This past August, the kids and I were lucky enough to be able to go tubing down the Ottawa River. We booked with a tour company and they provided the tubes (they were actually very small inflatable one-person boats), the life-jackets and a tour guide. Our tour started at the bottom of a white water rapid so that we could get a push to start; then for two hours we floated down the river only occasionally needing our paddle to stay on track. In the middle of the trip the tour guide pulled my kids aside to go on a little island in the middle of the river to show them some special rocks and fossils. Finn and Molly asked the guide a million questions and he was so kind to answer them all. The kids and I agreed that our time of the river was too short and we could have spent the whole day floating. We have already started planning a trip back next year, maybe with some white-water rafting included.
The Ottawa River was formed by glaciers in the region more than 15,000 years ago. The river runs for 1,270 km through Quebec and Ontario. The Ottawa River played a significant role in Canada’s past as a main transportation route for the indigenous peoples and trade, as well as explorers and industry later. Its main uses now are hydro-electricity and tourism.
Our time floating down a small part of the river was almost magical. The sun was shining, the water was warm, and the scenery was breathtaking. I was in awe imagining how big those glaciers had to be, to be able carve out the landscape. The rock formations along the sides of the river were some of nature’s best artistry. The trees, mostly coniferous, were like a scene out of a Tom Thompson painting. And then there were the fossils we saw, that were potentially 15,000 years old. It is hard to imagine something that lived 15,000 years ago living on through its imprint.
My short trip floating down the Ottawa River reminded me, not only of how breathtaking creation can be, but also how life and creation are always changing. In 1968 the United Church created the “New Creed” for our church. Many congregations still use it today. I have always been struck by the line, “We believe in God: who has created and is creating.” I think it is easy for us to forget that our world is constantly being re-created and that we too, as humans individually and collectively, change and evolve. We are in a constant state of being re-created. We are never the same with each passing moment. Sometimes we are forced to change because a big glacier comes along and leaves what seems like a path of destruction and we have to rebuild from scratch and sometimes, we change because of a new idea or a new perspective or a new question.
Our lives, our spiritual journeys, and our connection with God was never, and is never, meant to be static. We move forward with the hope that tomorrow we will have grown in understanding, wisdom and patience. We are not the same people today as we were yesterday and that is okay. Jesus assured us that healing is possible, that peace is possible, that despite life being chaos a lot of the time, we have purpose and value no matter what. I am sure that if we looked back 15,000 years and saw those glaciers move over the land carving rock, we never would imagine the incredible beauty that would sit there today.
I would highly recommend, if you are able, to float down the Ottawa River. There is something about allowing the water to carry you as you sit and breathe in the fresh air and stunning beauty. It is such a powerful reminder that life is beautiful and that God is still hard at work creating. As the Fall season progresses and our part of the world comes alive with colour, may we all know, without a doubt, that each one of us is beautiful and we all belong.