Keep your vitality. A life without health is like a river without water. – Maxime Lagacé
Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. – Henry David Thoreau
How cool would it be to have a day between Saturday and Sunday?
“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride” – Eddy Merckx
I went for walk a couple days ago and spent a little time in the basketball court, the air was brisk, the sun beaming down, just the perfect conditions for a pickup game. Both the basketball court and tennis court were free at the time, a sight like that in my youth would be like finding a dollar each time you looked down, pure win. Growing up I lived on the court where I played basketball, tennis, a lot of volleyball and well hockey was just a staple and a given growing up in small town Newfoundland, Canada. Sports like those were a constant in my life and a constant in the lives of my friends, we all had the same passion for high school sports with a camaraderie that still exists today. Certainly, we have all moved on with ours lives but if we happen to run into each other today we immediately start reminiscing of missed shots, long car rides and that time we all got in trouble for someone stealing a Crash Test Dummies CD. Sports did that for me, it provided some of the best years of my life and I think every young boy and girl should get a chance to play something and challenge themselves while they make friends doing it.
I remember the first time that I made a high school team, it was volleyball. I had signed up using the clipboard signup sheet that was always hanging from the coaches door, dangling from an old piece of wool that someone must have brought from art class. For the three days that followed I kept dragging myself to tryouts, each day at 3:15, all intimidated, nervous and unsure that I had what it took. To make matters worst my best friend had actually backed out the day of, so I was really swimming in the deep end now with most of the team consisting of the whole ninth grade, a grade up on me and I was only familiar with a couple of the guys. By the time the last tryout was finished I did get to know everybody but as a consequence to that I then learned that there were only a few open spots so I didn’t really get my hopes up. The two days between the last tryout and knowing if I had made the team were brutal, the suspense nearly killed me.
The day had finally came, the team had been picked and we were to be notified by the coach personally if we had indeed made it, if he dropped by the classroom that would be a good thing. It was pushing 3:00 on a Thursday afternoon when there was a knock on the door, it was coach, I immediately started to try to read his lips. I couldn’t make out what he was saying to the homeroom teacher but after what felt like an eternity he finally addressed the class and spoke three names, just three and those name were “Paul, Paul and Ashley”. Never had my name ever sounded so soothing to my ears, I was instantly relieved, all that hard work had paid off and I was now part of an actual team. (true story see below)
High school for me just kind of happened and I believe sports had a lot to do with that, I kept good grades, actually my grandmother deserves the most credit for that but playing sports was more like a luxury for me and being a good student allowed me that luxury. I see kids playing sports all the time, they’re fun to watch, there’s too much negativity in the world so we need more of the small things and we can find that in our kids. We watch them as they walk in our own foot steps and we vicariously start living through their success because you can relate to how genuinely happy they are playing a sport they love. A few years ago my daughter actually took up sports for awhile, she called one day to tell me she had made the volleyball team, I was so proud, and she was doing on her own merit. I remember barely containing myself hanging on her every word, I was a proud dad, it was indeed a moment (sniff). Although she moved on from sports as some kids do, she did get the chance to experience sports on a team level, she had some fun and created bonds for life.
Speaking of bonds, playing outside as a kid was how I met most of my friends, we played hockey on the street all the time. There was my friend Colin, one time he must have taken a full 30 minutes to get suited up in our makeshift goalie gear only to then take a rock to the lip on the first shot, he was done. Oh yeah, a guy by the name of Corey who had a the heart of a Stanley Cup champion, he loved road hockey. There were moments of my life where shooting a few hoops was a way to talk it out with a buddy, or maybe we’d make plans for the next day with a few jump shots before we called it a night. I remember walking home as a teenager from a school dance with a close friend of mine Willie, who has since passed on, sometimes we would shoot hoops until the sun came up, just chatting it up while taking layups on a dimly lite basketball net. I’ll never forget that, and I will never forget him, he was a good friend.
When I was a kid I would visit my dad for a couple months of the summer, his sport was tennis which then became our sport. He would bring me to the local tennis club and kick my ass up and down that court each match we played but I kept wanting more, some day I’d beat him, it was happening. Every morning and again that same evening I’d battle my father back and forth trying to anticipate his next move, closing the gap and finally getting close enough where I might pull it off. We played all summer one year barely missing a day. I enjoyed that time with my father, for the first time in my life I felt we had connected through sport and for those tiny moments nothing else mattered. We bonded a lot that summer and I learned more and more about him as we continued to play. It was like we were getting to know each other on a different level and I am just now looking back realizing how happy I was. He did a great job pushing me to my limits and taught me the lesson of being humble, I learned how to lose and I learned how to win. I have him to thank for that, he showed me that you can be good but there will always be someone who could be better, so try your best every time and make sure to have fun.
