THIS IS THE ENTIRE FOUR PART SERIES THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED IN MY BLOG.
Quest for the West
April 15, 2003 Orillia, Ontario
I have made it to Orillia in my quest westward. I stopped in Owen Sound, Barrie and now here. I should rest here for a few hours before I set out on the highway again. I parked on the wrong spot to afford myself any privacy though. Despite all this park must offer people seem content to loiter around their vehicles.
March 31, 2017 – remembering back to this night I ended up forgetting to turn off my headlights when I parked. It didn’t get dark until after 9 and no one bothered to tell me my lights were on. Fortunately I had auto club and called them after 11 to come out and give my van a boost. It was worth every penny.
April 16, 2003 Parry Sound, Ontario
Do you ever wonder why I censor things from myself? This journal won’t be reproduced verbatim. Tonight, would be a good night for the Fates or spirits or angels to watch over me. I’m parked with the back of the van to about a thirty-foot vertical drop. I was going to park over a bit but it leaves me sitting out in the open. This spot I chose no one is going to come up from behind – unless they have climbing gear. The brakes are engaged and the wheel turned so if I rolled back (which I won’t) it’ll hit the curb. The spot is almost perfectly level too – I am not worried.
March 31, 2017 – I can still remember the view out the back window of my van. The city laid out before me just down below and the sunset in the distance. I think it was Parry Sound or maybe Sudbury where some young man asked me for change for “a bus ticket home” he claimed. I gave him the $5 I had in my pocket, he probably went to buy cigarettes instead.
April 17, 2013 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
I’ve arrived in Sault Ste. Marie. It’s a hazy but sunny day and plus 5 Celsius. I’m at a park overlooking the river. Across the river is Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, I know not very original name eh. I could cross here, take the state highways back up to Winnipeg but not high on my list. I’m going to see what weather they’re expecting up there; up here they are calling for snow, wet snow and rain for the next two days.
March 31, 2017 – I remember going down to a park along the river, you could see the dirty buildings of Michigan across the way.
April 18, 2013 Somewhere in Michigan
In Michigan after a twenty-minute vehicle search. They moved a lot around but happy that’s all, they could have trashed my van and said no. I hope this isn’t the way it will be every time I pass through into the U.S.
March 31, 2017 – As usual they didn’t bother to tell me why I had been pulled over. I guess they didn’t like the fact I was using the US as a drive thru and had no intention of really staying there for more than what was necessary. I checked my border crossing file this year but everything had magically disappeared from it during an “upgrade”. Yeah right, so then why did they stop me when I was entering AND leaving the US? It’s not like they weren’t expecting me in Manitoba, I’m pretty sure the Michigan crossing flagged me to make sure I left.
April 18, 2013 Wisconsin – Michigan State Line
If I get to Duluth at least I have more options than here in the middle of nowhere. With the wacky off beaten path route and deer yield I’m going for it, 89 kilometres that’s two hours. Ugh. Hugs me!
It was a hell of a drive from Ironwood to Duluth, one to three inches of snow, speed was 60 kilometres per hour at the best, I was the only one westbound Ironwood to six or five?
March 31, 2017 – The GPS took me down some road numbered 13. It was basically a country lane that cut a few kilometres off taking the main highway. I remember driving along one stretch of highway and a couple places where cars were in the ditch. I stopped for one, a woman who put her Grand Prix into the ditch but she was okay and had already called a tow truck so I continued my way.
April 19, 2013 Duluth, Minnesota
Snow, snow, and more snow, about three to five inches. I booked a hotel room in Grand Forks, North Dakota, it’s about forty percent of the way to Manitoba. Not bad, used my free night from rewards club so a $120 room cost me $11. Had a nice hot shower, first one in almost a week.
Duluth was beautiful with its snow dressed trees. It looked like a Christmas card when I woke up the next morning and headed out of town. I should have taken some photos but I was worried about getting stuck in the snow.
March 31, 2017 – I can still remember driving down one of the streets near the hotel trying to find the interstate out of the city. The trees, cars, houses, everything had at least six inches of snow piled on them, all of which had fallen the night before. It was like the inside of a snow globe or something magical. It was like a painting.
