Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back Home in Pontiac

It’s good to be home. We arrived at Spiritwood on Friday, December 17 after driving across Canada – an amazing, fantastic trip where we eluded all of winter’s wrath and simply enjoyed the magnificence of our country while adventuring east.

Several readers and friends expressed concerns regarding whether Eric and I would return to the Pontiac. Many thought we perhaps wouldn’t come back, posing questions such as: Was our journey driven by a desire to discover a new place to live? Had we found a country which irresistibly beckoned us to emigrate?

These and other comments were e-mailed and “Facebooked” to us during our travels throughout Southeast Asia, Australia and Great Britain. They were asked when we “Skyped” or telephoned friends and family – while others voiced them prior to our departure.

The answer is we have come home to Spiritwood and Pontiac, where we belong.

It was never our intention to leave for good. Canada is my adopted country; it is Eric’s country of birth. And although both of us realize we could easily move to foreign lands – I’m thinking Australia or Great Britain where we have close family and friends – our travels abroad underscored our deep love for the Pontiac, our friends, and for Spiritwood.

What makes a home?

The question is a good one, isn’t it? Answers teem with intangible, subjective reasons as well as (possibly) more objective, “sound” notions.

For immigrants such as myself, the concept of home is multi-faceted and complicated. Many – perhaps most – immigrants choose their new home country with careful deliberation. Now, that’s potentially true if you’re an adult – but choice wasn’t an option for a child like me. I had to accompany my parents when they chose to emigrate. Being torn away from England, then brought up in Canada permits me to understand many immigrants’ deep sense of loss: indeed, loss of one’s roots and home country can mimic physical pain and introduce confusion into concepts of self.

Balancing such issues, however, are the positive challenges and the exhilaration of finding one’s way and making a home in one’s newly adopted culture.

In fact, my parents (and my brother and I) were among the fortunate. Mum and Dad chose to immigrate to Canada after having enjoyed a professionally satisfying year abroad in 1955-56. During this time, my family toured the USA while Dad lectured and conducted research in North American architecture. Two years later, Dad was offered the position of Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Toronto.

In 1958, we emigrated from England to the land of promise: for that’s what Canada represented to my father and mother. A chance for a fresh, exciting start in a new land.

So, what is home? My mother would often tell me “Home is wherever my family is.”

Pontiac home

My own family is scattered all over the world: Calgary, as well as Britain, Australia and the USA. So what I say is this: “Home is where my husband and friends are.”

Moreover, Spiritwood, Eric’s and my farm, is home. It is my centre; the countryside here speaks to me, and I love the ways of the wild. I love the fact I can look out of any window of my house and gaze upon a natural scene. There is no congestion of the suburbs here. There are no sounds of taxis blaring their horns, no view into a neighbour’s private space, nor do I have to put up with the electric hum of a city’s urban core.

Instead, now in wintertime here at Spiritwood, I see the soothing, pastoral sights of nature. I see fields blanketed with snow. I see the forested Eardley Escarpment with its craggy outcrops of rocks. I see woodpeckers and nuthatches patrolling tree trunks, searching for food. I see white-tailed deer hesitate, pausing as they emerge from the edge of the woods before stepping out and lowering their heads to graze in the pastures. I see my beautiful mare cantering through her paddock, mane and tail blowing in the wind. And far off to the east I see the friendly looking curl of smoke from my neighbours’ homes.

There is space, fresh air, and for me, a tremendous sense of peace here. I am fortunate.

In fact, we who live here in Pontiac are immeasurably fortunate.

So, what makes a home?

It’s all of the above and more. A home is made by people like you who are reading this column because you care about what goes on in our neighbourhood, the Pontiac.

The quality of what each and every one of us want to call “home” is right here, right in front of us all. Actually, we can make of it precisely what we choose.

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s good to be back home in the Pontiac, here at Spiritwood.

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