God keep my land, glorious and free

I love this photo. The energy and hope in the flag. The joy on Jasper’s face. Me not quite believing that this is my son, at my place. That was before it was “ours.”

It’s June 2001. The leaves are just coming out, but the grass has had a few weeks to get ahead of us. Jasper was making his first day trip to Walden. He was only just over a year old, but really ten months because back then we were still talking about “corrected age” to account for his 3 months prematurity.

We were in PEI for a family holiday, but also because it was becoming evident that Dad was dying of cancer. He’d been with me earlier this sunny day at the cabin, helping to oversee the installation of a new wood stove. I was planning to rent the cabin for the first time that year and the old Franklin potbelly stove was unsafe. It has been my great grandfather’s. Dad took it with him. He never came back to Walden.

The cabin has always been an important father and son place, and symbolic in so many ways of relationships: birth, growth, change, death, renewal. When this photo was taken I was still of the mindset that I had control over these things — that I could rehabilitate this forsaken clear cut. That I could fix my relationship with my father by creating a space where we could be together without talking about any of that. We built the cabin together over 3 years, starting in 1995, and by doing so created a place where we could reconnect after over a decade of drifting apart.

This photo, this day, marks an important transition from one father-son relationship to another, and the beginning of a more objective era when I finally realized that I could learn a lot about life and progress by just observing. I like to think Dad was at about the same place in his life, finally opening up a bit, just three decades older and terminally ill. It was too late for him. Not for me.

Now Jasper’s nine. That little spruce at the corner (that Suzy and I stole from a ditch up the road) is now taller than the cabin. And I’m counting the days until I get there again. With my boys. In our little cabin.

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