Like many of you, Eric and I hosted a houseful of friends and family celebrating Thankgsgiving last weekend. Meat-eaters among us enjoyed one of Draper’s succulent locally-produced turkeys, while the vegetarians amid us dined on a variety of Pontiac produce picked from our organic garden.
I’m sure it was a picture repeated at many of your homes.
As we raised our glasses to toast the turkey and count our blessings at this most bountiful time of year, we wished for peace. My mother, Eric’s parents, his sister and family, as well as Ted Fort and Marcio Melo all joined together to share in the fellowship of companionship, to give thanks for this year’s harvest of plenty.
Here in the Pontiac, we are truly blessed. Sure, we have our challenges to contend with. Like how to reconcile separatist and federalist sympathies. Like how to harvest timber from our Pontiac forests in a sustainable manner. Like how to marry our agricultural practices with often frustratingly demanding environmental goals and laws.
Like how to celebrate differences.
Yes, we have our daily challenges.
But since September 11, somehow all our difficulties here in the Pontiac seem all so normal, so trivial in comparison to those challenges faced elsewhere.
The teachings from September’s terrorist attack are legion. Surely here in Québec and in Canada we can take stock of our enviable way of life and find new ways to problem-solve. Surely we can learn to listen to others issues and problems with more understanding and empathy.
Surely there is a path to a better life for all peoples, better way of doing things without inflicting terror, death and mutilation on our fellow human beings.
With these thoughts in mind, Eric’s parents and the two of us set out for the family cottage north of Waltham. Now that they have moved from their Kinburn farm to Victoria, British Columbia, the moments we share with his folks are very, very precious. Time is passing by… how often will we four be together in the next several years? How many times will we four visit the cabin together, this precious family gathering place which Bob and Dorothy built with their six children, in 1966?
Poignant memories. Nostalgic thoughts gently caused us to linger in the brilliant autumn colours as long as we could.
Savouring my private reveries, I wandered down to the lakeshore. Ahhh… The sad, longing call of the loon wafted across its sparkling waters. Casting my gaze across Green Lake’s expanse, I searched for the singer in vain. Autumn’s palette created a stunning backdrop, the scarlet and crimson of maple well-matched by poplars’ golden, tremulous leaves.
And that sky! Blue, blue sky with puffs of white clouds.
Then, a glint and a distant, faraway roar. A plane.
But, what a plane.
Its immensity startled me. A huge long body, with a gigantic, silvery-white stream of contrails. Then I noted a second, smaller plane flying in tandem with it.
Eric identified it: “I think it’s a B-52.” How could he tell, I asked. He noted the number and volume of exhaust contrails and, as he gazed through the binoculars, exclaimed at the size of the larger plane, and the proximity and size of its companion. “And I think that’s a refueling plane,” he stated.
A bomber. Flying above the Pontiac. On Thanksgiving.
It brings the war to us. It brings to mind a conversation I had last Friday with an editor colleague. She and her husband suddenly realized that their 18-year-old son could face conscription.
We chatted about how, in our day, we grew up with the Vietnam War. Many of our professional colleagues, friends and acquaintances are Vietnam War draft dodgers.
She said how fearful she was. How she and her husband came to realize, suddenly, that her eighteen-year-old boy could, possibly, be called to serve.
And she added that unlike during the Vietnam War, there is no Canada to run to. There is nowhere to go, she said.
So, she and her husband chatted to her son about their feelings. Not to spread fear, but to convey their thoughts, and to tell him how much he is loved and cherished by them. It was a serious, loving conversation, she said. One they couldn’t believe they were having. One they had never dreamt to have to have with their boy.
On Thanksgiving Monday, The Ottawa Citizen quoted Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as saying, “We must insist on living on our terms, according to our values, not on terms dictated from the shadows.”
Strong words; uplifting words. Words intended to rally a nation’s spirits and resolve.
Yes, we must live our lives and not dwell in fear and apprehension. The loon’s voice still lingers in the sunshine on Green Lake. The harvest still sustains us here in the Pontiac.
And yes, bombers fly the heavens. Our Armed Forces stand at the ready and, as I write, Canadian men and women are preparing to do battle in this war on terrorism.
Where will it lead us? I cannot tell.
But what will sustain me is my family and the deep companionship of friends we’ve known for over thirty years.
Yes, there’s much to give thanks for and reflect upon as those of us who have never known war contemplate this challenge to our values and way of life that our parents know only too well.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance journalist who works from her Quyon farmhouse. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org