April 19, 2013 Grand Forks, North Dakota
The recession hit the southern states, like Florida but in this area of second homes I saw a lot of them for sale and for rent, lots of places, were they summer homes or foreclosed? And what’s with the train, one town had rail cars parked for two miles with breaks for driveways.
Is a hotel room bed better warm and fuzzy or cold and crisp? This one is warm and fuzzy, Duluth was cold and crisp.
Quest For The West part 2
April 20, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Drivers here are crazy, they just seem to act without awareness of others, the people are the same as they walk about too, they walk outside the lines.
April 21, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Park was ok, til 1am, then security showed up (even though the park was listed as a 24/7 park). He gave me until 5am to catch up on some sleep. I slept from about 11:45pm to 1am and then 1am to 4:45am at the park in my van. Then I drove over to a nearby shopping centre and slept there from 5:30am until 10:00am.
Fears about sleeping in my van – I’ve found I’m more “afraid” (for lack of a better word) of having to explain why I’m sleeping in my van than the act itself. In six days I’ve only had to explain it three times – two of those were to border patrol. I found it ironic that the only place to boast 24/7 parking was the only place with security. The shopping mall I went to, while busy, still seems to have the best parking. There’s the grocery store lots, as alternatives, but they are not as massive as the mall lots.
Did I make this trip too early? It’s quite cold still but if I had waited two weeks it would have cut my savings by another $400. When I crossed the Maple River, was it, going up to Parry Sound I felt “something” which got buried by the stressful border crossing. In Duluth though I “felt” it again. This morning I woke up in Manitoba and seeing the snow I felt dread for the first time.
I could use another “sign” to tell me this is right. When I wondered if I’d cross into the US I passed a “Pentagon Street” road sign in Ontario. And today I felt a bit homesick I saw an “Ontario” license plate at Chapters. I “feel” I’ve made the right decision, I just need to get over the “flight” instinct.
April 22, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg continues to be a city I would not want to live in, it’s very dirty here. I must really watch my spending from here on in, while $100 per day was budgeted that only covers 19 days and 7 have passed already. I need to get that down to $50 a day. Last night as I was bedding down I asked for a “sign” that it was safe to go to sleep. Suddenly, the street lights down the corridor went off for about two to three minutes til I settled down a bit and then they came back on again. The signs are all out there, I just must watch for them.
I tried to go to the Museum on the 17th but there were no street signs to find it. I stopped and took pictures at Heritage Park of the mounted fighter places. Only to be reported to security as “some guy taking pictures”. Well dug it’s supposed to be a tourist attraction. I wrote a scathing review for TripAdvisor and noted that the park is not tourist friendly. The security guy told me about another museum two blocks away but I stopped for a Timmies first. I didn’t bother trying to find it though, he had directed me to another secured gate with Military Police on patrol – umm hell no. I left the area.
April 22, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
I went to the Manitoba Legislative Building and took lots of pictures outside. Inside I wandered for an hour until Question Period started. I understand it now. Before it was just one person talking and everyone heckling over them. At least that’s what I thought. But now I see that one heckler, while annoying, represents the choice of tens of thousands of people. When they point out something it is the democratic “challenge” of the details being given. While they could be a bit quieter they are a vital part of the democratic assembly. What I find interesting is how the NDP, PC and Liberals appear to agree behind the scenes to remove public discussion from any issues. In todays’ case the desire of the party in power to raise the Provincial Sales Tax without a referendum.
April 23, 2013 Winnipeg, Manitoba
In the back of my mind there’s a voice calling out, telling me that my next adventure lays westward. I’ve had my stay in Winterpeg but now it’s time to continue my quest. I’m spending the night in Headingley. Why am I doing this? I feel that I must. Nights are cold, a travelling companion would be nice. I see the moon, a sliver from full, blue post lamp, light above, trucks idling, dinner was a cordon blue chicken burger with ham on it yuck. The burger at the last museum was better and half the price but no fries. Where will I sleep tomorrow in Regina? Bear sleeps with me and protects me. The vultures, starlings, and ravens guide me on my journey. I saw two eagles while I was driving in the States and deer met me along my path.
