The feeling of home

I heard it before I could see it. A pileated woodpecker, making that silly, squawky sound they make, wuk, wuk, wuk, when they are protecting their territory. I was walking back into my driveway, and all of a sudden, that sound made me feel at home. Perched up on a tall, dead red pine behind the house, with its crest cutting into the blue sky, it was announcing that it would not put up with trespassers.

I used to have pileated woodpeckers all the time at my other house. But here was one at the new place. And as I looked over at my feeders, there were two male cardinals and one female. Two goldfinches on the niger seed feeder.

A little taste of home. For the first time, in the 2 weeks I’ve been here, I felt my heart rest a bit.

What is home anyway? I was talking to Sue Staniforth yesterday, and she had just returned from an adventure up in Algonquin Park. She loves Newfoundland, loves British Columbia, but as she explained, there was something about the Park that resonates with her soul, and feels like home.

I know that feeling, that thumping in the chest when you know you’re where you are supposed to be. I get that when I’m looking out over the sea in Nova Scotia. The salty scent that pervades the air, the feel of the wind on my face, and the very vibrations in the earth that seem to plant me ever so solidly there. Driving down the backroads, following the rivers, the rhythm of life there suits me.

Ontario is truly lovely. I’m always happy when I’m in the mountains in Alberta. The Qu’appelle Valley in Saskatchewan is breathtaking, and Newfoundland has always been the closest thing to home for me, next to Nova Scotia…but none of those places are home.

My first few days in the Grange house didn’t feel like I was home at all. It felt hot, empty and dirty. But now that a bit of time has passed, I think of my first dinner here, with Michael and Jean in the kitchen, surrounded by chaos and laughter. Sitting in the living room with Rory, watching old Dr. Who episodes. Coffee on the porch with Janey, surrounded by the dogs. It will be more homey when can see Jaime sitting in her boxers watching old Seinfeld re-runs, and others I love making music in the living room. All those memories will make it home.

Music waiting to happen!

Music waiting to happen!

A strange thing has happened of late. I spend a lot of time going out to BC, to visit Marj, Andy and others. And for the first time, when I landed in Victoria and my feet hit the ground, it felt homey. It didn’t resonate “you are home” and I didn’t feel like I wanted to move there immediately. But on our travels, Marj and I headed around to Sooke, where the trees scrape the edge of the sky and the ocean pulls at the land as you drive along the West Coast Highway. The water seemed to call from the car window, and our expedition down to French Beach felt wonderful. It felt like home.Image 5

But why? I have no memories in Sooke. But I have memories of salt water, of laughter on the beach, being surrounded by people I love while I am in BC…all these together seem to create the pull of home.

Thousands of writers have contemplated the meaning of home; its subjective and relative nature suggests that a definition that suits me wouldn’t suit you, or you, or anyone else. But I’m going to put a few things down, and I hope that others will add to it, so we can generate an emergent and wonderful description of home.

Home is…

  • a place where your heart can rest and you can make dinner in your PJs and it doesn’t matter!
  • a place filled with memories that make you smile.
  • a moveable feast of people you love, wherever they gather.
  • a place that resonates in your soul, like Algonquin Park, and finds you at peace.
  • …where your heart is?

What does home mean to you? Tell me, please. Add it here.

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The sound of your voice

5243718530_d16f48097e_bI have this screen shot on my desktop.  There are many voices that touch my soul and make the crazy vibrations of my life resonate with joy. But every once in a while, when I listen, I find a new favourite.

I moved on Friday. This morning, I still didn’t have running water in my bathroom. There is no electricity upstairs, and it is so hot but I can’t even use a fan. My landlord is 78, wants to do everything himself, and I will be much older before the washer and dryer ever get installed. My life has been turned on its ear and spun about like a whirling dervish.

But I heard a voice this morning that made me smile; grin, actually, and made my poor, chaotic soul stop and listen. My friend Christina called and we got to catch up on her wedding, her upcoming trip home to Vancouver, a bit of work, and general fun stuff. We also talked about how the big stuff isn’t as important as the little stuff, and it is the little stuff that matters. Hearing her voice, and listening to her stories…that made my morning. All the work that I hoped to take place on my house wasn’t as important as hearing her voice and having a chat.

Christina’s voice isn’t like Morgan Freeman’s, who could read the phone book and we’d all stop and listen attentively. But still, her voice makes me stop and listen attentively, because of all the positive things associated with it – laughter, support, friendship, delight and care.

Since my washer and dryer are not available, I had to find a place to do my ever growing pile of laundry. I called Janey, and the dogs and I headed to her place. Janey and her husband Dave had bent over backwards for me this weekend, helping carry, move, drive to the dump, do a million things that friends do to help in a move. And more. Way more. My laundry and I descended on her farmhouse just as she was leaving, and with a few quick instructions on how to use her washing machine (and not burn the house down), she was off. I was left to my own design.

