They’re everywhere! Everywhere! In the “True North”, signs are a bit different than what I am used to seeing in the lowcountry of South Carolina – bear warnings, moose crossings and information on the endangered plover population.
Because we are RVers, we have directions to “our level of camping”, orders from management on what NOT to flush and the potential to join a group of escapees.
In the last few days, we set up camp for a one-night stay in Petawawa Ontario. My sister-in-law Erin advised us to be certain we weren’t in “Petaweewee.” Humor at the expense of First Nation peoples. LOL
And what’s THIS sign about? Do camp parents offer beers to camping kids? Or is that just a small man with a fetish for tall alcoholic women?
This is Jack Schrader. We met him in the parking lot of the Giant Tiger, a Canadian store combining Walmart groceries and Dollar General merchandise. In Pembroke Ontario this fellow stopped to chat, recommend a good sandwich shop and point us in the direction of a “chip trailer.” This part of Canada is overflowing with French fry vendor trucks and those fries are some kind of good. Jack reads the New Yorker, values the relationship between the USA and Canada, and wonders what is next for our countries, together. He used to work for a Crown Corporation, a company run by the Canadian government making isotopes for U.S. medical companies out of uranium shipped north from the Savannah River Plant. Small world – Clemson, Aiken, Pembroke Ontario. Jack, french fries, Tigers. The New Yorker. Friendship.
Signs help me find libraries and post offices…
receive good advice at gas station bathrooms and oyster bars…
guide us through entry ways and exits…
with warnings of falling rock, steep slopes, and knowing “You are Here”….
Even brown paper bags manufactured in the USA by Novolex are signs that Big Stan dominates the Canadian marketplace!
The signs I crave most are the ones you cannot read, are not obvious, hidden signs that you need to be quiet to hear and aware to see. The smile from a passing woman who cannot speak English. A wave from a little girl driving a miniature Jeep along the uneven, packed dirt roads of a campground, blonde curls poking from under her bike helmet. Big waves from a big man making a full turn in church as his sign of peace to everyone before communion. Little boys wild with joy over their catch of the day, their lone “river fish” in a cooler, species unidentifiable, the harvest from a long afternoon fishing from a dock on the Ottawa River.
There are the signs from God and His friends with a sense of humor…
handcrafted signs in silent monasteries where only five Filipino nuns reside…
signs of eastern and western religions, the Buddha and God and carrying our yoke.
During our stretches of drive time on Trans Canadian highways, we listen to podcasts – Ted Talks, This American Life, The Moth, and the Writers’ Almanac among others. During a Ted Talk on “Shifting Time”, Dr. Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, talked about people becoming happier as they age, even in the face of health challenges, the mechanical wearing down of the body. She talked about poignancy. I know the word but was unsure of its definition.
Poignancy – noun – the quality of evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.
In these days of travel, quiet, recollection, newness, adjustment, the signs around the experiences bring poignancy to the journey. I see Art in Mac. I see my father on the dock with the young fisherboys, talking about pickerel and walleye, baiting his hook with a worm. I see my mother at the kitchen table when I peel a banana or tear a piece of donut and give it to Trooper. I see my brother in the rush hour of mornings and in the green Canadian fields , my sister in the hands of a young Acadian girl holding white yarn, my nieces and nephews in the children and young adults moving past and around me, in their smiles, their delights and in their energy. And there are the signs of God in the obvious and in the mysterious.
Signs: sight, sound, silence, sickness, safety, surrender and sorrow. Look for them. It may take a lifetime to discover our answers. Maybe an eternity.
Sometimes, the answers are in the happenstance exits to witness the silliness of the World’s Biggest Axe….
The signs are there. There are answers.
All we need to do is ask for help.