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the closest to heaven that i’ll ever be

Well this is awkward. I realize I haven’t really been around recently. It’s because I’ve been having the most wonderful time of my life, not a big deal.

Thank you to everyone who contacted me out of concern because I haven’t blogged in two weeks. It’s nice to be missed :)

I had two stellar, exciting, adventure filled weeks. The first week started with a road trip that ended in Canada (more on that later). I was supposed to come home then. Except I didn’t. I stayed in Canada--living with strangers and freezing to death--for an extra week.

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See that sky? That’s why I stayed in Canada.

Actually, let’s be real—this is why I stayed in Canada:

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Whoops, how’d that get there? I meant to put this one:

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I love these people. This wonderful family adopted me for a week to let me rest, heal, and experience a world I’d never seen before. I spent the week having dirt under my nails, smelling like diesel and hay, and being completely content.

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The short version of the story is that I met them and got in their airplane and flew away with them to the safe haven they call home. The longer version is boring and makes me sound much less daring.

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I’ve never been in a small airplane—one where the pilot is 21 years old and I’m allowed to use my cell phone and there are only four passengers and I get a narrated tour of the land through my own personal pilot headset. I was in awe for the majority of the ride. We flew into rainclouds that hadn’t quite reached the ground yet, feeling the rain that wouldn’t be felt for another half an hour by the world below. I sat like a little child with my chin in my hands, gaping in wonder at the beautiful world gliding by beneath me. For a glorious hour I stared at majestic rolling hills blanketed in pine trees, intermittently interrupted by winding roads and snaking rivers. I marveled at the million shades of green, at the blue mountains in the distance, never quite getting closer. I looked up at the screen and imprinted the image of the digital green GPS words spelling out Prince George, BC. Sights my camera couldn’t quite capture but my mind will never forget.

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The plane ride was the beginning of the adventure; the first of many firsts.

Some other firsts:

Finding a dead fish head in the middle of the woods?

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Check.

Touching a dead, decaying, severed cayote?

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Check.

Discovering a bear jaw in someone’s backyard?

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Done.

Oh, and don’t worry, I took the liberty of extracting a fat tooth from that jaw. Big game dentistry?

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Double check.

Now I’ve ridden a four wheeler before, but this was the first time I’ve ever ridden one with a seven year old sitting contentedly on the front. We careened across the country, over ditches and bumps and up the hill to their house, rocking back and forth and tipping side to side. He didn’t even flinch. Not once. Something about being raised on a farm makes people a special level of tough that none of us city people can ever hope to achieve.

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I learned about fear. How I have too much of it. I met boys who were heavily into reckless activities, who didn’t hesitate to throw themselves off a cliff, over a ditch, or into obvious danger. I am not like that. I’m the wimpy one who sits on the fence, knees pulled into her chest, waiting to be coerced into jumping off. I’m the one whose mind races with the possibilities of injuries, death, and consequences. One of the earliest memories I have is at a family reunion years ago where I was too scared to jump from a tree into my dad’s arms and my cousins mocked me mercilessly. Not much has changed. I don’t like being scared. I want to be able to let go more. To not be scared to jump, to fall, to get hurt. Seriously, I just sustained the worst injuries of my life doing something normal like being in a car. If I’m going to get hurt, I might as well be doing something adventurous and adrenaline filled, right? With that in mind I tried to be brave the rest of the week. I silenced my screams as the boys sped trucks at outrageous speeds across dark, bumpy fields in the middle of the night, fishtailing back and forth and sliding sideways. I tried not to grab on to the doors of the airplane (or the arms of the pilot) as we turned upside down—just for fun--and lost gravity for three never-ending seconds. I tried to remember that it was going to be okay. And if it wasn’t going to end well, I might as well make the most of the last three seconds of my life.

