9,332 miles, and counting

Writing about our adventures on the road has been more difficult than I imagined!  By the end of our first few weeks in Canada, limited access to power made jotting notes on my phone tricky, but in all honesty, that wasn’t it.  After a short time travelling, it just didn’t feel like anything I wrote did our experiences any justice.  It felt more like taking a photograph from a moving car (something I’m always trying to do) or joining up a dot to dot, with the dots dancing around the page.

Pinning down a picture somehow felt limiting.  Like endeavouring to capture a beautiful moment as its happening, sometimes a photograph just doesn’t cut it. It’s got nothing to do with the camera or the photographer (or, maybe it has…) but often that magic just can’t be captured.  Sometimes it’s like trying to replicate something completely original, oversimplifying it until its only a shadow of its original splendour.  

I picked up a book in a thrift store about Wabi Sabi a few weeks ago, and it describes these experiences wonderfully.  Wabi Sabi is a complicated Japanese concept suggesting that anything deeply affecting and beautiful is necessarily transient, imperfect and incomplete.  In terms of my attempts to write about our experiences, I think that is pretty much what I ran in to.  In fact, I think that describes so much of human experience. 

Transience and liminality can be such great creative spaces, and for me I find that I move into a more creative zone once some of the dust has settled. Helping two sproglets – and a husband – with their own swirls of dust is also something of a task that requires a great deal of loving care and attention. Now the pace has slowed and we have had time to catch up with ourselves, I feel like I have more of a base to write from. So, in the next posts I will attempt to share the highlights and the lowlights of our meandering adventures so far… they will be imperfect and incomplete, but all wholehearted parts of the journey we would like to share.

Toddlers on a Plane

Our flight to Toronto went extremely well for two young children who had been woken up at 4.30am that morning.  I was a little nervous and trawled the internet for ideas about how I could keep a 3 year old and a 1 year old entertained, for at least some of the time anyway.  I found www.babycantravel.com to have some great pointers.  In particular, wrapping each activity individually to be unwrapped at different intervals – we didn’t actually end up having time for that – but we did manage to pack some things in a gift bag!  Peekaboo Farm and Peekaboo Wild apps are firm favourites for both boys. The Montessori wooden cheese was and still is a surprising hit for Monty.  He spent a long time threading and unthreading it, and still enjoys it in the car.  This brightly coloured first words cloth book is also a good travelling favourite for him too. Theodore was very happy with some dinosaur and animal sticker books (courtesy of Nanny Jones) and appreciated the inflight films.  Sleeping and eating also proved to be excellent activities for all! 

After we arrived, we spent a week with Mike’s Uncle Don in Port Dalhousie, St Catharines.  In that whirlwind of a jet lagged week, we went for our visa medicals and met with some friends who made the move from Amesbury, UK to Ontario the previous year, which was a wonderful welcome.  We bought our trusty workhorse of a car and eventually sorted out some car insurance – which is probably the most complicated process we have encountered, other than the visa!  We also visited the stunning Niagara Falls, (of course!) and enjoyed a dance on the shores of Lake Ontario at the Niagara Jazz Festival.  After being a very kind and welcoming host to our gaggle of a tribe, Uncle Don then took us up to his cabin on Lake Nipissing for a couple of days.

Even with their ultra cute life jackets, the mummy bear in me had some reservations around taking my two babies on a speedboat. Thankfully as we bounced through the water, some wisdom came to mind. Not from the most traditional of philosophers or spiritual teachers, but from Poppa in the The Good Dinosaur.  Being immersed in his teachings, at one stage on a daily bases, has obviously had some effect on me, “You gotta face your fear Arlo….if you don’t face your fear you won’t survive out here. You’ve got to get through your fear…”

Deciding not to dwell on how things turn out for Poppa and focusing more on the on the outcome of Arlo’s journey, I found it strangely comforting, and very quickly I was relaxed and loving the wind in our faces and the new blue and green world speeding by.  Monty was even more relaxed and was either fast asleep or feeding every time we got on the boat.

On our first lake swim, Monty, Mike and I  had a grand time pretending to be turtles. It was when I got bitten on the bottom by what looked to me like a small pterodactyl which then pursued me up the bank, that we decided to rejoin Theodore and Uncle Don in the safety of the cabin- and to make our next purchase some child friendly bug repellent.  

A couple of days before we left Port Dalhousie, as we were loading all our Canadian worldly belongings into the boot of our car, a lovely guy called Alan introduced himself to us.  He said that he often got feelings about people and when he saw us he thought we looked like we were on a special journey.  He wanted to give us a gift to help us on our way, and gave us an arrowhead he had made out of clay.  He told us he was of Native American descent and was also travelling to Vancouver to be with his daughters.  It felt like such a good omen to have met him at the beginning of our trip, and was just the beginning of the friendliness and warmth we have received from folks across the country since our arrival.  The clay arrow head has had pride of place hanging from our rear view mirror ever since. 

Mono no aware

Mono no aware has always resonated with me.  It is a Japanese concept referring to impermanence and the fleeting nature of beauty.  It refers to a wistfulness, inferring that the transience of life makes it all the more poignant. Sometimes referred to as “an empathy towards things”, it describes a bitter sweetness in our experience of being human.  It is traditionally illustrated by the image of cherry blossoms; the short term nature of the beautiful flowers followed by their absence.


At different times in my life I have had a greater or a lesser sense of mono no aware.  I remember feeling invincible at times, like the rules didn’t apply to me.  On the face of it you might imagine this was a carefree and enjoyable existence and at times it was.  However on the same thread there was an unavoidable recklessness to it.  I also remember feeling for a longer while than I would like as if life hadn’t started yet, like it was possible to hit a ‘pause’ button.  This of course, is not possible and whilst I believe all our experiences make up who we are, the option of rewind and replay buttons have felt appealing at times.

Mono no aware suggests that we experience things more intensely when we are aware of their impermanence, something that I feel I have grown to appreciate (although I’ve no doubt it will only become more apparent as time goes on).  The idea that fluidity makes the colours more vivid & the landscape more beautiful. Watching my son grow and change in the knowledge that this time is so short.  Spending time with family and friends in the knowledge that the time that we all have together is fleeting, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.


That said, the notion of constant change being the one constant is sometimes hard to accept, let alone embrace.  This particularly within a culture that often seems to promote a sense of control and power, however much of an illusion this might be.  ‘Wabi-sabi’ includes acceptance and imperfection as part of a similar Japanese concept; imperfection being an essential part of beauty; acceptance being the key to human comfort.

So often for me it is separating what it is possible to change from what I might need to accept and perhaps let go of.  This has become all the more significant when thinking about my son, how he needs me to be able to facilitate change whilst remaining constant; to hold him and at the same time let him go.  It’s through my experiences with him that mono no aware seems all the more relevant; all the more important to bear in mind and not just for myself.  The hellos and goodbyes, the change from summer to autumn, an excitement about the cosy coming winter; we will never have these moments again.  I want to enjoy all the cherry blossoms before letting them go freely on the breeze.