Stepping away from the hustle bustle of the office and the Internet is very difficult. Cellular data networks continually expand, making 24/7 access to our working selves that much more tiresome. Worst of all, workloads seemingly grow by the minute, hopelessly eliminating any chance of breathing fresh air, enjoying the great outdoors, and finding some peace and quiet.
We Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving weekend with some of the best October weather in recent memory. Usually the turkey and mashed potatoes are eaten on the Sunday (at least in my family), leaving Monday wide open for R&R. Since we were blessed with a gorgeous day, Jaclyn, my brother and I headed to the closest provincial park and hiked through the only hilly trails in our region.
Southern Manitoba — and the Pembina Valley in particular — is notoriously flat. We live at the bottom of a gigantic prehistoric lake that dried up and left behind some of the most fruitful soil in the country. That fruitful soil has been divided into modern day agricultural plots that are as flat as the eye can see. When our treacherous winters hit, you could probably float a curling rock from one end of the Pembina Valley to the other.
Within 50 or so kilometres of our home is the escarpment where the prehistoric lake dropped off to its deepest parts. Luckily, it provides the one hill and valley for the entire region to enjoy.
Best of all, the provincial park is almost within a baseball’s throw from the Manitoba/North Dakota border, meaning little to no cellular data service is available. It couldn’t have been a more ideal spot for a Thanksgiving Day hike.
Now, in comparison to true hiking trails, the provincial park is nothing less than a blip on the horizon. We trekked through some hills and some minor changes in elevation, but nothing to the likes of many true hiking trails around the world.
Whatever the case, the Pembina Valley Provincial Park is the best we’ve got and it gave us a delightful chance to shut off our minds, remember the beauty of Mother Nature, and be thankful for all the gifts and blessings we’ve received over the past year.
This time of year presents some incredible colour palettes across the valley. I think we ended up being a week late as many of the trees had already shaken off most of their leaves, but it’s fun to see the regeneration of the earth take place in front of us.
If it weren’t for the crunching of leaves under our feet, we would have found ourselves in almost perfect silence. Our phones couldn’t ring. Our voices stayed quiet. Our brains could shut off.
I love this silence.
For some, this silence can be terrifying. This silence allows our thoughts to be the only voices we hear and has a way of unearthing those things we keep swept under the rug. I don’t blame people for hating the silence.
I am lucky enough to love the silence. I love the way silence empties my brain and creates an incredible void that is ready for absorption of the world around me.
For me, the absence of artificial sound, the breath of fresh wind and the innocent chirp of the late autumn birds all combine to create the cherished blessing of absolute personal peace. If God talks to us, I believe he talks to us in these rare moments.
Our hike’s quintessential symbolism only occurred to me after we had finished. Heading out on an absolutely perfect Thanksgiving Day allowed for those moments of pure silence where I could be truly thankful. I may have forgotten about the unbelievable year my wife and I had had, yet the blessing of silence allowed for us to be at peace and remember all that we had been given.
I love this silence.
We are thankful for a great many things:
- The sound and sturdy roof over our heads
- The health and love of our family and friends
- The blessing of a nurturing and passionate marriage
- The bountiful opportunities and open doors set before us
- The chance to enjoy the wonders and luxuries of the beautiful world
- The freedom to pray before we eat and go to bed
- The incredible sacrifice of those who have died for our freedoms and rights
- The fruitful harvest and food on our tables
- The freedom, ability, and access to express ourselves how we like without physical fear of repercussions
I’ve missed things we are thankful for, but that’s alright.
In addition to the list above, I am thankful for silence. I am thankful for the chance to look at the wonder of the physical world and the chance to smile at the presence of something greater than all that we can see, touch and feel. I am thankful for that brief moment where maybe — just maybe — He will look down and smile at me as I look up and smile at Him.
Although our nature isn’t as beautiful as the nature in so many other parts of the world, the bit of beauty our nature does offer made this one of my favourite Thanksgiving weekends ever.
Getting trapped in the endless consumerism I express can get very tiresome. Constant want and constant need take up an exceptional amount of energy. This hike marked the single most peaceful moment I’ve had over the past year.
And if there is one product I recommend, it’s a good hike to a spot where you can be with just your thoughts and feelings. You truly can’t go wrong with fresh air and the world in front of you.