On July 4, this photo of my wife Nikki at the 9/11 memorial in New York is a powerful reminder of how messed up this world can be. War, genocide, human rights abuse, famine… the list is long.
We live in Port Colborne, in the sleepy Niagara region of Ontario, Canada. The biggest scandal in our little corner of the world right now is that due to COVID-19, a by-law exemption allows servers to cross the street carrying cold beers to patrons on temporary outdoor patios. People on both sides of this constitutional crisis are up in arms over this issue. We clearly need more fiber in our diet.
However bad you may think things are right now in your own corner of Canada, remember that you didn’t get planes crashed into you, hit by a hurricane, flooded, killed for being different, or put under curfew. And that’s just in the shining metropolis of New York, New York.
My perspective is this: If the biggest thing on your radar lately is someone crossing the street with a beer for you, you live in a pretty great place. Smile.
Life is full of surprises. Some good. Some, not so much. Rolling with the ups and downs only gets you so far. If you really want something, you have to make it happen. You have to chase your dreams.
Your dream may be big: Marriage, family, a home, a career. It could be as simple as getting your driving license. Going on vacation. Passing an exam. Finishing a home improvement project. Learning to knit. Everything involves a degree or two of commitment. No surprises there. Dreams take work.
What might surprise you is how short a time you have in which to make those dreams a reality.
Case in point, so far this summer five people I know have died. Three unexpectedly, two after illness. All left life with unfulfilled dreams. Dreams they kept putting off, for various reasons, until later. Sometimes there is no later. Which begs the question, why put off your dreams?
I am within a decade of retirement. I have plans. For one, going on an epic road trip around Canada, travel blogging and taking photos to help pay for the trip. Open to discussions on sponsorship. 🙂
This trip will be open ended. It may take years to complete. There will be no rush to come home. With a camper van full of our down-sized lives, my long-suffering wife and I will head off into every sunset to see what’s over the next hill. And there’s a lot to see in Canada.
Tick Tock, Watch That Clock
This year’s events make me ponder bringing our plans forward. I’m not getting any younger. None of us are. Some won’t get any older. Whether you are sixteen or sixty six, whatever your circumstances, we all have dreams of one size or another. The one thing we should all remember is this: Tomorrow never comes. So chase your dreams today. Delay no more. Before you know it the clock has ticked on and the opportunity has gone, forever. Too old. Too young. Too busy. Don’t do that.
Start making plans. Chase your dreams. If you (nice segue, Carl) want to help me chase mine, and maybe inspire yourself or others, consider buying something from my store. This design features my wife taking in sunset at our lakeside cabin in Muskoka. A happy memory. A dream fulfilled.
Available products include T-shirts, badges, mugs, pillows, coasters, window stickers and prints. Click the image to go to the shop and see all the products on offer. You choose.
Here’s some background on this dream of ours. In my previous life in the UK I lived on the road as a sales manager for many years. I set my own route and schedule, spending four nights per week in hotels (expense accounts are awesome) schmoozing clients from one end of that sceptered isle to the other. Logistics are second nature. The road holds no fear. The stories I could tell…
I averaged 1500 km per week, which in the UK is quite a feat. This was in the days before Google maps. I kept a box of maps under the seat. After the first year I rarely opened it. I didn’t need to. Just climbed in and drove. But I was always racing the sun. Never had time to slow down. To enjoy. That’s where this is coming from.
It will be fun to take the scenic route for a change. Take time to smell the roses, go at our own speed. Onwards, into the sunset. Or a new sunrise. Either way. We aim to live our dream.
This weekend should have seen over a hundred bikes roaring around the Niagara region partaking in the annual Peewee memorial ride, one of many charity fundraising events run by the NBS Riders. This Summer, like most other social events, the event was cancelled due to… well, we all know why. Pretty much every event has been cancelled this year. 2020 is a complete bust, event wise.
We lost Peewee in 2013. We have lost many others since. This year we have been unable, in many cases, to mark their losses with a memorial. Some, we could not attend a celebration of life. Even their funerals.
That does not mean we forget.
For every loss there are those that mourn. Those that want to pay their respects. That remember.
What we must also remember is that this, too, shall pass. One day we will gather again. Enjoy the sun. Listen to music. Drink beer. Eat pizza. And at that time, we shall remember those we lost. And smile.
The power of community, of friendship, of family by blood or otherwise, unites us all. Regardless of distance. Or time. Or race. Religion. Politics. We will survive. Because together, we are strong. Though far apart we are only a thought away. Reach out to a friend. Make a call. Put a smile on a face. Lighten their day as well as your own. Do it today.
When the time is right our friends and families will celebrate again. And mourn and laugh and cry and dance and sing. We will remember. Above all, we will remember this.
When I was a boy… things moved more slowly. From school, to work, to leisure. It was a much slower pace of life. Until recently. Life has returned to that slower pace. Which gives time to reflect.
Things took days to happen, not minutes. Fast delivery meant sending the kids to get it.
We had no Internet. Think about that. Don’t laugh, you young whippersnappers. We invented it, you’re welcome. Cell phones didn’t exist, few homes even had landlines, so once you left the house you were free to get into (and out of) as much trouble as you could without adult supervision. Think about that.
These thoughts came to mind when I passed this beautiful old barn.
I pulled over, wanting to capture an image that held the memories of youth this barn evoked in me. That reminded me of old movies and TV shows full of rural life and family values. Of my friends and I playing tag in barns just like it, screaming in and around and across the roof. Of throwing ourselves from hay lofts into improvised haystacks made from torn apart hay bales.
