Monday, November 07, 2005

More than words can say...

Finally, after a long journey from Ottawa to Montreal to Tokyo to Utsunomiya to AEON to my apartment, my care package from Canada has arrived. It's difficult for me to put into words the emotions which filled me as I unpacked this box, so I won't even try. Some of it brought tears to my eyes, some of it made me laugh out loud until I had tears in my eyes. Needless to say, I am seeing a blurry computer screen as I type this, any mistakes in the following quotes are mine. This is a very personal post, not the usual travel stuff, I consider this blog to be a personal diary of my time here, so it fits in nicely. Many of the comments in the notes are "inside jokes" and refer to experiences shared between a few close friends and thus may not be understood by everyone... but that's ok.

I had been previously instructed to first open a notebook to be found on top of the box and to read along as I unpacked items. Sure enough, there was the notebook, covered in red maple leaves.

Here is the touching foreword, as written my Smee himself, followed by his notes on some of the items included in the package. I will reserve comment until the end.
"Life presents us with many packages. Some contain what we wished for, some what we need, and some we may prefer were never opened. The true value of any package is not what it contains but how it is used, the lessons it brings us, the mistakes we make with it and most important of all, how it is shared with others. As I put this package together, I kept finding both value and lesson, happy memory and new insight, senses of my own national and personal identities, but most of all a thankfulness for all the reminders of a unique friendship. Each item packed has a story in this small book. You will notice many empty pages towards the end. I leave these for you, my very good friend, to fill with your own thoughts, reflections and prose in the hopes that you have the good fortune to find many packages great and small, open each one and have the best of life's adventures in their sharing.
May you never see an empty box as just an empty box.
The Ottawa Senators Cap
"I start with this one because oddly is weaves the largest web for me. I wanted to send an item to remind you of Ottawa and all it holds. Strolling through the cobblestone alleys of the market, the dichotomy of a stuffy conservative government town and yet vibrant in its social and cultural lifeblood. A town with a cosmopolitan core, yet with a farm and skating rink in its centre. I realized that Ottawa possesses a spirit that no matter what is asked of it, has the capacity to deliver. It does it in a quiet confidence rather than neon flamboyance. After a year away, the NHL is back and the O-town boys are earning their keep. Killer-Kilrea's Kids had a boon during the NHL's slumber and did us all proud. I often think of our "dinner & a game" nights at home parties with friends or at the mighty Corel Centre itself. Speaking of, we have enjoyed many spectacles at the Corel Centre, Landsdown Park and other venues. Think of this as your "thinking cap". The city. The game. The team. The times we've had.
Oh, and I expect 2 things by sending along this cap. 1. That you break it in using the Canadian "Bend and Roll" technique of putting a perfect curve in the peak. 2. To see you wearing is from time to time in those fantastic pictures of your adventures."

The Coffee

"This is oddly the least words for the most memories.
  • The many trips and adventures that always seemed to start and finish with a large Timmy Two-Two.
  • The wisdoms brewed by caffeine conversations in many a hallowed hall of vinyl and melamine.
  • The always welcome knocks on my door, which opened to reveal a friend with a smile and a tray of twin sentinels sent to provide comfort, warmth and another installment of "The Mophone and Smee Show"."
And of course, it's Tim Horton's. What else ken-ya say aboot that, eh?

The Cider
"This one is simple. It's about having a friend who can come over, run a kettle, grab a mug and be at-home comfortable in doing so, about having a guest I don't have to fuss over to make feel welcome. My door is always open to you. If I have it and you need is, just help yourself. You may have to step around the mess though."

The Maple Tea
"A trip to Calabogie, a walk in the bush, the lifting of troubles of life that only comes from a ride in a truck and deep breaths of cool, clean air. Looking out from Eagle's Nest and seeing a new perspective of things around you and inside you with serene clarity. Feeding dry sticks to the Kelly Kettle while checking tracks and watching the local woodlanders go about their business. Waiting for the water to boil with tin cups at the ready. Inhaling the fragrant steam while waling the trails and indulging in a little ego that you brought such comfort to the wilderness while trendy skiers zoom past at the resort not twenty yards away. Such fine and intrepid Mountain Men are we.
Please share this tea with those you meet in your travels. Tell them the best stories, and most foolish tales. Laugh at yourself and share that laughter with others. Let them taste the warmth, spirit and flavour that is Canada, as it is to you."

The Moose Pasta
"The moose is a ridiculous animal. It's antlers look like a grotesque cross between a canoe paddle and a coat rack. It moves through the bush with the grace and stealth of a panzer battalion. It seems too large, too awkward, and too damn ugly to have survived Darwin's theories. It is Canada's duck-billed platypus. It's face, with it's Beatles crop of hair on top and beard like Scooby-Doo's Shaggy looks completely dunce and out of proportion. It looks like its mouth and snout are desperately trying to disassociate themselves from the rest of the face by getting as far away from it as they can. Their grunts sound like a mule trying to sing base and their whistles sound like a cross between a rabid seagull and the sound of bare skin on a metal playground slide. And yet...
When taken as a whole, they command a presence, a power, a stateliness of being. They move with purpose, and are bothered by few obstacles in their environment. If faced with the choice of confronting a bear or a bull moose, I think I'd hope for a swift kick to poor Padington's nuts and to make a run for it. Having seen what a moose can do to the front end of a freightliner, I'm pretty sure I chose well. Keep your eye on the big picture, the details are often misleading.
Since in all the time I've known you, I have yet to get my hunting license, I thought I'd send along some moose I got. Symbolically. I hope to remedy the missed hunting trips on your return.
Here is a chance for you to symbolically embrace your fusion of culture. I'm thinking of shrimp and bok choi with a nice fresh smattering of local spices, all on a "Canadian" foundation. I hope to see your creation and recipe as well as the story of the meal and guests. You can name the dish "Bamboo and Bullwinkle", Happy Hunting!"

