Yesterday I had a magical Christmas-y adventure up in Squamish at the Sea to Sky Gondola and lodge. This is perhaps one of my favourite places to visit now that I live out on the west coast. In fact, I have invested in a membership, which is a big commitment for this rolling-stone-gathers-no-moss gal. The day dawned crisp, bright and wintry and the road called my name, so I hopped in my car and embarked on the best drive in Canada (trust me, I’ve been on almost all roads in Canada, many of them twice!), the Sea to Sky Highway. The sweeping ocean and prominent Gulf Islands greet you on your left, while the road hugs the skirt of the striking coast mountains on your right. Squamish is a short 1 hour drive north of Vancouver, and a favourite adventure destination for many who seek fresh air and glorious mountaintops.
I took the photo above on the snow-draped Spirit Trail that encircles the top of the summit. The folks at Sea to Sky have done a wonderful job creating a magical winter wonderland that delights the spirit and the senses! The Spirit Trail is lined with hand-made wooden hearts and stars strung along festive lights from tree to tree. The snow crunches as you walk and the view…well, the view of the coast mountains surrounding Howe Sound can take your breath away. I happily snapped away on my trek until my finger tips lost all feeling, which was a sign for me to make my way into the gorgeous glass and log lodge perched on the top of the summit.
Inside Christmas carols played merrily while hikers lounged and got warm by the wood stove. I found a quiet corner where I could drink a welcome cup of tea and absorb myself in a good book as I warmed up. I was in my element! But I soon found that I could not concentrate on reading as I stared out onto the wintry peaks rising high above me out the window. Instead I found myself thinking of my trip home planned for this week and how different this year feels from last.
Last year, our family’s first Christmas without our Dad, Jack, I felt torn between needing to get home to be held by my family and wishing I could stay in Vancouver, avoiding the emotional torment that the empty chair at the table would no doubt bring. Everyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one feels it more keenly at emotionally charged times such as Christmas, and last year my heart was telling me to skip this one until the healing had begun to take hold. Memories of other Christmases haunted me. Memories of driving home to Mum and Dad’s wee house on Church Street, being enveloped by love and laughter, enjoying visits from family, being surrounded by loving pets…and our long-cherished family tradition of attending church on Christmas Eve, quietly singing Silent Night by candlelight, followed by a drive around town to wonder at all of the festive lights on neighbour’s homes. These tender, gentle, essential memories haunted me last year as I boarded a plane for home to stay with my sister Jen and her family for the first time. Would this be home? Would we be able to reminisce without the anguish of tears? Would we ever be the same again? Why must Christmas be this difficult when once it was so magical, meaningful and soul-restoring?
As I sat yesterday looking out over the mountains I found that these memories that brought so much pain and so many unwanted tears last year, seemed now much more sweet than bitter. Time has, as the cliché goes, healed my wounds, or at least covered them with scars that mark a loving path over my heart. I long for home with the anticipation that ready laughter, gracious hugs and shared stories can bring at this special time of year. My sister Jen and her family have created a warm and tender home ready to make new traditions that will remind me I am well-loved. Our Mum will join us on Christmas Day and we will hold each other tight for one more year. As it turns out, that smart man, Dr. Seuss, was right…
“Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer, cheer for all who’s far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.”
Happy Holidays from your Vagabond Photographer. May Christmas bring you peace and surround you with love, laughter and much joy!