Seven Years

Seven years—no kidding?
Seven years—no kidding?

August, is that you again?

Seven years ago on August 2, Magellan and I launched Latitude 65.

For 362 Sundays around 6 a.m., we press a few buttons and MailChimp announces, “aand it’s out there.”

Out there hoping some of you will open the link, others will serendipitously stumble upon a story, a few of you will be inspired to comment, or search out a place, a person, a thing.

Whether a blog will resonate with you, dear readers, is still a mystery to us.

Why is Buddha’s Hand, a story about a weird citrus, consistently been among our 10 most-read? I’m guessing a lot of people trying to get a hand on spiritual guidance are darn mad when they discover the path leads not to inner peace but to a cookie recipe.

My theory for the continued popularity of On the Trail of the Golden Spruce is that Grant Hadwin is still alive and impulsively wants to make corrections to our story.

The Golden Spruce
The Golden Spruce in 1984 (Photo: Mike Beauregard)

The oddest thing happened this month. In one day more than 3,000 people (and since then another 300) clicked onto The “Inyo” of the Yuhodoh Hike on Japan’s Mount Tsurugi. Yes, it coincided with the death of Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, but we can find no connection between the man and the mountain.

A centre of Shugendo, a Japanese folk religion based on mountain worship

Personal stories about our moms like Mom, Echo and Covid, Mother’s Day, 2020 and GS1 have garnered the most comments on our site (37 and 39, respectively; we come from big families!).

Yet sometimes I can’t stop myself from writing about an esoteric experience that has the appeal of cold mashed potatoes to anyone else. Like the story of Cora Sandel to which one person responded. BARRY, thank you dear cousin for always commenting.

“…aesthetically and politically, her novels count as feminist classics, with Alberta at the era’s literary vanguard alongside Clarissa Dalloway, Dorothy Richardson’s Miriam, and Djuna Barnes’s Robin Vote,” Paris Review

But where were you for “Yamas!” Greek Ruins in Sicily’s Agrigento: Part 1? Which received zero comments. As did Part 2, even though Lonely Planet rates Agrigento’s ruins among “Sicily’s Unmissable Places to Visit.”

“How do you remember all the stuff you write about?” friends ask.

I consult my dairy. Ask Magellan what stands out for him. See where research leads me. Sometimes I start with a direction in mind, but often the story turns down an unmarked road. Then it’s reread, rewrite and repeat x 20, until the story’s not too bumpy, “plot-holed” or twisted, until it’s going somewhere with enough careening energy that a reader might want to travel along without the fear of being car-sick.

“You always seem to have a good time. That’s impossible from my experience,” a friend once commented.

Is it because both Magellan and I were both born under the sign of Virgo?

 Virgo is an earth sign historically represented by the goddess of wheat and agriculture (Saskatchewan!), an association that speaks to Virgo’s deep-rooted presence in the material world (spending too much money on travel?). Virgos are logical, practical, and systematic in their approach to life (ever seen one of our travel itineraries?) …They’re hyper-aware of every detail (we’ll need 22 days in Iceland). Virgo is governed by Mercury, the messenger planet of communication (see my past)…A Virgo deals with information like a computer (Magellan wrote the first financial-forecast program using Fortran at Texaco Canada in 1970)… Methodical, committed, and hardworking, they make excellent teachers (see my past), healers, editors (see my past), and musicians (nope; in Grade 3 Magellan was asked to just move his lips and not sing; in my small town teachers needed even the bad voices).

It’s not always a smooth voyage. My navigating can create a turnabout in the road to enjoyment. A hundred metres past an intersection, I’ll say, “You needed to turn back there,” or worse yet, Nav and iPhone are talking at us simultaneously and I disagree with both. Magellan’s patience has saved our marriage about a thousand times with responses like, “Don’t be sorry. You didn’t misdirect us intentionally.”

But would you want to read about those episodes?

Maybe we’ll write about an afternoon searching for Bonavista Coffee, following directions given by an employee who said, “We don’t have an address. Drive up the hill…”

The older I get the more I agree with the author/humanist/great man, George Saunders:

…life is short, and if we don’t learn, by the end, to regard all of this mess with joy, it seems to me we haven’t done our work properly.

When Magellan proposed the idea of Latitude 65, he suggested we think of it as scrapbook for our old age (when we can’t remember if we’ve had lunch, never mind eaten at Etxebarri or Mugaritz) and in the meantime, shared with you.

Seven years on, I’m not so sure.

For me, it’s the present, the process of creating a blogpost, concentrating intensely, reliving travel memories, being so totally absorbed that hours fly by, experiencing the wild joy of being in the groove. (Then realizing the material needs work and beginning the process again.) A prescription for briefly not feeling the mess of the world that works for me.

Writing about topics like ancient art, Altamira, Horseshoe Canyon and especially Covalanas, overwhelms me with gratitude for our good fortune, relived and better understood in attempting to seize and energize the spirit of the experience. Lesley Wheeler, in her new book Poetry’s Possible Worlds, could be describing travel’s possible worlds:

It is overwhelming to imagine ancient artists preparing powdered ochre, reindeer-fat candles, and wooden scaffolding to labor in darkness for the gods, for other people, or for their own joy. They must have studied the caves for a long time as well as the living herds around them, learning animal anatomy not only by hunting, butchering, and eating but by scratching thousands of curves in the sand. Surely only a fraction of these galleries remains. Yet some beautiful art persists. Black aurochs and rusty horses process deep into the limestone. You write and write without knowing if any of it will ever amaze or enlighten anyone, but sometimes unpredictably, it does.


