Longtime readers of the Breadbin will know what "Up North" means to me.
My dad's place, between Parry Sound and Sudbury on the Magnetawan River, is seven kinds of heaven on earth. It's criminal how little I get up there. A four hour drive is a nontrivial issue when you don't drive at all. My job has intervened as well: I had to wait a year for vacation time.
And, as always seems to be the case, I've bloody well earned this vacation. The past week has been just awful: inventory, late trucks, short-staffed, and on Monday night the most spectacular incident in a retail career full of them: a skid of chilled juice approximately eight feet tall and leaning ominously collapsed out on the sales floor. It was a close call: I took a single step forward thinking I could avert the inevitable, when the inevitable asserted itself with shocking speed. Half a foot closer or half a second later and I shudder to think what might have happened to me. Not that anyone there would have noticed or cared beyond the paperwork, of course.
My job has LONG since passed the point where "if you don't have anything nice to say..." -- which is why you haven't heard anything about it here. I should be looking for another job. I'm not doing that, because -- to be frank -- the prospect fills me with horror. The last job search was depressing, degrading, and humiliating. Working where I work isn't quite as depressing, degrading, or humiliating, although gods knows it's getting close.
Instead: up north.
By Ontario standards, my dad's place isn't remote at all. It's 45 minutes north of a town of six thousand people and an hour south of a city of 160,000 or so. He just got back from a fishing trip to Pickle Lake, and that IS remote: it's as far north as you can drive, year-round, in this province. That's about eighteen hours away from me. Straight.
But once you get north of Barrie, you hit Canadian Shield country, and that is broadly the same: rocks, trees, lakes. Pure, clean air. Silence; darkness. Time flows differently up there, more like an eddying pool than a rapid. And of course, at my dad's, there's...my dad. And my stepmom Heather. And many other people, some of whom I have known since early childhood.
One less, though, of those people. My dad's closest friend John passed away several months ago and left a huge hole in my father's life. I should have been there for the memorial, but at the time couldn't afford even one night off work, pitiful as that sounds. I know Dad is still grieving. I hope to finally offer him what comfort I can.
There are, in fact, more people of importance in my life than I ever get to see on any one trip.
Going north does mean a regression back in time for me. My dad does have internet, but his data caps are ridiculous and there's no wifi. Accordingly, I have to *gasp* drop my second life. Facebook doesn't even load properly most of the time and its games are unplayable ALL of the time. Losing that sense of connection is hard. (I'm still reachable, and hope to be reached occasionally, by text...and if you EVER told me I'd say that, and mean it, I'd have called you eight kinds of crazy.)
And of course Eva. She'll be joining me up there later; she couldn't get the whole week off. I'll miss her, too, while she's here and I'm there.
Aside from the pleasure of my dad and Heather's company, and various and sundry other outings (with pictures to come, never fear)...books. Two of them: Scott Lynch's THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, third in the exquisite Gentlemen Bastards sequence; and Guy Gavriel Kay's latest, CHILDREN OF EARTH AND SKY. Both are novels I've been looking forward to reading, by authors I admire.
And music, lots of it, including (hat tip to my friend Brinn) SONATA ARCTICA, which is new to me but which I adore.
And sleep. Who am I kidding? I'm deprived, again, and the last week in particular has been emotionally and physically draining.
Heading up to the North Country, folks. See you in a week.