Tag Archives: home

Ant sac, or disturbing my nest again…

You probably have seen what happens when you kick over an anthill and all of the ants panic and run all over the place, carrying the egg sacs, looking for safety?

Back in the days pre-divorce, the ex and I used to call our regular sorting and rearranging of stuff “ant sac” activity – we’d be grabbing our things and rushing back and forth between floors of our house, through rooms in a panicked, not quite sensible manner…

Now I am ant-sac-ing again, carrying my stuff there and back, up and down, in and out…

You see, the pandemic disturbed my anthill.

I live in the glorious Maritimes. In fact, I am writing this from the balcony of *the best apartment ever*, overlooking the Halifax harbour, pausing now and again to gaze at the ocean. I’m seizing the quiet moment before the heat of the day begins and I lose all sentient thought…ah, maritime humidity. I remember flying into the airport from Ontario and the air here felt like breathing through a water-soaked sponge…

(Pause to gaze at a container ship easing on by, seemingly silent…)

But see, the pandemic. I do love it here, but the enclosure of Covid-19 has left me with a slightly lonely tinge to my thoughts – my family is all so far away. And the Maritimes is all about family. If you don’t have one here, well,…

And yes, ‘friends are the family you choose’ – and I’ve been blessed to meet so many wonderful people here and I am going to miss them all madly, but as I creep towards my dotage, I realize I need to be a bit closer to my relations- my kids, my cousins, my sister…Nova Scotia is just that little bit too far away.

So I am busily sorting my stuff, carrying it here to the “for the recycler/junk people “ (a large pile) and there “for the move” (an unpleasantly large pile still). I feel like the panicked ant, trying to save my babies but also wanting to give them all away, start a completely fresh nest elsewhere…

But I just have to keep this book, this piece of art, this crafted coffee mug, the cat…and so I continually sort through the piles, tossing more things, packing and unpacking, trying to squeeze my stuff into smaller spaces.

Just heard a voice from the BBC (which I always believe because…British accent…) counselling people not to make any irreversible decisions during this time of oddness. As my father in law would say, “‘Too late,’ she cried, and waved her wooden leg.” It’s all in motion and I am on the highest point of the roller coaster, waiting for that exciting swoop down into the loops.

I’m not regretting my choice. I’ve had a lovely ten years here, way more than was originally planned. Its been like an extended holiday, with a bunch of new and exciting travel partners. But it is time to go home, and much as I tried to claim Nova Scotia as my home, it just won’t take me.

I blame the fiddle music. Lord, I do hate a fiddling jig.

So it’s farewell to Nova Scotia in about a month. I’m hoping it’s not a permanent farewell- I have the sea in my bones (and in my lungs- how I long for a good dry-out in the prairies!) and will likely have to come back to visit. Good friends are hard to leave.

The sun was setting in the west
The birds were singing on every tree
All nature seemed inclined to rest
But still there was no rest for me

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
For when I’m far away on the briny ocean tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me

Becoming an urbanite

scenes-from-suburbia-ppart-1I’ve lived a lot of my life in the grimness of suburbia. You know – the large lawns, the well-spaced houses, located around schools and playing fields. The places from which you must drive to get anywhere exciting – or you can walk around your suburban block and watch other’s lawns grow, admire their gardens, comment on the lack of maintenance or the amazing maintenance, dodge lawn sprinklers and skateboards and bored teenagers with cars.

Some of them were nice suburbs – my home town of Winchester, Ma, for example, but I never really lived there. I lived in my house and yard and went downtown as a treat – it was a long walk and my parents were too watchful for me to go down there much (though I was allowed to go skating on an unmonitored lake whenever I wanted – I think my mother was afraid I’d take to drinking or smoking or hanging out with the fast crowd. As if they’d have me.) The bad kids in my crowd would go to the drug store, for heaven’s sake, and hang around buying makeup, or stealing it. We were even in the part of town that missed D’Agostino’s and the fun had by hanging out there. We were in the ultra suburb. We had one Jewish family in town. No black children until we bused them in from Boston.

Not a natural environment for the curious.

homeI’ve even lived in a suburb without an urb – the town of Shilo, Manitoba – a cluster of suburban roundabouts and 1950’s homes on a military base, in the middle of the short grass prairie, equally inconvenient to anywhere in North America as it was smack dab in the middle of the continent. When I first moved there, I slipped into a time warp, started wearing an apron, and cooked five batches of chocolate chips in the first week to share with the local kids before my natural anti-50’s soul rebelled. Still, I spent a heck of a lot of time house-cleaning there, my brain slowly leaking out with every bucket of pine-sol laden water poured out of the bucket. I wasn’t allowed to speak to men there, as every woman was pre-supposed to be on the hunt for a better husband (higher in rank). I also was reproved for speaking to the other ranks’ wives. I bought TUPPERWARE. In my defence, I had to, because the CO’s wife sold it. I still have it, 25 years later, a cautionary tale about being forced to conform.

I wasn’t brave then. I was unsure of who to be – I didn’t fit into the military wife drink and gossip gang, and there were so few kindred spirits and I was afraid to reveal myself to them. I was half my age now when I lived there, and my husband was establishing himself at the same time and it was rough for both of us to squeeze into the military mode. He stuck it out longer than I did, but then he had my support. I didn’t have his.

So suburbs, suburbs, suburbs. And now I’m making a change. I’m moving on down, as the Jefferson’s might have sung, truly – from my deluxe apartment in the sky, to a smaller, darker, less glamorous one in the nest of the downtown. Yes, Dartmouth rather than Halifax, but I remember so well the words of a couple I met when I first moved here – “We lived in Halifax and looked at Dartmouth – if we’d been smart, we would have done the opposite!”

