“When I think of home
I think of a place
where there’s love overflowing”

Sorry to have gone MIA for the last few weeks, but there has been a lot going on since I blogged last, and much of it has to do with home. The idea of home. The reality of home.

Like so many other people, I am not a native Torontonian. In fact, I used to joke that it always shocked me when I met someone who actually WAS from here. I’m from Saskatchewan originally, and lived there for thirty five years before I moved to Toronto. Because I lived there for so long, most of my remaining family is there, as well as many of my dearest friends. I like to go home every year to see everyone and spend time seeing people who have been in my life, if not for the whole span, then for decades, going back as far as high school.

And that’s where the duality comes in. We need words for “the home where I live” and “the home I come from.” I wonder if other languages make this linguistic distinction.

So, for two weeks every summer, I get to spend time immersed in love, having dinner and long talks and endless cocktails and coffee. And on some levels, it makes my heart ache for a depth of emotion and experience that is much harder to find or attain here. It makes me yearn for a simpler, quieter life, surrounded by love. I often spend at least part of my time in Moose Jaw (yes, it’s a real place) and Saskatoon wondering if I could build a new life there.

But, here’s the thing: that time I spend there is, in many ways, artificial. Not the emotions or the love I feel for so many people there, but the circumstances that drive the emotional intensity are specific and situational. I get to see these people once a year. People make time because I’m there, and we do something special and get to catch up on all of the things we’ve missed since we saw each other. There’s a…purity to the experiences we share and it’s because of the rarity. I’m self-aware enough to know that, if I lived there, then there’s a good chance that we wouldn’t socialize as often or as intensely as we do when I only visit once a year.

The other thing is that, like a feeling my father once expressed to me, I don’t really like being in other people’s houses. I can last that two weeks, but then I want to be in my own place again, surrounded by my own things and my familiar routines. I want to be at “home where I live” once again.

But that transition is always a hard one. Coming back to this noisy, loud city where everyone has to work so hard to pay bills and everything is expensive and everyone is on complex schedules that require days of negotiations in order to meet up. And for a while, I desperately miss “home I come from”. But then, I find my favourite places to eat and hang out. I see my Toronto friends and get to laugh and share a whole different set of relationships.

And this year, as so often happens, life decided to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Only days after returning, my landlord informed me that he’s reclaiming my apartment for his own use. And, I’ll let you in on a secret about me: I’m not a huge fan of change. I stay in jobs a long time; I stay in apartments a long time. I like that continuity and stability. I feel so often like my life is chaotic and unstable, so I like to hold onto my routines. My apartment isn’t much by many people’s standards, but I made the weird little space my own, and I would have been quite happy to stay there. So, I was losing one of the other shades of home, “the home I live in.”

Luck was somewhat on my side and I found a place quickly, after seeing an apartment that was perfect except for being on the top floor of a three story walk-up, and going to an open house where at least twelve other people were clamouring over a space with all utilities extra, no laundry and electric heating ($$$) The third place I looked at is similar to where I am now, but a bit bigger. And I hit it off with the owners so well that they called to offer me the place before I’d even made it home, cancelling four other viewings that afternoon. As with the place I’m in now, I’m confident I can make it my own.

Add to that, a parting of the ways with my publisher (though there are two strong possibilities in the wings I’m pursuing) and being asked to be a guest at Can-Con in Ottawa in October, there has been a lot going on. I’ll be honest and say I’m not always coping with the stress all that well. There have been sleepless nights and near panic moments of “how the hell am I going to pack and move all this stuff??” I even thought about packing it in and leaving, making my “home where I come from” and my “home where I live” into the same place again. But, like so many times in the past when I’ve come to this cusp, Toronto isn’t done for me yet. And the new apartment fell into place at just the right time.

And, of my three sub-versions of Home, two are still going strong. The third, I can work with, and I have no doubts that I can make it my own. As I so often do, I’ll blunder through the sudden chaos and find a path through it, and there will be lovely people to help me out. Because, wherever I’m from, wherever I live, wherever I spread out my stuff, home is where I am. It’s where I have friends and places to eat, and where there are people whose faces light up when they see me.

A good friend once told me I had the ability to blossom wherever I was planted. I think it might be my favourite compliment anyone has ever paid me.

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