Quest for the West part 3
April 24, 2013 Regina, Saskatchewan
Talked with a girl in the clothing store. In half an hour I got a pretty good idea of just how screwed up the company is, according to her, in regards to their Saskatchewan stores. They’ve had four District Managers in three years and the current one doesn’t even live in the province. I met two people, no names, so far. In Winnipeg I met an exchange student touring the museum and here an employee in the mall in Regina. Regina, not downtown, isn’t dull like Winnipeg is, albeit old the buildings still have colour.
April 25, 2013 Saskatchewan
I’m a creature that can migrate, but on the way, finds locations to seek refuge in. While I’m sleeping over at the Husky I am going to the same library to access the internet, the same parking lot to sit and relax and write in, and the same place to sleep at night. If I stay a third night here though I may have to choose another travel center to park at, I have a bad feeling it might be in the industrial park though. Qu’Appelle Crossing was symbolic for me, a crossing from the old life to a new one.
This spot I found resembled an old abandoned gas station lot. When I looked at that hold in the ground and wondered what was there I tried to imagine it was a small service station. There was evidence of brick and stone and a photograph of a building, not a gas station, laying in the mud. I couldn’t tell what the building was but it appeared to be from the early 1990s. My interest in history was renewed when I went to the Legislature in Manitoba. I think I would have liked to be a History teacher. Instead of decreasing my budget it’s still out of control at about $84 a day, I need to get that down to $50.
April 28. 2013 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Centennial Mall, Saskatoon, is probably the second most desolate mall I’ve been to ranked after the one I went to in downtown London, Ontario. Spring is here and dust and sand are everywhere and in the air. So when I was a kid and we saw the trains going through Chesley and Bentinck the cars that always caught my eye were the “Canada” ones. I used to imagine the trip they must take across the country to get there. There was a feeling of pride with the CN (Canadian National Railway) cars and the more exotic CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) cars but here was CANADA in bold print for everyone to read. Saskatchewan is nice, but not a place I feel “at home”. I think I need to be near mountains or the ocean facing the sunset. In Ontario that’s Kincardine or anything west of the Blue Mountains. I wish to have a wake, like a town party, a celebration, but I want to be cremated and my ashes released off my favourite spot in Old Baldy so my spirit may soar with the eagles and hawks, for now. No funeral, no pomp and circumstance, but still, a party, figure that one out.
April 30, 2013 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Louis Riel was a bit nuts, okay, a lot nuts, perhaps bipolar or the other. He started out sane but by his thirties he was off the deep end and fortunately some key people saw it or there would have been a war. Museums are dying out in Ontario but out west it seems like every town has one of some sort and the cities all have very good ones or more than one. I had that “feeling” again today, I can’t put my finger on it. Interestingly the character in the movie “The Host” chose the name “Wanderer”. I am that, sort of, a wanderer drifting from place to place searching for a home, perhaps? History is a lot more real when you walk inside of a real soddy and see what it must have been like for the early settlers living in the west.
Two questions received from readers. The first question “Do you drink coffee at night?” The answer is yes. I grab a coffee from the Husky before I go down for the night, it’s my way of paying for the parking space for the night. And, next question “Are you camping or sleeping in the van?” I guess that would be yes and both. I am living out of my van now except for the two nights in the US I spent in hotels rooms. Could I live here in Saskatchewan? No, the winters are too nasty. I mean seriously it’s just spring this week! They are expecting their first day over twenty Celsius on Sunday for the first time in eight months. The winters are brutal here.
May 2, 2013 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
I started into “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King. I’m on page fifty out of three hundred and four. It’s been plot building so far, other than good writing style it’s been passive. It’s interesting how the bartender trades sex for information, I guess a good lay is worth more than gold and silver in the middle of nowhere. Here, in Saskatoon, I’d opt for either currency.
Today I am touring the Wanuskewin Trails. I am on the Trail of Discovery, it has a splendid view of the Valley and several benches to sit and think and reflect. Two Canadian Geese flew within a few feet of me to say hello and my brother the raven flew over and encouraged me to finish the almost four hours of trail walking. Today was the first real reconnection I’ve felt with Gaia in a long time. I wish I could do that more often, hopefully I will now with Spring.
