I ended my previous blog with news that our brother Hank was dying, and so we had put our travel plans on hold while we did what was most important. For those who do not follow me on FaceBook, I posted more news there: that Hank had passed away on Sunday August 28 and was buried the following Friday. On Saturday we resumed our travels.
As I’m writing this, we are in St. Anns, Nova Scotia, a tiny hamlet about 15 km. North of Baddeck on Bras d’Or Lake. The motel is situated at the end of St. Ann’s Bay and from the window of our room, at night we can see the lights of ships going by on the ocean.
“What’s wrong, babe?,” asks the resident sweetie. “You look sad.” He’s being kind: I’ve been cranky. The wheels have fallen off for me today.
Perhaps this was bound to happen. We’ve been through a lot in the last two weeks. It was a sacred time, a time when we were surrounded by family. And it was an emotional time. One moment we would be filled with gratitude that the three brothers had been able to spend a splendid last week together, that in some mystical way we were supposed to be there that week. But the next moment, we’d be stressed by the uncertainty of the situation.
When we resumed our travels, we put in some long days to catch up with
the parts of our journey that we didn’t want to miss. We were carried
along by adrenalin, high on the beauty of the St. Lawrence river and the
villages of the Gaspe.
But somewhere along the way, the adrenalin ran out and we began to run on empty.
“Be kind to yourself,” advised a friend. “You’ll need to rest, to take time to process all that has happened.”
How do you process the highs and lows of a road trip, and all the experiences that entails? How do you stick to an itinerary and still find rest? How do you come to a place of peace, and how do you rekindle your zest for adventure?
I think about things I would normally do in times of turmoil. I turn to my writing. When I write, I figure out a lot of truths about myself and my life. But the insights don’t come. I don’t know how to finish this blog, so I stop writing. I’m still cranky. But it’s a start.
Day 2: We are on our way to Cheticamp – a short drive, but packed full of stunning sights, as well as enticing craft shops, funky eateries, and charming villages. This was the final destination of our road trip, before we turn around to go home again. It’s the road we travelled 51 years ago on our honeymoon. It is a good day. We stop often.
We reminisce. We talk a little about the way we’ve changed. This morning I had read an article about the ins and outs, ups and downs of a long marriage – the petty annoyances, the frustrations, the misunderstandings, the grey and gritty times, as well as the highs and joys and blessings of knowing you are joined in heart to someone who loves you. The psychologists who wrote the article says it’s like life: anything worthwhile takes a lot of effort. We agree.
Then we arrive at our destination. What a disappointment! The upgraded motel room we sprang for is a spartan affair.
Only one burner on the stove works. We can’t connect to the internet. There's a list of rules -- beware if you don't obey, you'll be heavily fined. (Of course, we were planning on fish cakes for supper that night.) There’s a howling wind that makes it hard to be outside. Now it’s Al’s turn to feel down, to doubt whether this trip was a good idea, after all. His back hurts. We have to plan the rest of our trip, but we have no internet to book anything. And the prospect of the long drive back home is daunting. ]
I walk alone in the wind, and see a marvellous sunset.
Maybe it will be okay, after all. It’s like life: anything worthwhile takes a lot of persistence and effort.
Day Three: It’s Sunday. I use precious data allowance on my cell phone to check out my email and facebook feeds, looking for my favourite spiritual posts by Father Richard and Diana Butler Bass. They will be my Sunday morning devotions.
As I wait for the phone to connect, I look up and around. Just outside the door lies the ocean – wow! And something in me shifts. Wow! We are here! Wow! (Al says I am a “three wow” person. He is a “one wow” kind of guy, and a mild “one wow” at that. Just one of the ways we are different.)
And here’s what I find – a blessing by John O’Donohue on the Contemplative Monk website:
When you travel,
A new silence goes with you
And if you listen,
You will hear what your heart would love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing.
Make sure, before you go,
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast,
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you towards
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life;
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
(Excerpt from the blessing “For the traveler” found in his book “To Bless the Space Between Us”.)
I read it aloud to Al, and he agrees: it’s time to dump the ballast, the petty annoyances of this journey, and free our spirits to explore what lies in store. I think we're going to be okay.
Later that evening, we park our lawn chairs by the ocean and watch another sunset. Wow!Wow! Wow!