When Raymond and I visit the Manse for a weekend, we often drive in on Friday night after work in Montreal – and since it’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive and our workday never ends early, that means we always get in quite late.
While the drive is long, it’s a pleasant one; we take mostly back roads, though the next-to-final stretch is the 60-odd-mile drive on Highway 7, the Trans-Canada Highway, from Perth, Ont., to Queensborough Road just west of Actinolite. Then again, while Highway 7 may be the Trans-Canada Highway and a main route through the area, it’s a quiet area – and the highway is like a back road compared to the wide and busy 401 not all that many miles south.
Anyway, it’s always a lovely feeling to turn north off 7 and onto Queensborough Road, knowing that in a few short minutes we’ll be at the Manse. There are no lights along that road save for the odd house light that might still be on at that late hour, and the darkness means two things: one, you have to watch out for the local wildlife (raccoons, skunks, turtles, porcupines, frogs, muskrats, deer) that might be on or crossing the road; and two, suddenly, if it’s a clear night, you can see the stars in all their brightness and magnificence.
I love looking at the stars on a clear dark night, more so since I’ve lived in the city where one really can’t see them. My father was knowledgeable about the stars and constellations, and I have very happy memories of him pointing them out to me. (I wrote here about the time he and I visited my aunt and his sister, Marion Sedgwick, when she was on a mission posting with the United Church of Canada teaching nursing in remotest Papua New Guinea, and he got up night after night to scan the skies so he could show me the Southern Cross.) Mind you, I never quite got the hang of those constellations; the only one that I ever could and still can actually find on my own is the Big Dipper, which I’ve been looking for in the skies since I was a tiny child and that always seems like a comforting old friend when I find it.
Which I did on the most recent late Friday night. As we drove the last few miles to the Manse along Queensborough Road, the Big Dipper was straight ahead and above us.
Shining right over Queensborough. A good sign.