In 2004, we uprooted our family from the UK and relocated to Canmore, Alberta, Canada. The plan was to start a new life, to hit the ‘reset’ button on our lifestyle, our careers and our dreams. It has been nearly eight years since we put that decision into effect. We have grown into a life that has delivered far beyond our meagre dreams, into a richly creative life with time to do the things we are passionate about, and time to share with each other and with the friends and family we love.
One of the first gifts this new life gave us all those years ago was our friendship with Stefan and Emma Varga. They had made a similar transition from the UK, and we ‘met’ online through the relocation agent’s chatroom a year before our relocation. On a cold day in early December 2004, a couple walked into the library where I work, walked up to the counter, looked at me, looked at my nametag and said . . . “Are you the Dea from the website!?” Not a week later, they were guests for dinner in our home and the friendship was firmly fastened (over a bottle of whiskey for the boys, I seem to recall . . . .)
Over the years of our friendship, we have laughed until we nearly peed ourselves, we have cried a little, we have hiked and canoed and camped, eaten and drunk (often far too much) and watched very stupid movies together. We have been there for each other repeatedly. And now, these dear friends, who have become part of our family, are leaving our community. In a week’s time, we will share a final stay at Panorama Mountain Village in British Columbia, from which we will return home, and they will go on to an untold period of travels and adventures out in the world.
Tonight, we have arranged a mighty gathering of all the friends and pseudo-family these extraordinary pair have gathered around them in their years in this valley. They have been the lynchpins of this group, and the regular hosts of such gatherings all through the years. They both have an extraordinary ability to make friends on any path, and to bring together a diverse and fascinating group of unconnected people and make them feel connected. We will all miss that terribly, and so we plan to send them off in similar style.
Today, as I prepare for tonight’s gathering, I have spent some time in my studio putting the finishing touches to our parting gift. As part of the send-off, I have made them a little travel journal. Not too big, something that will fit in a pocket or bag, but that is filled with the thoughts and memories of their friends. I made it from old maps, and the pages from an old RAC travel guide from the UK. Each guest will provide a gift card to put in the book: for coffee, or a meal or some gas to help them on their travels, and to have a memory presence each time they are used. They aren’t likely to be coming back to our community to live once their travels are finished, but I don’t want them to ever forget the way back to ‘home’ they helped to create for so many.
Stefan and Emma Varga, we love you. We will miss you. No goodbye, let’s just say we will see you soon. As the Irish would say:
May the roads rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again
May God hold you in the
Hollow of his hand.