Monday, 2 July 2012


   It seems that our camera sat mostly forgotten in a bag of rumpled clothes while we were back visiting in Canada.  There were too many people we hadn't seen in too long; we were overwhelmed by crashing waves of familiarity.  And so there was only one time when we went out and trapped little bits of the late evening light to bring home with us.

   All of the rest: swimming in lakes; thunderstorms; June bugs and moths tapping on the screens at night; laying in grass beneath trees in the afternoon; the bird, bug, and frog songs I grew up listening to as I drifted off to sleep; the plants I knew well; coyote yelps; hummingbirds; porcupines; the meeting and mixing of people from every part of the world; the blinding sun and smothering heat; the rich forests... all of those things I would have liked to have shared here... I'm very sorry, but none of that got recorded somehow.

   So the photos of our evening's bike ride over the rolling hills near where my father lives will be all I can really share of our time away.  Luckily, my father lives in a place full of charming farms and roads where cars have to share the lanes with horses pulling buggies and quite a few bicycles. 

And just at the end of the street he lives on, there are farms selling eggs, maple syrup, pies, and vegetables to any who will knock on the door and come inside for a second.  One of the only foods I miss a lot, not living in Canada, happens to be maple syrup.  And so we walked past the cows moaning and stretching out to be milked and stepped inside a little wooden house where a girl with a fluttering accent brought out jugs of different colours of syrup, from light to dark.

   My parents happened to separate before I was born, after an argument on their honeymoon, so I never spent too much time around the places you see in these photos while I was growing up, just on summer holidays and some weekends.  I always felt cut off from the people on my father's side of the family who spoke a very thick dialect of German, like many of the people who live around here.

   It is lovely on a bicycle though, especially when after a long stretch of dusty, open road there is a valley filled with deep forest, where the trees give off a moist coolness and everything smells very green and very alive.

  Down long country roads there are little pockets of farm houses with kids running about in brimmed hats and sometimes playing stick-ball.  Mennonite ladies walk about in their bonnets and there are horses everywhere, and everything feels so lovely and too intimate to photograph (which is why I only took photos out on the big main road that runs between towns). 

   Returning home after so long away is such a perplexing experience.  All the funny little everyday things that I always believed to be ordinary in every place jump out at me now as having been unique all along.  The words of family and friends are accented, though they didn't use to be.  There are some strange and Rip Van Winkle-like effects to returning home after a long time away.  And yet, there is the opposite sense, the familiarity and the feeling of belonging to a place.  Before too long, time and thoughts start reaching forward, tracing out the alternate life that could be lived here, on the spot you grew up out of, this warm place filled with family.


And then it's time to go off again.

It happens that tomorrow morning, bright and early, we are heading out on one last homesickness-inducing adventure, just as the boxes have all been unpacked and this new flat is beginning to look like home.  Somewhat unexpectedly, we are returning to France for a little over a week, and then our time of roving should be over for a good while, which is probably a very good thing.  



  1. Oh, these are lovely photos and remind me so much of southeast Manitoba, as I remember. I think I'd have the same odd Rip-van-Winkle-ish feelings if I were to go back after decades away from where I grew up (in Winnipeg actually). It's good that you have been home for a while to relive and refresh those precious contacts and memories, to now carry them with you in your new home. Best wishes!

  2. A glimpse into another world - thank you.

  3. Wonderful sounding journey... and I can totally relate to missing maple syrup. When I lived in Greece, I missed it a lot. How does one explain it? Someone once asked me to describe the taste... I mean, you can talk about fruits, nuts, cakes and cookies... but maple syrup? Hard one. I love going to the sugar houses just after sugar season - during is too crazy as they are burning and people come from the cities to spend hours in line to eat pancakes with fresh syrup. I love eating the blood of trees... like amber in the making.

  4. wow, what a unique place! I can see that I'm really going to have to have a trip to canada soon! It's strange how you can come back to a childhood place after a long time spent away and see it with entirely fresh eyes...the smells, the green, even the wind brings a strange concoction of new and old and always seems so much fuller than you remember...such beautiful photos, you can almost feel the wind and sun when looking at them :)

  5. oh, lovely... i think it's the best thing, to come back after a time away, to be able to see what was once so mundane as magic again (like you did when you were a child).
    do you speak a germanic dialect, too, then? as well as french and english? any more ;) ?
    i love languages...

  6. Oh Jodi, it's been so lovely catching up here. What a time you've had. Your little patch of Canada looks wonderful, like something out of a fairytale. Thank you for sharing. xx

  7. I really want to step inside these beautiful photos and travel myself. Just lovely.

  8. Marja-Lena,
    My mother was born in Winnipeg, and I have a ton of family there that I've never met. I have a sort of imaginary Manitoba that has built up in my mind over the years, listening to stories from my mother and grandparents... so it's interesting to hear that these photos put you in mind of it. Do you think you will ever go back and have another look about the place?

    You're very welcome, glad you liked it!

    It's true, there's nothing that tastes like maple syrup; it belongs in a category apart!

    Wayward Harper,
    Yes, Canada is lovely to visit, especially in autumn when the leaves turn colours. If you like outdoorsy holidays it's really a paradise! And there are people living there from all over the world, so it's never dull in the city.
    You're very right about the odd sensation of new and old at once when you've been away from a place for a long time! Glad you liked the photos.

    No, I don't speak any sort of German. My father was against me learning it as a child.
    But I do speak French, and I used to speak Irish (Gaelic) pretty well, but I haven't spoken it in a few years now. I want to learn Russian! I started learning last year, but then had to stop taking classes. I love languages too.... there are so many I want desperately to learn. What about you? I've noticed you translate things from Spanish sometimes...

    Ciara and Hila,
    Thanks for the sweet words about the photos. So glad you two have been reading along!

  9. What a beautiful blog ~ how glad I am to have discovered it. I really enjoyed the multicultural aspect you touched on here (which is why I chose this post to comment on, though it was a tough choice); it is a gift to have connections to more than one place, and a theme I never tire of reading about. As for German, I was reading your comment above - my father also has German ties, but also wanted me to learn French, isn't that funny. But then, it used to be the language of diplomacy back in the day!