Monday, June 2, 2014

Country Roads

A friend and I set out on a loosely structured adventure yesterday. As she laid out her suggestions, I quietly panicked inside. These were new roads for me. New roads scare me.

Then I realized that these were well travelled, paved highways and the chances of losing a wheel in a pothole or sliding off of a gravel road into a slough were minimal. My anxiety quickly passed and I started to anticipate what we may see along our travels.

The very best thing about our mini adventure was the lack of expectations, our mutual appreciation of the birds (oh! the birds!!) we spotted along the way, the view of the rolling hills as we travelled down this new, country road and simply the wide open space before us.

There is something very therapeutic about placing some distance between where-you-are and where-you-live. Worries take a back seat,  your heart takes on the beat of the rhythm of your day and you feel a sense of peace seep into your bones.

We both have roots that are based on growing up on a farm. That is quite possibly where the similarity of our stories start and end. She lived her whole life on a farm. I moved off our farm and into a booming metropolis at the ripe old age of nine. It amazes me what an impact of those first nine years have made in me.

When we walked into a deserted small town restaurant, it smelled like my childhood. Oh, the anticipation of those rare restaurant meals. Meals! Ha!! As if I ever ate anything but French fries as a child!! But it still felt very good and very right.

We (I) accidentally drove past the first point-of-interest on our Country Road Adventure. I didn't understand that the name of the game was that our destinations would take a small amount of seeking out. I expected signs on the highway to direct us to the inconsequential items on our itinerary. I would be wrong. And so would begin the most interesting part of our day. Seeking out and finding these points of interest within small town Saskatchewan.

Our first successful find was a pedestrian bridge. We were welcomed by a most friendly dog that acted like she had known us for forever. 

She escorted us up and down the bridge, walking right beside us as if to guide us along our way safely. I would love to know her story. I wanted to believe that she was a modern version of The Littlest Hobo - a homeless dog that spread goodwill and kindness (and acts of heroism) wherever she went. 

We were headed out of town when we spotted tourist signs for the pedestrian bridge that we thought that we had already found. So we followed where the signs told us to go and found an empty parking lot which led us to the locked gate which prevented us from going any further down that particular path. 

The bridge that we had originally intended to find was barricaded and there was no friendly ambassador to walk us safely to the other side. So we simply stood still and listened. The birds were in their glory in this sanctuary. The water, the trees, the quiet, the stillness ... it was absolutely heavenly. This bridge invited us to stay still and savor the moment. Our adventure was all about going with the flow of the day and this time the flow reminded us to be still. We listened.

The last destination on our flexible agenda was in the ghost town where two of my mom's sisters were born and where my great aunt had once lived. It was a place where some of my family's roots originated and it was called "Family Tree Forest and Gardens". This ... was the destination that I had been anticipating the most.

My friend and I are 'all about' honoring, remembering and documenting our family's stories and preserving our little bit of history within this great big world. I loved everything about what this place stood for. 

We circled the town without any luck. Luckily we found one lone soul sitting on her front stoop and asked for directions. We found our way and this is what we found:

It was beautiful. They took a piece of pasture land and turned it into a 'Family Tree Forest'. Their creation has been (at least) ten years in the making and each tree has been planted by hand. A small excerpt from their website is: "Trees put down deep roots, they are majestic, they bend and sway when the winds blow, but they stand firm against adversity. They are strong, and yet bend when they need to."

I knew when we found this place I would feel like I had 'come home again'. Sadly, life's true blessings and unexpected pleasures rarely come where you expect to find them. The property felt abandoned and the one lone man who we spotted seemed to avert our attention when we tried to approach him. We looked at each other and said, "There is a story here ..." (just not the one that we expected to find).

We made one last pit stop before we turned the car back in the direction of home and shared that much coveted order of French fries (something we both remember from our childhood).

We ended our adventure by travelling down those gravel roads that I feared the most to stop in and visit my Middle Son and his girlfriend at their farm. That ... was quite likely the highlight of the trip for me. 

My own son is working hard to put down his own roots. His roots don't go deep yet but they are weathering the adversity of these challenging times. They are becoming stronger and bending without breaking. 

My children are branches of me and my history. My heart swells when I feel my son's connection to land, history and establishing  his own independent 'roots'. 

Small town Saskatchewan has changed since I was a child. The land that our ancestors cleared by hand is now being farmed by big corporations. Abandoned family farms are scattered among the country side. The wind of change is (and has been) in the air for quite some time. 

Yet, there are still pioneers among us. People planting trees one-by-one. Young couples are forging out of the city and building their homes in the countryside. 

All is not lost. Not yet. 

As we drove down those country roads, they took me 'home' again. Back to a place where I belong. My roots are firmly entrenched within the family that I was born into. I am so very fortunate to have collected memories, stories and history that tie me to this land. It may be a tenuous bond, but it is a bond none-the-less.

Immerse yourself in your own family's history once in a while. Travel down roads that take you to places you visited as a child. Revisit your past every once in a while. Don't forget where you have come from. Put down deep roots. They will help you stand firm against adversity.

Travel down your own country road...

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