Wherever The Fancy Takes You

J & T returned to school yesterday and already the summer seems like a memory. I wrote this piece last week – it feels a million miles away right now…


When it comes to doing nothing in a professional capacity we’re at the top of our game, and I say this proudly without a trace of shame. Some people pack their holidays so full of activities I wonder if they ever get a chance to just stop and hear the cicadas. I’m with John Lennon:


“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”


“Can we go on an adventure today?” J asks between bites of toast, watching T exploratively pushing down on the rim of his plate with a sticky finger. We lock eyes in knowing acknowledgement when he finally flips it over, expertly transferring crumbs in one smooth move from designated receptacle to table. “Sure, why not. Let’s pack a picnic, grab the fishing nets and make a day of it.”

Accustomed to a life of constant change (as many expats are), we have a burning need to really feel and live the time we have. It doesn’t matter if things aren’t perfect, we know one day we’ll look back and the colour of the walls won’t be an issue, it’ll be the smile when the birthday cake was brought out or the conversations on those long walks before we could afford the insurance on a car.

When we miss a big event we can’t just shrug our shoulders and say, “Nevermind, we’ll catch it next year.” Who knows if we’ll even be here? One thing’s certain: the longer we are in one spot, the closer we get to the day we’re moving on. Three years now and counting… I don’t know if we’ll taste another Ribfest or gasp at the fireworks next Canada Day.

The largest part of our luggage when we leave will be our memories, so we take lots of photos and do what makes us feel good. Those of you who follow our antics already know most of our enjoyment comes from being close to the lake and nature. A recent post was a tribute to The Lake At The Centre Of My World. But the other big factor in how our lives play out is spontaneity; like the evening we hit the beach after dark on the way home from my birthday dinner. The kids thought it was a hoot, especially when a skunk and a possum crashed the party.

Lunchtime finds us at the beach. The heat shimmers above the pebbles and the sand sears the bottoms of our feet. The kids are focused on damming the run-off from the splash-park on the plateau above us. Their feet and hands stay cool from constant contact with the water, even if their tempers don’t, “We have a stream going the wrong way!’ J yells, “More rocks! More sea-moss!”
I’m sprawled on a rug nearby reading and writing. This really equates to slow-cooking and is only bearable with frequent cool-off breaks in the rolling surf where S and I sit side-by-side on a cool flat semi-submerged rock and throw stones into the water.

After hotdogs and watermelon we all amble up the shoreline. Myriad tiny spiders scurry under pebbles at our approach making us wonder at the vast arachnid empire that exists out of sight directly beneath our feet. We scan the waves with binoculars at the sight of a lone swimmer – turns out it’s a bunch of balloons so instead we look for Rochester, New York, our neighbours across the water. On our left the cliffs rise up, undulating in and out so the promontory parts, with their grassy mop-tops and smooth faces, look like Easter Island moai gazing implacably at the distant horizon. On our right the water churns. The lake is frisky today, giving the amateur sailors learning the ropes in the harbour a run for their money.

Most of our adventures come about when we’re busy doing nothing. Like the pot-bellied, sun-dried man we met on Pringle Creek Bridge who told us how to fish for catfish, showing us how to cast off and discussing the best way to cook them – steamed, fried sauteed or broiled.

Purposefully pootling along without a plan we’ve met snapping turtles, chipmunks, delicate dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies. We’ve surprised deer, rabbits and raccoons, spied on herons and cranes and been stalked by buzzards. One memorable afternoon was spent entirely at the slipway, watching sailors navigate that year’s prolific algae soup – trying not to get it caught in their propellers or on their persons as they took boats and jetskis in and out. Everyone had a different approach, it was a real lesson in confidence and lateral thinking, and way more entertaining than TV!

When you don’t have a schedule there’s always time to stay longer or room for others to join in and somehow these events stay closer to the surface of murky memory than any of the timetabled stuff.

We snack on apples picked from a tree on the shore and believe ourselves to be the luckiest people in the world. And just like that… we are.




By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


    1. Now you see why it’s so difficult to speed for back-to-school! We like to take our time and let the best bubble to the surface, you can’t do that when you’re rushing 🙂

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