At dawn, floating between sleep and wakefulness, I was being tortured by a bad dream when Marie-Michèle and Catherine arrived in my room with the banjo, smiles on their faces. Like the participants, the volunteers are also treated to this gentle daily musical wake-up call. In reference to our epic game of musical chairs in the snow, they sang the lyrics of Jason Mraz, here is an excerpt:
“Well, open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and, damn, you’re free
Look into your heart and you’ll find love, love, love, love
Listen to the music of the moment, people dance and sing
We’re just one big family
And it’s our God-forsaken right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved (…)”
What a calming feeling I had when I heard them – the music immediately chased away my bad dream and I felt safe, with family. Yes, with everything we’ve shared in the last few days: “We’re just one big family”. The choice of lyrics was perfect, I felt that love!
It was a bit of a frenzy this morning at La Seigneurie. Our gang of Tritons is busy closing suitcases while gobbling two pieces of French toast, a bite of granola and a cup of coffee. Indeed, we have to get going since it won’t be long before we hear a deep roar in the distance: the horde of generous snowmobilers from Lac Édouard who are coming to escort us out of the forest. In a few minutes everyone finds their driver, a great chance to connect a bit with the local population. Everyone is happy to help, it seems so natural to stick together to contribute to the adventure. Several even have the courage to let our Tritons drive their machine for a few meters; I saw Nikky’s smile pierce her helmet, she was that happy to hold the reins of her motorized beast.
Back in the village, a large private bus awaited us, we loaded the luggage compartment, and then it was time for the first goodbyes. Hugs, teary eyes, the employees of the Seigneurie were part of the gang, it’s hard to leave them behind. It is also the time for me to go back to my car, since I arrived late to the expedition because of my nasty cold, I had to come up to Lac Édouard on my own and now I have to go back the same way. I admit that I made the return trip with a box of tissues as my co-pilot. They are so endearing, these Tritons; a group of exceptional human beings. During the final hug, I told one participant to hold her tears, to keep some for the others so they wouldn’t be jealous. She looked at me with eyes both mocking and moist as she showed me her one liter water bottle attached to her bag: she assured me that she was planning to have a good cry and stay hydrated! Cheeky!
We give each other a big “bye bye” with our arms through the tinted windows, I blow a ton of kisses towards the bus when…
…Spectacular turn of events!
The bus got stuck in the snow at the exit of the parking lot!!!
Did I blow too hard?
Clearly, even the stars didn’t want it to end! While disastrous scenarios of missed planes ran through my head, the village was getting organized. Not even two minutes later, Elisabeth said: “It’s settled, my neighbor is coming with his big ”loader””. I didn’t know what a “loader” was but anyway… No time to fool around in Lac Édouard, there are no problems, just solutions!
Circumstances meant that the events of the rest of the day were shared with me later by telephone. Here is what Marie-Michèle, then on her way to Chicoutimi, told me…
The bumpy road to join Highway 155 meant that some of the group got a bit carsick because they insisted on staying together at the back of the bus. They wanted to savor the last moments of this magic bubble, disconnected from the world, before returning to civilization and telecommunications (remember that the participants were completely disconnected for the duration of the adventure, a welcome disconnection in order to better connect to oneself, to others and to nature). We also took advantage of the road trip to continue to close the experience Foundation-style: each and everyone received a bracelet made from the same long cord and a certificate in their name. In Trois-Rivières we had to say goodbye to Caro, the expedition physician. It’s sad, that’s for sure, but as Mario Bilodeau, one of the Founders of the Foundation puts it so well: “There’s no point in being sad, you’re not losing anything today, rather you’ve won lots of new friendships.” True, but heartbreaking, nonetheless.
The shuttle arrived in Montreal on time, which is where the real big round of goodbyes began. Marie-Michèle told me that it was particularly touching; “It’s always moving, but this time, I don’t know, it was even stronger than usual,” she told me. I don’t doubt it for a second, I can’t find the words to express how this group was united, kind, just darn good people, gold bars… It’s priceless the richness of the connections that were quietly woven throughout the trip.
Quietly we scatter to the four winds: the magnetic Far North draws Rachel home again; the West Coast and its swell call to Dilian; the Toronto and Edmonton gang of Dylan, Pat, Lana and Ben have one last supper together before takeoff; Érika takes the rails to the West while David does the same by train towards the East to reconnect with his native Gaspésie; Félycia’s dad takes her by car to the South; and, finally, the gang that stays in MTL, Nikky for a few days with friends, Kay, Momo and Nadz pile into Nadz’s boyfriend’s car. Being glued together a little longer is not a problem but rather a luxury. Finally, Chris left with the Foundation gang for a few more hours on the road to the Saguenay.
This is how, in the North, South, East, West and in Montreal, the participants, full to the brim, will radiate throughout the country. A participant shared with us that she was now full, even though she did not even know that she was half empty before the adventure; another thanked us for allowing him to grieve and purge emotions he had buried deep inside for too many years. Examples like that, I have plenty of them printed in my memory; the therapeutic adventure is powerful. Their batteries are full now, I wish everyone the sweetest of homecomings. I wish them to take the time to land and to keep close to their hearts their stay at the Seigneurie, where they were transformed into gods and goddesses.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you so much for trusting me.
Thank you Catherine, Thank you Marie-Michèle, Thank you Julien, Thank you Naïla, Thank you Jess, Thank you Caro, Thank you Dilian, Thank you Dylan, Thank you Momo, Thank you Ben, Thank you Chris, Thank you Pat, Thank you David, Thank you Rachel, Thank you Nadz, Thank you kay, Thank you Nikky, Thank you Érika, Thank you Félycia, Thank you Lana.
Thank you to the gang at the office, thank you to the gang at the Triton, thank you to the donors and to everyone who makes these expeditions possible.
Thank you, Mother Nature, for your mild weather and your magic.
Thank you, life, for still being there, strong.
Dear readers, thank you for accompanying us from a distance: your beautiful energies have radiated to us.
Looking forward to seeing you soon for the next adventure,