Nowadays we live in the mountains of the BC Interior. My wife and I moved here full-time in 2007 after two frustrating years commuting from the Lower mainland. It’s hard to cope with a city when your heart resides in the open places. So we made the move permanent as soon as we could. Our home is a small rancher-style house that overlooks a lake that’s snagged between clefts of mountains. The view is astounding and to be able to write here is a pleasure and a tremendous gift.
This is my home – this red house with blue shutters and a white door. It took me a long time to find it. Through the years I spent a lot of time on the road, drifting from job to job, looking for the one place in Creation that said ‘haven.’ Here, where deer, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and a wolf I only ever saw the paw print of, prowl the edges of our yard I write and find corners of my heart I never knew existed. My wife and I are happy here. It is home.
But my birth home is north of Kenora. Even though I’ve never lived at White Dog, I call it my home wherever I go. I’ve visited a handful of time s through the years and each time I’ve carried away a small piece of my identity. To me it’s a touchstone to my culture, history and traditions. In that, it’s important to me, as all homes should be.
Here though, my life eases itself into fullness. I work well here. The land is mere steps away and the dog and I enjoy our daily walks up the timber road or around the curve of the lake. To feel the land around you is amazing every time and it’s no different, really from how it feels in northern Ontario or any other place that’s touched me with its magic.
My elders say that we dream ourselves into being. That sounds powerfully esoteric but it isn’t nearly as hard to decipher as you might think. It simply means we have the ability to become whomever we choose to become. All of us. There’s no limit to our human potential and there’s no limit to where our spirits can choose to go. Hot on the heels of the power of choice is the power of allowing. We Ojibway have a phrase for that – yuh-gotta-wanna.
For me, the great fact is that I would be Ojibway wherever I went. It’s just here in this idyllic setting where I choose to express myself and where I allow magic to happen. Within me are the legends and teachings and philosophy of my people and I carry them proudly. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the guidance of those things nor a day when they do not affect the way I travel through that day.
I’ve walked the shores of the Winnipeg River. I’ve visited sacred sites and ceremonial places. I’ve trekked to the remote sites where my family camped to trap and fish when I was born. That territory marked me and it is special to me. To go there is to feel a connection I have never found an appropriate word for in English. To say it is spiritual somehow reduces it. It’s spiritual, emotional, mental and physical all at the same time.
I don’t know whether I really get homesick. They way my life went, I was in and out of a lot of homes as a kid and teenager. As a young adult I never really felt at home until I came here. I do get lonesome for the land though. Stuck in cities as I was for so many years I felt a melancholy I never could figure out. Once I walked out into the bush again or stood at the edge of a northern lake I understood what it was I’d been missing.
We dream ourselves. I dream of those things and those places where my life began. Sometimes I see myself walking there. Sometimes I see myself surrounded by people I never got a chance to know. But I always awake to the silence of our home in the mountains and I am always grateful to be here. There is no other place for me.
Within each of us is the residue of the places we come from. We carry the information of our cultures and our histories within us like latent genes. When me move, when we choose to live somewhere other than our traditional homes, those are the things that allow us to dream ourselves into fullness. Our touchstones. The feel of home we carry between our ribs. It’s not an Ojibway thing. It’s a human one.