Twenty years of waiting to be inside the Fortress of Louisbourg again and I just can’t seem to get into it.
Layers of earthy scents are suspended in the thick fog at Louisbourg. The familiar damp earth and cold stone, the wood smoke from carefully authentic cooking fires and forges, lingering wisps of musket fire, a stinky waft of manure from the garden. Overwhelming for a kid, even one who visits every year. Exhilarating and romantic for a teenage girl who loves to dwell on every stitch on the Governor’s bedspread.
Today, I’m back in Louisbourg with my husband. It’s uncommonly sunny. For me, the atmosphere burns away with the morning fog and I’m searching for my place. If I could just sit alone and close my eyes…but it’s a wind scoured, glaringly bright day. I’m a tourist, whether I like it or not.
Cultivating a sense of place is something that I’ve been grappling with these last few months. The awareness of being nurtured by our time and space is part of our identity and essential to an overall feeling of wellness.
Anxieties cause me to strain, off-balance, to the next thing on the horizon. It might be an item on my to-do list, a skill I’m trying to learn, or work that I want to do. Sometimes it’s the past that makes me lose my center. It’s the pull of something that I regret or the dull ache of sorrow and longing. Holding, leaning, reaching. It’s habit forming. Eventually I forget that I can be at rest. In this place and time I have everything that makes me whole. In fact, I have an abundance of wonderful things and experiences. I have more than I need.
Each of us has a favourite way to rest. Some people like to read in bed under the blankets. Some people like making food in the kitchen. Others have a special garden bench. Typically, that’s not me. Too often, I’m far from nature, without the luxury of alone time. The bedroom and kitchen are a mess. Thinking hurts my brain. It’s a lot to take in and there isn’t anywhere to sit and close my eyes. Again, I feel like a tourist.
Prayer helps. I don’t pray for rest, mercy or guidance. I just look at my hands and remember that God made them for here and now. I have a past and a future and it belongs to God. I don’t need to hold myself steady or propel myself forward. I’m already God’s wonderful creation and he is taking care of me. He is all I need and everything in my life is a blessing from Him.
In Louisbourg, if I close my eyes, I can still see the white light of God’s sun and feel it’s warmth that comforts the whole world. I can hear families chattering and costumed interpreters yelling down the street. There’s joy and life all around and I’m part of it whether I’m feeling it or not.
We’re surrounded by life all the time. The connection to the past, that can be so tangible in a historical place like the Fortress of Louisbourg, reminds me that people live with joy, sorrow, longing, pain, and anxiety. Right now, too. I’m not here to suffer or spend my life finding my footing. I bring God joy by existing and I bring Him even more joy by letting Him show Himself through me.
That’s where I fit in the universe. The next time that you feel out of balance, when you stop to rest, remember that you fit there, too.
A few more photos of the ramparts, marsh and gates: