For some reason, one of the most enriching things in life seems to be collecting new experiences. Doing something novel somehow just feels significant; like you’re making progress of some sort. Whenever I think about ancient humans leaving the fertile crescent, or crossing the Bering land bridge, racing to the poles, or dying a dried-up husk in the Sahara while searching in vain for the source of the Niger river, I can’t help but picture this feeling of driving curiosity to be a big player.
Despite the dangers of exploring there must be some adaptive advantage; either that or people like myself who never feel like stopping moving are just mutants of some sort, with off-kilter genes dragging our bodies though endless journeys.
In any case, the reason I was thinking about this recently is that it’s my first winter in Montreal (although it’s been an exceptionally mild one), and I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to take in a bunch of new sights and sounds.
Last weekend I took the train up to Quebec city with my three roomates. We ate in cafés and took in the Carnavale atmosphere, wandering the medieval streets of Parliament hill and along the river’s edge by the Château Frontenac. The city was shining with ice sculptures and a vacation ambiance; families in town for the weekend going on toboggan rides and snowshoeing around the old Citadel, cannons still at the ready on the fortress walls.
The current weekend finds me holed up on Île Perrot, a small island off the West coast of the Island of Montreal. I’m house-sitting for my boss for the week, so I inherited a house, a car, and a jack russell terrier. Late last night I took the dog and a friend down to the local beach, where we walked out onto the frozen St-Lawrence. We went past rows of ice-fishing holes, with little cabins on skis scattered on the ice for the fisherman to warm their hands, and across the strait known as ‘La Passe’ to Île Madore, a tiny, uninhabited speck of land with river on all sides. Again, that feeling of making progress, crossing our own temporary ice bridge over to a new spot.
The benefits of wandering cannot be overestimated.