Thursday, January 05, 2023

A beacon in the fog

Still far from home
Ingersoll, ON
January 2023
This photo originally shared on Instagram

The scene: It’s 11:35 p.m. on a dark, rainy, fog-shrouded highway near Ingersoll, Ontario.

We’re on the last leg of a long journey home, the fog so thick the massive lights from the rest stop are invisible even as we decelerate into the off-ramp.

Then, out of the darkness, the service station emerges like a beacon, deserted and silent save for the sales receipts flapping, forgotten, in the mist-flecked wind.

I pull my coat tightly shut as I get out of the car, but I needn’t have bothered: it’s a damp cold, and it seeps right into my bones.

Tonight’s mission is a simple one: food, then go. And as the rest of my brood heads inside to see what’s left at the Tim Hortons, I grab some garbage from the car and head for a garbage can.

Note: “a” garbage can. Not “nearest”. I pick the one across the way, perfectly positioned for me to size up the Automotive Age architecture and decide if it’s worth a ridiculously quick photo shoot before I rejoin my peeps.

Spoiler alert, it’s always worth the pixels. Because I’ve always been attracted to this dead-quiet oasis of refined petroleum products like a moth to a flame.

I’ve had plenty of opportunity over the years, and stations just like this along Highway 401’s entire length have played a strangely central role in my family’s life. We’ve moved away, welcomed little people into the world, said goodbye to others, and cared for those who mattered no matter how far away they may have been.

And every drive has revolved around stops here. To refuel the car, and ourselves, as we moved from here to there and back.

It shouldn’t make any sense that I find them fascinating. Comforting, even, for the way they provide safe harbor on the longest, most difficult journeys.

Thankfully tonight’s journey is happier than previous ones have been, as we’re returning from what I like to call “a happy”. But the sight, the sound, and even the smell of this place unlocks some deep-seated memories. So here I stand next to a puddle whose waters tremble gently under the invisible droplets, feeling not just this moment, but years of them.

I take a single shot, the light spilling into the darkness before night swallows it once again. I’ve found what I came here to find. It’s time to rejoin my family and get them home.

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Life is a highway, September 2021
Lost pink sock, August 2015
Here at the oasis, December 2010
Energy oasis, January 2008

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