Dear Alice,

In a couple of days I will begin teaching my first full geography course.  I have taught snippets of geography before in Social Studies 6 and Social Studies 9, yet I have never directly asked myself what geography means to me, personally.

I did today.

I did today.  I did as I sat in the sunlight that shone through the patio doors, that lead to our deck, that leads to the snow covered field on a freezing New Brunswick Saturday.  I sip some Jim Beam.   Toto’s  Africa is playing off a YouTube playlist.

What does geography mean to me?

It means the dreams of you,mother.   You who spent afternoons and evenings with me, with old ratty volumes of the Book of Knowledge, sharing  with me your fascination for travel.  Your love of the mysterious.  Your desire to go far and wide to live those questions.

In a time when there were two television channels and no internet, you believed in knowledge and believed in dreams.  You would never have expressed it as such, you would simply have shared with me your latest fascination.   You indulged me to buy extravagances that a household of six,  supported by a working man’s salary couldn’t afford.  We couldn’t do World Book, or Britannica, but the second hand Book of Knowledge was a beginning.   And when our local grocery store began selling Funk and Wagnall’s , you faithfully bought each week’s discounted volume until we had a complete, new encyclopedia set.

That set was poured over, by me.

Days, weeks, years went by.

It was the stuff of dreams for a hillbilly kid from a small town that didn’t matter anymore.  For a kid who was at the tail end of a family  replete with stories  of hunting and traversing the hills  in the Similkameen Valley,  who didn’t understand that his mother was sick, that the days of climbing and fishing had passed her by- it was a lifeline thrown from the world beyond.   I am fifty years old, and it as I write this that I understand that it was you, mom, who threw the line, to me.

The world opened up to me in those books.    I trace my love of aviation, of Ancient Egypt, of travel, of learning, to those books.

I am weeping as I write this.

The song “Born to be Alive” comes on the playlist.   I trace my supreme confidence in my intellectual capacity, to you, mom.   We are, indeed, obviously, born to be alive.

Mom, every time I dream, every time I look at a map, every time I look at a flight, or an event, or a train ticket, or a documentary, or a recipe, or a well crafted communication of any sort, or a piece of art, mom, it is because I  am your son.

I am your boy.

Your dog.

Dad gave me looks and a mischievous sense of go for it.

What does geography mean to me?   It means the very best of your love for a boy whom you couldn’t physically take on those trips up the hill.

You took me on flights around the world!

I love you and miss you every day!

With all the love in my heart,

I remain,

Your Woolly.




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