Dispatches From The North: The Last Day

Note: Rather than do this in any chronological order, I felt that emotional structure was more important to how these pieces of writing should be shared and so, the second last piece that I wrote while away, comes first.

Cars are being packed, trucks loaded and the boat hitch secured in place.

Heading home.

It’s hard to think of leaving this place, let alone actually doing it.

I’ve snuck off to find a rock facing the water to write this from. I don’t even know if it will make it to the blog or not, but there’s something cathartic about writing for it’s own sake that I haven’t explored for some time now. I used to keep a journal but that required me to be honest with myself every day and sometimes the way to get through the hard things is to be dishonest with yourself about them, which my writing cannot abide. The moment my expression requires a denial of my truth or a lying about how I’m really feeling, all creativity immediately grinds to a halt. I couldn’t keep lying to myself and the first thing to go was my writing.

I wanted to pause before lunch and our eventual departure so that I can remember this place as it is right now, sun shining on the sand, waves rolling gently into shore and a toad swimming through shallow waves and waiting for the next one to carry it to wherever it was headed.

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The trip here found me excited, yet suspending my expectations as best I could. Time spent on waters both choppy and smooth helped me clear my mind in a much needed manner. Emptying myself onto the page proved both useful and cleansing in the time that I spent here.

My heart hurt on the journey up north, contemplating the things I needed to lay to rest while wondering what I’m really doing here because I don’t want to waste my breaths. Granted, not all of them need to be filled with grand purpose, but I would like to think that for the majority of the time that I’m here, I’m doing something meaningful with my time. Coming up here, I didn’t know that it was the case and I wondered why I was here. Some days I asked why I was still here, as though stagnancy was surprising when the question itself was so dark. The vacation was more than just a fun getaway- it was a necessary intervention in the flurry of activity I allowed my life to become before going away.

The hallmark of any good vacation is the sense that you’re truly “getting away from it all”, so I hold no illusions about the fact that all I’ve left behind will still be waiting for me when I return; thinking anything else would be equal parts escapism and foolishness.

If that’s what a good vacation is, I think that a great vacation is about getting back in touch with your spark and your “why”. It’s less about what you’re going back to and more about who you are coming back to those things combined with how you feel about them.

It could be the setting here, or how at ease I feel hidden among the trees, so close to water that I can hear the waves whisper at night but while on the beach yesterday, listening to the wind howling over the waves and rustle through the trees, I decided to leave some things here. I know I can’t leave it all, but there are some proclivities, lingering questions and beliefs that chased me like spectres bound to my aura by invisible chains.

Though nature and its abundant luxuries may offer me few tangible solutions, it certainly became my “North Star” over the past week, guiding me back home to the priorities I needed to focus on the most.

Usually, when I go away in any capacity, I have this weird habit of counting down the days I have left and waking up, lingering in bed for a moment, thinking about what time I have left and what I want to do with it. It may not be so strange a thing to do or think, but sometimes I wonder whether it’s a good thing for living in the moment.This time, during this vacation, I woke up simply noticing. Rather than counting or intending or doing anything at all, I just noticed how the blanket felt when I woke up, looked at the light of the morning coming into the windows, listened to the call of birds and straining to see if I could determine by listening, the size of the waves.

I took many photos true, but what I was more content with was the mental images and descriptions I took with me in words or other remembrances meant just for me. My tendency is to reach in yearning and in earnest, for the feeling that I won’t miss out on any part of the great things happening, especially on vacation. There is always so much happening and so much that we could all be doing at any point in time- the possibilities on the island were essentially limitless.

Here, there isn’t anything to miss out on- one look out the kitchen window and I’m treated to a quintessential Northern Ontario scene and from some places we visited, a sweeping landscape so grand that it doesn’t matter what you miss out on because you’re surrounded by so much overflowing. The question came to me more than once- What if there’s never been anything to miss out on? How would I have experienced everything if that were true? 

And then it followed- What if there are no wasted breaths even if I feel the most useless?

It helps too that I set down my “Type A” luggage long enough to stay a while, tucking it into a corner and successfully disconnecting with the drive and ambition that moves mountains when I’m in the “real world”, so that I could reset my “why”.

Maybe the real trick with vacations is not that they give you a reprieve, but that how you spend it is the tug at your soul of the way your life could be if you weren’t so afraid. Thinking more about my priorities and what I spent most of my time doing simply because it thrilled me, I realized that I was terrified. What if I was actually successful at writing and photography? What then? I would be vulnerable. Really vulnerable. And that’s a terrifying thing when being successful scares you.

I actually believed that I wasn’t successful and that I was a perpetual screw-up. If that’s all I knew, I could’ve been given the most amazing opportunity and none of it would’ve mattered because the fear of doing something really well was greater than the curiosity about what would happen if I was to be outstanding at anything.

Spending the week clearing my mind completely helped me see for the first time in over a year how I’d helped and hurt myself, set to the soundtrack of nature at its finest. Self-sabotage, poor choices, opportunities that didn’t feel right from the get-go and other lessons along the way gave me insights into the ways that I was running circles around the things my soul needed to do most. It was like mental and emotional rehab that came with perfect timing.

Epiphanies and that glorious emptying were nature’s gifts to me and the best I could do and can do, is use the tools I come with and know how to use the best: my pen and my camera. Using them seems simple enough but the real trick is to make sure that as easy as it is for these waves to come into the shores in front of me right now, I make easy for myself to soak in all this splendor, because the trees are just as green back home, the creeks just as soothing with their whispers and the winds just as meditative in the way they caress the trees.

That’s the real takeaway from this trip.

It’s time to make it easier on myself. It’s time to be a little more fearless in pursuit of the life that I want.

The difference and common denominator is me.

Come what may, I’m here to be present for the journey, not the ends.

I hope I remember this feeling forever.

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Captured during the first day on Manitoulin, during a misty morning sunrise driving adventure.

On The Wings of Miracles,

~Cheryl~

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