May 3, 2013 Lloydminster, Alberta
When you are young and tell people you are taking a road trip across Canada I think you get the same reaction as when you are mid-life. Some people think you are crazy to take such a risk, while others are envious of you. I don’t know all the reasons “why” I had to go on this latest venture I just know that I needed to. I think the idea of rotting away in a one-horse town waiting til the day I could get overcome with joy at the idea of landing some boring dead end job sickened me. I had explored all over the area and seen everything there was to see. The lake, the sand, the cedars, the park, none of it is going to change any time soon or ever. It has been almost three weeks since I left and nothing has changed.
May 5, 2013 Lloydminster, Alberta
I am the gunslinger and this is my desert. The raven he watches me from across the road, near but far. Bear watches me as I sleep. Husky leads me down the path. The geese they speak on nothing to distract me. They seagulls long to take what little is mine and make it theirs. The wind coaxes me from the west to continue. The sun embraces me to sleep to rest here a wee bit longer. “No hurry” she says “no hurry, rest”. No clouds, no rain. Do they lead me, or follow me?
I wondered, near the end, did she speak of me, of my journey, of what I would see. I think when I see her picture I might lose it but for now there’s a blankness, the tooth has occupied my thoughts today, that and the dullness of this city.
May 6, 2013 Edmonton, Alberta
There’s a train passing by this shopping district within sight of my van, on the outer edge of the shopping centre parking lot. I felt the small storm approaching earlier, the first one I’ve felt in ages. I miss that connection to Gaia I had before. I’ll have it back again soon, once this tooth issue passes I’ll be free to explore it.
Tonight chickadee spirit is with me, I hear his song comforting me.
I noticed a tree ring at the museum, growth of the tree was strong, until the white man first explored the region and then the rings grew thin. I wonder if the other trees are like that, this tree was over four hundred years old.
May 8, 2013 Edmonton, Alberta
I’m here at the Grand Trunk Park about to watch a slow pitch game. I haven’t sat and watched a ball game since I was barely a teen, not counting the games I went to in high school as those were field trips. I mean baseball down at the diamonds in Chesley. I can hear the train cars coupling in the yard a couple blocks from here. The whir of the wheels on the tracks and cracks like thunder.
May 11, 2013 Edmonton, Alberta
I heard the train horn tonight as I stepped out of the Husky and it took me back. I paused for a moment and felt the cool breeze. It’s been a long day of doing nothing. I went and saw a movie tonight.
May 15, 2013 Cline River, Alberta
It feels, well I was going to say it feels longer than thirty days have passed but not all of it does. Some days, some experiences, seem to pass by with barely a thought while others time slowed to a crawl. This morning went by fast because I slept it away but these last two hours have pleasantly lingered on.
Yes, one must conclude when it comes to drawing I would fail miserably as a Voyageur. There’s a trail running all the way along this ridge, right down to Lake Abraham. This end of the lake is devoid of any substantial water. It’s mostly mud flats as far as the eye can see. The sun is hot but there’s a cold wind blowing. Some of the mountains have pines half way up, some all the way. Some are barren granite rock but out of the eleven peaks that I see only one is now free and three have enough to ski on – if you were insane enough. The pines behind me are about forty to fifty feet high. In the small part of the valley below me, in view, I’d estimate five to six thousand, that means I can see over half a million pines in my view.
May 15, 2013 Cline River, Alberta
Storm, if there is any, appears to be settling either on the western side of the mountain or skipping over me to land beyond Lake Abraham. I hope it does that every time. I have two thirds of a bundle left, should have bought five and not two. It’s hard though when you realize that every stick of wood is one dollar literally going up in smoke. The radiating heat brings some comfort but not enough to counter the nine-degree Celsius chill in the air. I miss the space heater. I saw a mosquito a short time ago so I have one of those coils burning, or trying to, the wind keeps putting it out. If I can think of a safe way to do it I’ll put it near the tent tonight. I’m going to work on the book some tomorrow I think, perhaps the dark one, perhaps a fluffy nature one. I’d like to merge this journal and the nature poetry, a life journey. I remember the mosquito coils and that night at the lodge back in 1989.
The heavy clouds have moved east leaving thinner streaks across the sky from west to east. Sunlight reflecting off the clouds, continues to be visible above the north-west pass. I can hear the helicopter out there too, he came in to land an hour ago and then took off in that direction.
This is not the end of my journey. As beautiful as it is here and with my brother and sister raven and deer to talk to it is certainly a great place to recharge. But my home lies to the west, I think perhaps in Vancouver. Now the log burns, snap, crackle, the flames flicker from the underside.
