It has been hard for me to write about last weekend. Not because it was bad–opposite in fact: it was such an escape that I haven’t wanted to remember that it’s now over and that graduate school work has restarted in earnest.
I thought that having Thanksgiving a “month early” compared to US’s end-of-November tradition would be odd. But it turns out that it feel exactly when I would have been having a Fall Break long weekend if I were still at Rice University. And apparently, as it fell a little over a month into my year in Toronto, it was the right time to slow down and look at everything I’ve done and everything I plan to do.
I boarded the train on Saturday morning after a horrible ride on the TTC (they closed the University line for the entire weekend and people were NOT happy on the shuttle buses). And I was pumped. I haven’t had the chance to ride on a train since . . . well, since I took my day trip to Bath, England over two years ago. I’m so glad that my hosts insisted I take the train instead of the bus for this first Canadian excursion. It was fun to see the shore of Lake Ontario pass by on one side, and Ontario fields and colorful fall trees on the other. Not to mention, I was able to pretend away my school assignments and devote some time to playwriting. I didn’t know it yet, but this would be a theme to the rest of the weekend.
When I arrived, I expected to whisk off into outdoor adventures. My friend’s first email made it sound like we were going to be on the go exploring Kingston’s nature and downtown area for the entire three days. But instead we sat quietly and caught up, had a light lunch, and then took their dog for a short walk through Queen’s University, Kingston’s city center, and a patch of the waterfront. We came home to a lovely dinner of more organic food and then spent the remaining few hours before an early bed time reading and writing. In the silence, I was able to write an entire new scene–something that usually takes me hours of planning dashed off in mere minutes.
My friend, serendipitously reconnected with me after five years because of my move to Toronto, has some serious health problems. I didn’t know about this when I left Toronto, therefore, why I expected such a different weekend from the one I experienced. I do not wish her illness or the long-term recovery on anyone, but I must say it has created such a relaxing, methodical way of life for her and her family. Her house was filled with productive silence, a sort of constant meditation on mindfulness. I breathed easier not just because of the fresh air, the absence of city sounds, et cetera, but because we all gave each other enough room and quiet for it to happen naturally. I loved chatting with her about our current writing projects and thoughts on Canada, the United States, poetry, history, memory, and the list goes on–but I also loved the moments when we walked, meditated, or read in silence.
I loved the Thanksgiving dinner itself. A room filled with family and friends, all gathered around a big turkey dinner–complete with pumpkin pie and pecan pie (a Texas favorite I’d been missing)! In Texas, my immediate family eats together, but without any added guests. Our Thanksgiving traditions are still great–putting up the Christmas tree after dinner, making whatever dishes we want to eat as opposed to the traditional ones “required” of the holiday, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in our pajamas–and I’ll miss them this year, but I appreciated this my first Canadian Thanksgiving for the gift of silence, reflection, and creative inspiration that it gave me. I can’t wait to go back and visit again. Hopefully I’ll be in a similarly peaceful place for the American holiday and next year’s Canadian Thanksgiving.