Well, that was a big hiatus. My last blog post was dated September 21st, which means my weekly assignment is way overdue and I’m probably going to fail the fall term.
But I’m okay with failure. I flunked my driver’s test the first time. And I would have flunked grade 11 math except I quit three times before that could officially happen. I’ve had failed relationships and even received a D- in grade 8 Home Economics because I sewed the waist straps of the margarine-yellow apron where the neck straps were intended and then I sewed the pocket shut. Among other things.
However, I’m okay with all this. I believe in quitting too. I’ve quit lots of things. High school, bacon, unsatisfying jobs, Girl Guides, taxing friendships and in general, things and people and emotions that act like sandbags on my hot air balloon ride in life.
What has remained consistent have been my passions, like writing. Like running. And books that take me away, movies that take me within. Travel that stretches my mind like a cat emerging from a nap in the secret spot of focussed sun.
I’ve learned, finally, that Melissa Etheridge was right. “The only thing that stays the same is change.” Despite the constants in my life, change has dominated my emotional geography as of late in an unexpected and restorative way.
I moved November 1st, far beyond my imagined comfort zone of leafy Cabbagetown. I had presumed I would grow a deep tap root there, as it had become the most familiar place I had ever lived. I had my people. There was “my guy” at the liquor store who always pointed out the latest and greatest and sneered if I made a poor or pedestrian wine pick; my Red Rocket barista guy who came to know that I liked the double-shot latte and the cornmeal muffin with the hard-boiled egg in it; and I had Herbie, who came by at a pre-arranged time to collect my beer bottles. There was the Fed Ex woman that I waved to on my daily run and the dog walker girl who always nodded to me as her hands were full of leashes and galloping dogs.
The woman at Absolute Bakery knew I was a sucker for the samosas; the 7-24 guys knew my rabid movie-renting habits; Gord, my landlord, who lived below me, knew of my hidden Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce persuasion due to my sometimes invasive sound system.
I lived on Winchester for a year, but had a running route that looped through Cabbagetown and Riverdale for over five years. I knew all the dogs and manicured yards and nannies, the crossing guards and ‘Popeye,’ the retired guy who seemed to sweep the entire length of Winchester street with a smile and song.
Now, I find myself happily perched in the Annex, on an equally leafy street. I know I’ll find my neighbourhood equivalents here too. I’ve already made fast friends with ‘Santa Claus’ at the hardware store on Bloor, chatted up the Queen Video girl on Sook Yin Lee movies, found my pulled pork and yam burrito go-to at Big Fat Burrito and, just fell for the eclectic charm and quirk of Grapefruit Moon on Bathurst tonight. The place has a bike suspended from the ceiling, rubber dinosaurs, a ceramic owl, all my favourite craft beers on a blackboard and a house hot sauce made from pumpkin, tahini and habernos. I’m hooked.
I feel like I have shed a skin. Moving makes us all a little vulnerable, but more chameleon-like in adapting to new environs. Already I have found enormous pleasure in the most minor things. Yes, I miss the romantic allure of the claw foot tub at my old place—but now I don’t have to wrestle with two shower curtains to prevent a flood. The hook under the sink for the dish towel actually keeps the towel on it. My bar stools are of the perfect height here, where as at the old place, they were off an ergonomic inch. And I am so happy to not have a granite countertop anymore. Yes, it’s minor, but, I never liked the chill of the granite under my forearms as I read the paper. Now I have a gas fireplace, which translates into instant heat gratification, instead of a big old Victorian that felt like being inside a hockey arena most winter nights. The washer and dryer don’t sing a little song at the end of the cycle like the shiny new Samsung stackables did, but I also don’t have to perch precariously on the step ladder to retrieve my jeans out of the dryer.
And I no longer have a roommate. This is my own empire of dirt. All this shit is mine, and I spend a surprising amount of time just looking at my stuff like I’m on ketamine or something. This is the tangible visual dictionary definition of me. What moves me–what makes me tick and whir–all that I gravitate towards is here, contained in a space that is as warm as hot cocoa and wool mittens. I could actually, happily, become a recluse. I think this is the best place I have ever lived in terms of contentedness. It makes me sigh and smile and makes me prouder than a strutting peacock.
I’m paying more rent than I ever have, working five days versus my usual four, still making less, but my god, my happiness Richter scale is at an all time high. My restless heart that flung me to Africa and other far-off sojourns is finding peace in these mercury and twine painted walls. I’m actually buying furniture with thoughts of being stationary. I’m framing prints to hang on the walls of my time in Uganda and the Congo as a reminder of where I’ve been, and where I’ve made my way back to.
I believe we are continually redefining our lives, re-examining our needs and priorities. I now want and need my home to be a sanctuary, a place of congregation, a rejuvenating space that feels as good on my skin as the summer sun. A place to belong.
Like Jan Zwicky describes with dart board bull’s eye accuracy in “‘Transparence”—
‘So we are caught stumbling
in between, longing for home.
Only in fairy tales,
or given freakish luck, does the wind
rise suddenly and set you down where everything
is safe and loved and in its place. The mind
does not expect it. But the heart,
the heart keeps looking for itself.
It knows and does not know
where it belongs.’