Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Ste. Anne's

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take a short road trip to join some friends for some spring skiing at Smuggler's Notch in Vermont. Every once in a while I love a good road trip, I don't mind driving and sometimes being alone at the wheel gives me a chance to think and reflect, although on this particular trip I found myself missing my canine friend Massie at times. I did enquire at the border, and apparently he is welcome to cross the border as long as he has his shots up to date and documentation readily available. I let my GPS do the navigating, and she took me along the 401 to Cornwall, where I crossed into Akwesasne territory. My first reaction to the conditions on the American side of the border, a collection of falling down houses and barns, closed down businesses and general signs of despair was that all the news I had been seeing about the state of the U.S. economy was evident in real time, was soon replaced with the realization that this was more a case of how the indigenous people of North America have been neglected much longer than this current economic cycle. Once I crossed the state line into Vermont, conditions were much better with very few "signs of the times." Another thing that caught my eye over the state line was a highway sign pointing to Ste. Anne's Shrine. I was on a bit of a tight timeline, so I decided to leave this diversion for my return trip. I got to Smugglers just in time for a warm Canadian welcome and a good home cooked meal. The next day we tackled the mountain - ski conditions were OK, but a little icy. Then the sky opened up with rain, and that introduced a whole new skiing experience. The weather cleared after lunch, enough that I decided to cut through a patch of brush to another hill, hitting a patch of mud on my way. Well, I found out that skis prefer snow to mud, so while my skis came to a dead stop in the mud, my body kept going and down I went. Other than a bruised ego and a sprained thumb, I was none the worse for wear. I made the mistake of checking in with work when we got back to the chalet, which resulted in me deciding to head back home the next day to tackle some pressing issues. On the way back I made 2 stops - one at the Ste. Anne's Shrine, and one at the Akwsasne casino. The shrine was pretty much closed for the season, but was still quite moving. Ste. Anne's statue has a great view over Lake Champlain, a crucifix and the stations of the cross on the lake shore. After a self guided tour and some prayerful meditation, I set out for my final stop where I donated my last American dollars to the casino.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Drink some green beer for Pat's sake!

My mother was born on St. Patrick's day, and my father currently resides on the Emerald Isle, so for most of my life, March 17th has been a festive day. I've been to St. Paddy's day parades in Toronto, New York and Dublin; and without a doubt, the very best place to be on this day is Dublin. All the pubs are full and everyone is in a good mood, which is not to say that everyone is drunk, but rather, people are kind, happy and hospitable. The parade itself is nothing short of spectacular, colorful float after fanciful float winds its way through the historic streets of this fine old town. On this particular St. Patrick's Day, my mother and father are taking a little break from the last gasp of winter with a visit to my nomadic brother John and his wife Nancy in Florida. I half thought I might make a short surprise visit to Florida myself (I love surprises), but then I thought it might be nice for John and Nancy to have mom and dad all to themselves this year. So find yourself a nice cozy pub with Guinness on tap ("smooth as a mother's milk", as my friend Tim Gilligan, proprietor of the Queen's Hotel in Colborne describes it), settle in with a few close friends and enjoy the day. You never know, you just might run into me there, in which case, I'll buy you a pint or two! Until then, "May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind always be at your back; may the sun shine warm upon your face; and rains fall soft upon your fields; And until we meet again; may God hold you in the palm of His hand." (an Irish Prayer, origin unknown).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Could that be spring I smell?

The past few days have been so hopeful. All the elements of spring passed through Ontario - warm, bright sunshine, rain, the time change, and of course, lots and lots of mud. This morning, as I tried to scratch enough ice off of my windshield so that I could find my way to work, I fought the urge to feel discouraged by the fresh coating of snow. Spring is such a hopeful time of the year. But alas, despite all my bragging about avoiding a winter cold due to my fervant belief in the preventative health benefits of Cold FX, today I am sniffling and sneezing my way through the same cold that everyone else around me has had for the past couple of weeks. But we know that all this will make way to more bright sunny days, bits of green pushing their way up through the soil, robins returning to pull fat worms out of the earth and spring will have sprung again. Now what else have I been up to? On Saturday night a friend and I went to visit Dan & Rebecca's newly opened day spa on Glen Miller Road, just north of Trenton. What an incredible job these two have done of transforming space. Even though I haven't had the gift of offspring, I couldn't help but cluck just a little like a proud mother hen when I saw what an inspired creation these two had spawned. If you're feeling weary, you definitely need to consider a trip to Lolly Lodge. Also spent an hour on Friday night(second in Lent) as the Crucifer in Father Hood's very meditative "Stations of the Cross" at St. Michael's Church in Cobourg. Around the 3rd station my hands started to ache a little, and my stomach started to grumble in anticipation of a post service meal. As Father Hood skillfully guided the congregation through the 14 stages of the Crucifixion, I couldn't help but draw a comparison between my hunger and my discomfort, and the incomprehensible sacrifice made by JC 2000 years ago. I am quite a wimp, no doubt about it.