Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pausing in Gananoque

What's the point if we are just going to die anyway?  That is the thought I often have when someone I know dies young or suddenly.  Then, almost as quickly, my next thought is, "Holy shit, better get living.!" Then I start to question the meaning of that.  Generally speaking, I think I am, but is what I am doing from day to day really living?  Is it "living like you are dying"?, as the song goes.

Or, is it just simply trying to be grateful for each day you are still breathing?  I think that is important, but what about making a contribution?  What constitutes that?  Was I a good friend today?  Was I a loving mother today?  Was I a giving partner?  Was I kind to a stranger?  Are those important enough?  Did I squander my talents today?  Ahhhh!  Felt a twinge of guilt on that one.  Ouch. But there is the rub.  What is my talent?  Really.  There are a few things I am good at. But, would one define it as "talent"?  I suppose if you graded me or tested me, or liked the results of something I provided for you, that could be considered.  Why are we so hard on ourselves?  Why do I think I need to win an award for my talents or write a best seller or turn out some sort of child prodigy to make my life count?

I know that is unrealistic thinking, but underneath it all I do harbour those thoughts.  If only I could just do this or do that or be this or be that, then my life will have meant something.  Well, who the hell decided those were the rules?  And ain't that just one way of looking at it?  What mere mortal cast that notion in stone?  

A friend of mine lost her husband last week.  It was a sudden and tragic accident.  Life as she once knew it just days ago is over.  This has me all stirred up again.  Another friend lost her husband in January.  And yet another had a very close call with hers last month.  Is it any bloody wonder I am in such a place right now contemplating life and death and what it all means.  It's messy and murky and heavy and sad.  But it also brings up the opposite.  It makes me not want to waste a moment.  Feel joy deeply. Hug. Smile. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Have fun. Never regret.

I drove to Toronto from Ottawa today.  I had a lovely visit with my daughter who is at university there.  We hugged. A lot. On the way home we had no real deadline to get to the city and as we approached Gananoque, I said, "let's check out this place, I have actually never stopped here."  It was such an awesome surprise.  We practically had the waterfront to ourselves as the lingering winter winds continued their harsh attack over the water, but we braved the stroll along the point and took a few snaps and felt the fresh frigid air on our cheeks.  "We are alive," I thought silently.  Cold, but alive.  The sun was bright in the crisp clear blue sky and the water looked choppy and clean enough to drink.  We read the historic plaques and put our hoods up and imagined the abandoned beach filled with happy splashing children come summer.  But for today, it was empty and ours. The few of the thousand islands we could see from the shoreline looked inviting but untouchable from our position on the beach.  I wondered about the fortunate cottage owners who would populate them in summer.  What fun it must be to boat to your little island and enjoy the serenity and isolation they afford.

On days you get bored or in a mood to be around people, you could motor over to Gananoque and stroll around, visit a gallery, eat ice cream.  The idyllic vision of that life danced gently through my mind as we worked our way across the waterfront park.  A small lighthouse that was likely really not a working tower but more a decorative feature created another vision of living an alternative lifestyle as a lighthouse keeper.  A dream tucked in the corner of my mind for years now.  Few, if any real lighthouses actually employ a full-time keeper anymore, but it is such a romantic notion that I just can't let it go.  In my imagination it is still possible.

It was time to get warm, so we got back into the car, the interior warmed by the noon day sun and made our way into town for lunch.  A few locals milled about the main street and we noticed a fairly steady stream of people coming and going from the Panache Bakery Cafe.  That would be the spot we figured.  We were right.  Homemade soups, sandwiches, baked goods and a seat at the counter facing the street in the window to watch the passing parade was just what the doctor ordered.  Warm at last.  It was probably a good thing the weather was as cold as it was as we surely would have wanted to stay and linger in Gananoque all afternoon otherwise.

The excursion to this lovely town on the north shore of Lake Ontario near Kingston was just the soul food I needed.  Soaking in the charm and beauty of this lakeside town fed me.  I was grateful for the nourishment.  I found it hard to believe I had never been here, having driven by the exit signs so many times on the drive across the 401 to Ottawa or Montreal.  This is exactly the reminder I needed.  The reminder that there is always something new to discover in this life. Something new to appreciate.  Something new to learn. Something to excite me.  Something to get passionate about.

And that is living.