Back in the day, bales were not cylindrical as they are now, but brick shaped. Kids like me were the main reason they are now round, I like to think. Because hay bales were the lego of my generation. The bales we didn’t tear apart we made into forts and tunnels and palaces. We really could throw those things around. Constructions 10 bales high with runs and windows and parapets were common. There was nothing we could not build from these versatile building blocks, much to the annoyance of the farmers.
It was all a game. We scouted somewhere, found a field full of hay, played a while, got chased away. I only remember getting shot at once, but that was just to keep us on our toes. He fired with a smile we saw, and we waved back over our shoulders as we ran. We came back later to finish the fort. Fun times.
Summers were indeed endless. Leaving the house at dawn and returning at dusk gave massive exploration potential. We would routinely walk many miles in random directions, crossing rivers and highways and woods and abandoned mines, sometimes grabbing a couple apples from a tree along the way because we forgot to pack lunch. There were no fast food franchises, even if we had money. Hungry? Go home. Broken a leg? Hop home. Fell in the river? Swim home. Lost in the dark? You’re late: Run home.
Social media was kids yelling over the back fences and exchanging information in person. Learning opportunities were limited to school, and your best friend’s best guess. There was no Google. If we wanted to know something we would research it ourselves. We went to the library. Read newspapers and magazines. We collected comics and made scrap books and played chess. Well, I did.
TV was in it’s infancy. Changing channels involved walking up to the set and spinning dials, sometimes while leaning out of the window waving the fabled ‘bunny ears’. Kids were the remotes.
We walked, ran, cycled or swam everywhere. Kids were sent alone to get groceries and had to make important decisions. If anything on Mom’s shopping list wasn’t available, an alternate had to be picked that the rest of the family liked. That’s stressful when you have an older brother. Failure was not an option. Nor was going home without, as you just get sent back and that meant covering twice the distance. It’s weird to think now that a whole generation grew up deciding which cigarettes their parents would smoke.
After doing the shopping, kids would load their bikes and ride home trying not to drop anything, under pain of a walloping. It is a skill worthy of a resume entry to be able to ride with a sack of potatoes balanced on your crossbar and a grocery bag swinging from each hand. Cars? Those were for special occasions. When it came to shopping, kids were far cheaper. And far faster.
Nostalgia Has Limits
That is not to say all was peachy in this rose-coloured world of my youth.
We had Polio and Smallpox. Measles. Whooping Cough. Rickets. Scurvy. Power cuts. Bad dentistry. No nuclear imaging. No DNA or genetic medicines. No Tesla. I prefer the world in which we live today. Much longer life expectancy. Much better medicine. Nicer cars.
Yes, I would love to be a kid again. But if I had the choice I would do it all again in the here and now of today’s world. For everything wrong with this planet, it’s a pretty nice place with much I still want to see. Life has a lot more going for it these days. Kids today even have the Internet.
We live in interesting times. Lurching from one disaster to the next, rarely a day between them. From COVID-19 to floods, plagues of locusts, forest fires… every day brings new challenges.
Life is a struggle. Throughout history, life in all forms has striven to overcome challenges. Life, in one way or another, finds a way. Even after an extinction level event such as the dinosaurs experienced life doesn’t stop. Life never gives in. Never surrenders. And it rarely goes in a straight line.
As a boy growing up in the North of England, I could never have predicted the sequence of events that would lead me to a life in Canada. Never in my wildest childhood dreams did I think, “My future second wife will be born today, oh, let’s say around 3,500 miles in… (waves an arm vaguely) that direction.”
Everyone plans their life to some degree: School, career, family. Along the way, curve balls hit us. Illness. Unemployment. Pregnancy. Many things force us to redirect. I, for example, wanted to join the Air Force. Due to one of the above unplanned events this did not happen. I never got to work with or fly planes. I raised children, took cash in hand jobs, and worked my way up, via many circuitous routes with many more diversions along the way, to a different life. Because as life happened, my plans changed to meet it. I evolved. Plans? Ha. Overrated. Hold on and enjoy the ride.
COVID-19 is the latest of many game-changing disasters that will affect us all, now and into the future. We cannot predict where this will take us. The situation will evolve, and we will move to meet it.
I have no doubt there will be permanent changes to societies around the world. Right now, we are all having to redirect ourselves and find new ways forward. Nobody is unaffected. Daily living is unrecognizable. Supply chains are stretched to breaking, the global economy is tanking as countries fight to finance the mitigation of this virus, and healthcare services are overwhelmed as they try to deal with what is, to me, a no win scenario. To the Star Trek fans, that’s a Kobiyashi Maru.
Life will win. We will win. As a species, we will go forward. As societies, we will evolve. As people, we will find a way. We always do. This is not yet the End Of The World. Life will go on. Life moves forward.
My wife. In the days before drones, you had to go and get photos the hard way. In this case that meant climbing into an inflatable boat and rowing around the headland into and out onto a choppy Lake Ontario, to get some images of the scuppered ship in Jordan Harbour that you can’t see from land.
Got to do what ya got to do to get the shot. All told, I rowed for over six hours that day. This behind the scenes shot I took during a break from rowing shows she is at least as adventurous as I am. She never balks, however outlandish my ideas may be. She knows I won’t put her at risk. Much. Apart from that one time I threw her out of a plane, but that’s another story…
As always, I am thankful we do things together. Thanks for supporting me along the way, my love. Many would not. I could do it without you, but it would not be nearly half as much fun. You rock.
I am dropping a short series of snippets in to Youtube from our 2019 road trip vacation to New York, where among other things we went up the Empire State building, visited Lady Liberty, rode the NY subway, took in a Broadway show and met my friend from high school, that I had not seen in over 20 years, in Central Park.
Here’s the first New York Minute. Enjoy, and if you like, comment. Subscribe. Like.