I have always had an explorative spirit, although it has simmered down a little over the years because my husband, “Teddy,” doesn’t care to explore. He grew up in the city all his life and never had the privilege of living a carefree life in the country where there was a vast terrain to explore. When we started dating almost nine years ago, I wanted to share with him my love for the country so that he could fall in love with it, too. He had had no idea what he was agreeing to when I proposed going on an adventure on our first summer together.
One weekend, we hopped on our bikes and rode them out of town. That day, the wind gusts exceeded fifty kilometers per hour from the south and it was hard to pedal against the wind. The original plan had been to bike south, but I decided to turn east instead. At first the gravel road was sheltered by trees surrounding a farmyard, but once we emerged past the shelter belt, the crosswind pelted against us and we had to lean into the crosswind to keep from being knocked over like bowling pins.
A little over a mile later, we saw a yellow sign at the side of the road that stated, “Not an All Weather Road.” Shortly after that, the gravel road suddenly ended. We stopped our bikes and looked out at the dirt road stretching on ahead. Deep tractor ruts scarred the black earth. It was nothing but a farm road used by farm tractors to get into the surrounding fields.
Naturally, my love for exploration piqued my interest and I found myself wondering what we would find down this road. I proposed we continue forward and Teddy reluctantly agreed as he eyed the terrain with uncertainty.
Biking on such rough terrain proved to be quite difficult. The tracks left by the tractor wheels jarred our bikes as we bumped over them like a car without shocks. We tried to bike within the ruts made by truck tires because they were smoother, but sometimes the ruts were so deep that we had to pedal carefully to keep the handlebars straight, otherwise we would fall over. The strong crosswind didn’t help with our balance, either. At times, we got off our bikes and walked them instead.
Most people travelling down such a road would have turned around and gone back the way they came to look for an easier road. Teddy proposed we turn around, but I put my head down and moved forward, concentrating carefully on the terrain in front of me. I couldn’t have turned around if I wanted to because I had to know what was at the end of the road. Once I donned the explorer’s hat, it was nearly impossible to take it off again.
Joy bubbled up inside of me as we continued on down the road. I was in my element. I was Charlene, the Explorer, on a prairie adventure. We were the only two people on the road and I felt so free. We stopped often to explore the sights around us. We found a pile of twisted metal that were once grain silos and we tried to figure out how they were destroyed. We came across a wall of hay bales and attempted to climb them like I used to in my childhood.
As we continued on, the dirt road continued to worsen and our progress slowed. Up ahead, we could see a grove of trees and I assured Teddy that we would bike to the grove to rest in the shade before turning around to bike home.
When we finally reached the grove, it felt like we had teleported from the Manitoban prairies to a forest of Middle Earth. A small pool of water collected at the side of the road, shaded beautifully by the trees with pockets of sunshine illuminating the brown water.
(Okay brown water doesn’t sound so beautiful especially when you compare it to the sparkling clear blue waters of the Caribbean or other tropical places, but for those of us who grew up in the Red River Settlement, we don’t think twice about brown water. After all, our capital city, Winnipeg, is Cree for “muddy waters.”)
If I was still a teenage girl with a girlfriend, I would have stripped down and waded into the pool, but I didn’t want to scare my new boyfriend by being so bold. Plus, I couldn’t see how deep the pool went or what the bottom was made of. I once swam in the Rat River, which feeds into the Red River, when my dad took me fishing when I was in my teens. The bottom of this river was knee-deep with mud settlement and I couldn’t put my feet down without getting stuck in the mud or losing my shoes.
We explored the surrounding forest instead. Parts of the forest floor dipped down and I soon realized that it was a streambed that had dried up. It was a dry summer that year, which would explain why the streambed was dry. Piles of dead tree branches littered the forest floor, making it even more difficult to walk around in it.
We found a fallen tree to sit on and basked in the rays of sunlight that poured from the heavens through the trees and talked about names for our little forest. We decided to call it “The Oasis” because it looked like an oasis in a desert of harvested wheat fields. Finding this heavenly place was worth the miles of rough terrain that we had travelled to get there.
When I look back on this adventure and remember the sign we saw at the side of the road that said, “Not An All Weather Road,” it reminds me of my own life journey which has been far from coasting on a smooth road. In fact, my own journey is very much like the dirt road that Teddy and I travelled all those years ago.
The terrain of life is rough and it feels as if we’re being jarred and rattled as we ride over tire tracks embedded in the soil. Sometimes the road is smooth; other times the ruts are so deep that we have to get off our bikes and walk otherwise we’ll fall. Sometimes we do fall and scrape our hands and knees. A crosswind often blows against us, making forward progress slow and exhausting.
Teddy and I could have given up the moment we saw the sign, “Not an All Weather Road,” and turned around to find an easier route. If we had, we never would have experienced the adventure of the exploration or the joy of being out in the open air surrounded by beauty, and we never would have found “The Oasis” at the end of the road.
Life is hard but it doesn’t mean we won’t experience joy along the way. In fact, it’s possible to feel joy even when the road has deep ruts, potholes and large rocks. The road may be washed out in certain areas, but, like the dry streambed we found in “The Oasis,” the road will eventually dry if only we would wait.
I do believe the best is yet to come in my own life. I have seen a glimpse of the light of heaven shining through the trees.
So I have decided I won’t look back. Instead, I will continue moving forward along the dirt road I’m travelling on no matter how rough the terrain gets. I will get there.
And so will you. Because…
You. Are. Loved.
With love and blessings,
A Small-Town Girl at Heart
You are not alone.
You. Are. Loved.
I hope you find love, hope and peace in these words.