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Loving the Land

by Meg

Last Saturday I reflected upon the impact of selling our family cottage. I spoke of the liberation from the weight of memories, of the heaviness of family system "rules", however unspoken, and the connection of those with a physical place, the family cottage that had been part of my life from its beginning. Writing that story was liberating, and in doing so I was reminded again of the importance also of celebrating all that was wonderful and good in that place and those memories. I said I would share what I had written in the summer of 2008, when selling the cottage was not really in our thinking. I reread these words and they bring alive again what I truly feel. I am grateful to have them to share now, in this season of letting go of the physical symbol of that part of my family heritage. ......

I lay this morning on the cottage living room floor on the mattress from the uncomfortable sofa bed moved up from my mother's apartment last year when her cancer got the better of her interesting life in Windsor. I mused upon the cedar beams and the pine boards of the cathedral ceiling Dad and she envisioned and built in 1969.

I recalled the many evenings of square dancing and sparkling fires, slide shows and card games, with several generations present. Almost forty years later I celebrate the way my parents put their vision into a building, now labelled a knockdown cottage. I mused also upon the recognition in my spirit that these parents, so different from me in so many ways, like me needed a vision to keep them going. Like we all do. They needed to create a world that represented their love of nature, their desire for company and fellowship, their appreciation of simplicity and beauty. The openness of the big windows on three sides, and the huge totally screened porch spelled out their desire for connection with the land and world of Muskoka. Lying in the lovely early morning sunshine on Canada Day, 2008, I celebrated these dear Canadians, my parents, Dorothy and Cyril, in this year of my mother's death a few months ago, almost 95, twenty years after my father's death, and I remembered their vision and the heritage they have given me, in this cottage, and in my life, as I set aside the stories of tension and misunderstanding I also carried within my being. I rejoiced, and found new joysprings in these stories in the beams above me, in the windows around me, in the trees and lake that beckoned to me, that they and I loved together for all those years. This is a deep part of my Canadian heritage, these parents who in their own way were Canadian pioneers and settlers, like so many people I know and love in this part of Canada that has now become my permanent home...Muskoka, land of those who love the land.

My understanding of God is that he has put us here to love the land, as well as to love people. He doesn't want us to love it more than we love Him,or people, but I do believe He has so much to teach us through His creation, and through the simplicity and richness of living life in deep connection with the land. Just as loving people teaches us so much about Him, and certainly about the nature of love, so loving the land has innumerable lessons. Perhaps our family cottage was the first place where I really learned to love the soil beneath my feet, the stones glistening under the water, the loons calling at night, the sunset saying "Good night", the sunrise saying "Good morning". I have relearned these love lessons again and again, as I have been privileged to live for short or longer times in northern Alberta,Scotland, Jamaica, British Columbia and Uganda, and to visit England,Wales,Israel, Egypt, the beautiful maritime provinces and to drive west through the Rockies. I live them here each day, in my home on the river in a Muskoka town. God calls me through every leaf and breeze, as through each person I meet. My prayer now is that I will always remember to hear His voice through each new encounter with land and person, and through the heritage of memory of family and land shared with them.

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