a sense of PLACE

Recently, during a break in the build, and with some time on our hands, we decided to reflect on leaving our home of 25 years; what will we take with us, what will we leave behind, what has this place and home meant to us.  

I grew up in different houses; my parents bored easily so they looked forward to new builds and new towns. I didn’t take my friendships with me so I didn’t age with a sense of belonging.  My husband grew up in one house, in a small village in Scotland and to this day, returns often and still maintains friendships with nine of the men who shared his childhood; he knows where he belongs.

When we moved together in 1995, it was to join my parents and to create a home for all of us to grow and age, to live and die.  Our children were 3 ½, 3 ½ and 7.  My parents were 72 and 66.  Tom and I were somewhere in between.  The deal was we’d stay for at least 20 years, to create a sense of place, to build community and to forge lifelong friendships.  

It would be a fresh start for all, a place to live through many of life’s pleasures; school concerts, new jobs, first loves, birthdays, visitors, parties, driving licenses, dance recitals, holidays, anniversaries, soccer tournaments, first tattoos, celebrations; the stuff of love and life. And it would be where we would also endure our share of hardship, tragedies, accidents, surgeries, depression, heartbreak, funerals, sadness, arguments, break ups, leaving home; the stuff of love and life. Over time, our family has become smaller, our hearts have broken open, our bodies have aged.  Through it all we have opened our doors to many; shared our table, our money, our cars, our garden, our stuff, our time, our energy, ourselves.  

So when we leave later this year, we will take it all with us, in our hearts, in the life that lines our faces.  We are 25 years older and  filled with gratitude for what this house has been to us; a container in which to hold our lives, a place to call home, our safe place to land.

Few things will travel to our next home.  My parents’ belongings are long gone, we saved only some published works and a string of pearls. Our children’s things left home when they did, I don’t need the past, when I still have them in my present.  When we try to hang on to things, what we really long for is the memory of that past; what happened there, in that dress, around that table, with that loved one.   

This is where my mother and father died and the place we left for almost a year to take care of my dying mother in law. It’s where some passed exams, fell in love, fell out of love, learned to ride bikes and drive cars, lost teeth, built go karts, learned to cook, celebrated milestones, lost friendships, found confidence, laughed out loud, developed their strengths, found their voice, walked their truth.

What is it about leaving that makes us grieve, what is it about arriving that makes us cheer?  I think we long for a past we are certain of, a memory preserved. If we were truly present when it happened though, then we can’t really ever leave it behind, it’s already gone. 

So, whatever comes our way, we’ll be OK.  We are on steady ground here,  we trust what this new house will give us; a sense of place, a chance to belong and friends to welcome through our new front door.  And, no matter what happens, we’ll all still have each other.

Next time….let the framing begin.

HOME away from HOME

In a former life, and for more than 11 years, I travelled 90 kilometers daily for a job I loved in Toronto. For the most part, I enjoyed the trek, however, through the years, the scenery changed from green to grey with neighbourhood views replaced by concrete sound barriers.  By the time I left that life, my morning commute took 75 minutes.      

Fast forward and I’ve been working from home on Vancouver Island for more than a decade. My most recent commute has been a rather short one; a few minutes down the hallway to my dining table, a view of neighbouring homes and gardens and a schedule that requires using a car only once a week; a much better work/life balance than I had in the Big Smoke.

Our Shirley build is another 75-minute drive from home, and while much of it includes spectacular scenery along winding roads, it has meant almost three hours in the car some days, which has led us to make a temporary and part time move to the building site.  

When interviewing others who have also taken the plunge to build, many solutions were shared; staying put and driving back and forth, renting near the build site, living with nearby family, and selling the existing home and living onsite in trailers or huts.

For us, what has made the most sense, and while we are both still working, is to live part time here and part time there, a home and a home away from home.  We are however, talking about two very different homes. 

Our temporary Shirley abode is a decades old tent trailer, reminiscent of the wonderful summer holidays our family shared when I was a child. I have very happy memories of Expo 67, lying on one side of the trailer with my Mrs. Beasley doll, while laughing at my brothers’ jokes from the other side, and falling asleep listening to the fire crackling outside. I am far from 7 now and quite certain that the new memories are going to be very different.  While the view from the front door is spectacular, the look inside is dated and tired. Luckily, the roof doesn’t leak and our snoring scares the bears.  Steps away from our future bed, we tell ourselves it’s all part of the adventure, and while I no longer have Mrs. Beasley, I still keep my flashlight nearby, and walk very briskly to the portable toilet just as I did way back when.    

Our trailer is a 2-minute walk to the meditation corner, a fire pit where we can distance ourselves, and our family’s trailers, leaving us close enough to feel the love and the heat. We have what we need; tasty food, clean water, and great company.  There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of songbirds and the buzz of bees… and saws. 

So, for now, we are camping, living alongside our family of builders, dividing our time between two different worlds. And while I never thought I would be living in a tent at this age, we are grateful to be safe, warm, and dry, when so many others in this world are not.  Less time on the road, means more time on the land; close enough to have conversations and make decisions while we adjust to our new locale, roughing it now to make way for the smooth life later on.