That’s the thing about sports, they bring people together, they teach us a lot about ourselves. Not only does sports help us physically and keep us healthy but it can be very helpful mentally as well. Physical activity can help with stress, you’d be surprised how good you would feel by just getting outside and tossing the ball around. I always look for opportunities to get outside with the nephews and nieces when they visit and they love it, there’s nothing like chasing the kids around the yard and teaching them the concept of a game.
Standing there at that moment and looking in at the empty court I couldn’t quite stop but think of the days where courts like the one before me would have been a forwarding address for me at one point in my life. Take advantage of those moments as often as you can, time flies by so fast so have fun as much as possible. Get out there and kick the ball around, walk to the park and shoot some hoops. Go ahead and put your household title on the line and challenge the kids to a game of horse with the loser getting the dreaded dish duty.
I’m just now getting around to posting about our holiday back in Harbour Breton this summer and it was everything that we had anticipated, it was a great trip all around. We took each day as it came and as on the fly as it was we actually got a chance to do everything that we had set out in our minds to do. Our goal was to make sure to see everybody and do a few things that we used to do when we lived there ourselves, simple as that. It’s been about three years since we travelled home so we wanted to make sure to make to the most out of it.
One of the first things that I did was take a quick drive by the home that I grew up in. It feels weird now returning home without my old house to visit, the house although virtually the same had this unknown feeling about it, like my chapter and the chapter of my family there had been finished.
I took a long look across the harbour, so many memories came rushing back, for a moment it felt like I never left, everywhere I looked evoked emotion. The rolling hills with the calm shoreline created the perfect backdrop to my moment of reflection, it was nice and a great way to kick off the visit.
The trip home was a drive and then some so for the first night we mostly just talked, got caught up and enjoyed each others company. Family gatherings are a cliche without trying to be, you all pile into a common room of the house, energy all around you, everybody talking over each other, we were home. Kids tugging at your shirt tales, dogs barking at every thud, food coming from every angle, there was a controlled chaos. We talked until the early morning hours but it was getting late and there was a whole new day before us. We all began to turn in when it came time to delegate rooms, we snagged the room with the superhero sheets, my inner nerd rejoiced.
A highlight of the trip for me was the fact that I did manage to get to borrow a bike and get two bike rides in, I was so happy that worked out, something else that was on my trip home bucket list. The first one was an impromptu ride with my nephews, they loved every second of it and I was glad to have the opportunity. A flood of memories came back as I cruised the streets like I did as a kid, it was surreal, I could almost feel myself back there.
We were’t sure how long we had for this spur of the moment adventure but you know what? I was too busy reliving my childhood to care, with the kids leading the way we were now heading to the beach. I must of went down that dirt road a million times as a kid, it was a great ride down memory lane, the trail was not letting me down, what a ride.
About a quarter of a ways we ran into my uncle in law who is a very talented photographer, we did the stop and talk and he asked for a photo op so we got our picture taken, it’s the one you see below, by the way here’s a link to some of his other work. With a short walk across the beach we were on our way again, there was just one last leg of the ride to go.
Bike ride, check, now we were about to take a boat ride for a boil up. We were feeling quite spoiled as guests and it was only getting better, we all climbed into my brother in laws’s boat and he proceeded to pull away from the dock.
As we sped down the harbour, with smiles all around, I couldn’t help think of the time I would do the same with my grandfather as we ventured out fishing or beach combing the shoreline. The two dogs, Max and Major were loving it, you could tell they really enjoyed getting out in the boat and we were glad to be tagging along.
It was decided due to the wind that day that we would opt for an alternative spot to pull ashore, this gem of a location was second to none, we landed on the north side of Jersey Harbour and right next to the M.V. Home.
I took a walk with my littlest nephew Brandon and we went berry picking, the berries were everywhere. It was like our own personal berry drive thru, blueberries to the right and raspberries to the left. Because of the views all around us, I couldn’t help but to take a moment and reflect upon the fact that people had once lived here some time ago, I was once told that horses once roamed wild and galloped free on the banks of the shoreline, it was indeed a different time, a time I’m sure somebody misses everyday.
