A message before I begin…
Hello my wonderful readers and subscribers. I thought I’d better do my thank yous before the actual post, in case you nod off at its length. Think of it like watching the ENTIRE roster of commercials then the list of credits at a theatre before they’ll run the movie.
Note that if you listen, rather then read my post, the audio is quite differnt. I have to record and send it my nephew to add music the night before I post, and I seem to always do more editing the morning of the post, before I get to work. Goal for the future is to re-do the audio to match the text!
This may be my last weekly post, but it is not my last post. While I intend to focus on writing my book, I figure I will have enough space and time to continue my blog, except on a monthly, rather than weekly basis.
When you read this final weekly post, you will discover what is next for me. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but suffice to say there will be much for me to write about to warrant monthly updates. Plus I may also post book excerpts, maybe even asking for advice or thoughts, among other random requests.
And now to the thank yous…
Thank you for reading and commenting and liking and passing on and forwarding and reposting my words. For a creative writer whose output stayed stuffed in boxes for 50 years, to have it out there, if even in this blog format, is huge, and then to have it read by others who seem to find something meaningful in what I have to say has been an incredible and precious gift.
Though I do not talk about Waterloo in this post, know that leaving family and friends behind was incredibly difficult and not a day goes by that I do not miss being able to drop by for a spontaneous visit or meet up for a quick coffee in Uptown Waterloo. All of you understand, though, that I just had to leave. So thank you for staying in touch and for welcoming me back with warm embraces each time time I return. And special thanks for those who’ve come to visit (Cary, Graham, Brent, Agnes, Leslie and Paul, Spencer, Susan, Scott and Sue, Mike, Ruth, Claudia, Heide and Dan, Bill, Lynn and Rachael next week and Sabine in the fall).
Thank you to all the friends who supported my decision to leave and were there via FaceTime for some of the darker, lonelier moments of this past year. Thank you to my best friend, Leslie, who drove out here with me one year ago and refused to leave me until she’d made sure I was all set up in my cave. Thank you every one of my friends and neighbours back home, too numerous to name in this blog, but who will be named in the book! Thank you to my brother Brent, sister-in-law Agnes and nephew Spencer. Thank you to my new Halifax friends who have welcomed me with open and loving arms. Thank you especially to connector Deb, Susan M. and Sandy M.
And thank you to my sons, Cary, Graham and Warren. You’ve supported and encouraged me every step of this journey, and I am humbled by your generous spirits, kind hearts and unwavering love. You are my everything.
Alright… to the post before I start bawling…
I am at Susan’s cottage for dinner, sharing the table with Deb, Kathy, Kilby, Nancy, Susie, and of course, Susan, along with far too much food.
Amidst the spooning of fare onto plates, our seven voices rise and fall in conversation that meanders from politics to the makings of a good Hodge Podge to the hydraulics of bra-wear for the large-breasted amongst us, not me, of course. We eat, drink and laugh our way to dessert of sticky toffee pudding, complete with tureen of hot caramel sauce.
As I serve myself up a second round of pudding (with extra sauce), a card and pen circulates round the table. Nancy is sitting next to me and after she signs, she tucks card into the envelope, licks and then presses the flap closed, and passes the envelope to me.
I, in turn, reopen the flap and slide out my one-year anniversary card, signed by each of my these, my East Coast friends.
Geez. Seems both as if I have just arrived, yet like I have been here forever because after 12 months, I can neither imagine nor remember my life without Halifax, the sea or these women in it.
* * * *
My pat answer when I am asked why I moved halfway across the country for no good reason is as follows:
“I wanted an adventure and the timing was perfect—not too old, sons grown and independent, so really, why not?”
Okay, so I candy coated the truth. My move was largely in part to give myself 12 months away from everything to put myself back together and answer three important, however seemingly unrelated, questions:
- Could I un-become the woman who awoke one morning facing a second divorce and then become the woman I knew I really was inside, all by myself?
- Was I really a writer?
- Would it be possible to figure out #1 and #2, while I try to forge a new life in the new-to-me city of Halifax, Nova Scotia?
Now that it’s nice out, I sit outside as often as I can, providing opportunity to bump into neighbours and resume conversations halted by my inclination during snow, rain and fog season to hide in the cave eating pasta and chocolate.
