The Life Chronicler
May 28, 2022
May 31, 2022
This blog will read longer than usual but with good reason. I started to read John Steinbeck’s book “Travels with Charley” while in Montreal. I should have started earlier. He wrote about some things that, he asserts, only those who talk the plunge to travel widely and meet people, can understand. I sure did. His 1960 trip to 34 states lasted about 75 days. I will be on the road for 283 days.
While driving from Quebec into New Brunswick, I was blessed to witness an amazing vista. My eyes beheld a billowy, white fog embracing the tops of the rolling green hills of New Brunswick. It was truly spectacular. At that moment I felt a freedom that I am sure Steinbeck felt at times. But I also realized something else. I realized that my journey to talk with people around the continent about their lives was not only about their stories, but that it was also about what I was experiencing.
Taking a cue from Steinbeck, I pulled off the main highway and stopped at a café in tiny Perth-Andover where I ordered a local food, cream of fiddlehead soup. The waitress gave me the full lowdown about the fiddlehead fern. I struck up a conversation with a family next to me and learned that they were from Maine. He was a big city boy from the “Brotherly Love” city, she a big city gal from “The Big Apple.” Why rural Maine? “Life” he told me. I gave him my card.
I decided to take the backroad to Fredericton where, at times, I did not see a moving car for miles. But I was not alone. I had the soft rippling of the meandering St. John River to my right the entire way on route 105. Sometimes it got to within 20 feet of me. It was like a comforting friend and something, I think, only a nomadic soul on a journey could fully appreciate.
I truly felt free. It just took five cities, 80 pages of a book, and a gift from nature before it sunk in.
While my father’s brothers studied in Montreal, he bypassed a potential McGill experience to, I believe, study forestry at The University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. I posted a picture of the building which doors he entered (likely) in 1939. However, after contracting a severe case of rheumatic fever, his academic career at UNB was cut short. According to my mother, he was never the same man after that.
I also had contact with Dr. William Randall of St. Thomas University. His career is, like Dr. Dan McAdams whose book I use, in part devoted to the narrative of one’s life. In his email response to me, he wrote that he had just met with McAdams in Atlanta at a conference he had helped organize. McAdams was a keynote speaker. Small world. I am sure to have an engaging conversation with Dr. Randall when he returns.
Well, it is off to the hometown of my youth, Halifax/Dartmouth in Nova Scotia. I will be staying an extended time so I am sure some interesting things are about to happen.