I found out that the police services in Kincardine saw my video documenting the traffic issues west of Tiverton at that one intersection. They want the video sent on to the offices of the Mayor and the Bruce County roads.
May 18, 2013 Cline River, Alberta
I think I need some sort of plan before I get to Vancouver. Yes, by then I will follow the synchronicity and I’m sure “something” will be provided, but even a trusting Saint has a plan. You know, just in case, the plan IS the plan.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
It’s hard to believe that almost four years have passed since I began my “Quest for the West”. It was in the chilly spring of April 2013 that I set out in my 2003 Pontiac Montana with only the Pacific Ocean as my goal. You can look back recently into my blog to se my stops that I made as I traveled through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. My blog entries don’t mention my completion of my goal because of a four month “layover” at a resort in the summer.
I would like to write today about the reasons I made this trip out here and explore what my future options might be. Let me begin by making it clear that I am currently looking for work here in Alberta since being laid off from my full-time management job back in February. If I found another job here that would support me I would be more than eager to consider it. This isn’t about where I am “actually factually” ending up, just a journey into where I am “spiritually”. If someone reading this has a job I would be suited for here in Alberta please feel free to email me.
Now, why did I come out here to Alberta?
To answer that question, we will first go back to 2013 to explore the “practical” reasons that I came out here. I had been working up north in 2012 until the building I was working in, along with four others, burned to the ground and I got laid off permanently. I have since inquired about whether they plan to open the store again and they do not which is too bad as it was a part of the community. I went onto unemployment which paid me very well because my job up north made me a lot of income.
I was lucky, many people are not, and whenever I could I tried to save that money away just in case. I lived in a couple places near Kincardine and looked all over the area for work in my field. Unfortunately, we were deep into the recession by that point and jobs were impossible to find without a vehicle. I had lost mine when my business went bankrupt and I didn’t have the funds to replace it or pay the insane insurance rates. And because of those limitations, in a small remote community (job wise) I went for 10 months without finding a job. I was about ready to lose my benefits when I made a life altering decision.
I say that now “life altering” but at the time it just felt like another decision. I had already been married, divorced, moved to a foreign country, worked in the far north and lived on my own. It wasn’t a really life altering experience since my life had already been filled with experiences that altered it several times. To me, as significant as it was, it just felt like something I had to do.
I was unemployed, I had about $2,000 in savings I think after I bought a van and insured it and I needed to leave. My mom was dying of cancer at the time but it wasn’t that I was trying to escape. She had been diagnosed two years before and now it was winning. I remember telling my mom about my plans “I can be a stock clerk in Owen Sound or Calgary” I told her and it was true. I didn’t have to continue living in Ontario until every dime I had was gone. I had always wanted to see Canada and this was, perhaps, the only opportunity I would have to do it. I didn’t make the decision lightly. I had thought about it and planned it for a couple weeks at least. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been far away before. I was unemployed after my store went under and I took the job in Nunavut. That adventure involved packing up my life and moving to a remote region where the nights could hit minus seventy with the wind chill in October and the only way in or out was by plane or summer freighter.
I planned, I scraped together what money I could and packed my life into my van. I still had about half a dozen boxes in storage but they could remain there until I got settled somewhere. I left for “the Pacific Ocean or Alberta or bust” on April 15, 2013. I saw my mom just a couple days before and at that time I was told that she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. She lost a two-year battle to cancer on May 4, 2013. I think there are a lot of reasons why I started my quest for the west and none of them were to escape from the reality of my mom passing. I won’t go into any more detail about my relationship with my mother right now because that’s not what this blog is about.
To be continued…
PART ONE UPLOADED
This is the continuation of a previous blog entry about my Quest for the West, I’ll end up repeating a couple things in this part so try not to get too bored.
The first reason was my financial situation. I was unemployed, I had limited savings. I had no prospects for work at all and the next option would be welfare. I decided, this time, that I would do something about it before it reached that point. I have been unemployed in my life in the past.
In 2011 or so when my business went bankrupt I didn’t have any money paid into Employment Insurance so I was forced to go on Social Assistance (Welfare) to pay rent and buy food. I had lost my car to the bankruptcy so I luckily didn’t have any expenses like insurance, plating and fuel. I still had my drivers license at least.
