Dog-Sledding, Maple Syrup and Quebec City

French Canada whispers to me: come play, come back to life. It never fails to surprise me just how much of a difference there is between the cultures of Upper and Lower Canada, nor how much better I fit into the latter. I have just finished spending four days dog-sledding, cross-country skiing, tubing and rock climbing while trying not to explode from bacon and maple syrup at every meal. I am dead tired, and I cut my face up a bit while trying to do backflips on a trampoline, but the March Break is here. I might have had to spend my birthday on the road, but V. sent some beautiful orchids [which have become my favourite flower], so that made things just better enough for me to get home in one piece.

Maple syrup in the snow is not something you can eat everyday, but spending time doing little things like this do make you feel a little younger in the darker days of winter. Some of the activities certainly serve to make you feel a lot older, too, but the balance tells you to keep going and embracing the joie de vivre that is so prevalent in Quebec. In the cabane a sucre we might as easily have been in Prince Edward Island at a ceilidh with the fiddle and spoons pounding out a simple tune. The dog-sledding was an almost meditational act. Some people feel that sled dogs are cruelly treated, but those people are way out of touch with nature and the symbiotic relationship between a dog master and his dogs. I love dogs, and I know that even my yorkie poos love to run and pull me along in the snow.Beyond the trip, life has started to wake up from what has been a dark winter, and I finally have a few days to take care of my poor battered body and soul.  As I turned 37, I couldn’t help but wonder if life might easier in a warmer, brighter city: Vancouver, Tokyo, Rome? To counter the cold and the insanity of a Canadian winter, I set out to buy myself a hardcore jacket that will at least keep the old bones warm. Yeah, I know the Canada Goose Jacket has taken on a bit of a cult status in the fashion world, but these jackets are still built to keep you warm for years whereas my North Face gear has taken quite a beating with the camping trips and travel. It only took visits to five stores to find any stock beyond kids jackets and women’s parka’s in odd sizes. A disinterested Europe Bound employee sharply told me from behind the cash register that “We got none. You needed to be here in October. Good luck, Buddy.” I hate it when anyone calls me “buddy”. Fortunately, I miraculously was handed an Expedition Series parka at Sporting Life by a helpful sales person, and I grabbed it immediately. Coyote fur and down feathers resonated with me deeply, and this jacket is one of the first REAL pieces of clothing that I think was worth the cost. Of course, the temperature in Toronto is 14 degrees above zero today…go figure.

Is there a lesson learned from my past week getting out there? Yes: I need to get back moving, keep taking photos of the beautiful things I experience and that the drudgery of daily life should be left to those who can revel in that; I might not be that person anymore. Once you start chasing beautiful things and moments it becomes very difficult to get up with an alarm to ride the subway to a job – I do not want a job…I want a life. Now I just have to figure out how to accomplish that; at least I have a coat to keep me warm! Two weeks of rest, re-evaluation and then off to Chicago with V. for dinner at Charlie Trotter’s and Alinea.


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