I feel like I’ve been a participant in an experimental urban detox plan.
Trailed by our moving truck, Kim and I drove out of Toronto on the frosty morn of January 24th and haven’t been back since. A few weeks before the move I had drawn up an extensive list of necessities. I would definitely have to subscribe to Toronto Life and The Grid. I doubled up on Jimmy’s Coffee beans with reassuring plots of how I could get city friends to visit and bring bean cartel. But, where would I rent my indie movies without Queen Video a block away? Where was my Bloor Hot Docs cinema equivalent to be found? Were there any Vietnamese Bahn Mi subs to be found in the 519 area code?
I knew I would miss elements of the city, because, it’s simply unnatural to not miss a place. Despite all my whining about being rained on every day on the west coast, part of me misses the intensely heady smell of wet cedar that permeates the air. Oh, and that coconut curry stew at the Thai hole-in-the-wall on South Fraser Way that I can no longer remember the name of. Places should leave indelible marks.
I don’t miss Toronto in the proportions I thought I would though. In fact, I find myself living a more cohesive lifestyle in Galt. The list of what I don’t miss escalates. In an email to my friend Suzanne, I shared my quiet thrills—like watching the movement of the full moon through the silhouette of our black walnut trees in the backyard. Just months ago I had no moon view. From my basement apartment I had a clear knee-high view of pedestrians and the local bottle collectors rooting through the recycling bins parked outside my window.
Here, we have front row seats to unbridled nature. The path behind our house connects to the Grand Trunk Trail which winds along the river to my workplace, Langdon Hall Country Hotel & Spa. Though my commute has doubled to a 16 km route on foot, there is a delicious pleasure in walking along the Blair road and spotting eight deer and passing by wetlands vibrating with spring peepers and red winged blackbirds. The chatter of chickadees is the best noise pollution around.
As of late, my morning commute has involved dodging nesting Canadian geese. Vocal and hissing, the male is not so pleased that my path crosses his. But, this is a far cry from downtown crackhead encounters, oblivious texting-obsessed pedestrians and dodging piles of post-nightclub barf on King street sidewalks.
Living on the Grand river brings such welcome intimacy with nature. My new reality show is the watching the drama unfold between the black, grey and red squirrels seeking backyard domination. I can bird-watch from our en suite toilet for crying out loud (which might be too much information to share). But, I am in my birding glory with all the white breasted nuthatch and cedar waxwing fly-bys. The machine gun-like chatter of kingfishers induces an immediate smile.With the returning migrations, our gardens are finally giving way to a greener palette. The snowdrop blossoms are holding their heads high despite the monsoon rains of late. Purple crocuses and irises are pushing the mulch aside to show off their spring pride.
There is such primal joy in getting grubby in the gardens with soiled denim knees. For those of you who are unaware, beer tastes even better outside, chugged with a dirty work glove on, with thorn and rose bush lacerations burning your forearms.
The previous owners of this house apparently never raked. We thought we might uncover buried treasure (or buried bodies for that matter) under all the debris. A dozen stuffed yard bags later, we’re still trying to make headway. I’m patiently waiting for warmer temps so I can finally pull out the hula hoop that is frozen inside the compost pile.
Having a yard is so paramount to happiness though. In the Annex, though there was a backyard per se, it was the home owner’s domain. I’d have to find my green a few blocks away at the local parkette—and, given the shadows of nearby buildings, the sunshine timeline was at a premium.
Now? Sunshine, no shadows. Green = ours. Coffee outside? Just a step away. Yes, small but hugely gratifying pleasures, indeed.
I routinely read the entire newspaper now—a miraculous feat. In fact, I read not only the local rag The Cambridge Times but The Waterloo Record, and courtesy of Kim’s sister, I also have The Ayr News delivered to my house. Even the news is better here! The Ayr News reports on all the ham suppers and spaghetti dinners in the area. And, there is amazing journalistic coverage of euchre tournaments and tundra swan sightings. Oh, and how ‘bout so-and-so’s daffodils! They’re up two inches already!
Somehow, we’ve found more time in Galt. Time to entertain, read, cook, take long walks without watches. Time to be present. I’ve read more books in the last two months than I did in nearly a year in Toronto. The librarians know me by name…just like Cheers, but, different.
Not working until 9 or 10 o’clock at night has introduced me to a brand new world of eating at a respectable hour. Before, I convinced myself that I was simply very European in my habits. Surely other people sat down for dinner at midnight.
Now I’m actually working my way through the pile of recipes I’ve clipped out. I’ve found my inner Julia Child in Galt and have wooed guests with stuffed lasagna rolls, turkey pot pie, jambalaya and French onion soup. And, while in the kitchen, I have a view and natural light to boot. Not to trash talk by previous digs, because, the place had its merits, but—one could have fried eggs atop the non-energy saver pot lights. The oven was the equivalent of cooking over an open fire with unreliable random broil-like temperatures. And, any cooking was always performed under the duress of the lead-foot tenant upstairs who made the above-mentioned pot lights flicker with her footsteps.
Ahh, yes, the good, clean country life.
I work more reasonable hours now and don’t feel like I’m financially treading water. In Toronto, I worked more than I ever had, somehow earned less and forked out more just to live. I felt like I could have cut my paycheques into confetti and tossed them in the air. I’m not in that same fatigue fog that the city seemed to facilitate.
If this is urban detox, I would like to be the poster child. It’s so nourishing for the soul.
Please, come visit us and experience life as it should be. Though, we might hand you a rake upon your arrival.