On Being a Parent

I was watching the kids play on adjacent camp sites, smiling as I listened to the giggles and remembering as I watched the way their bodies moved in strange and fluid ways. It made me very aware of how stiff and achy my body feels – especially in the damp, rainy weather we have been having.

Maybe this old frame of mind also made me aware of how young the parents look; how much energy and how well their bodies work. Then I remember that when my kids were the age of theirs, I was in my early 30’s. I had lots of energy to keep up with the work and play that goes into having children and creating a family. I didn’t realize what I was giving to my children at the time, but now I do as I watch a new generation of parents.

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Later that day I was sitting on the rocky shore, waiting for the sunset, when two young boys came running down to water’s edge, dropped their life jackets and towels, and started into the water. They stopped ankle deep with some guttural sounds that translated to cold.

Dad soon followed and the youngest one asked Dad to carry him on his back. Dad hoisted him up and they slowly started walking out on the stone ledges, stepping down into deeper and deeper water.

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The water was really cold, not the 28 degrees Celsius (80 F) the father had laughingly assured me it was when I spoke to him. The older son started making noises about wanting to go back and his father said, in a voice that closed off discussion, that they were going in. Reading between the lines, I would guess that the boys had begged to go swimming, maybe even harassed their dad, and now he was going to make them live with their decision. But not alone, he was with them.

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They walked out a ways and all of a sudden they were in the sun that was setting behind the Bruce Peninsula. The beauty of their bodies warmed in the evening glow, against the cold blue of the water, took my breath away. I started snapping. It was only later that I saw the intimacy in those magical moments. To appreciate what I saw click on any photo to enlarge.

I thought a long time about what I witnessed. We teach our children so much by our relationships with them. As I vicariously participated in this experience, from the warmth of the shore, I heard how Dad taught them to follow through on decisions made, to persevere even when the going gets uncomfortable, and to carefully plot a course. What I wasn’t able to feel was the warmth of Dad’s hug, the kiss planted in my hair, and the elation that we had been victorious. This is truly priceless, but I hadn’t made the investment, I had stayed on the shore!

A Rocky Beach Reflection

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The beach is rocky and I find a little ledge to sit on close to the water. My anticipation of a sunset precedes the actual event so I have lots of time to think. I’m alone except for a half dozen people far away.

I am used to sandy beaches so this feels a little foreign to me but also there is something very familiar – I have many neurons holding information, memories, of being on the shores of our Great Lakes. This stretch is on the southern shore of the Georgian Bay in Ontario Canada. After spending the winter on the salt-water Gulf of Mexico, I once again experience the wonder of the clarity and sparkle of the fresh water.

rocky beach 014I enjoy watching the water, the gentle waves, as they break around the edges of the shingled rock shore. It starts me thinking about how these two forces, the great rocky beach 004power of the water and the hardness of the rock, are continually interacting and changing each other. They have been for millions of years until we have what is now.

Sometimes we forget that what we encounter changes us – or should – in a good way. I feel sorry for people whose minds are so rigid that they have a hard time changing, or people who lack the ability to shape their minds toward resiliency. Maybe I am thinking of this because at my age I have seen so much change and sometimes I wish things would just stay the same, but they don’t, not even for a little while.

Owen Sound 017We visited Owen Sound because JB’s father was born at Shallow Lake and JB wanted to see the house where his father was born and the one where his grandfather lived and to visit the graves of the few other relatives that went before him. We did all that, and as we were sitting one evening having a cup of tea JB said he never needed to come back. It wasn’t is a bitter way, but with sadness. He said there wasn’t anyone left and everything was changing here. It wasn’t the same as when he came as a small child, with his father to visit his grandfather and aunt. It wasn’t the same as when he brought the kids camping and took them to see the things that he had seen as a child. I took photographs for him, that was all he needed.

Yes, the world is changing and we can either try to hang onto what was or we can move one. JB said he was moving on – and I am moving on with him. We have new places to explore and new people to meet. We are moving on with a smiles on our faces because we have great memories of what was, and we know that we are changed because of what has gone before – usually for the better.



Beauty Thru my Lens: Chapel Doors

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We went back to the cemetery today, where yesterday we were told we were lost. Today we had an all day rain, and we were beginning to get cabin fever. On JB’s agenda was visiting family graves. When I saw these doors on a small chapel that is no longer used, my heart skipped a beat. They are among the most beautiful doors I have ever seen.

Think of all the tears that were shed on this threshold. Were there evil thoughts about the deceased or plots devised against other heirs? How many hearts were heavy with regret? Or maybe there were a few who rejoiced – like the family of my friend’s mother-in-law when she died. They said it was the nicest thing she ever did for anyone. She must have been one mean person.

I wonder if people who don’t care what people think of them when they are alive, care after they have died. Of course that only applies if we believe the spirit lives on after the body has stopped working. I don’t know what happens after death, because there isn’t much scientific data on spirits, but it seems to give my life more meaning if I believe some form of me will continue. I also like to think the spirit of the people I have loved are waiting to great me. Do you think believing that our spirit lives on provides a moral compass for our daily interactions with people?

There is so much we don’t know, and that makes life so exciting.

Of Farmer’s Markets and a Cemetery

Farmer’s markets are one of the great joys of summer. We stumbled upon this one when we walked through the park in Bayfield, Ontario as we are beginning a traveling vacation in Canada. We stopped for one of the light lunches out of our frig that we enjoy so much, and then set off in search of some ice cream. The ice cream was yummy and by luck we found the farmer’s market on our way back – all in close proximity to where we parked.

Our destination was Owen Sound, on the southern coast of the Georgian Bay. JB’s father is from this area so he has visited many times – and I’ve been here twice. He was doing a good job of navigating me to the city park where we are camping for a few nights – until we came to a fork in the road and he tells me to go right. We head up a very steep hill and he knows it was a wrong call. At the top I stop so we can decide to go right or left and if I have the right of way. A car honks behind me and cars coming from both directions are waiting – I decide I need to move and JB says left. He soon knows where we are and says the city cemetery is just ahead and if I turn in…

Well I am winding my way through narrow lanes with a 22 foot trailer in tow until we come to the end, and then we are bouncing along a pocked narrow lane across the back of the cemetery that he says will lead us out the back way. Wrong. I turn at the only turn available to me, leading back into the cemetery and there is a young man walking towards us. He stops us and indicates for me to roll down my window. “You are lost.”

“What was your first clue,” I say through tears of laughter as I picture the situation from his perspective.

“When you stopped on the hill.” He was the person who honked at me. “I bet you are looking for Harrison Park.” I fumble with something about whether we would be happier camping in the cemetery or the park but he doesn’t get it. He is there to rescue us and I am grateful. He says he will escort us to the park and heads back to his car.

When we get to the park he tells us about the folk festival happening in town this weekend and the best place to eat. “Be sure to order the Snowball desert.” And he is off after wishing us a great week-end.

“You are lost.” We really weren’t, not totally, but what a great pick-up line..