• Maggie Wheeler

Quiet and Peace

With Jim Brownell, ready to start the Lost Villages tour!

It is 5:30 am and I am in the new office at my keyboard. This is my writing time and always has been. Blogs, novels, articles have all been born in the early morning peace and quiet. And now with the new office functional, I am where I am supposed to be.

I had the oddest experience last weekend. I took the Lost Villages Bus Tour for the first time in many years. This is hosted by the Lost Villages Museum/Historical Society and is a four-hour tour through the Land of the Lost Villages of the St. Lawrence Seaway, guided by Society President Jim Brownell. Jim was a boy when the Seaway went through in the mid 1950s. He has an amazing recall of geographical and historical detail for the area, pre and post-Seaway. It is the best way to really understand the massive change to the Eastern Ontario landscape the Seaway was, and it was time for me to refresh for the new book.

I got old details revisited and new ones added. I got connections and ideas in my head for the book. I also unwittingly got a tour of my personal past.

You see, I arrived as a child in the Land of the Lost Villages, almost 10 years after the Project was over. Grew up in Long Sault, lived twice in Ingleside, roved the Parkway, held adolescent reign over Island 17, married the girls’ father at Upper Canada Village in the Rose Garden. It is an historic emotional landscape for me as well. And because I have landed in Brockville and no longer roam the area as I once did, I found it all very changed.

When we go back, planned or not, it is a split decision as to whether it would be better to have things still familiar or mostly changed. It really doesn’t matter. It still feels like a movie we once saw.

And we see ourselves on the set, short scenes coming to us, moments resurfacing that were forgotten, sadness revisiting for the people now gone, amazement returning at all the time that has passed.

And all the turmoil. This vista of remembrance gave me a condensed review of all the work, the plans, the successes and the losses lived in those years with those people now gone or moved on. The turmoil of life. Some was quite serious. Most was hot air. All is over.

At this time of life, the half-century mark, we find ourselves perhaps a bit lost. The education and career endeavors have leveled off or are winding down, children have been raised, our homes probably finished. The quiet can be somewhat uncomfortable for a North American generation raised in a driven society. We have always been hard workers. The temptation is to fill the quiet with busy work.

But in that quiet, we find peace. If we take a moment to really process and understand it. It is what is waiting for us and what we deserve.

I woke up Monday morning with a lot of mixed feelings about the tour and the vista. But I saw it all for what it is: the past. I miss my people (most of them!), I cherish my good memories, and I shake my head at some of the bad. But one thing I know in this quiet of mid-life looking back is what Maya Angelou’s mother said to her at the end of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: I’ve been raised. I’ve been raised by good parents, by life’s lessons and by me. Grief has mellowed and pain has been recognized as a great teacher. No unfinished business, no old grudges, no words unspoken.

The battle rages on with weeds and leaky taps, but the war is over. I have arrived at the midpoint of my life in the quiet that is its gift, the peace that is there for the taking. I am young enough to use it well, old enough to understand it.

I am where I am supposed to be.

Talk next week,


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