Chapter One

by Liz Jansen 

Chapter oneOne of the things I love about writing is you never know where it’s going to take you. Much like riding a motorcycle. And like riding, you know you’re in for an adventure, you just don’t know the details. Even if I would have made an outline, crashing would not have been part of my story. I like to think the draft of Chapter One is now complete.

Twenty-two months ago I expected to be gone a minimum of 12-18 months on a solo motorcycle trip through the Americas. There was a real possibility that I might not return to my hometown, not because I thought I was going to die, but rather I might find a place where I’d like to stay for a while.

That time is up and geographically I’m still where I started. Yet I’ve put a big dent (pun intended) in what I set out to do, albeit via a very different course than I’d imagined.

My intent was to learn and write about what makes us who we are, how we’re shaped by our culture and who we are before we’re told who we are. That was about as much as I knew. I wanted to learn more about my cultural background and my connection to the land my ancestors walked. I had no idea of the course curriculum but trusted it would unfold as I went along.

I can’t say that what I’ve learned wouldn’t have happened had I continued on to South America. That didn’t transpire so I don’t know what the outcome would have been. I can only state with certainty that tracing my route on my mythical map would have looked and felt very different than it does now.

There were certain things I knew from the start—the intent of my trip, I’d be traveling by motorcycle, my plans could change at any point along the way, and there’d be many lessons. I didn’t know what opting for the road less traveled or opening up the covers of books would reveal, or who’d appear in my life as a teacher. Or the myriad of profound experiences I’d have. I didn’t know I’d crash.

Yet that crash has been a catalyst in my quest for the knowledge I was seeking. Not that I would have consciously chosen it. Not in a million years. Nor would I have chosen to break my ankle seven months later while walking.

Half of the intervening time has been spent in physical recovery and healing. Even though I can safely ride, progress has been painfully slow and there’s quite a way to go. All of the time has been one of awakening and enlightenment. Research, exploring and writing about my ancestral history has led to profound spiritual healing, healing I didn’t know I needed.

While I always appreciated the strong values and work and social ethics of my ancestors, I distanced myself from my cultural background because even as a child, the religion never felt like a fit.

I see it differently now. Whether I try to dissociate it or not, I can’t. Nor do I want to. That it’s a part of my energetic makeup is a fact, and nothing can change that. But my perspective and the story I tell myself about who I am has changed.

I now know I wasn’t ready when I set out almost two years ago—just like one’s not ready to ride a motorcycle until you’ve taken a course to understand how to ride; or how you take prerequisites before enrolling in more advanced courses.

These months have been like going to post-graduate school for a niche field of study. You complete your courses and thesis but when you graduate, you still don’t have all the answers. You’re only better prepared to apply the lessons that await.

In the immediate term, I’ve been here to pitch in with my 90-year-old parents’ care. Both have had significant life events this year, precipitated by dad falling and fracturing his hip. Mom, who lives with dementia, moved into long-term care because he was no longer able to look after her. Sadly they must live apart when they need each other the most. It’s been a tremendous strain yet a time of deepening relationships and understanding. I’m eternally grateful for the gift of time with them.

I’ve been able to connect with extended family in a way that would have been very difficult had I been camped on the Salar de Uyuni amid the Andes in southwest Bolivia. Lessons there would have been very different. My grandparents and their generation rarely spoke of their pre-Canada ordeals, or complained about life here—and then only in their later years when my interests lay elsewhere.

Now, by gathering and piecing together snippets of stories from kin and other descendants of that time, the stories have become much clearer—like gathering squares for a quilt and piecing them together as my grandmother and her friends painstakingly did in the church basement. Individual squares take on a whole new look when they’re part of an exquisite work of art.

Theoretically had my original plans played out, my trip would likely be over. But plans changed. What I once viewed as a detour has been an integral part of the journey—a time of intensive study and preparation.

For what, remains to be seen.

 


photo credit: Between the Pages . . . via photopin (license)

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14 comments on “Chapter One
  1. Mary McGee says:

    I think it is a very positive story, and always in your head, to connect with relatives.
    Who knows what ‘more’ great stories you will be writing.

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Mary. We share the same blood and energetic makeup. It only makes sense that we can learn about ourselves (good and not so good) by connecting with kin.
      Liz

  2. Helen H Koop says:

    Looking forward to hearing more, what a great writer you are. Yes, your parents story has changed. I do want to drop in and see them soon. Just spent a week in BC visiting my mothers 90 yr old cousins, so special & the stories they can remember are precious. Thanks again for sharing.

    • lizjansen says:

      Hi Helen, Thank you! It is so special to be able to visit with the family elders and hear their stories. I wish my grandparents were still here because I have a lot of questions.:) They never complained, in fact were always grateful, and I never appreciated to the extent that I can now, what they must have been through, including in Canada. Mom and dad would love to see you. We were at the Lake House on Saturday, celebrating the big birthdays. So grateful to have that time with them.
      Best,
      Liz

  3. This is good stuff, Liz, the words from the heart about really rich stuff, the stuff that teases out who we really are, the why fore and such. I’m thankful to have crossed paths with you and look forward to more!

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Brent. Mining the gold – sometimes it’s really hidden and hard to find—and then to expose. I’m thankful too! See you soon.
      Liz

  4. Jeff Davison says:

    I admire the way you have embraced–and therefore gained a great deal from–the somewhat violent change to your plans. Something bigger is going on.

    • lizjansen says:

      Thanks Jeff. I’ve come to understand there’s always something bigger going on if we can slow down and get out of our own way long enough to let it happen. 🙂 Liz

  5. Garth Wintle says:

    Hello Liz
    I originally bought your book for my wife when she started riding a few years back. Since then we took many beautiful motorcycle trips through the western Canada and US, along with a trip circumnavigating the Great Lakes in 2014. Her and I were peas and carrots when we traveled. Sadly I lost my soul mate, life friend, riding partner and wife to cancer on April 25th of this year. Since then i have read Neil Peart’s “Ghost Rider” and Candiya Mann’s “Grief, Hope and Motorcycles” books on grief recovery via motorcycle journey.

    Last summer when my wife was recovering from a significant surgery I took a solo ride through most of Ontario and found it both rewarding and difficult. I plan a trip west later in the summer with no real destination or time line in mind except to visit Denise’s brother for a day or 2.

    I take interest in the renewal of your journey.

    • lizjansen says:

      Hi Garth,

      My deepest sympathies on Denise’s passing. It must be a very difficult time for you. I’m glad you’re able to take that trip west this summer—the road can be a great help on your healing path. Also glad that you have those beautiful memories. Wishing you comfort, peace of mind and heart, and safe travels.

      Liz

  6. Steve Anderson says:

    What a beautifully written article, Liz. It’s been my privilege to learn bits and pieces of your story as you go along, and I look forward to seeing how this all turns out 🙂

  7. Norman Blackmore says:

    I’d love to read more of your articles in the Motorcycle mags. You are one of the best writers in that field too.

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