Past meets present

Mackenzie King Estate

Fall Rhapsody in Gatineau Park is a must-see during the autumn season. Leaves have changed colours and autumn is in full essence — it’s a magnificent sight to behold.

The last time I’ve been to Gatineau Park was, I believe, in autumn of 2014. I’d met with an outdoors hiking group in Ottawa — yes, with strangers who were really kindred spirits — and together, we embarked on a hiking adventure in the beautiful Gatineau mountains. It had been a long time since I’ve last stepped foot there, and my soul’s been yearning this familiar and comforting — as well as healing — experience.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of tracing my footsteps to the past. We drove up to the Mackenzie King Estate part of Gatineau Park. This Estate was home to Canada’s 10th and longest-serving Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, who’d later gifted his well-loved property to all Canadians. Today, and for many years, it’s become an attraction to many guests, loved for its aesthetic and historical value.

I haven’t been to the Mackenzie King Estate in particular since I was a pea size of about maybe five or six years old. I remember the photos of my childhood trip, but being back in person didn’t feel as nostalgic as I thought it would — it seemed rather unfamiliar. For my parents, on the other hand, they remembered their visit fondly. It warmed my heart to be able to bring them back here.

I love me a photo of myself walking in an abundant pile of leaves.

At eight months pregnant, walking long distances has become challenging, for I feel all kinds of pains and discomforts. Even moving at all is a challenge (imagine a whale trying to flip over in bed). I missed my stamina and energy at this very moment, because hiking has always been my favourite activity; and more than ever, I felt the limitations of my own body.

The sound of the water here was most peaceful. Keaton loved touching the water. He spent some time here with his grandpa, Kong-Kong.

Here goes our little explorer, again trying to discover, dismantle, and/or build something. It was a tender feeling to be back here after so many decades away — this time with a child of my own — and to see him enjoy being in nature so much. It was also, however, a difficult experience.

After many years away from the woods, coupled with motherhood, I had a deep yearning for solitude, reflection, and rejuvenation — and almost painfully so. But with my energetic toddler, moments like these have become rather rare, or if existent, full of disconnect. We all need moments to ourselves — and to varying degrees — but for myself, a solitary being at my core, this pain of lack is felt almost tenfold. I missed being alone in the woods, with only silence and shuffling leaves for company. In essence, I missed myself.

Keaton is such a kind-hearted kid, who’s so full of imagination, will, and compassion. And I love that he’s able to enjoy the little things in life: flowing water, colourful leaves, branches with which to create stories. Watching him walk through the woods — and yes, even running off and driving us bonkers — was very meaningful. When I look at this photo, despite the imperfections and fatigue of life, I see home: my son and nature.

Being back at Moorside on the Mackenzie King Estate brought about an “a-ha” moment. It was then that I remembered my childhood visit here, because I recalled the yellow houses where I took photos with my parents and our family friends at the time. I made sure to take a photo of my parents here during this visit, because it was also a past-meets-present experience for them.

I adored the architecture of the home and getting a glimpse of Mackenzie King’s aesthetic tastes and personality. The English cottage look and feel was simple yet elegant. It was neat to learn that it was also a venue where King had held meetings with other political figures — his countryside home a true source of pride.

My heart can be at peace now, for this year, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Gatineau Park in the fall — a dear place of mine — and to share this memory with my family.

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