Before we set off in our (thankfully) air conditioned PMCL coach bus, I had a wander around the dock area. It had been many years since I had been to Midland, I thought, probably some 15 years since I last had a child camping at nearby Camp Simpresca. I had the very fortunate experience of meeting a local artist who was enjoying the summer morning by the water and was curious about all the excitement going on. Sonja Rathke is well known in the area for her beautiful mural work, and let me tell you Midland has a lot of spectacular murals! She had some of her recent smaller paintings in front of her on a picnic table including the first in her new series focusing on Simcoe County train stations. It caught my eye as it featured the recently restored Allandale Train Station in Barrie. I love historic buildings so we chatted quite a bit about stations, such as the original Barrie one, that are sadly gone and about the tiny Gilford Station that found a home on the property of the Simcoe County Museum.
I asked Sonja if she was kept busy full time by her art. It turns out she is not. She also enjoys a career as a dietary aide in a Midland long term care facility. Again we had something to talk about because for several years, I was a dietary aide and cook at a similar place in Barrie. Sonja and I agreed that we love this kind of work because we enjoy the feeling of making a difference in someone's life. We both need to feel like we are giving something and not just collecting a pay cheque. I told Sonja that my current job is cooking for the Salvation Army's Bayside Mission in Barrie and I adore this job even more than the last. In my few weeks there so far, I have met some of the most incredible people with the most amazingly inspiring stories.
Sonja said that she better pack up as our crowd of media folks was growing, so we parted company and I joined the group getting organized for the day. A few minutes later, Sonja was back. She handed me a print of her Allandale Train Station painting, along with her card, and told me it was a gift. Normally she only ever sells these but she was touched by our talk about cooking and serving food with meaning. She told me that someone very dear to her had eaten many meals at a Salvation Army soup kitchen. I replied that I too have had a family member go through the same circumstances in another city. Sonja was moved to reward me for the work that I, and soup kitchen cooks everywhere, do every day for those who need it. I'm not a touchy feely person, but I gave Sonja Rathke a hug.
Each tour group member was given an extra large paper shopping bag containing a CD and other maps, brochures and pertinent Huronia Food Trail information, while leaving plenty of room for the swag and goodies we would likely be receiving along the way. The bag served us well and by 3:00 p.m.it contained some generously given treats such as garlic scapes, organic onions and snow peas, samples of tortierre, sweet pie, strawberry scone and a candy apple, plus a t-shirt, pen, several menus and many press releases. I couldn't help thinking to myself that my bag contained something extra special - the painting by Sonja Rathke.