big north

The river between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario is wide. When we crossed over into Canada, one of the first sights to reach my eyes was a cluster of solar panels laying on the roofs of some otherwise nondescript houses. Welcome to Canada. A couple of miles outside of town we started seeing the big arrays. We had never seen such large solar arrays anywhere in the sunny southeastern United States.

Then the windmills came on the horizon. They seemed to be turning perpetual cartwheels, doing a graceful syncopated dance along the horizon, lining Lake Erie. They are enormous, with long blades, like skinny arms. We saw some standing still, and some laying flat in the fields, waiting to be put together.windmill1

I’m not one to believe that there’s some panacea for the energy situation the human race has created. I know there are issues with every solution, but my preference is definitely towards harnessing that which shows no signs of diminishing, like wind and sun, as opposed to methods employed at the Athabaskan tar sands or in deep earth fracturing and hilltop removal for the sake of coal. There are a great many devils in the details, and all we can really do is get as educated as possible and make a decision. I am heartened to encounter a collective will in a nation to invest in the direction of renewable energy.

In many ways, Canada is not very different from the United States. Strip malls abound in the outskirts of Toronto, full of little shops, surrounded by big box stores. There are lots of folks in puffy black coats on the sidewalks. It is a little colder than we’re used to down home. One of the things I love about crossing the border is noticing the little things that ARE different. Like gi-normous solar panels in huge arrays by the highway. Like the fact that the authorities will seize your car and charge you $10,000 on the spot if you get caught speeding over 50 km beyond the speed limit. Like a year-long mostly paid maternity leave. Less McDonald’s, more Tim Horton’s. The deer are half again as large as the ones in our woods. There are differences, and we relish them when we come up for vacation.

I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people we’re going to Canada on vacation in November, but you know, we all have to do what works.snow crystals

Visiting my Fellow Man’s family is important for us. And the down time is precious. At first, it is almost uncomfortable to have so little to do. No phone. No internet. Our bodies and minds slowly unwind to this different pace, and different place. There are different angles to my thoughts and emotions, now that there’s more space and time to feel them.

And then there’s the general hilarity of a vacation with children. In this regard, we would be better off at a warm beach. The kids act like southern children. It snowed one night. Nothing major, just a serious dusting – enough to be exciting for people like us. The kids were ecstatic. They ran out onto the powdery white deck, in bare feet. They came howling back in and Levon didn’t want to go out for the rest of the day.

footprints in snowSocks and sweater suggestions are met with resistance each and every time. If we stayed long enough, I’m sure they would adjust and wear appropriate clothing. For a week’s worth of away-time, they’re content to get some of their ya-yas out in the living room of the cottage.barefoot in snow

So, here in the south end the Big North, the sky is deep and large and reflects its mood on the cold lake. The wind whistles strange harmonies in the evergreens, and makes interesting ripples in the water. Otters splash in the bay, and there are beaver chew marks along almost every lakeshore. Only one other house light shines in our view each night, far across the water.lake

We are basking in the quiet, the bare trees, and the break from our version of normal. As good as it has been, it only takes a week of buying groceries, even just filling in the blanks of what we didn’t manage to bring with us, to help us remember why we have chosen the life we have, and make us grateful to head home.sun on lake

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