The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Today I took my bike out for a spin along the False Creek pathway and reacquainted myself with the city after spending six months in a small town at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It was difficult because I couldn’t help comparing the two environments and the city was not coming out ahead.
Prior to taking the six month break I’d lived in Vancouver for over eight years and had loved its noisy energy and its diverse neighbourhoods. Now, all I saw was its anger and prejudices.
I’d taken the six-month break for many reasons, but the gut-level one was a search for a forever home. I’d spent my life moving from place to place, settling in for-now homes that had been in reaction to life events or a desire to please someone else. After reaching the age of 65, I stopped. It really is true that landmark years are life changers. No matter when the landmark happens, it makes us stop and question the path we’re on. For me, the landmark years were pretty traditional. My biological clock started clanging a month after I turned 30, my mid-life change came at 50, and the terror of being seen as a senior came as I approached my 60th birthday. Even the 65th landmark was traditional because of the expectation of retirement into an life spent puttering.
Like many Boomers, I had no intention of puttering for the next 30 years and made a career change. But the 65th landmark year, for me, also brought forward a clear vision of how I wanted to die. When my time came, I wanted to lie down in my back garden and go to sleep. The trouble was I didn’t have a back garden or the house that usually provides such a garden. For the past 14 years I’d lived in condos and I’m sure the co-owners would take exception to a corpse lying about in one of the common areas.
My search for a forever home soon produced the shock of just how expensive stand-alone homes with any sort of yard were along Canada’s popular west coast. There are some exceptions, though, one being the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
I took some exploratory visits before moving up for the six-month stay. It was the best thing I have ever done. It not only got me away from some stressful situations, it gave me an opportunity to rediscover myself. Yes, it sounds like a cliché but I really did have to go away in order to find myself.
I also discovered that what I’m looking for in a forever home really does exist. The communities on the north end of Vancouver Island are comfortable with their diversity of age, sex and color. Smiles and friendly greetings are the standard rather than the exception. Drivers are patient and polite. The only time I was tailgated, or witnessed an impatient horn-honking incident, was when the tourists started arriving in July.
The housing is affordable and the wildlife visible and audible. Morning walks are filled with the sights and sounds of shorebirds, eagles, herons, seals, and the odd whale.
It was very hard to leave.
There were a lot of tears shed and doubts expressed, but I eventually pulled on my big-girl panties and made the move. It was time to evaluate what I’d learned and how it fit with the needs of the others in my life.
This morning’s bike ride was my attempt at reconnecting with the city I used to love.
The air was cool after a couple of days of rain. There were gulls on the water and Canada geese waddling in groups along the path. The odd dog walker and jogger passed me, offering no response to my smile or greeting. Their snubs felt harsh after the friendliness of my island community. I sighed and continued to offer smiles and greetings as I pushed on to my turn-around point at the Science Centre. Then suddenly there was a flash of a smile from a young woman walking the path as I passed her, and a short time later a couple laughed and returned my greeting. My mood lifted and I stopped to photograph my bike against the backdrop of the city waking to a new day.