Sitting outside on a teeny little patio aside the cave’s parking lot, a familiar figure lopes up the walkway. It’s my upstairs neighbour.
At 6’ 4,” silver-haired Stephane is a tall drink of cool water and hard to miss. Soon after moving into the Cave, I’d casually mentioned the existence of this dashing upstairs neighbour to friends back home. Instantly, they’d bombarded me with questions about the possibility of swapping… well you know what, with Stephane.
“Nah,” I told them. “Nah to romance, I think. He feels more like a brother or friend kind of guy to me.”
What evolved between us did turn out to be an uncomplicated, platonic friendship, and the only swapping that occurrs involves tales of our romantic escapades, with others.
“Hello,” Stephane says when he reaches the patio, his face bursting into a smile.
Helping himself to a chair, he drops into it and stretches his long lanky legs out in front of him. Clasping his hands on his lap, he tips his head back to catch the sun and makes it very clear in comfy body language that we’ve much to fill in with each other, and on a beautiful sunny evening, now is the time to get to it.
We soon divulge that neither of our winter romances had survived the spring thaw. Stephane, however, then confesses he has entered summer in an upswing. He’s met a woman at a recent event.
He explains that the woman and her friend, initially standing at the periphery of his group, had slipped into his social hula hoop, joining Stephane and his colleagues for oysters, tequila and talk.
“I’m a sucker for a good line,” he continues in French-accented English as his story gets closer to the good part, “I asked her what she did for a living, and after she said she was a therapist, I asked her what kind. ‘The kind you need, obviously’ is what she said. And that was it. I bought her a drink, and I was a goner. ”
“Wow! You’re sure easy.” I joke, and we have a good laugh.
As he tells me more about the woman, his face lights up with the look of new love at its beautiful beginnings, and selfishly, a silent, yet familiar patter sneaks into my thoughts…
Gosh! Darn! Cheese and rice! The annoying diatribe picks up speed when it hits old schools of thought like, “why does love happen to everyone but me?” But when Stephane tells me his new love’s name, my nonsensical thoughts abruptly shut down.
“Faith,” he says. “Her name is Faith.”
And how can I not smile? How can I not I remember my own faith, so recently rediscovered and reclaimed in this last year, albeit not in a person, but in love.
* ** *
The first rule of gardening in a new home is to wait and see.
You need to know what is already in the garden and thriving. You need to chart exactly where the sunshine and the shade fall. You need to know when, where and how far the trees that surround the house cast their shadows and what parts of the garden the rain touches. You must know all of this before ever plunging spade to soil.
In my world, the process takes one full year of observation, and on August 15, 2016, I will begin day one of my wait and see year, standard requirement before I plant my next garden.
You see, I’ve bought a house, and it’s in Halifax. And the reason I am staying is for love.
* ** *
This cannot come as a surprise. I’ve alluded to it, if not said it in some and probably all of my posts this last year.
But in case you missed it, I will tell you the whole darn love story, drama and all.
It began a year before I left Waterloo, during a Thanksgiving visit with my son Warren, who moved to Halifax in 2014.
On that brief, five-day sojourn, I traipsed the city’s parks, paths and boardwalk, breathing in the ocean, the land, and the people. When I came home, I could not get Halifax out of my head.
Many months later, when I realized the only way I could move forward in my life would be to leave Waterloo, the only place I knew I wanted to be was Halifax.
“A year,” I told myself then, “I will go just for a year and get myself all sorted.”
I sold my house, quit my job, packed up my life, and drove to Halifax in July of 2015.
On arrival, the wonder of the harbour backdrop, including the constant up and down of walking on the streets of a city whose its skyline began at water and climbed upward to the top of Citadel Hill, was enough to make me plain giddy. I was a ballerina on pointe shoes for the first time, pirouetting in a pink, silky taffeta tutu, on the cusp of all the unlimited possibilities the city held forth.
And just like that, I was in love with a little spit of land and a fathomless body of water.
Two months passed in a heartbeat, and then…
* * * *
Alas. The unfettered jubilation of new love in its early days is by nature unstable, and at some point, it may require a test of faith to know the love’s true merit.
