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The place where everything changed 🌄
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I’m not sure if it’s something unique to my life, but I have a clear before and after season of my life where everything, and I mean everything, changed.
In 2005, when I first arrived at Bow Lake, Alberta, for a summer job at what was then called Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, I had no idea I was about to be blindsided by love, a different lifestyle, and a way of thinking that would begin to transform me from the inside out.
I had no intention of making this 90-degree turn. It became something I had to wrestle with for many years afterwards. And the consequences of the redirect were significant:
I eventually moved across the country to live in the mountains.
I stepped away from the faith of my family of origin.
I pursued a career in creative writing I didn’t even know was possible.
I married a man who redefined what it meant to ‘dream big.’
I became unrecognizable to myself, like I was living in a dream or having an out-of-body experience.
It was totally wonderful and scary at the same time.
These events are the fodder for Chapter 1 of my forthcoming book, Lights to Guide Me Home. It required a monumental amount of creative effort and emotional labour to write not only about that season in a single chapter but also frame it for the reader, explain what led up to it, and why the changes were so significant.
It’s because of these experiences, the sheer beauty of Bow Lake, and the charm of Num-Ti-Jah Lodge that it became a sacred place for me—and for Paul, too. It’s so powerful that, each time I visit, it stirs up a slurry of emotions in me. When we’ve brought our children up there, the experience has been surreal. It brings an instant smile to my face the moment I crack the lodge’s main door open, take in its distinctive smell, and hear my feet creaking over floors and into spaces that hold so many memories for me.
“This is where it all began,” I once told Maya, my oldest daughter.
But I know she can’t comprehend what I really mean by that. Yes, my relationship with Paul began there. So did my life in the mountains. But it’s also where I began. Where I stretched my wings and flew so high I wasn’t sure how to come back down again.
It’s also where I wrote my very first published articles.
A few days ago, I found this photo of baby Meghan, sitting in the library at the lodge at Bow Lake in the summer of 2007. Paul and I used to reunite at the lodge in the summer while I finished school, and this image was taken on his very first DSLR camera. The photo reminded me that we really did start our creative careers from scratch.
Back then, I didn’t know what I wanted for myself other than that I wanted to be a writer. So, I started to chip away at it, not only the writing but also the art of connecting with editors and publications. That summer I published articles in the local newspaper, the Alpine Club of Canada Gazette, and also for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
But, really, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to be a writer, nor did I know what I was doing with my life. I had just finished my undergraduate degree that spring and I had no plans. No job lined up. I didn’t even know where I would end up living after we left Bow Lake in the fall. The “m” word (marriage) wouldn’t be on the table for several years.
This—the after—is what makes up the other thirteen chapters of the book.
In the intervening years, Paul and I had the chance to make several visits back to Bow Lake. But, for a time, our connection with the place had worn thin, mostly because we no longer knew the management. The sacredness was still there, especially in the natural spaces around the lodge I had come to know even better than the lodge itself. But it saddened me to walk or drive past this stunning location and feel like it was no longer home.
Then, a few months ago we got an email from the new owners of the lodge at Bow Lake, asking us about some photos Paul had taken of the area. They happened to be friends of ours already, but they didn’t know our history with the place. Paul and I were nothing short of bewildered by this new development, and thrilled to fill our friends in on those details when we responded about the photos.
Since then, we have been overjoyed to rekindle our connection with a place that is so dear to us. And last week we had a chance to go up to Bow Lake to consult with the new management team, tell stories about the lodge, and discuss some exciting plans.
The Meghan in that photo didn’t know what she was doing, but I couldn’t have scripted a better story for myself. It hasn’t been without pain and challenges, but that 90-degree turn ultimately led me to a life that can be lived more authentically. It’s one that excites me daily, especially knowing that, in the end, I didn’t abandon myself for the sake of staying on the beaten path.
Lights to Guide Me Home ✨ is now available for pre-order!
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What’s caught my attention lately… ✨
I’m currently reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd (perhaps an apt title to be talking about alongside this installment of Field Notes!) This book was published in 1996, but seems to keep cycling through generations of women.
Check these out too… 🙌
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Lights to Guide Me Home - Now available for pre-order!