Oct-Nov-2015-089-smaller-600x400(My house! (to the right))

I found a place right in the heart of everything. I look out at the downtown main street – I’ve often dreamed of living above a shop and I have that now, though it’s a holistic health centre (fewer food smells). The local bars are clustered across the street, as is the library. Little shops and dental offices and restaurants and theatres and music are within a few steps. The street noise is a wonderful melange of people talking, fog horns, train bells, ship calls, and the occasional “I have no balls so I am going to pull out the muffler on my motorcycle” jerks. Poor and wealthy walk by my windows, commuters stride by to catch the ferry, buses gasp as they make the turn. I can step across the street and inhale the harbour, get fresh fish and chips, go to the farmer’s market, grab an ungodly rich croissant.

I’m thinking of selling my car, trusting to legs and bus and ferry and car share and rentals when I want to go afield. I CAN DO THAT! I did that before, in cold as hell and hot as hades Ottawa, and gave in after winter. I’m in a better climate now, and I know this place. The prospect excites me.

I’m going to be an urbanite! It feels like a new cloak, a new identity. Onwards, ever onwards.


If I hate it? Well, there’s always the country….



Going home again

ImageThey say you can’t ever, ever, go home again.

In a way, it’s true. Life has changed, people have moved on, the place is subtly different and yet familiar.

I recently went for a visit to Ottawa, my home several times over my life – as a new nurse, taking on my first, terrifying job; as a newish mother and first-time home owner, starting to take on grown-up commitments and lifestyles; as an experienced military wife, choosing to keep my life separate from the military; and as a single person again, coming “home” to a place that could take care of me, in the physical, sensory, emotional ways.

It is a beautiful city, though it was drenched with heat so intense I wanted to lie about and gasp in air conditioning. The grass, green when I arrived, had already started to brown before I left, three days later. The canal was gorgeous, the city all dressed in Canadian flags for Canada Day, sounds of music everywhere from bagpipes to opera.

But it wasn’t home, so mingled with the recognition and the pleasure in seeing old friends and family was the tiniest bit of grieving.

I’ve lived so many places, and loved most of them (Leavenworth was a bit much, really). I’ve tried to return to a few of them, with various disappointments. Shilo, Manitoba, was no longer a fun place to live with the kids. Annapolis Royal, NS, though sweet, seems small and empty. Kingston, ON – well, I could still live in Kingston. I may live there again one day. I liked it there, both as a student and as a grown-up, though I have many sad memories associated with the place – the breakup of my marriage, my job failures, the discovery of my illness, all that stuff. The pleasant memories outnumber them, though, so on balance it seems a good place. And there’s the lake…

Flying into Nova Scotia, I happened to see the coast as we crossed over the Bay of Fundy, and was suddenly, unexpectedly, simply, happy. I feel at home here, in one scant year, and yet I still feel there is so much to learn about my new place. I think I’ll be exploring for years. It makes me smile.

It is funny meeting up with people from the past, though. Some are friends forever, and it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since last you saw them – they still call to your heart. Some have changed and you realize the relationship you cherished is no longer sustainable. Some make you wish you could be just down the road from them again. It isn’t predictable which will be which. I met all three types of friends over this short visit.

So coming back there is a sense of loss, a sadness, but also a sense of completion. Time to move on, taking those friends that stay along for the ride. I’m so happy to have so many of them. You know who you are. I love you all.

The joys of reconnecting

I was granted a blessing this weekend.  I was invited to share in the joy of my uncle and aunt’s 60th wedding anniversary, and was thrilled not only to attend, but to reconnect with so many of my cousins and meet so many I had never seen. It’s a wonderful and large tribe, my dad’s family. They are friendly, caring of each other, loving and close, and I feel sad for the years I have passed where I didn’t know them well.

Way back in the dawn of time, sometimes we’d get together with these cousins, but we lived far away and it just seemed that the times were too far apart for us to feel really close.  Yet we reconnect and the family similarities pull us together. Life hasn’t treated all of us well, but we find enough in common to talk and laugh and treasure each other. The joy of seeing them all is beyond measure.

My mum’s family, particularly my Aunt Dorothy Anne’s family, are the same – always caring, always willing to put up with their slightly odd cousin. I cherish every moment I can spend with them as well. The Browns tell me I look like my Aunt Mary (in the habit); the Vachons and I joke about having the same cheekbones. We link up shared experiences, stories of our parents and our childhood adventures. Feeling the links through the years warms my heart, makes me feel like I am attached somewhere.

I’ve always felt rootless.  My parents are long gone, and my siblings live far away now – or rather, I live far from them.  I moved to Canada from Boston and never looked back, detaching from my hometown almost too eagerly.  When married, we moved too often for me to develop a longing for a home town – I became, instead, proud of my ability to fit in anywhere, to settle in whatever strange land I found myself. I left chunks of myself in some places – the short grass prairie of Western Manitoba, the cool sea breezes and celtic harmonies of Nova Scotia, the grey sullenness of Kingston. I left friends behind in these places, and miss them. Now, my ex has remarried, my children are grown and are scattering to the four winds. As for me, I’m still seeking for a place to settle for once and all, still searching for that place that I can truly call MY home.

Meeting with my clan of family that I wish I knew better, I start to get the feeling that perhaps this could be my home – close to the people who without question have welcomed me back into the fold. It’s rare, that welcoming.  I’m fortunate to have it.

My feet are still itchy.  I still long for the sea. But I’m so grateful for these moments of connection.