O’Connell, Michael, Editor. Conversations with George Saunders. US: University Press of Mississippi, 2022. “One of America’s most popular and celebrated writers,” George is the author of four short-story collections, a novel and novella, two essay collections and a children’s book. He’s won the big prizes: MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, Pen/Malamud Prize, Man Booker, and has been named as Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Wheeler, Lesley. Poetry’s Possible Worlds.” Minnesota: Tinderbox Editions, 2022. Lesley is the author of five poetry collections and a novel. In this debut of essay collections she examines how “traveling through a poem’s pocket universe can change people for the better.”


30 Responses

  1. Thank you both for sharing your amazing adventures to the far corners of the globe.
    You both are the.most of intrepid adventurers devoting days researching the pickings of places far and near to your chosen destinations, then walking that dream. You yourselves plan the trip, do it ,then relive it when home.True happy travellers, not just vacationers.

    1. TY Pat. Our current research is watching the webcam from Fagradalsfjall, reliving memories of good cups of coffee and trying to create a boots icon—what a retirement project…

  2. Thanks so much for “taking us along” on so many adventures! Your blog is an interesting and fun journal.
    Yes, directions are tricky to give and to get, good point. I once asked for directions to a University when I was in a city in Colombia. I expected a compass or street type of direction, but got a “go down the mountain” reply. Differing perspectives are intriguing.

    1. Apparently women give and receive directions differently than men, preferring “turn left about two km up the road at the corner with the green two-storey house” instead of “take the first turn west, the third turn at the roundabout and go north for 6.2 km.”

  3. Gloria , thank you for the fantastic Seven years .”the joy of writing .The power of preserving “

  4. I’ve learned a lot from your blogs (and the mac and cheese recipe has become a favorite go to when I’m cooking for the kids in California!). Thank you and keep those stories coming…

    1. Thanks T. It’s interesting to see how the rhubarb galette and spot prawn stories slip into the most frequented for a few months every spring. I’m with you on Beadles’ macaroni—-even in this heat I could go for it.

  5. We have been so fortunate to have shared a number of trips with you 2. You can take a location that most of us would not have considered visiting and make it into an amazing adventure. One example I can recall was when you suggested we meet you guys in Seville – Seville? – what’s so special about that place in the middle of Spain? Because of you guys, we would love to make a return trip……We read most of the blogs and are inspired every time. Thank you for reaching a full year – when you think about it 362 blogs is 3 days short of a year…….incredible! We have never kept a journal and the only way we can recall where and what we have done is by looking at the GPS stamps created by our good old Sony HX80 pocket camera. After basically 3 years of “lockdown” it is amazing how you guys have continued to create these great stories (combined with beautiful photography)……Congratulations – Dallas and Pat

    1. Ah! It’s kind words like yours that we will keep in mind when a story is going sideways, a WordPress update creates havoc on our site or we don’t have photos that work with the story….That Seville trip was such a blast. Did we ever confess in a post about the four of us not being able to turn on the stovetop?

      1. Not only the stove top with an engineer as a resource – but we also could not figure out the washing machine………..

  6. Wow seven years, that is amazing.
    I too like many others look forward to your travel, family adventures..having been o few of the adventures it always is entertaining.
    Also like others I have travelled, but nothing like your exotic adventures. Keep it going, and I will keep on ready. Love it, Cheers, Heather

    1. Our anniversary of Latitude65 is also dad’s birthday–he’d be 105 on August 2—-so I’ve been thinking about “Travels with Dad”, who as you know liked travel about as much as a farmer likes a hailstorm. Which leads me to our trip to Scotland. Maybe dad would have enjoyed it more had he joined you and I in the bar on the five-hour five-whiskeys’-ferry over to Lewis!

  7. 7 years, is Tibet Next?????

    I hope you continue on your sojourn of travel and investigation of the world at large, how else am I to learn more about places and things I have often never heard of?

    There are times when words or interest wain and then you hear little from me, I believe in saying little if my input is irrelevant, life has taught may that you learn much more by listening than by talking, when you do peak my interest it lights a fire within as I am easily intrigued by the unknown and Mother Nature and indeed Mother Earth has much to offer and education is never invaluable although my interest do lay in certain areas not everyone will understand.

    Not sure why but my reading does not always follow the calendar and as such you material goes unread for several days.

    Please continue the journey as you have an interested reader and student off to your eastern horizon.

    Also enjoy your photography, film clips, and videos as they add much to your offerings.

    Cheers to all,

    1. Before the Chinese government took control of Tibet, we were interested in going there. Not any more.

      Many thanks for your many thoughtful comments, Barry.

  8. I look forward to your blog every Sunday morning. We’ve travelled to some of the same places as you have and hope to venture to many more. Thank you for the inspiration!

  9. Wow! 7 years! I have read all of your blogs and enjoyed them all. It is lovely to have a little armchair tour every Sunday morning. Looking forward to future blogposts!

  10. 7 Years! Amazing. We don’t read every blog, but always enjoy those that we do. Thank you both for sharing your stories and travel adventures.

    1. TY Carolyn; I’ll ask Pat and Wendy to be on the lookout for Reid’s pyjamas when they go to NL, and hopefully Twillingate, next year.

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