It was sometime in October of last year that I was given half a ripped-off page with a rudimentary-sketched map of a good place to hike in. One of those secret spots people discover once they’ve lived in a place long enough.
The map came with ‘you’ll discover your own special places as you go …’
I wondered then and there if I truly would. After all, it takes years to really know a place.
As life has it, words become meaningful when you see a certain reflection in them. I did not know it then, but it has become clear since: my own big special place and our own, as a family, is not the hills where we go for hikes or runs, or the lakes where we camp, or any secret place.
It is all of it, the spot on the map where we choose to be, the city itself and its surroundings, and all the good things we’ve learned about since we came.
We’ve learned about places like the Tranquille beach where every time we go we find something to wonder at. Like the perfectly smooth ice rink we found last week, or the icicle forest that festooned the boundary between land and water on the lakeshore, or the cave formed by frozen muck and water, with thick ice colonnades inside, and a humbling feeling attached to it. Because how else can you admit to the beauty around but by first admitting to yourself that you have so much to learn still.
I have learned the good feeling of running across the street to my nonagenarian neighbour with whom I share bits of life, past and present — worries and treats too every now and then. She, too, walks across the street occasionally with treats for us, and smiles, too many to count and too precious not to learn from.
We’ve learned about friendships so tight that they hold your heart warm and steady no matter what happens.
We have all learned that we have the luxury of pointing to a place on the map of Kamloops and surroundings and say ‘let’s go here’ and every time ends with an adventure better than the last.
We’ve learned that Kamloops is big enough to have a few good places to go for coffee but small enough to get to know the people who run them, hear stories, complaints too, and feel proud that someone knows you well enough to share.
We’ve come to learn that we love this place and its surroundings enough to question new possible developments and help make sure that beauty and health will not be taken for granted. We’ve learned to synchronize our ‘breathing’ with the community we’re grateful to be part of and know enough to care about its future.
We’ve come to know of childlike wonder spots, such as the beautifully Christmas-decorated house on Pine and Sixth where magic is alive and all you can do is sigh a happy sigh and say ‘thank you’ to the people who put so much effort into it.
We’ve come to learn about selfless people who write never-ending stories of joy into children’s hearts with the time and effort they put into building toys for the less advantaged. There are more people like that, I am told, driven by that same thought: Giving joy.
When we left Vancouver behind we did not know what to expect. The first Christmas in Kamloops came too soon after our first fall. We were still green and admittedly, cautious.
We’ve come to learn that the true unwrapping of gifts that really matter came after Christmas and has continued to this day and beyond. We know more of the place every day and have come to understand a secret that is better shared: The biggest gift is the place itself, people and all.
The kind of place where all you have to do is step out of the house and the rest follows. Meeting people, coming across sights that will take your breath away, and ultimately finding reasons to stay and learn more.
The kind of place where, though often caught in dividing arguments, the community stands together when it comes to helping. The Christmas Cheer Fund numbers attest to that.
In the spirit of gifts that keep on giving, I’m tempted to invite you to share your reasons to call Kamloops a good place to be, because it truly is.
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