The big challenge was at the end of the trip, the night before I left. They’d constructed a sauna down at the bottom of their house. I’d never seen a sauna before, but I welcomed the idea of being warm for the first time that week. I sat with them in the sauna trying desperately to breathe through the suffocating heat without complaint. After an eternity of torturing myself in the tiny room next to a blazing fire, they announced that they were headed outside to dip in the little pool (which was constantly being refilled with fresh water from the bubbling spring. Yes, this is real life.) lying five feet from the sauna door. It was about twenty degrees outside and we were only wearing bathing suits. Translation: freezing cold. It took me a few minutes to muster up all my courage, aided by the encouragement of the boys. I barreled out the door underneath the pitch black sky, tripped face first into the metal tub of water, and dunked my head under the icy water where I held it for a solid second before leaping out of the water. I stood outside the sauna for a minute (in the cold, in my bathing suit) letting the feeling of accomplishment sink in. I laughed with joy, feeling the rush of adrenaline, feeling like a champion, feeling brave, feeling AWESOME. Then the cold kicked in and I scurried back into the steaming sauna and rubbed it in the guys’ faces. Ha.

Later on in the week I got to ride a horse!

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Okay fine, that’s not the horse I rode. I just couldn’t resist. Actually the real story is that we rode horses (full sized ones) just after dark to see the northern lights (does this sound too good to be true or what?) and my horse stepped his front two legs into a ditch on accident. I freaked out (see? I’m a big chicken) because I thought my horse was dying or his legs were breaking and I started screaming and rapidly tried to come up with the best way to throw myself off the horse without getting hurt. Luckily the horse was neither broken nor dead and I managed to escape with nothing but a confused look from the attractive face of my riding partner. I’m tellin’ you, I couldn’t keep up with these farm boys and their toughness.

Another memorable adventure was that one time where I milked a goat.

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Milking an animal is awkward, there’s no way around it.

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I don’t think the goat loved it either.

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But we didn’t mind one bit.

My days were long; they started early, ended late, and were filled with adventure.

I spent countless hours on the tractor, riding alongside one of my newfound friends, talking, listening, learning. I thought that maybe spending so many hours doing monotonous tasks with a person I barely knew would get old. But it didn’t.

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During one of the endless stretches of field the brave boy decided to let me drive. You know how fields have long, straight lines? Well that takes a lot of experience. I know firsthand. This is what the rows look like when you let a beginner drive.

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It’s harder than it looks, I swear.

But my new friends were patient. They took time to teach me things. I learned more about how things are supposed to be, how to simplify things. My perspective shifted a little more on what was important, where I wanted to go with my life. I started letting go of things that I've clung to for a long time, to see things for what they really are, not what I want them to be. There are pieces of myself that I don’t like but have never wanted to change—things that I thought were part of my identity but maybe were just things I’d grown comfortable with. The boys stuffed my head with more facts than I could ever remember about fields and farms and trucks and animals. It felt like cramming for an AP exam except a thousand times more lasting and a million times more meaningful.

Sometimes I felt like I was living a dream—riding in tractors and taking mid-morning breaks to sip smoothies brought from the house in Mason jars. Real life? Not sure.

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Everything was new and exciting to me. Riding the four wheeler down to collect huge eggs, still warm from being underneath the hens was a grand adventure.

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I watched grain get transferred from the big silver thing up the tube thing into a truck thing.

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All of those things have names. And I was taught by the ever-patient boys what those names were. But I just can’t remember them. Probably because my head is overflowing with new information. In fact, I have so much new knowledge that I’ve decided to share some. A quick lesson in biology, if you will.

This is a cayote:

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(A dead one.)

This is a dog:

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(Alive. Incredible, I know.)

You may think you know the difference. But I’d advise you to just brush up on it before you take trips to rural Canada. Especially if you’re hanging out with people who think it’s hilarious to convince you the the live dog is in fact a live cayote. Because they love seeing your eyes get wide with surprise and/or fear. You need to know the difference to avoid looking like a fool. Not that this ever happened to me. Because clearly, I know the difference.

