The most challenging aspect of the pandemic, to me, is the loss of connections. The loss of the quick coffee chat, the friendly hike, or an actual week long trip–all gone. In their place were video chats, on-line conferences and courses, all taking place on multiple platforms. I am grateful these options exist, but they are not the same. I don’t receive the same feeling of connection. It is the different between a hug and a “talk to you later!” on a phone call. Both are nice, but one sticks with me longer and warms up my heart.
We transferred countries months before lockdown began. Leaving Europe for North America. We were meeting people, making connections, it was all at its infancy. Then borders closed. We were outside of the country our new residence visiting our passport country. Like many people, we had to make hard decisions for all the time since.
The decision to spend more time in our passport country has lead to deeper, quality time spent with a few people we are close too. We have not lived in Canada for years, so previously our trips were sparse and filled with drives up and down the QE2 spending time with family and friends. This time we were able to spend quality time with a small group of people, building new memories.
A wonderful week was spent in July with much of my extended family; cousins, siblings, and parents. With trips cancelled and delayed, many of us were able to meet over a week and camp in our grandma’s yard together. It was a place filled with memories of our childhoods, memories we spent time exploring with each other, our parents, and our kids. We laughed late into the night and started over again in the morning. I missed this.
It is amazing how quickly I returned to my childhood. Going for walks with my cousins in the fields filled with bales of hay. Walking along the driveway as the kids rode their bikes in front of us. Water fights on grandma’s lawn. Campfires in the yard surrounded by family and friends, all of us singing as someone played guitar. Though, as an adult, I noticed the mosquitoes more and hid in the screened in tent when they were especially hungry.
I have cousins who are creative who made us a set decals for the family. Now we have some extra warmth to take home with us and reminisce in.
After the family camping trip, we returned to the Calgary area, happy and tired from the time spent with family. It took a few days to recover from all the laughter, late nights, and family time. But we are fortunate to have more family down here as well and spent time with them.
There is another, important aspect, that drew us to live near Calgary, Alberta: The Rocky Mountains.
Crisp air, gurgling creeks, roaring waterfalls, beaten paths: all call me to the mountains. The air is so fresh it cleans out my lungs and makes me feel lighter. This year was different with the forest fires raging across British Columbia. What looks like fog or mist was actually smoke and every once and a while I would be reminded by its smell again. No matter how high I climbed in the mountains, I could still not see through the mountain pass. It was concerning. But then again, the cedars filtered the scent of smoke from the air, the waterfalls cascaded into streams to feed the cedars and I hope it remains moist enough that the fires do not spread through the mountain passes.
I climbed Cascade Mountain with a friend. There is nothing better than to struggle up the side of the mountain, up through the scree, to realize I am no longer used to the thin mountain air. Living at sea level for the past six years did not help. You can see a picture I took of the mountain at the top of this post.
Upon my return home, I spent a week recuperating from my hike. I needed it. I slipped on the scree and bruised my leg and arm, but all is well now. I was reminded to walk everyday. Even if I cannot make it to the mountains, there are beautiful paths around me to enjoy. I love to be outside, I don’t always need to be surrounded by mountains.
The next few weeks my house filled with family. In fact, we once again returned to my childhood as there are currently only two beds in the house and we had nine people sleep over at one point. We returned to beds on the floor, something we always did when visiting cousins as kids. Everything was as expected. Once bathroom broke down with the first set of guests, and my fridge died when the second set arrived. There is another set returning this weekend and I wonder how my house will respond to that. Maybe it means we are still supposed to be in the mountains? Or is the house hinting at maintenance expectations for the fall?
Moving back into a house I haven’t seen in six years has been more challenging then I expected. We are still living with the bare bones, so not even our basic tool kit is here. Once again, having family and friends close has saved us as we have been leant tools and a helping hand. It turns out I cannot connect a new thermostat panel without causing some physical damage to the house and mental damage to myself. Living in Europe has helped as well as I know how to shop for small amounts of food at a time as we are down to an apartment sized fridge in our house until our other fridge arrives. In the mean time we are eating everything as it thaws from the freezer. I don’t think I will be able to look at another leek dumpling again for a long time. Fun times!
The smoky days and early sunsets took me back to a trip to Edinburgh. Replace the smoke with a misty rain and the sunset with street lights and I can relive the experience. When we living in Europe, many of our girl trips were spent in the United Kingdom. There is so much to explore and it was so easy to get to. But my heart belonged in Edinburgh. There was something about the city, a place filled with history, culture, and education, that made it feel like home. I walked around for hours and explored the gem street by street. My first time there I saw a quote on the side of a building and it has stuck with me.
Katie Paterson is a Scottish artist (Not the women pictured in the graphic), well regarded for her unique composition of technology, scientific expertise, and philosophical engagement between humanity and the environment.
“A place that exists only in moonlight” was created by Katie Paterson. I researched it when the quote stuck with me through the years and I felt compelled to return to the quote whenever I returned to Edinburgh. I am disappointed I did not see her exhibition, but the book itself is a collection of text based artworks printed with cosmic dust. It is itself a piece of our universe. I am infatuated with art and inspired by poetry, so her creativity moves me. It also reminds me of the mountains. Of the infinite space they take up in my heart.
Now the summer is ending and we will be returning to a schedule ruled by school. I don’t actually mind it, but I already miss the freedom of the summer. The next few weeks are filled with doctor appointments, school supplies hunting (a personal favourite), and preparing for the school year. But my heart is lighter from the memories created and gathered throughout the summer. They will maintain me.
If you are looking for a way to experience the forest of the world through space in time, follow the link below to Hollow – a forest of all the world’s trees created by Katie Paterson and Zeller & Moye. There is a permanent public art piece commissioned by the University of Bristol. When we are unable to travel, there remains the ability to interact with the art piece online.
I hope you have a wonderful summer break or winter break depending on where your head lays at night! Happy reading!