And further, for someone like me, when love arrives too easily or feels too euphoric or too good to be true, if an obstruction does make itself known to put love to the test, I will put one there.
So, of course, I did. And when viewed aside love’s rapture, the obstacle by comparison loomed large and ungainly, a hulking insurmountable presence.
But what else was there for me to do? I would either push through and find a way back to love or leave it behind. As the leaves turned their colours, I’d no idea which would be.
In November, when the sky became gray and the dark descended, the exhaustion that came as part and parcel to new beginnings began to overwhelm me. And as December approached, and with it the backward bend into my past, the tsunami of unexpected grief that swept over me obliterated all thoughts I had of love.
The pull to scuttle back from whence I came, familiar Waterloo, began to feel more powerful than the urge that had compelled me to run away in the first place. I went so far as to orchestrate the hows and whens of a summer return to Waterloo, taking solace from my ‘until then’ thoughts to get through the winter.
January and then February, the Atlantic mirrored my deteriorating mood, a different sea greeting my footfalls each day—rough and cantankerous, shrouded in fog, roiling and angry, unsettled and unstable.
By early March, there I was, morning upon morning, still plodding up Citadel Hill, down the other side to Point Pleasant Park and along the waterfront home, fine-tuning plans to pack up and abandon the city.
How or why thoughts change is difficult to know in the moment, but what I do know is this.
One morning my two running shoes, battered by hundreds of kilometres up and down hills and winter’s mash up of rain and snow, guided me to a pebbled bank at the tip of the peninsula. There, beneath me, they held me sure-footed and solid.
And staring across the water, I could see clearly again the line where ocean greeted the sky and around me where its waters met the land in all its many moods—ever so softly at gentle shorelines, brash and bold upon rocky shoals. How could I not have noticed that always, no matter how water met land, it retained itself, in glorious wholeness, ever the sea.
And just like that, the need go home slipped away, as if the notion of abandoning Halifax had decided to retreat out to sea with the fog, leaving behind everything I had ever needed.
Faith in love, then, is restorative, if even the only way it comes is by letting in little bits, a day a time, by running alongside the sea.
So she saved me, you see, the sea saved me. And by the end of April and for the first time in my life, I woke each morning knowing love to be sure and true and something I could count on that would never change and never leave.
Love, is it not grand that it heal everything?
Outside on the patio, I feel rather than see the sun’s descent by the cooling of the air. Hot nights are a rare occurrence in Halifax summer, and I’ve adjusted accordingly. Tonight, rather than grab a blanket, I call it a night at 8pm and head inside, however reluctant I may be to say good-night to the day.
Since I’d brought neither computer nor phone outside with me, the first thing I do once inside the cave is retrieve my phone. It’s loaded with messages for a change, with both missed calls and a few texts. One of the texts grabs my attention—my friend Sandy has offered an invite for an evening of live music at The Carlton.
Sandy: I know it’s last minute but Gordie Sampson is a great songwriter and a charming performer.
Karalee: Just saw this. Gonna get all prettied up and will see you there in a bit.
I check myself out in the mirror to see what can be done about my hair, currently large and nest like a la East Coast fog and humidity. Deeming it untamable, I leave it be, slip on sandals, grab a jacket and head out to the street.
When I get to the bar, but before I find Sandy, my phone rings, and it’s my brother. I answer.
—I’m in a bar, just about to see an act.
—Hey, I gotta tell you about the dinner Agnes and I went to with Nicole and her partner, Jean Francois. He went to Dal, and I told him you live in Halifax and work at Propeller, and he got all nostalgic about Halifax and Propeller… couldn’t stop talking about it how much he loved it there.
I laugh, cuz I get it.
—Brent, I gotta go. The band is on the stage and I think they’re gonna start. Call you tomorrow.
Gordie is fantastic, and the warm up band, The Mae Trio, join him for the last tune. I want to weep when their voices swell in harmonic unity during the chorus. But I hold back since I am out in I public.
Out on the street, though I live not far from The Carlton, Sandy offers me a lift home.
“Sure,” I say, more to make the night last a little longer than for any other reason.
