Monday, July 9, 2018

Travel as Inspiration

The Bonaventure river in northern Quebec. I sat on these rocks sketching for hours. My backside went completely numb.
Every summer of my childhood, my family of 6 would pile into our station wagon and make the 8hr drive from Mississauga to the Eastern Townships, in Quebec, to visit my grandmother. Being the youngest and the smallest, I would get to camp out in the back with the family dog, separated from my siblings by all the gear. I'd have a sleeping bag and a pillow, paper, crayons and a pile of books. I'd lie back there, listen to the music, stare out the window and daydream. 

Note: This was before seatbelt laws, when you could do that kind of thing and not get arrested. Don't try sticking your kid in the back now unless there is a proper seat with a seatbelt. We would sometimes ride in the back of pickup trucks too. And I'm pretty sure you could get on a motorbike without a helmet if you wanted. It was the 70s.

The fabulous hallway in the Abbey of
St. Benoit du Lac. They make cheese there.
Amazing cheese. We came home
with a cooler full
The Appalachian mountain range runs through the eastern part of Quebec. The highway that connects Toronto to Montreal is a beautiful drive (when you are not actually in either city), with the road being like a valley that had been blasted out of solid rock. As a kid I loved watching those rock walls fly past... I imagined I could see things emerging from them... faces, animals, birds... I always wanted to get out and touch them. Just run my hands over the jagged edges and veins of colour, maybe see if the life I saw was actually there. Of course that never happened. It'd be a death wish to stop on the side of the 401. My dad knew that, but I was always a little disappointed. 

We took my mom along for this trip. We were going to her childhood home and she hadn't been back in probably close to a decade. It was an interesting experience for me... I got to hear stories from her youth I had never heard before. We went places she remembered but I had never been to. The area took on new meaning for me. It was always where family was, a summer get-away spot, but seeing it as an adult meant seeing it for what it had become. And I totally fell in love. 

Waterfall a short drive and a 5km hike through the woods
from where we were staying in St. Siméon. Was totally worth it. 

We went a little further than we had before, since it really was my first time seeing the province as an adult. My husband's family is from Newfoundland, so we met up with them in the Gaspé for a visit. The men in the family are avid fly-fishermen, and this is Salmon season. Happy to report my guy caught a 25lb-er. No photos... given his history with dropping his phone in the river (it's happened twice now), there was no way in hell I would let him take his phone with him if I was there to stop it. Unfortunately I slept in that morning and didn't go. Hopefully he will forgive me one day.

Travel is a way to experience things outside my everyday existence. Being immersed in a different culture brings new and surprising revelations about how we live in comparison to others. Having lived in the Toronto area my entire adult life, I spend much of my time dealing with things that are the norm for city dwellers... pollution, traffic, crowds, concrete, skyscrapers, and angry people (everyone always seems to be angry)... my everyday consists of driving through traffic to a job where I am surrounded by people then back home where I attempt to carve out a place of tranquility for my family. My place to commune with nature is my backyard, and the occasional jaunt to the local park by Lake Ontario, which I cannot even ride my bike to without risking my life.  Every time I visit somewhere smaller and less chaotic, I see a difference that convinces me that we are doing it wrong here. Life can be a whole lot less stressful if we just adopt a different version of what success looks like. 

I returned from my holiday refreshed and relaxed, and ready create. I imagine my work will change, much like it did after my month in Portugal in 2017. I have many new images to pull from, and new memories to inspire me. 

The Abbey at St. Benoit du Lac

A field overlooking Lake Memprémagog, with the mountains in the distance.

A beach along the coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. Look at those rocks. What a colour. 

The setting sun on the Gaspé.