L-A-W-G; Lawg!
"Yes my friend, what you have there in your hands is a genuine, 100% all-Algonquin, hand-cut, "Pat's a bitch" slice of log. It was cut by yours truly from the only leaner on the whole of the small island on Basin Lake. The leaner was harvested between cloud bursts by canoe from the large island. Night after night, Pat and I could head it's haunting voice taunting us, while during the day we stood on our shore looking across the wind blown waves at it. What would normally have been a 3 minute paddle turned into 18 as the wind blew us all over the lake. I sectioned it in four, loaded it in the canoe and waited in dreaded anticipation for the signal that we would again head out on the lake and fight out way back to the big island and the safety of camp. Finally the signal came: Pat finished his beer. This time we were ready, we were wiser. The had faced the storm, learned from it and knew it's secrets. The storm was ours now, and we showed it that it had lost it's power over us by reaching the big island in only 15 minutes. We had been tested and shown to be Men. Manly men. Out of shape men. No longer would we be nestled in our (separate) sleeping bags, only to hear the eerie calling of the leaner: "...bitch! You are booth bitches..." Before we broke camp at the end of the trip, I looked at the logs we were leaving behind and the pile of split and blocked wood and realized two things: 1. I had to pick up the saw one last time and cut this small piece of Algonquin Park for a journey to Japan. 2. Wood is matched better against 3 pairs of arms than only 2.
Pin a picture to it, hang it on your wall, stand it on a shelf, use it as a coaster. It's yours now. May it bring you dreams of camping trips, both past and future. May you now hear its eerie call: "....Mitch is a bitch... a bitch...." "

The Maple Medley
"Let's just call this one "a taste of home". While growing up on the farm, the real end of Winter and beginning of Spring was when my grandad and I tapped the trees, hung the buckets and started boiling sap. At first, we would make the rounds on an old '68 Bombardier with a big vat on a sled being pulled behind it. Actually the sled was the hood off an old '50s Oldsmobile. As the snow melted, we traveled the trees with his W-4 Tractor and a hay wagon with the big vat and some milk cans to fill. Maple was a way of life, a staple of the pantry. We never used sugar for anything. We made tea with sap that was only 1/3 boiled, used Maple Sugar as sweetener and syrup on everything from cornflakes to ice cream. My grandad passed away when I was 12, and my grandmother gave up the farm not long after. I remember hoarding maple syrup in the cold room of our Ottawa house for a few years after that like it was a rare and fine wine. Eventually it ran out. Memories have a tendency to fade, and teenage years seem to accelerate the process. Mine had faded far more than I realized until I opened up a Christmas Card from a friend and was shocked to be looking at a painting of my grandfather and I out collecting sap. It brought back riding the hood watching that the sap didn't splash or spill, the sound of the tractor's engine and the hypnotic effect of watching the big back tires roll along with their criss-cross tread, and the smell of the boiler shack with it's wood fired evaporator. The sound of my grandfather's voice as I sipped hot sap from the tin ladle he used, and marveling at the magic we were making. For that card, I want to thank you, but find that words fall shot of what I want to express."

Our National: animal, police service and mod of transportation
"The beaver, le castor. The guy on the back of the nickel. Industrious to a fault, hard working and with a great smile. The RCMP, Sam Steele, "We always get our man", the red serge and stetson, the musical ride, oh and they make for great postcards. The canoe. Birch bark, cedar strip or kevlar. The voyageurs. The Filthy Swine and Crusty Buzzard. Paddled or towed by Bernie. What would Canada be without the Canoe?
This one is just for fun, I figured no Canadian abroad can call his dwelling complete without such an icon of Canada. That and I figured you must be missing Canadian Beaver by now!"

"So that's it, it's up to you now. Take the package and enjoy. Remember and reflect. Make the most of it. Now, go and make your own adventure. I left lots of pages for you to fill in.
October 2005"

So what can I say? This is probably the most thoughtful gift I have ever received and I am very grateful for it. It comes at a time when I must make some important choices re: contract renewals and future plans and certainly reminds me that as they say, "home is where the heart is". I will fill the pages of the notebooks with my own comments and those of others as I share the contents of this package. The first entry has already been made, of me expressing my thanks for this morale boost. The next entry will be made tonight when I share a few of these special items with someone near and dear to my heart.

To Sir Lewis, words simply cannot express enough... so a simple thanks will have to do.

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Anonymous S'Mee said...

My very great pleasure Mitch. I had alot of fun putting that package together. I didn't know if L-A-W-G was going to clear customs though! *LOL*



9:57 AM  

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