English River sounds more romantic than Ignace. Especially Upsala. Being halfway between where you were and where you are going happens all the time, figuratively. The opportunity to pinpoint this middle ground physically, during a giant lifestyle change is not so easy to jab with a pin. When you can zero in on one location, you puncture that place to the core. English River is where that pin stuck when my family moved across the country.
After many months of contemplation, my girlfriend and I decided to move our family east from Red Deer, Alberta to Belleville, Ontario. The initial spark to move came after visiting family out east one week last summer. The sparkling shorelines and vibrant countryside took hold of our imaginations and refused to let go.
The decision to trade mountains for warmer weather did not arrive overnight. We dove back into our lives. Kid’s soccer practice, backyard campfires and friends to share it with were the colour between our lines. But the east would always shoulder its way back into late night conversations. When a job position became available to justify what our hearts had already decided, I answered yes. Three weeks later my family was taking in one last look at a house we no longer called home, took a collective deep breath, and closed the car doors The engine started, awakening barely breathing caterpillars in my belly.
We roam over dinosaur bone yards on the first day. By the second morning of our trip, the caterpillars began curiously crawling on their surrounding walls. Endless prairie skies canvased day two. That night the caterpillars cocooned, awaiting transformation. On the third morning, the cocoons burst apart. They morphed into brilliant butterflies, tickling every morsel of breakfast and the thoughts which stirred with my coffee.
At this point, English River is five hours away. As we hit the road, my family decided, unknowingly with mercy, to take naps. A mist gently coated the countryside as Manitoba prairies have way to Ontario lakes. The hours unfold like it is simultaneously locked on a steel track and yet as brittle as birch bark.
After many miles and all too soon, we arrive at the midway point, the English River Inn. I nudge my girlfriend awake and say we should stretch our legs down by the water. Butterflies have escaped and are dancing an elegant, chaotic ritual around us. I begin with, “We are between where we were and where we are going”. She nods vigorously and with a smile that could collapse cities. She knows we are on the brink of something big. My knee moves down unwaveringly, bent on decision. My mouth moves with words reserved for two souls. She says yes.
We walk along by the water, wearing idiot grins strictly for those who are floating a few inches above the ground. Where the path ends, I pick up a handful of fallen birch bark and give a sheet to my new fiancé. By the time we get back to the car, the motel’s owner is on the front step. “If you aren’t staying here, find another home for that car”. I tell him we are all finished here. He lends a nod of approval. We continue on, leaving the butterflies to fly free in English River.
– Jamie Brook