"Ahhhh, breathe that fresh northern air!" a jubilant Will exclaimed as he tumbled out onto the rocky driveway after an eight hour drive that had felt, to him, like an eternity. This was the beginning of what was to be a truly wonderful ten days spent on scenic St. Joseph Island near Sault Ste. Marie, in a beautiful cottage Matt and the boys and I rented from our friends. No matter how long I've been away or what has changed since my last visit to the north, returning to the familiar landscape of enormous lakes, jumbled rocks and thick forests, and to the family who welcomes me so warmly, always feels like coming home.
Our time on the Island was filled with a perfect mix of noisy fun had with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and quieter days where just Matt and the boys and I enjoyed each other's company and the peaceful surroundings. Kids shrieked with exhilaration as they leapt off the end of the dock into the rolling, chilly waves and swam for the raft, which became for them a giant surf board to ride the rise and fall of the water. We played tennis and basketball, went kayaking, and played board games together when it rained. The shores and forest revealed a host of wild creatures for us to admire when we looked carefully for them: toads, frogs, crayfish, a deer, a snake (!), little fish jumping out of the water, fireflies, and birds galore. We looked for pretty rocks in the shallow water (especially puddingstones), skipped flat stones across the water, and built Inukshuk on the sand. We enjoyed simple, delicious meals out in the fresh air with a view of the lake, and spent evenings sitting around a glowing campfire, sharing stories, music, and marshmallows roasted over the flickering flames. It was a lovely opportunity for all of us to reconnect with each other in a picture perfect setting.
While we were away I was reading the novel The Humans, in which author Matt Haig quotes astronomer/astrophysicist Carl Sagan: "For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." The truth of this statement struck me with absolute clarity in the moment that I read it from a chair overlooking Lake Huron. Standing alone facing a powerful body of water that stretches beyond the scope of the imagination over the horizon, seeing the brilliant sun rise and set in its enduring cycle, it is easy for a person to feel very small and insignificant, even afraid. When we are joined by the heart to others who make us laugh, who share our hurts, and who give us a sense of being firmly rooted, the enormity of it all becomes breathtakingly beautiful.
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