I’m surprised this is the first time it has come up for me, given it’s probably my number one hot-button word – always has been.
I lost home when I was five years old and I suppose I’ve been searching for it ever since. The first years of my life, I lived in an apartment in Karlsruhe with my parents, brothers and grandparents. It must have been quite crowded – through my eyes, it was safe and warm. What I remember most about those early years are my grandparents, especially my grandfather who loved and spoiled us, took us on outings, played music for us, told us stories and treated us as very precious little beings. Christmas was the most magical time in that wonderful place. And always there was a sense of “gemutlichkeit,” which is difficult to translate – comfort, ease, warmth and love – all rolled into one.
Then we travelled to Canada and it was cold. But we were young and adaptable and loved playing in the snow. What changed so desperately with the move was not the physical distance – it was what happened for my mother who was terribly homesick and could not embrace this new northern land. And I do mean northern – living on the fringes of Sudbury Ontario. It is only now that I am beginning to understand what a very difficult time she had. I don’t think she ever fully recovered from the trauma of that move.
I don’t for one minute doubt that her unhappiness had profound effects on me – on all three of her children.
My first real experience of touching on the significance of “home” came when I was about 12 years old and on a family driving vacation (our first vacation ever) we encountered the Adirondack Mountains. Yes, I had been home as a young child but was too young to be aware of it. On this occasion, when we drove into the mountains, I cried, sobbed out of control – great heaving, gasping cries. I couldn’t understand it – all I knew was that I had entered some place where I needed to be. I had to stay here. There was a beauty – there was something that called to me and told me, “You are home.”
Since then I have always needed the mountains in order to feel whole and to feel that I was where I belonged. I’ve chased the dream of home all my life. When I lived in Toronto, I went to Switzerland each year to hike. When I discovered the West Coast, I realized I could live in Canada and be happy here. One year, when my ex and I moved back to Toronto, I was desperate to go back to the mountains on the West Coast.
For 16 years, I lived above the stable in Cedar and I think those years were the most grounded and content of my life – with brief forays into grief due to failed romances – the usual stuff (sigh) But overall, especially the last dozen years – true contentment. I had a cozy home, hills and mountains to hike, all within easy driving distance – and latterly, terrific hiking friends.
And now I have fallen in love with Simon – my beautiful man. And in order to live together, we have both given up our “bachelor” digs and have bought this place. And here we are in the mountains and it doesn’t feel like home.
And this is why “home” is the right word for me. This is an opportunity to find what it means for me and where I can find it again. Home is with Simon – there isn’t an inkling of doubt. The question now is, how and where do we create a home together? I need to figure this out. It’s not a question of a house and yet it figures into the mix. I know that I need to be in a place that is warm and beautiful. I am also aware that we can create warmth and beauty where we choose to.
Home isn’t just about looking at mountains – I need to be in amongst them and on them – hugging them. I need to feel a part of them. I know that the alpine of Vancouver Island has something of the alpine of the European Alps – the welcoming warmth – the accessibility – the softness and aged wisdom. They are not young mountains. I know I need space to spread my arms – wildflower meadows or fields to walk through. I know I need the freedom to move.
Sometimes when I think of “home” it feels elusive and almost unattainable. At other times it feels as though it is right here within my grasp. It is for me to create.
I am. however, an earth child – place is important to me. My heart breaks when I see destruction of nature – it soars when I am surrounded by nature’s magnificence. I don’t want to live on a mountaintop. I suspect that such bliss needs to be taken in measured doses – but I do want to know that I can walk to the top of the mountain whenever I feel like it.
Such meandering writing – trying to capture my wandering thoughts. But it’s a start on my search. What I have now that I did not have in my little stable for a dozen years is a huge space in my heart occupied by Simon – who I love more dearly than I have ever loved another human being. He is my husband and he is my commitment for life. I have a monster space inside my heart for his beautiful, incomparable and loving daughter. I have a family. My definition of home is going to expand – already is widening.
But now it’s time to stop pondering. The reality of the day sets in and that includes another half dozen runs up the hill with an empty bucket and an equal number of slips and slides back down with a full bucket trying, this time, not to slop icy water down the insides of my boots.
I have decided, whatever else home might or might not mean, it definitely has to have running water (the water running that is, not me running with buckets full of it).