“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir
I was born in a city. I have spent the past six decades in cities and towns and many of my vacations in places like Amsterdam, London, Hanoi, Bangkok, Lisbon, and Auckland. I love cities! So how is it that I now find myself surrounded by nature and living somewhat remotely in my last chapter? Gather round the firepit and I will tell you a story.
If you have been following the Shirley adventure, you know by now, that a life in the trees, was not what we had in mind for our final years, in fact current wisdom points to being nearer to amenities, able to walk to town, and closer to health services for successful ageing. Truth be told, we had been living a lovely life in a seaside town on Vancouver Island for more than 25 years, and dreamed of spending months in Portugal while visiting our grown children in various parts of the world. But the universe has a way of guiding you in a different direction, the right direction, if you are willing to listen and to be led.
For more than a few years, our now adult children were traveling and living abroad; our thought had been to spend time with each of them in whatever part of the world they called home and live the balance of the year, back on Vancouver Island. You know what they say about best laid plans. All the kids came home, and decided to stay on the Island, which started a new conversation around supporting each other, ageing in place, and dying at home. Afterall, this is exactly the model we had lived while raising our children with my own ageing parents in our shared house. Little did we know how fortuitous a revised plan would be with an impending pandemic and more climate changes, on their way; sitting here now, almost two years into that pandemic, with heat domes, flooding and gas shortages a reality, we could not have made a better decision.
Fast forward and the kids are stewarding a beautiful property on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where nature reigns supreme, stores are hard to find, and street lights are non existent. Did I mention I am a city girl! But here’s the thing about embracing change, about being curious and even a little scared, and about leaning into the adventure; the gifts are all there waiting to be discovered. All you really need is an open mind, a love of learning, and a willing spirit. Oh, and a really big generator!
Here’s what I now know, a few months into living in the woods. Nature is what I needed all along. This is the right time for me to be here, amongst the trees, with all the creatures that share this space, and with the serenity that calms this land. We are literally surrounded by nature; enveloped by evergreens and shrubs, by berries and ferns, and by rivers, beaches, hiking trails, and wildlife. It’s as though this beautiful place on the land opened up and someone dropped this small sustainable house in the middle of all its beauty. This place heals and restores, and teaches you to take pause. It slows you down and commands you to be present because there is nothing to be done; when a bear happens by, while the birds are singing, as the wind waves through the conifers. Nature is in charge here, and if you allow it, it befriends you, provides the medicine you need, and nurtures your very soul. It’s my safe place to land, on this land.
I could not have imagined how much I would enjoy this life, right here, right now. I could not have forecast how it would make me feel, nor anticipated the generosity of the natural world. It gives me so much, that at times I feel unworthy. While I haven’t spent much of my life wandering in nature, what I do know is that all my travels have led me here. Every exciting journey I took to a city was preparing me for a time when I could leave them all behind; to be restored, to create balance, to find harmony, to come HOME.