Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. The native Ottawa people used the “Great River” (now known as the Ottawa River) for centuries as a trade route. When settlers arrived, a canal was constructed as a bypass for safe passage between settled groups. Colonel John By directed the work, prompting the growing settlement to name it Bytown. Over thirty years later, Queen Victoria designated the city as capital of Canada and named it Ottawa. She chose this place because it was located in the backcountry, more easily defensible, located in a strategic spot between other major cities while allowing access to transport over the river.
Much like the city of Ottawa, our house is located just off the main street on a byway, a bypass of busy roads, a shorter way between the schools and homes. We love the Nat King Cole song, Route 66, and, often sing it when we take off on a road trip—usually west. But, we would now sing it, “If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the byway, that’s the best!” There are so many aspects of a byway that we appreciate, and the emotional and spiritual implications that accompany taking that route.
When one takes a secondary, less traveled road, it is usually less direct with a greater likelihood of encountering something unexpected. So, there is a sense of adventure, of anticipating that there will be something beautiful and interesting along the way. Traveling such a road also necessitates a slower pace—unhurried, that one be present, alert to what lay ahead and around the bend. Indeed, it is a spiritual practice that is not just personal—it is participating in the beauty of the land (versus, the incessant cement of the highway). Third, the choice to take the road less traveled by, the winding curves and hills that often make up the way, insists on a certain measure of faith. It is unclear what might lie ahead over that hill, but we keep going. For, if I stop because I cannot see over that hill, I might avert some terrible danger just beyond, but it is more likely that I will never experience the possibilities—a breathtaking view, a lovely café, meeting new people whom I cannot live without.
So, here we are, on Ottawa Ave., a byway, a place that stands between, yet just off the major thoroughfare. And, we cannot see around the bend and over the hill. But, we will risk the possibility for some bad weather or a flat tire so that we might be a part of a beautiful adventure. One that will certainly bring new friendships that we cannot live without. It will also be evidence that we truly live, because, to not continue walking and moving ahead is entropy. Spirit of God, hold us together as we walk ahead!