In her recently released book, Lights to Guide Me Home: A Journey Off the Beaten Track in Life, Love, Adventure, and Parenting, Meghan J. Ward includes one of my favourite George Bernard Shaw quotes: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” And this is exactly what Meghan has done. She has created a self, and a life, of her own choosing. And luckily for us, she has chronicled that journey in a gracefully crafted memoir.
At 21, Meghan is a rule-abiding pastor’s daughter from Ontario, expected to find and marry a good Christian man and have a few good Christian babies. But after a summer in the Canadian Rockies, selling souvenirs to tourists at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge gift shop, she has an epiphany that will radically change the trajectory of her life. While sitting on the banks of Bow Lake, she captures a sentiment many of us outdoorsy folk experienced when the mountains first seduced us: “The vastness of the mountains had created a new sense of expansiveness for me to explore my internal musings, my questions about life, about God and religion, my own identity.”
At Num-Ti-Jah, she not only falls in love with the mountains, she falls in love with her future husband, outdoor photographer Paul Zizka, and so her life of wanderlust begins: Costa Rica, Nepal, Rapa Nui, Malta, Caribbean, Baffin Island, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Ireland…. She does end up having a couple of babes, (secular ones), but instead of settling with a narrow, traditional life, she brings her two daughters along for the ride.
Blending a life of adventure with motherhood challenges her more than her honeymoon with polar bears on Baffin Island ever could, and conjures up big, existential questions. While sleep deprived and in the throes of a migraine, with an infant shrieking from a travel cot in some humid country she’s flown to in another hemisphere, she wonders: How did I get here? And like many parents, she has qualms about her right to continue her unconventional lifestyle: What legacy are we leaving our children? But Meghan reminds herself, and us, that, by honouring our own needs as much as the needs of our children, we empower them to seek out a life of their own creation.
I have a favourite Meghan Ward quote, right up there with George Bernard Shaw’s: “Whatever happens, I have permission to reinvent myself, again and again.” Lights To Guide Me Home is about deliberate and brave reinvention. It’s the story of one gutsy woman’s endeavour to carve out a new identity for herself in her 20s, and then to rediscover herself amidst the messy entanglements of marriage and motherhood. This book, shimmering with insight and honesty, deserves a spot on the very top of everyone’s teetering “to read” pile.
Written by Jan Redford, author of End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage & Motherhood