We had scallops by the shore, roasted wieners by the fire and marshmallows because come on, you got to have marshmallows. We spent the time combing the beach, exploring the wreckage, and skipping rocks as far as we could.
It was so peaceful there, the ocean was swaying in and out teasing it’s tides and drawing concern the odd moment from the skipper. Time seemed to have stood still, the air was warm and the smell of smoke was therapeutic in a way, it was like the rest of the world was put on pause. Sometimes it’s the small things that give you the most satisfaction in life and it’s unfortunate we don’t take the time to do those things more often.
It was time to pack up and head home, with Brandon assuring that the gas was topped up we began to load up the boat and begin our venture back. The return boat ride was just as beautiful as it was when we left, getting to see the harbour again from that perspective as we steamed along was a moment we surely will not forget, day two proved to be quite rewarding.
What’s one thing that you got to do when you get home? Give up? You got to visit the local “best fries south of everywhere” restaurant. You know, that place with the secret recipe for gravy, no trip home is complete without that. My fiance and I took a seat at a table that was in a place that look exactly like it did when we were teenagers, it was pretty nostalgic. We had the place to ourselves and just talked about our trip up to that point, it was like we were in a time capsule. After taking a look around and while waiting for our food we started to share old stories of the place, so many memories triggered by the smell of chicken fingers dancing around your nose and it smells exactly the same. The food didn’t disappoint and it was just as good as we remembered and now we had the visit to the restaurant checked off our list, so far, so good.
Like I mentioned, I managed to get in two bike rides and the second was by myself, the town was my map and I had no idea where to start. So off I went, I zoomed by the post office, zipped past the bridge that connected both sides of the harbour and decided to head down toward the area where I grew up. I got off the bike for a second and took a picture of my street where I grew up. It looked so small, how could twenty or so kids jam a hockey game in place as tiny as that? The amount of hockey games that took place in the spot pictured below I couldn’t count, but I can certainly recall the Stanley Cup moments we used to relive, good times.
I biked virtually the whole community and if it wasn’t for dark I would have kept going, I knew I wouldn’t get the chance anytime soon so I was getting my fill. It was a beautiful ride and it also proved to be quite the workout as well, there was so much to see and I still didn’t get a chance to see it all.
The bike ride was fun and I got to retrace some of my childhood steps, it was nice to incorporate my current lifestyle into a visit to the small town where I grew up. It has been maybe twenty plus years or more since I was biking the old neighbourhood, I’m happy that I made a point to do it.
On the last night of our trip we went to my brother in law’s cabin, it was about an hour away from the Harbour Breton and for us, it was a hour that we shaved off our trip back to Mount Pearl the following day. The cabin road was modestly marked by two poles that signalled the beginning of the dirt road leading the way to the cabin which was nestled deep in woods overlooking a huge pond, it was a beautiful piece of land. As soon as we pulled up you could notice the abundance of berries that were ready to pick, I took a bunch with my first swipe, how convenient.
As the evening drew near and the sun began to set we started to make a fire, the evening breeze was calm, the flies were staying away and there were s’mores in our future. As mentioned the cabin overlooks a pond that stretches for miles, a loon call in the near distance reminds you that you’re on mother nature’s door step. That night we sang songs and played music with everyone lending their voice to tunes we knew half the words to. The best times are the times that just happen, much like that night, an impromptu song and dance was all we needed to cap off a wonderful retreat.
There was a certain calm about being off the grid, no notifications prompting your attention, no status updates, no city traffic, nothing at all to create stress, just a quiet that was very welcomed…thanks Travis and Juanette.
The morning of the last day of our visit the birds were chirping and the smell of the trees filled my lungs, this was god’s country for sure. I started to imagined throwing it all down and staying in the country forever and living off the land and turning to a life of the bush people, but quickly realised this was me I was referring to. Though, I can’t stress enough the need for experiences like these, we need them, it does wonders for the soul.
We left that cabin that morning feeling happy, a little hungover, but happy. We spent a great night in the woods with our family which had put an great big explanation point our trip home, so with all the goodbyes said, we took to the road and headed back to the city.
When we decided to go home for our vacation this year we had no idea what it would be like, but the one thing is for sure we are so glad we did. The time was spent with family around us, chats of a time gone by and conversations of what’s to come. I used to say that home is relative to where you are, now I stand corrected. Going home to where you were born and raised, you know, there’s a whole familiar feeling that starts to fall over you. Of course you can make happiness anywhere you live in the world but spending a subtle moment to return to where it all began has proven for us that no matter what, home is still home.