Like many of you, since arriving back home to Abram Lake, we have been slowly adjusting to our new ‘normal’. Just four weeks ago, Blake, the kids and I were blissfuly enjoying our much anticipated family ski vacation in Nelson, BC. Tucked away within the Kootenay mountains, this small community, with its free-thinking, hippie vibe was the quintessential place to literally and figuratively disconnect. With absent wifi access and lack of cell phone towers at the local ski resort, our days were screen-free and simple with the sole purpose of enjoying as many hours chasing the kids down the slopes as possible.
Halfway through our month-long family retreat however, the world seemingly upended overnight. Within a 48-hour timespan, restaurants, gyms and shops were abruptly closed. Gaping holes were left on shelves which usually contained canned chick peas and pasta. Toilet paper, of course, became the new currency. The most unsettling blow came with the swift announcement of Whitewater Ski Resort’s closure. This sealed the deal. Within hours, our car was packed, our flights home were cancelled and we began a comedic, yet arduous and very impromptu road trip across the country to get home with two young kids, a dog and gear packed into every nook and cranny of our aging Honda Pilot. Twenty-two hours. Twenty-two hours of driving, of picnics in the car, of endless demands of snacks and of continuous Netflix. Twenty-two hours, five provinces, two $60 motels, and one shockingly intact marriage at the end to it all. We had finally made it home.
Weeks later, we are now finishing our fifth week of physical distancing. I have been back at work full-time, but haven’t been out of the house except to go to the hospital. Blake has only left the property twice to go grocery shopping and the kids haven’t been in a car for weeks. I honestly have no idea how Blake has been coping being a full-time, stay-at-home parent with no reprieve in sight. Yet, despite the challenges, each day, he is up to something new. Last weekend, over Easter was no exception when he re-discovered our kite.
Five years ago, we had gone down to Costa Rica with then six month-old Alice and 22 month-old Henry to learn how to kitesurf. It had been a blast and upon our return, we had bought a used set-up to fly on the lake in the summer. After one very unfortunate kite-launching attempt during which the kite had ended up pinned and tangled in a massive red pine, one year-old Alice crying in the sand, and Blake and I screaming at each other, the kite had been packed away for good.
Easter weekend in Sioux Lookout had brought balmy spring weather; snow squals, 30-km/hr winds and temps well below zero. Ahh, life in Northern Ontario. While our friends and family in Southern Ontario had outdoor Easter egg hunts in their PJs, Blake, I and the kids had dressed up in our parkas to brave the elements and break up the tedium of our physically-distanced existence. The ice had been perfectly flat and the winds were steady, whipping across the frozen lake. While most of us would have been perfectly content with a permanent location on the couch consuming carbs in our sweats, Blake had come up with the idea of rigging up our kite to ski across the frozen expanse. After a day of relearning the subtleties of managing the monstrosity of our kite, which spanned ten-feet at it’s length, Blake booted up and effortlessly began to race at top-notch speed up and down our bay on his skis.
In the following days, however, a new plan was hatched. Blake convinced Henry to hold tightly to a rope knotted onto his harness and soon, those two die-hard, adrenaline junkies were carving across our lake, maxing out at a speed of 51k/hr! “More, more, more!” was all I could make out from Henry’s outline out on the horizon. Two peas in a pod; a passion for skiing and a constant need for speed.
“Celia, you’ve GOT to try it!” Blake cajoled, referring to his new-found love of kiteskiing. But despite his encouragements, I repeated turned him down citing innumerable excuses: emails, laundry, meal prep, vacuming, keeping the kids alive etc. Again and again, I told myself there was simply too much to do for me to go off frolicking back and forth across the lake. I complained that I couldn’t recall how to manipulate the beast of the kite. I lamented that I would most certainly hurt myself which would NOT be a responsible thing to do at this juncture. I complained that I wasn’t strong enough and wouldn’t be physically able to do it. “I just don’t WANT to!” I griped to Blake as he persisted.
It was out of character for me to not jump at the chance to try something new, to get on board with the latest outdoor adventure, to accept a challenge, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. I just wasn’t feeling ANY of it. Not the sleepless nights, turning over the grotesque numbers of COVID-deaths on the Johns Hopkins University map in my mind. Not the inability to seek comfort with a hug after a difficult case in the OR with one of my best friends and colleagues. Not the infinite numbers of emails and online meetings directing my attention to the ever-changing COVID-related workplace policies. Not the daily uniform of scrubs, cap, mask, goggles that have replaced my closet full of dresses. Not the fear in my kids eyes when they now see a neighbour approaching them on the street. Not the inability to gather with friends and family during Easter holiday weekend while seeing others disregard public health recommendations. Not having the words to answer my kids’ daily inquiries into when the ‘Sickness’ would go away. Not the nights staying up late learning the ins and outs of how to manage a COVID-positive patient in my rural ER. I wasn’t feeling ANY of it. I felt angry, resentful, disheartened, overwhelmed, despairing and listless. I felt utterly defeated.
“Can I try the ski trick?” a small voice had interrupted my stormy mood during that Easter weekend. I had looked down. There Alice stood, her darling belly protruding over the waistband of her fleece jammy pants, barefooted with hair all astray and her chubby face peering up at me. “Of course! Let’s do it!” came Blake’s automatic, enthusiastic reply, always excited to have ANYONE on-board with one of his crazy ideas.
I had been surprised. Alice was definitely more cautious than Henry when it came to sports. When she had seen the force of the wind, the size of the kite and the speed at which Henry and Blake had been hurtling across the ice earlier that day, she had adamantly declined to give it a go and had requested instead to go inside and read a book. Fair enough, girl! But here she was, out of the blue, asking for her turn to fly.
After gearing her up, I watched her as she marched determinedly down the little path that lead to the frozen beach and onto the ice towards the kite. Unaccompanied, she walked straight for that kite without hesitation. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from that image; her small figure, the flapping blue kite, and the immense space that surrounded her.
Her courage floored me.
I soon was watching her buzz around the ice with Blake while tears stung my cheeks. She was amazing.
Then, in face of all of the fear and uncertainty, I held tightly onto the tenacity of my four year-old and grabbed hold.
And soon I was flying too.