THUNDER BAY – The American Customs Officer at the Pigeon River Boundary looked at us. Asked my wife, Margaret, who was in the driver’ s seat, “Will you leave anything in the the U.S.A. on this trip.” “Yes,” replied Margaret. ”What might that be?,” she continued with an inquisitive glance.
“My mother,” Margaret explained, “We’re taking her home.”
She motioned to the sacred container of ashes viewable in back. “She lived her last 4 and 1/2 years with us. Passed away this cold winter. We vowed to have a Memorial Service at her former church in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul.”
Margaret produced the official paperwork. Passed it over. The official paused. Paged through everything. Then smiled gently, “There’s more than enough here.”
The officer returned things. Looked at both of us, said, “Have a safe journey.”
With that we drove into the USA on a bright, beaming afternoon. Where our vehicle began climbing one of the most dramatic, incomparable coastlines in the world. Symbolically a large bald eagle lifted high over one of the Pre-Cambrian cliffs that seem molded by some great Creator’s crafting hands many aeons ago.
We were summitting the rise of Mt. Josephine with its splayed sprawling, awe inspiring sweep where the mixed forests of Lake Superior were engulfed in Quetico like canyons of space trailing behind us now in our rear view mirrors.
This postcard imagery represents the largest freshwater lake on the globe.
An all encompassing panorama that perennially inspires sightseers to pause at a designated turn off constructed by the state of Minnesota. Those who stop to view this unique vista always motion this way and that gliding their cameras left to right and back. Merely attempting to grasp something in the way of a frame-by-frame sequence of this colossal view. So what most do is assemble their home made artistry into a series of juxtaposed mages. It is surely, as pioneers noted well, “Something of a slice of God’s frontier.”
And to realize our neighbouring nations along the 49th maintain one of the longest undefended borders. On any map. The spirit of democracy and the freedoms of speech underscored, in living here, were seen as neatly as Nature’s blissful brushstrokes adorning such a peaceful canvas before us. We carried on.
Driving through the main artery of highway that would gradually take us south into the heart of a mid-west State.
As my wife anticipated–and, really needed–more time with Galen, our son, who’d flown in from western Canada to be with our family, other friends as we’d finalized the last resting place for her mother; I’d reappear a few weeks later bringing Margaret home.
However at our Canadian Customs station a uniformed officer wearing a cool orchid white shirt, with crisp epaulettes on his shoulders, hearing what had gone before looked pensively at me.
Inquired, rather seriously, “Any inheritance?”
It was something totally unexpected. So point blank. I reflected, then said, “Only…many bundles of memories.”
My reply went on, “This week a Scottish piper stood passionately in our church. Inspiring every one. One more time for all times. Played: Scotland the Brave. Besides so many kin and friends who simply applauded the service, sermon, eulogies and the binding glow of assembling together for a last fair well.”
“Those kinds of moments go beyond monetary things,” I commented.
Though it seemed our Customs man was expecting a kind of Wall Street Journal fiscal report that’s where our mutual interview passed into history. ”That sounds like something special,” he replied. “Go ahead. You can get back home now,” he said it with a compassion that seemed quite forthright as he returned my passport.
I turned the ignition and drove on.
Heading up the steep incline into Ontario.
The weather was a scorcher, as they say in Australia.
Almost immediately a porcupine waddled a green embankment. It worked its way halfway up the slope. Then decided to slip into shade fostered by high grasses and bushes.
The day’s heat was rising. Conditions felt like being in a sauna. But It was reflective, also, of the intrepid International traveler Blaise Cendrars who wrote in his traveler’s notebook about getting through the last stages of going home.
Cendrars observed in his traveling, “Bands of crows were curiously taking off from all over. So many of them directly in front of my view. Then, disappearing in the immediate direction of Port Arthur.”
Quite fitting I thought while driving on. My wife’s mother Elizabeth Coombs loved writers who wove Nature’s landscape with creatures originally spawned in the pages of the Book of Genesis.