Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer's Gone

The sun slices through the early morning mist at this time of year, straight up the valley from the east, right into my study.  On the last day of summer holidays - Ben and Dylan will both be in school tomorrow - it is going to be a perfect day, sunny at 28-degrees.  Everything is still green and lush, though the growth of the grass has slowed considerably, and the leaves are ready to make their colourful transition to the painted forest.

We've had a great summer: July spent here at home, a week traveling to Kamsack and Calgary, a week of interPLAY, and two weeks in Ontario.  In our travels we connected with 43 family members.  I counted, on our flight home last week, as I couldn't sleep and I needed something to do. I also listed the name of every single person that I could remember from Mindcamp, Canada's creativity conference, five days that closed out our Ontario excursions.  Remarkably, that number ended up around 75.

Meeting people and spending time with family are awesome, but the measure for me of a great holiday is experiencing the sensation that time is standing still and mentally disconnecting with the world back home.  As I look back, one week felt like two and two felt like four, so time did indeed slow down.  And while I had to deal with one or two things that came up back at home, I felt mentally present throughout our travels.  It was a great vacation.

I thought I'd do something different with this edition of the Wood Buffalo Update.  Rather than writing from memory, I'm going to use photographs as memory triggers and sharing whatever stories they inspire.  How does that sound?


We drove 1,300 kilometres on that first leg of our holiday, driving the northern route from Fort McMurray to Kamsack.  As we were getting close, a beautiful sunset was developing and I insisted we stop a couple of times so I could snap a few pictures.

Justifiably, Heather was getting tired of pulling over for me, so rather than asking a third time, I opened up the sunroof, carefully positioned my iPhone in the jet stream, holding tightly, and snapped a picture of the sky as the sun made its final descent.

I think it was worth it, don't you?  You can see the reflection on the roof of the car in the foreground.  Stunning!


I leaf my way through the stack of local newspapers when I get home to Kamsack.  I have done it religiously going back to the mid-1980s when I returned for the first time from university in Saskatoon.

Mom and Dad are great about resisting the urge to toss the growing pile of yellowed newsprint in the garbage until both Doug and I have had a chance to go through them.

There were two items, apart from the one celebrating Dad's volunteer efforts in the community, that really jumped out to me.  One was the obituary for John Friday, a fellow who was quite a bully when we were little.  Playing football on the site that is now the RCMP detachment, likely in 1979 or 1980, he bullied us for the last time as I finally pushed back, and punched a few times.  Seeing that he is gone reminds me that he was somebody's son, brother, father and grandfather.  He was only 45.

The other was the obituary for Lawrence.  He was always around, from the time I was knee-high to a grasshopper, the local Mr. Fix-It who had every tool under the sun and the skill to fix or build pretty much anything.  A lifelong bachelor, Lawrence was always friendly, eternally helpful and a fixture in the community.  It seems surreal that he is gone, though he lived a good long life passing away at 84.


It was so nice to see everyone, smiling, talking, reconnecting.  It was great to see Dad doing incredibly well.  Here are a few pictures that are worth sharing that capture brilliantly the spirit of the three days we spent in Kamsack.

Uncle Lloyd, Shelley and Aunty Lydia
Heather with Anwyn; Dylan and Henry; Ben, Anwyn and Kade; Sophia and Maggie, Dylan and Maggie

Malisa, Greg and Jana; Kade, Dylan and Doug; Kim and Keith; Doug, Mom, Kade and Dad


We have established a summer tradition with the Wagner side of the family that we convene in a new location each year.  As Michael and Kathryn had recently made a big move to Calgary and in respect of the latter being great with child, we decided to use their home as a base of operation for a number of outings in the area.  High flying fun at Calaway Park, fishing on the Bow, playing games and exploring the Glenbow Museum were some of the highlights of our few days in Cowtown.

Julia loved the day at Calaway Park. I enjoyed the fishing in the trout pond.