Hours later, Janey arrived home. I was armpit deep in slide decks and outlines of plans, but I heard her gentle voice down the hall. She helped me bring my clothes in off the line, and then she said “Do you see what the birds brought me? They brought me sunflowers!” There were sunflowers poking up in her garden, and she hadn’t planted them. The birds managed to bring the brilliant amber yellows and chocolate browns of the flowers to her garden and she was filled with joy.

Janey talking sweet to Roofus.

Janey talking sweet to Roofus.

It was contagious. I still had to go back to my hot house, and finish working. But I too, was filled with joy.

I got home, and my dogs needed a romp. So off we went, doing something we’d never done before – a walk on a road, not a field or a trail. The deer flies were brutal, and the mosquitoes worse. But as I crested the hill, I saw a familiar car. My Irish neighbor, Colm, was on his way to soccer practice. When he saw me, his face lit up and he pulled over. Down rolled the window, and the sound of his voice almost made me cry. “ Oh girl, we miss you already and you’re only a few minutes away”.

Words are important, as I’ve written before. But the sound, the tone and timber of a voice that carries affection and care is something that can fill the heart before you know it.

Colm, with his son Cathal, who both have wonderful voices

Colm, with his son Cathal, who both have wonderful voices

I truly wish I had air conditioning upstairs. I wish I had electrical outlets that worked. I wish I didn’t have to drive somewhere to do my laundry. But three voices, whose vocal resonation, timbre and intensity is nothing out of the ordinary, is out of the ordinary for me. They told me stories and reminded me what was important.

Today, ask yourself who’s voice is your favourite sound? What is the voice that can pour over all the crazy bits and help you be yourself? Think about it. Then tell them.

Nothing but a song

I went to a conference last weekend. Or to be more accurate, I crashed a conference last weekend. In truth, I hadn’t actually intended on going. I was in Victoria, visiting with my most wonderful friend Marj Welch. We did what we do each year: she works up in her office, I work in a make-shift office at the dining room table. We converge at the end of the day to walk her dog Bobbie, eat our dinner and tell stories till the wee hours. Somewhere in there, we all head up to Cowichan Lake to visit with my friend Andy and family, and play music for hours and hours (and hours) on end.

This year, the EECOM conference was taking place at the University of Victoria while I was out west. The contract work I am doing right now is not related to environmental learning per se, and I was more interested in visiting with my friends out there, particularly Olivia, Sonia and Darrell, than attending a conference. But Holly Arntzen was playing at the Saturday night EECOM event, and she is quite remarkable (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKH54msZ0AY).  And besides, Grant, Luba, Remy and Sue all conspired to convince me to come, just for the evening. I am so glad I did.

Holly and her partner Kevin, and the rest of the band The Wilds, were wonderful. They were backed up by the Getting Higher Choir from Victoria, and before I knew it, there were about 30 of us up, singing and dancing with Holly and company. The performance ended, and many of us gathered outside to ponder the remainder of the evening.

Which, of course, had to involve more music. The dancers and singers moseyed and sashayed through the residences and found a “campfire” to gather around. Well, campfire, not so much. But circle of chairs and a few cold beers, a taste of Strathisla single malt, and it was anything and everything we wanted! And if you know me at all, you will know that you’ll find me wherever music is being made. A fiddle, a mandolin and a guitar, supported by happy voices, is a magical event and I want to be in the middle of it all.

What I wanted to share with you was not so much the magic of the night, but the connections that music can make. I had crashed the conference. I didn’t have a name tag. I didn’t know anyone other than a few familiar faces. But after a few songs and switching from instrument to instrument, I had a circle full of new friends. I didn’t have a clue what they did, but I knew they were interested in environmental learning and in music…so they were kindred spirits to me.

Interestingly enough, when we took a wee break to refresh, I started chatting with Lidia, one of the singers, a lovely young woman from Quebec. Do you know that she was not interested in traditional environmental learning, but more interested in working with adults, with communities, exploring the role of stakeholders in environmental change? And do you know that I am interested in the same thing? And that without music, without the gathering that brought us all together to sing, I would have never known anyone else at the conference was interested in the same things that intrigued me?

It was music that brought us together but our shared interests outside music that made us both sit up and notice. The conversations I had with Lidia convinced me to beg for admission to the next day’s morning session, and explore, discuss and consider new paths for pubic awareness, engagement and communications.

It was nothing but a song that brought us together. But it was everything.

Post conference tunes!

Post conference tunes!