Monday, May 21, 2018

A Road Trip to Remember

This is my friend Shelagh, who lives in Cobourg, Ontario, the last place I lived before I moved to Nova Scotia. She has several paintings like the one behind us in her house, and I insist we have our picture taken in front of one of them every time I visit because I really doubt -- despite my obvious hints -- that she is leaving one to me in her will.

When I stay with her, Shelagh and I are the lake sisters. We walk to the lake early in the morning, before church. We pass by the sandy beach and the marina and head to the undeveloped shore, just down the block from where I used to live in Cobourg. We sit on the round, smooth, cold stones on the shore and talk while searching for heart-shapes. I look at Lake Ontario and I feel -- home. I grew up on this lake; my family had cottages on lakes. I'm a lake girl.

I don't look for the tide. I don't long for the tide. 

But then we put on our matching T-shirts and we make plans for Shelagh to come east, to see the Halifax Library on Spring Garden Road (she is a librarian) and the Maude Lewis exhibit at the art gallery, and meet my chickens, and as I think about where I live, I am excited to call the East Coast home. I want to share my life with my friend (who has only read about it in my book).

I come home -
- wondering the entire 16-hour drive, "Is it possible to have two homes? To feel at home, and to miss a place, in two very different places, at the same time?" -
- and after a few days, I find a line from a Maya Angelou poem:
Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved. 

It's from her poem, "Our Grandmothers", and it's out of context here, but still, the one line, without knowing the poem, without knowing the title, speaks to me. I live along a tidal river now, I'm married to a man who loves this river, who can navigate its channel without needing red and green markers, and I know I am rooted to this place as long as he is here, my new roots tangling with his long-established ones.

I can hold two opposing thoughts in my body, in my being, in my space at the same time. I can bear the conflicting heart tugs, and the loneliness of the road trip knowing who waits for me on my arrival.
I can be home where I am reminded of my father and where conversations with lifelong friends simply start up again as if never interrupted by distance and time.
I can be home where my heart and mind rest, where my creative life flourishes, where the stars are clear and plentiful. One home speaks to me in memory, the other in the present.
So it's not really about the lake, or the river -- it must be the water. Along with purity and fertility, water is the symbol for motion, and renewal and transformation. We are all drawn to water, to quench a thirst, to cleanse, to wash away, to rejuvenate, to change.

And then there are those paintings. Birch trees are my favourite. They, too, remind me of my father. Of home. Of being planted, and replanted, of moving and not moving, of thriving and most of all, of loving and being loved. 
East Coast style.

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