Games are often in progress, especially between Dylan and Grandma Wager as they often engage in long checkers battles

I can't say enough our our Bow River fly fishing adventure

Ben, Michael, Julia, Susan, Dylan, Neil and Heather outside the Glenbow in downtown Calgary

We got to see the Escher exhibit at the Glenbow, absolutely a highlight

We always enjoy our time during the Wagner reunion, wherever we happen to be, but this year especially so.  Michael and Kathryn's new home is so comfortable and roomy.  I was also delighted to have caught my first fish using a fly rod.  

A Little Piece of Paradise

After traveling across the country, renting a car and braving the 401, there was no better place we could have been than Marcel and Kathy's "farm" near Guelph.  I call it a "farm", though there is only one animal - a lovely dog named Boda - a garden and several fruit trees.  The only other way to describe this place is "a little piece of paradise", which Heather beautifully wrote about in a recent blog post that you can read here.

From the wonderful art on the walls to the conversation-rich gatherings around the long dining table, from the mysterious forest to the refreshing swimming hole, the "farm" is a place of tranquility, connectivity, and abundance.

We were grateful to have spent several days there before heading into Guelph to enjoy Pierre and Robbie's hospitality.  Their new home is gorgeous, with a striking view out the back and lots of room for company.  We had a great gang of us on one night, including Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty.

After telling everyone about my visit to Maryann and JP's dairy farm last fall, the gang was eager to visit for themselves.  We took a drive one afternoon and enjoyed an awesome tour of this beautiful facility and parlour-side seats for the 5 pm milking.  It was awesome.

I took a lot of pictures during the wonderful Guelph portion of our trip.  Here are a few of our favourites.

Heather with baby Juliana and her Aunty Emilie

The boys playing around in Fergus

The beautiful ladies: Heather and Kathy

Cool dudes: Pierre and Dylan

The musician: Erica

We enjoyed several great visits with Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty

Robbie and Pierre are always so full of life

Maryann and Joseph Patrick gave us an awesome tour of their dairy farm

We departed from Guelph, choosing to take the road less traveled, or, at least the one we thought would be so.  Highway 2 runs parallel to the much faster and busier 401, cutting through towns and cities with names like Whitby, Oshawa, Bowmanville, Port Hope and Cobourg.  And no sooner had one place ended another began, towns sitting kiss to kiss, with nary a field between them.  

Chris and Corinne moved to Trenton shortly after the last time we were in Ontario as a family.  And while we don't see them often enough, we sure enjoy our time with them when we do.

They asked what kinds of things we wanted to do when we were there.  We were very explicit that we were quite happy just hanging out and discovering their little community and area.  So, that's exactly what we did.  On one day, we went for a mini-wine tour, through Prince Edward County, tasting some of the local vintages and shopping in some of the out-of-the-way galleries and stores.  

On another day, we discovered the beauty of Lake Ontario, spending time on the beach at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.  I'm still struck by how beautiful it was and how few people were there.  Who needs to go to Mexico when you have a beach like that in your backyard.

Sometimes, everything you need to have an unforgettable time is within your reach.  One evening, Corinne started bringing out her collection of musical instruments: trumpet, saxophone, recorders, cantor (for the pipes), guitar, and pan flute.  We all got into the act, with Ben loving every minute of being surrounded by musical things.

Jonathan, Matthew and Thomas have all grown up since we last saw them.  Matthew is so tall he can touch the sky.  

Jonathan and Dylan ended up finding lots to talk about, as did the two sets of parents - no stone was left unturned by the time we packed up and darted off to our final stop at Mindcamp.  But that's a whole other story that would cause this edition of the Wood Buffalo Update to go on forever.  

As you can see, it was a full summer of travel and fun.  We've logged a lot of miles, but it was worth it to see people that we dearly love, people we don't see often enough.  I hope you've enjoyed looking at the pictures and getting a wee sense of our holiday adventures.

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