Reflections From an Airport
I’ve been on the road for 170 days, and the first months of the bicycle trip have already given themselves over to memory. The ice of Fogo Island, the drums of Lennox; New Brunswick’s mosquitos, Murdochville’s hills. Speaking Joual French with Pascal. Eating strawberries along the St. Lawrence River. I’ve lived through 170 days, losing count of the kilometres under my tires, going from cold to hot to cold again in my sleeping bag from one season to the next and the next. My muscles hardened. My mind changed. Time passed.
It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even nearly perfect. If you asked me today if I’d do this again, the answer is no. I don’t mean I regret doing it. I mean it challenged me and broke me and wore me in ways that I could never have expected, and I shake at the idea of facing it in the same way again. If I am proud it is with a broken heart.
It was the best it could be. I know that because doing my best is all I know. I tried all day and I woke up in the morning and tried again. I know that because I’m exhausted, and I have been for weeks. But when I look at some parts of this project, it’s impossible not to feel like a failure. It’s impossible not to see inadequacy and disappointment and incompletion. When I see that, the knowledge that it was my best is a small comfort.
If I think harder, though, that small comfort becomes the size of 15,000 km. “You saw so much, slowly and with quality,” a friend wrote to me in September. “You heard the country breathe, saw its many climes and vastness. This is indelibly pressed into your life history. You will have forever ridden this.” And I’ve seen it. I’ve watched the sun rise from a lobster boat off the coast of Prince Edward Island. I’ve stood alongside Indigenous protestors reclaiming their history at Parliament Hill. I’ve held the horses of western Alberta’s rodeo queens. My understanding of Canada has changed in a thousand ways.
“How do I conceptualize my country, both as it is and as it has been? How can I hold the scope of centuries in my head and in my heart? What is Canada’s role in building a better world? What is mine?” — Why I’m Cycling Across Canada in 2017
Canada isn’t perfect. Not even nearly perfect. We’re challenged and broken and worn in ways that I still can’t fully express—in every part of this country, from the Atlantic fishermen to the water protectors of the Salish Sea. I’ve seen it. If we are proud it is with broken hearts. So in response, we’ve got to be the best we can be. Each one of us. Me. You. Try every day. Meet our ignorance and violence with dignity and resolve. Connect. Listen.
Commit to each other.
It’s close to midnight and I’m alone in an airport. No fanfare. Just another face on the red-eye out of Calgary. But inside, I’m still telling the story. I set out in April to search for a clearer vision for the future of my country. Right now that vision is clouded by weariness but it already has elements of clarity. It won’t be perfect, but it will be my best. I offer that like I offered it nine months ago.
Yes, I’m tired. But the same words beat in my heart like they did back then: I refuse to do nothing.