He’s parked on Brunswick Street, close to the library, and the walk there is probably as far as the walk would have been to the cave, but I don’t mind. We slip into his car, and we both notice the full moon, hanging due south in the night sky.
He reaches for the key to turn the ignition, but instead of starting the car, he leans back into his door, crosses his arms and looks up to admire the moon. We chat about the music and life and how we will be heading back to school in just over a week, beginning our second year in the MFA program, where we’re each writing a book.
Of this writing thing… I don’t know if I will ever be lucky or fortunate to be published, but after this year of writing, I know I at least I have the chops to write one, if not several books.
And even though not a day goes by that I am not fraught with self-doubt or self-deprecating thoughts that I am nothing but a fraud and an imposter, I keep doing it anyway. I fight my way through the only way I know how, by pounding out another couple thousand words, knowing with each word, I can only get better at it.
I’m not late to the game of writing. I’ve been writing since I was a child. What I am late to is the admission to myself that to be a writer is not only my calling, it is all I have ever wanted to be, even as I chose to do a thousand other things instead.
The day of the writing this final weekly blog begins innocuously enough.
I go for my run early, but I am waylaid on the waterfront, staring at a beautiful Columbian tall ship anchored in port. Just as I begin to run again, I hear a bang, and then music and singing, which I take to be the Columbian National anthem. After that they play “Oh, Canada” and after that, a single bagpipe’s lamentation hits me. It’s “Amazing Grace.” The lonely notes sweep out to the sea with the wind and are carried away on the waves,highlighted by the rising sun.
Transfixed, I cannot move for half an hour or more.
By the time I make it home, shower, and get to the THe Old Apothecary, it’s nigh on 9:30. I take my cappuccino upstairs to see my regular spot is occupied by a chatty couple. More people arrive and soon, it is too noisy for any kind of thinking, let alone writing, so I relocate to the library.
On the fourth floor, my favourite locale facing the end of the peninsula is full, with all the comfy orange chairs taken, save one. At 11:30, I rush off to a new ‘friend’ date possibility with a writer named Gail at the Public Gardens, which is a success. At 3pm, I am back at the cave, sitting at the patio again, where a steady stream of visitors keeps me happily preoccupied, though away from the keyboard.
Landlady Janet sits with me for a chat about my new house, then Warren comes home. Next Stephane arrives after his day’s work as an officer in the military, and of course, we have a yak about our day before he heads to his flat.
Just as I poise my fingers to type, he yells down at me from his porch, “Hey, big sis. Can you give me a life to the waterfront? I have an event on the Columbia ship docked at the harbor.”
Well, you can guess my answer. I grab my car keys and spin him out to the wharf. What feels like minutes later, he’s coming up back the walkway already, his event over.
“How’s the post coming?” he asks as he leaps up the three steps up to the patio.
“Uh, it’s coming. I only really started working on it today. And I’m still not sure how to say what I think I want to say. This year—it’s just been such a game changer.”
He smiles and nods. So do I, cuz this new normal of mine, I’m loving it.
Did I find the answers to my three questions in 12 months? Yes.
In 12 months, I dismantled the woman who arrived a year ago, and I unbecame her, though not a bit of the any of it came easily or without hard work. But day by day, I am on my way to becoming the woman I always wanted to be. I discovered that what I am is, indeed, a writer, and I’ve the beginnings of a new life here that is so rich and so full and so wonderful that I bought a house for myself, so I can stay, just a little bit longer.
I rise at 5am, to review my post and do my final edits.
By 7:30am, I am in the shower and while the water splashes over my skin, it hits me full on. At the age of 55 and after 12 months, I finally get it, and I’m gobsmacked. It’s as if I’ve only ever seen the world in a blurry fog that made it a chore to get anywhere, and I’m just back from the optomitrist with new lenses slid into place, and my field of vision has finally snapped to, all clear.
Goddess! Why am I always the last freakin’ one to know? It’s love, baby, the lens I needed all along was love.
And so now, the rest of the story and all its bits in, around and in between how it took me so damn long to figure this out, and how I managed to do it at all at this advanced age, well it’ll all be in my book which I hope one day will be published, and I hope one day you will get to read.
Now, time to dry up my tears and hair and get to work. Back at you in a month.
Karalee of no fixed address