, Memorial Day, found us packing the car in the rain to head back to the states. I was anticipating a rather dreary and weary trip, but the rain cleared as we neared the border. When we stopped in a poky little town in NY for food, Caleb declared he wanted to eat lunch in a park somewhere and followed some small signs out of town for a state park. The rolling countryside was charming, but I was even more charmed as entered the designated picnic area and saw a vast expanse of twinkling blue with no visible shore, flashing through the trees. It was Lake Ontario! I hadn't been at a Great Lake for so long, and was as happy as a clam to run down to the stony shore and walk at the water's edge after we'd eaten our lunch.

 Walter was rather concerned about the chilly water.

Happy on the pier.

The outing sent Walter into a nice long nap as we resumed our trip southward. He woke up quite cheerful! 

When we at long last reached my parent's home in Pennsylvania, my oldest brother and his wife and their son were there also, having arrived from their new home in western New York for his attendance at the Banner of Truth minister's conference with my dad. It was so good to see them all and to watch the cousins interact as real 'grown up' toddlers for the first time. 

Vacations are sweet when you don't get them often. (Who does? I guess that's the point.) It was good for this small-town mama who doesn't like driving anywhere more than 5 minutes away to pack up and go...well out of the country- and feel the bigness and yet the smallness of the world God has made. It was good to be together with nothing to do but enjoy each other and our family and nature. That's all you need in a vacation, isn't it? A few baby chuckles make it even better.

"The Lord is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made." 

-Psalm 145:9, ESV