I remember that on welfare you were required to “work” seventy hours a month (I think it was a month) to receive your benefits (which barely covered rent and food if I recall). I didn’t mind that at all because I hated just sitting at home doing nothing and where I was living at the time was not a healthy place to be. I volunteered so often for work detail that the supervisor told me to stop because a couple of the other people were supposed to be working and were not. He wanted me to do less so he could force them to do more. If I ever had to go on welfare again I suspect I would find myself doing the same thing. I don’t like welfare but sometimes it just can not be avoided.
I will make it very clear at this point that I believe only about a quarter of the people drawing welfare really don’t need to. I can’t really say for sure whether that’s because they have chosen to give up looking for work, they’ve had too many kids and can’t work and support them, or whatever the reason. I am not going to psychoanalyse anyone or their situation because I just don’t know all the facts involved.
Welfare, or the more politically correct name “social assistance” comes when you have no other choice but to go on it. You work, you pay into EI (employment insurance) but that only covers you for so much so long and then it runs out and if you are self-employed unless you make a lot of money you can’t afford the benefits (pension, employment insurance, et cetera). When your employment insurance benefits run out you still must pay rent, hydro, food, transportation, all the expenses that make life possible while you continue to look for work or support your family. You will hear a lot of people say that “people on welfare are bums who are bleeding the system dry”. That statement is, for the majority, false. I have known a couple people in my life who were forced to accept social assistance and all of them wanted to work, had families to support, and did it because they had no other choice. I do like the idea of being required to “work for the county” if possible while on welfare, it helps you to keep your resume up to date and your body and mind active.
The government doesn’t want you to be on welfare even though they get cheap manual labour from you. They try to help you to find work but sometimes it just isn’t the best time economically and they give you the basics in health care. The government paid for moving expenses for me to leave Ontario and take the job up north. I know, I was a little surprised at the time too that the province of Ontario wanted to give me money to leave, but that’s how welfare works they want you to get back to life and get working again. That job up north was the best one I’ve ever had financially. I got a very good salary, three meals a day, company vehicle, company housing and airfare including two trips “home” a year.
After working up north for almost ten months I had accumulated enough to qualify for employment insurance benefits. I moved back to a small town where I could find a cheap place to live, unfortunately the job market was decimated. The recession had finally creeped into all the corners of Ontario and there just wasn’t any work available including part time. I lived off my benefits for as long as I could and exhausted them at the same time I decided to head out west.
To be continued…
PART TWO UPLOADED
This is a continuation of the second part of my blog entry about my quest for the west, you might read a few things that repeat from previous entries or you might not I really don’t know yet.
The second reason was the need for adventure. I have always been one to choose the rockier road when it comes to choices in my life on where and how to live. I can not say I’ve chosen anything exotic mind you but the choices were substantial just the same. I do get bored easily, not so much with the people I know or the job I am at so much as the place I’m living in. I imagine that if I fell in love again and stayed with them I might be content to live out the rest of my days in Small Town, Canada but until then I’m a wanderer.
In 1989, I went off to college in Barrie, Ontario leaving a small town behind, this was immediately following a summer in which I worked up at a resort near Parry Sound, Ontario. I left college in 1990 and went back to the small town until opportunity knocked in Brampton, Ontario. I moved there, lived there for several years, until I met my ex and after a six-month struggle with the U.S. government moved to Ohio. I lived in about four different suburban towns in Ohio for almost nine years. When I separated, I moved back to Ontario and ended up in Owen Sound briefly. I found a job in Kincardine for a few years. I left that company and I decided to go to Hanover to run my business. When that went under I moved to Inverhuron until I accepted a job up north in Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. I was up there almost a year and then returned to Inverhuron where I spent almost another year before deciding to pack up and leave for the coast. In total, city to city, town to town, I have lived in about fifteen communities and moved about twenty-five times since age 18.
