A funny thing happened on the way to (and from) summer vacation—I changed my mind. I am well aware of how odd this probably sounds, but I think all should become clear if you just keep reading.
I could have chosen to write this post about the misfortunes and mishaps along the way. In fact, I probably could have dedicated multiple posts to how our original accommodation plans didn’t work out and we had to adapt on the fly (twice); how, we were already passed Banff when we learned we’d left the city without any way for my parents to get into our house to let the dog out and therefore had to call a locksmith to come break in; how, in all our moving about from one place to the next we misplaced several articles of clothing and other personal items; or finally, how I got sick with a nasty cold that has lingered for weeks.
But instead of focusing on the perceived bad stuff, I’m choosing a different path. Rather than staying bogged down in my own stories and negative soundtrack, I am making a conscious decision to focus instead on the true gems—those rare and precious moments that could have easily been overlooked and gone untold. I’m excited to share the following five stories from my summer vacation because, after some time and reflection, I honestly believe that these are the stories worth telling.
1. The drive. It’s been many years since I completed the drive from Alberta to B.C. through the mountains and Rogers Pass, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the glorious wonder of it all. I mean come on…the winding roads literally cut into the base of solid rock, surrounded on either side by 200-foot tree walls. The layers of variegated green foliage covering the mountain faces, with only pieces of jagged rock peeking out in intermittent patches. And the crystalline mountain streams and lakes that sparkle in the sunlight. I am quite convinced that the stretch of road between Banff National Park and Mt. Revelstoke National Park offers some of the most stunning scenery on planet earth, and I can honestly say that I haven’t truly appreciated the breathtaking vistas and majestic beauty that is our country before this drive. I have a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature, in all her glory, and I hereby solemnly vow to spend more time with her on a regular basis.
2. A day on Lake Okanagan. It’s no big secet that my husband and kids love the water. (I’ve often wondered if the three of them may have been fish in a previous life.) Early on in our trip, we rented a boat for the day and were able to enjoy a fantastic day exploring beautiful Lake Okanagan. Sharing the day with some of our BC and Alberta family made the experience that much sweeter. The kids had an absolute blast tubing, and the some of the guys gave wakeboarding a shot. While the water in the middle of the lake was pretty choppy, we found a bay where the sun was shining bright and the water was perfectly calm. We anchored our boats for lunch and stayed to play for several hours after, completely losing track of what time it was. A small rock island projecting out of the water about 10-12 feet at its highest point made the perfect platform for jumping in and provided hours of entertainment that day. With so much fun and so many memories created, our day on the water is one I don’t think any of us will soon forget.
3. I fell in love with a tree more than three times my age. On the recommendation of friends and family, we had dinner at The Minstrel Café the one night in Kelowna that we were without our kids. We were seated outside on the patio, directly below the stunning 148-year-old London Plane tree for which the restaurant is known. I’ve never met a London Plane tree before but I can easily say this one was simply amazing; I’m talking regal, wise, all knowing, and breathtaking in its beauty. The size of its trunk a testament to the number of years it has been growing in the every spot where it was originally planted. With twisted branches sprawling out in all directions, it provides both a shady canopy for daytime patio goers and the perfect perch for the strands of white lights to twinkle like low-hanging stars above the heads of those who dine there. This tree had to be one of the most mesmerizing living creatures I’ve ever encountered, and it easily has to be the oldest. I can only imagine how much that great tree has seen in its years and the stories it would be able to tell! I wanted to caress its bark and wrap my arms around its body. If we hadn’t been in such a rush to leave for the concert and I had been dressed more appropriately for tree climbing, I most certainly would have found a way up onto one of its branches to just hang out there for a while. Although our time together was short, one thing is for sure: that London Plane Tree wove some strange magic over me and I left a piece of my heart with it that night.
Sidenote: the food at The Minstrel Café was also very good, and I would highly recommend going there if ever visiting Kelowna.
4. The road trip as a right of passage. Aside from driving to B.C. when our daughter was only nine months old, which doesn’t count because my son wasn’t born yet and she was too young to remember, this was our first major road trip as a family. Up until now I’ve been reluctant to take vacations that required long drives because I was fearful that all the bickering and whining from the backseat might drive me mad on the way. At the same time, I think a good ol’ road trip is a right of passage that all children (and parents) must be made to endure, um I mean enjoy, at least once. But I really must say the drive went much better than I anticipated. The kids did quite well overall. Granted, we came prepared with plenty of snacks and broke up the drive into smaller stints, stopping regularly for meals, bathroom breaks, and to sleep overnight. (And it probably didn’t hurt that we just got a vehicle with a built-in entertainment system and Bluetooth wireless headsets.) Regardless of the reason, there were minimal complaints of boredom, and we only had to make one emergency pit stop for my son to hydrate the foliage at a roadside turnout. Now that’s what I call road trip success.
5. Lessons in receptivity and being present. The ability to experience a situation by staying present, fully processing it, letting it go, and carrying on without attachment is the very definition of receptivity. This is a muscle I continue to strengthen by doing the work. And although our trip didn’t go exactly as we had planned, I can honestly say I am grateful for its gifts—the realizations it afforded me to come to and the lessons it reinforced. Through this experience, I’ve been able to see with softer eyes the soul of all things in the world around me, and the invisible connections between everything and everything else. While it has taken me some time to wrap my head around it, I’m now able to smile with each breath, knowing I am part of the magnificent web of life.
It’s interesting how the way you choose to look at a situation can dictate how you feel about it, and maybe even determine what happens next. But this is profoundly true. These five stories changed the way I viewed my entire vacation experience, reshaping and reframing it from something undesirable to somewhat of a miracle. And so I guess this may just go down in history as the summer I changed my mind—literally changed it. It’s a bold statement, I know, and there’s a great deal of unfinished work on my part, but that’s the beauty of it. From a place of awareness and presence, I get to choose my reactions to situations and how I want to engage with the world. It really is a beautiful thing, and it’s only the beginning.