After a six hour drive, I’ve made it back home from my vacation. And it would be easy to write a blog post about my vacation, what I did everyday, who I saw, but it just doesn’t seem right, not when where I’m visiting has become so familiar to me.
Every year since I was four or five my family and I go up North to the Ottawa Valley for what started out as two weeks and has slowly become three weeks after years of adding an extra day to our vacation so we could enjoy the country for a little bit longer.
It’s my dad’s side who is from their, who still live their. My relatives came over from Sligo, Ireland around the time of the Potato Famine and settled in the Ottawa Valley, moving from one small town to another until we settled for a bit in the Cormac/Killaloe area with a number of other Irish settlers (and a few German and Polish ones to boot). That’s where my grandpa was born, along with his sister and three brothers, a pretty good size family for an Irish Catholic family. They were farmers, as most people were in that area at the time, as many are still. My grandpa didn’t want to be a farmer though and as soon as he was old enough he left for Ottawa to work for a year before he was old enough to enlist in the Canadian army where he was sent to fight in Germany (and some other places I forget*) during in the Second World War. After that he migrated to Hamilton where he met my Nana, had some kids, which eventually led to my sister and I. But even though the farming life wasn’t for him, my grandpa still loved the Ottawa Valley and kept in close contact with his family. He visited often, giving my dad a love for the valley as well and passing it onto us.
The hotels we stay in may have changed, but each year stays relatively the same without ever getting old. We explore the many little towns around the Valley (generally from Barry’s Bay to Douglas), we enjoy the good food and baked goods that are hard to find back home, we swim in Golden Lake (no real gold that I know of, but when the light shines on the sand through the water it sure looks like it) as much as possible, and most importantly we visit the large number of relatives that still live in the area (many of whom still farm). And new things have been added to the usual agenda: a Family Reunion (which has been going on for six years as of 2018!) and the Kaleidoscope Gathering.
I was able to stay up North for ten days this year, my longest in a long time since finishing school and working (oh adulthood), and the time felt both long and short. On Saturday I couldn’t believe it had been a week since the family reunion, it seemed like it has happened months ago, like I had been sitting by the lake for most of the summer. But after a six hour drive and being home now, it seems like it wasn’t enough time. But with my family, it never is (why do you think we keep adding a day?).
I absolutely adore the Ottawa Valley. It’s where my family is, where my roots are, and is one of the few places besides my home where I feel completely at ease. In many ways I think of the Ottawa Valley as a second home; it’s a place I keep returning too, a place I can’t stay away from. I love how kind the people are there, I love having relatives who are close, I love cleanness of the air, the long stretches of road without another car following you, the beauty of it all.
But I’m speaking from a very privileged, tourist perspective despite how long I’ve been coming up here. I haven’t seen the lakes freeze over, so thick you could walk on them without any fear of falling in, at least for a few miles. I’ve never been stuck inside because the snow and ice made the roads impossible to travel on. I’ve never had to deal with those early winters when everything turns grey, when spring takes so long to arrive. But that just makes me wonder more, wonder what it might be like to watch the snow fall their, to walk along a frozen lake.
So until then I have my summer’s and I have the Ottawa Valley, and it’s only a year until I go back and I know it will come sooner than I think, like it always does.
*I obviously need to brush up on my family history.
(Photo of myself in Golden Lake taken by my sister.)
P.S. Sorry for my sorry excuse for a blog post on Monday. I tried to come up with something (lazy) before I went on holidays, and it’s now obvious I apparently can’t think of blog posts that early in advance (¯\_(ツ)_/¯). At least you have a real blog post now!