I have seen more of this country in the last fifteen years than most people I know have ever seen in their entire lives. Sure, some people have traveled outside North America to places like Europe and the Caribbean, Asia, the Pacific and Africa but I’m betting a lot of those people haven’t even seen half of what Canada has to offer. I don’t consider flying from Calgary to Las Vegas and back to Calgary to be counted as “worldly” any more than going by plane from Toronto to Vancouver and back would be. I’m talking ground travel, road, rail, travel where you “see” the country or the landscape as more than just patchwork quilting below the clouds. I concede that if that is my standard then I can’t really consider my trip up to Baker Lake, Nunavut to be traveling in a worldly fashion however I will add the exception that when no roads are available and the only means of travel is by plane then it counts. And, while I lived up in Nunavut I did take the opportunity to ride a quad out onto the land a couple times to explore the otherworldly landscape of the tundra.
Getting back to seeing Canada, you will have read in a previous blog that I stopped at many cities across the country when I drove out here back in 2013. I remember many of the things I saw while driving the roadways that you just can not possibly see from the air. The landmarks I visited included the world’s largest coin, the nickel, in Sudbury. I think I might have been near the worlds largest Canada goose in Wawa Ontario but I can’t confirm it. I did see the world’s biggest egg, in Vegreville, Alberta, a monument to the Ukrainian settlers in the region which for some reason was not on the Reader’s Digest listing that I could tell. In Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan I found the tallest border markers in Canada that, geographically, do not actually mark the true border between the two provinces. Since moving here to Alberta I only recently went down to Drumheller and visited the world’s largest dinosaur.
I did see monuments to the Toonie and Loonie in Ontario but they weren’t really that big and I count Big Bruce in Chesley on the list even though I didn’t see him while driving west. And if we extend the list to trips across Canada then the big beach chairs in Kincardine are a well known tourist attraction, along with a famous inuksuk monument built just outside of Baker Lake, Nunavut. I vaguely recall a giant Muskoka chair outside a business near Neustadt, Ontario and in Vancouver there was a building in the harbourfront with grass instead of shingles. I have been up the CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, a couple times when it was still the tallest freestanding structure in the world, since then I think it has slipped down to something like fifth place? For naturally occurring monuments we can include the Rocky Mountains range, the Hoodoos near Drumheller, Alberta, the caves around southern Georgian Bay, a sulfur bog near Durham, Ontario, a magnetic hill near Brampton, Ontario and the mysterious striped hills near Caledon, Ontario.
And then there are the things that aren’t monumental in size but certainly in local and national history. I visited museums and provincial legislatures in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The museums covered everything from art, to geography to local history. The legislatures added three more to my list having seen the Ontario one back when I was in school.
To be continued…
PART THREE UPLOADED
And finally, continuing this blog entry, the third reason for my quest for the west was a spiritual one. This part will drift significantly from the topic of moving out west to explore my more spiritual side of my life. It will not be the entire and last thing I write on this subject as it is too complex and layered to summarize within a few paragraphs.
I have pursued many religious paths in my life but not actually committed to any of them, to explain better let’s look at how I was raised. In my years growing up I associated our family with the Anglican faith however my parents never made me go to church. I recall that for several years, until my early teens, we did attend Christmas Eve Mass but it was never mandatory for me to go. They believed that I should be allowed to explore my own beliefs and to make my own choices when it comes to religion.
When I was a young teenager I labeled myself as “agnostic” believing in a higher power but not any one specifically. I had a lot of experiences treading along the line between darkness and light and I had, though I have not used it much in years, the ability to sense or read emotions in others. Those of you who are fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation will recall the character Deanna Troi. She was an empath with one human and one empathetic parent, so a half breed if you will. I can’t claim the same upbringing but I do know that my abilities in the realm of empathy were quite strong but unstable.
In my late teens at the end of high school I met up with other friends who were exploring the Christian faith. I will write more about my experiences another time but one of them was too bent on “if you are on the fence you are on Satan’s side” and that was just too much for me. I don’t believe that God forces people to believe in him and the “you’re either in or you are out” attitude is not free will – our most precious gift from our creator. I used my free will and went out, way out, and leaned towards agnosticism and even close to atheism at one point, pushing me is not the way to get me to go along with an idea.
