Wanderlust

There was a moment in time, however brief, when this blog was almost called “the Wander Guy” wherein I wrote about wandering through the world and between those adventures got distracted by taking pictures, cooking great food and other things… rather than, y’know, the other way around.

wawn - derr - luhst

The yearning and all-consuming desire to walk and travel about, see the world, and explore the universe.

There are many languages from which we English-speakers borrow concepts. Many of the ones I am familiar with are derived from German origins.

When I was about twenty years younger I took some German language courses to fill my evenings. One root of my family tree traces back a couple hundred years and multiple generations to some soil in that particular area of Europe. I was one of those guys who, in his twenties, started digging around those roots and trying to find some cultural branches through which I could climb and explore. This all resulted in an opportunity to travel about through Germany for a few weeks while those lessons were still fresh in my head. I have some very distinct memories of time spent wandering through Berlin, Munich, and other various small towns, learning and immersing, seeking some connection and grounding… but mostly eating currywurst and drinking lots of beer.

Words like wanderlust are among those perfectly distilled concept words derived from another language that we haven’t bothered to replace it with something other.

I’m glad for that.

Being struck by a lingering case of wanderlust that has gripped around my heart for now most of my life, and finding some vague-and-fuzzy connection to a fragile root of my own personal history, I feel like I can slot this word into my own vocabulary in a purposeful way.

There is a bit of me that often aspires to be more of a “wander guy” and nurture the wanderlust that lurks behind that. To travel. To explore. To put on a trusty hat and good shoes. To find a trail, sidewalk, cobbled road, or dusty route. To wander away from home, far and wide, and cure the longing behind that.

Travel Eats: Smoked Fish and Bagpipes

In the summer of 2019 we spent two weeks in Scotland.

My wife and daughter are competitive Highland Dancers with a dance school here in Canada, and every four years or so the school makes the trip overseas with a busload of dancers, parents, and teachers to participate in an authentic Scottish Highland Games.

They all get to stress about dance. I get to wander around, take photos, and eat interesting foods.

for whatever one photo is worth:

In early August 2019 I found myself on a rain-soaked morning meandering around the muddy grass of Strathallan Games Park in Bridge of Allan, UK, where the annual Bridge of Allan Highland Games are held in the shadow of the Wallace Monument towering in the misty, rolling hills a few kilometers away.

The games themselves are wrapped around a race track. Running and cycling field events that happen on the track itself are more modern additions to the more familiar caber tossing and hammer throws that take place midfield. The dancers huddle around a stage at one end of the inside field, the bagpipe bands set up at the far opposite end (though their warmup hum can be heard forever away.) Scattered in the empty spaces between food and craft vendors find customers like me wandering through the games action.

The column of smoke can be seen from nearly everywhere, and I found myself organically attracted to the action to see what was cooking at its base.

From an article on the website itself this is what I found:

Arbroath Smokies are famed throughout Britain and beyond for their wonderful flavour and smooth, flaky texture. For those new to this particular delicacy, smokies are smoked haddock, prepared according to highly traditional methods by a number of producers in and around the wee North East fishing community of Arbroath.

I stood at the back of a very long line and when I reached the front I ordered two.

Delicious. Amazing. Perfect food for a perfect morning.

If (or when) we return for another Highland Games in a couple years, I’ll be saving some room for a second round.

I’m a huge fan of smoked fish… which is a difficult kind of fan to be when you live in a city on the land-locked Canadian prairies. I’ve been thinking a lot about cooking (and maybe even smoking) fish over an open fire. In an upcoming sequel and follow-up post to my Suburban Fire Craft (Part One), I recently purchased a new movable fire pit for my backyard. I’ll be doing some cooking on it (so long as the weather cooperates) this coming weekend and writing about it here. It probably will not be fish. I’ll save that for when I’ve practiced a bit more. It will be backyard cooking over an open fire, though, and that’s almost as exciting as a day of Highland Games.

Almost.

Now, obviously, my new fire bowl isn’t an old whiskey barrel, nor is it the foundation for a multi-generational history of smoking famous fish. But my neighbours might soon be wondering what cooking at the base of a column of smoke from my backyard. I’ll save the bagpipes for another year.

Edmowood

Community spirit comes in many different shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it comes in the shape and size of a larger-than-life travelling sign that shows up mysteriously in parks around the city.

ED - mō - wo͝od

A nonsense name and (I assume) a portmanteau of the name of our city “Edmonton” and the name of a much more famous city “Hollywood” erected as an homage to the famous landmark of the latter. Mystery. Puzzle. Social media treasure hunt. Spirit-boosting community game. Who knows which for sure.

I was driving my daughter to school this morning and looking off to the side of the freeway into a familiar park through which I’ve run and hiked countless times, the increasingly-famous rogue art display stood tall in the brown spring grass.

On my way back home I made a point of pulling off the road, driving down the access road, parking, and walking the hundred meters into the empty park to snap a couple photos.

On this wordy Wednesday, someone else had done my work for me and provided a word they thought could brighten a gloomy day and bring a little joy to a city in pandemic lockdown.

I’d say they succeeded.

That’s one powerful random nonsense word I’d never heard of until about 730 this morning.

Camping: Of Annual Adventures Gone Awry

It’s Travel Tuesday and once again I’m reminded of the challenge of living through a global pandemic and a life dismantled by a thousand small cuts. You see, each year with — the exception of last year — we usually go camping with a small group of families.

Eight adults. The same number of too-rapidly-growing-up kids. Pets. Tents. Campfires. Walks in the woods. Weather. Lakes. Crafts. Bike rides. Outhouses. And whatever new adventure strikes.

I’m wondering today if this bit of local travel is one more of those cuts.

for whatever one photo is worth:

This past weekend as the rolling summer booking window started to traverse those optimal summer camping months, The Email made its rounds to the families:

What’s the plan for 2021? Y’know… with COVID and all that?

It was a long weekend in late-June and despite the pouring rain upon our arrival, we set up the tents and tried our best to keep our gear dry. We have a lightweight backpacking tent that sleeps three, but a huge truck-camping tent that would make up a hundred and fifty percent of my backpacking carry weight, but lugs out of the truck box easy enough and is rainproof enough to tolerate most of the seasonal weather.

I had pulled up my photo software and was poking nostalgically through some of my old photos of the last time we went out with that group. Kid cooking marshmallows. A day at the lake-side beach.

We’re being cautiously optimistic, the first reply came through, but we might cancel at the last minute if things don’t get better.

Cut?

We cooked that first night over a hot-spitting fire, fending off the dwindling rain with some steaming cast iron pans. This may have been the exact weekend when some beer-fueled conversations about my collection of pans inspired the registration of a domain name and would a year and a half later kick off a daily blog you may have heard about somewhere.

I just don’t think that I could keep my distance for an entire weekend while out there with everybody, came a second reply a half hour later. It would be really tough. Thanks for understanding.

Cut.

I have any number of summer plans, but one weekend with friends in a remote campsite still seemed like a safe bet.

Or maybe not.

Cut.

Perhaps there will be just the four of us, a fire, a tent, and some lonely cast iron over a gently smouldering fire.