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Every day was something new, something novel. Being there made me happy. It meant pulling on gumboots ten times a day, family scriptures, battling for pie straight out of the pie plate, quoting Megamind on the radios that linked the tractors, trucks, and barn together, fully enjoying everything we did, even if it was something simple. 

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It meant working all day, and being so tired that I slept instantly every night, without nightmares, and woke with the rising sun. Which was 4:30, for the record. Sick.


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The days were beautiful—just warm enough to be outside all day but cold enough to wear a sweater and to get runny noses and pink cheeks from being on the four wheeler all day long. The four wheeler was my favorite mode of transportation. I spent hours on that thing, as a driver and as a passenger. It’s the most exhilarating feeling; the wind whipping my face as I sped up and down hills, across fields, in and out of trees. I felt free, burdenless, bursting with pure joy. Life is wonderful on a four wheeler.

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week 2


Its miraculous to think that just a few weeks ago I couldn't get out of bed, couldn't stand up or walk and now I'm having the grandest adventure of my life

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It was really entertaining to try to take a family picture of this lot. First they decided there needed to be a gun in the picture, to represent their deep rooted love for hunting.

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But the mom said no.

Then Little Brother decided he needed to wear the girly gumboots in the picture.

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Big Brothers said no, given that the boots made them all “look like cupcakes”. A collective effort ensued, ending with Little Brother having some naked feet.

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Each hour felt like five, yet the week wasn’t quite long enough. Every morning was the start of a new adventure. With each sunrise the day was a blank canvas, holding limitless possibilities. Each day was an opportunity for me to have new adventures—to fall off a four wheeler into a patch of thistles and get weird bumps on my legs.

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To drive a truck down a dirt road (by the way, driving a truck? my new favorite thing) and send Little Brother to chase away the mule that was acting as a roadblock.

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(Though really, I could have just jumped on it's back and ridden into the sunset, eh?)

Each of those seven days were precious to me. Each were overflowing with laughter and gratitude.

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My hoodie was dirty every day despite frequent cycles through the washer. It smelled good, like outdoors and sunshine. Yes, sunshine has a smell. It smells like happiness. Don’t you know that?

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I was in good company, with people who had the same values that I did, that could sympathize with my situation, that cared about my well being even though I’d only known them for a matter of days.

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  It was, hands down, one of the greatest weeks I’ve ever had.

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(And I already want to go back.)

[Title from Iris by Goo Goo Dolls]

10 comments:

  1. Oh my best. week. ever. Everything about that just made me SO jealous! Oh my heck. Attractive males...and everything amazing. So glad you got to have that experience! I love this. See you this week!

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  2. Beautiful photography in this post. I love Canada.

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  3. first of all these pictures are BEAUTIFUL!! Secondly that looks like a dream come true! Seriously funnest week ever! ps we're in the same state and within 20 min of each other aka I need to see you :) Love ya!

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  4. wow Brid! that sounds amazing! take me with you next time! ;)

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  5. I was jealous too! Would love to have a week like that! Good to see you had a good time! :)

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  6. I am so glad that you had such a wonderful time. Wonderful people tend to find other wonderful people, and that is what keeps happening with you. As always, your writing is so eloquent, and your pictures are amazing. You are so talented.

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  7. Great pictures of the home town.. I am jealous that you were there for a week, I have not been back for 8 years... The Gulbranson are amazing people aren't they. Tyla was just a baby when we left and the boys turned out to be handsome men.. You were lucky to be in such great company. Thanks for turning back time for me and making me realize how much I miss that place. :)

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  8. Those Canadians are soooo good looking!! ;)

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  9. Oh... And this week sounded heavenly, with or without the beautiful men. Bwahaha. I am so glad you got to go, and I'm totally jealous! I live so close. :P Love ya, Bridian!

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  10. Haha best time ever love this blog! To us this is every day lol. nbd. Hope we can see you again soon!
    love Tyla!

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