When I moved to Brampton I tried to go to mass one Christmas but I found church after church after church CLOSED on Christmas Eve. I didn’t even think that churches closed. These were Christian churches, ones that believed that Jesus Christ lived and died and that Christmas was a time to celebrate their god. I finally arrived, on foot, at one on the east side of the city, but got there just as the program was ending. I was offered a ride but instead I walked all the way home, about three or so kilometres. It gave me a lot of time to think and reconsider exploring the Christian faith any further. It was the last time I pursued attending church for Christmas Eve. I realized that you did not have to attend church and sit in a building to find a connection to God unfortunately my emotional state was still quite chaotic and this new knowledge would not benefit me for another decade at least.
I had always had a certain connection with nature, animals, and the world around me without having to label it as one religion or another. I would talk to animals, many times in front of other people, and a few times with witnesses that the animals “appeared” to understand me. I remember standing outside of a hospital in Columbus, Ohio with someone and we saw a couple deer come out of the trees near the street. We were standing about a hundred feet away and, while the parking lot was full of cars, there was no one else nearby. I was concerned they would be struck by a vehicle that might come into the lot so I raised my hand up to my waist level and said softly “go back it isn’t safe here” and the two deer, standing looking at me, turned and bounded back into the trees. Now, one could say they just reacted to seeing motion and I would accept that if I hadn’t had probably a dozen other examples since. Yes, I have another example. I was standing outside of my work with another co-worker. A raven flew overhead and I waved up at it. My co-worker kind of looked at me jokingly until the bird circled over the building and came back for a second pass over and changed its flight path. He believed me after that I could communicate with animals particularly birds.
It was around 1999 or so that I was introduced to neo-paganism and it felt very familiar to me. While the idea of paying homage to gods and goddesses was not overly appealing to me it did seem to explain a lot of the other experiences I was having from talking to animals, my empathic abilities in the past, and the visualization and transference of energy between plant, animal and humans. My first “soulfriend” introduced me to the belief structure and it became a part of my own spiritualism and still is today. I have two “soulfriends” and one “soulbrother” by the way, in case you were wondering, people for whom I have or have had a very close spiritual connection with almost like we knew each other in previous lives.
Since that time, I’ve learned, though not enough I see, to follow my “gut instinct” when it comes to where I should be in the world, literally and spiritually.
And now, where am I? I have evolved past neo-paganism to believe in something called Pantheism. I have found that most Christians have no clue what Pantheism is so I will explain it in the simplest forms. First, Pantheists are not atheists because we believe in a higher power than ourselves. Second, Pantheists do not believe in Hell, Hell is just a place in the Christian world. Third, Pantheists believe that we are Gods, not in the sense of Gods and Goddesses but that our very being is a part of the bigger picture. We are at one with everything around us, as I say, “we believe that everything is connected and a part of the spirit from paperclips to planets”. We see energy in everything around us and some believe that with practice we can manipulate that energy.
When I traveled out west I had a single goal in mind. Yes, you can say it was to find work and move here but that’s not a spiritual goal so much as a necessity. Financially I could have remained in Ontario for a few more months but it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do and that is where the spiritual side comes in. The single goal I had in mind was to reach the Pacific Ocean. To complete life long “bucket list” item to “see the ocean” and to feel the energy associated with it. I will go into detail more in another entry, but for now I will say that I completed that goal and in that sense, I don’t have a reason to remain here. That being said there are many layers to that comment and it’s not the final decision or final answer to everything. The goal was to reach the ocean. The ocean is in British Columbia. I have been to British Columbia several times and I think that the goal to reach the ocean stemmed from two things. When I was working up north I took a vacation in Vancouver, BC, I was very close to the ocean but never actually went there so in that regard it felt like I had to go back to finish what I started. And second, I had heard about the ocean so much growing up that I just wanted to see it. I would have settled for the Atlantic Ocean but then you factor in the mountains and opportunities at the time and the Pacific became my goal. And I did.
There’s a lot more I want to write on the spiritual side of my life, so I think I will end off this blog with what I have written so far. I believe that a blog, like a journal, is a mixture of questions and answers. When you read it and you look into another person’s life, their struggles, their achievements, but most of all their questions. I don’t wrap my entries up in pretty little paragraphs meant to be mini-novels. I write like a journal entry, what blogs were once based upon, and from that you walk away with answers to some things and new questions to others.
The ending remarks for this story would be that I have achieved my goal in coming out west and I’m now preparing for the next adventure wherever that might be.
FINAL PART FOUR UPLOADED
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