What is “here” and what is “away”? What powerfully elusive constructs that challenge my sense of belonging.

My physical “away” is Wakefield, while currently my “here” is Green Valley, Arizona. My belonging is ephemeral, like the dry river beds of my desert home.

Here in the desert of Arizona, I come and feel from Away. Like most of humanity here I come from an Away where I felt and knew belonging. My Away is still there, but I am not.

My husband Richard and I left Away in 2013. Richard’s failing health and need to be closer to family forced us to leave the woods of the Gatineau hills and forge a new life in the southern desert. We embraced our new life with enthusiasm, marvelling at the physical contrasts in our new world. We joined clubs, started woodworking projects, hosted friends from away, and explored our new vistas.

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Home and Away

Richard died at the end of 2016.

After three years of summer travels, re-establishing connections with distant friends and communities, making new friends, exploring new lands, and regenerating my sense of belonging, I am rediscovering what Away means to me.

My Away, in the Gatineau Hills of Quėbec, embodies a deep knowing that friends were there for each other-not from obligation but from love. We selflessly gave time, emotion, labour and love to the life around us. We saw and felt beyond the tactile and temporal reality of the day. We thrived in the natural rhythms of life around us. We shared a common sense of both humility and stewardship for the land and the diversity of life that it supports. We lived together striving to leave our footprint lightly upon the land.

My “Away” is filled with lakes and trees. It was filled with long summer days and longer snowy winter nights. Richard, and I embraced our communities together and our communities embraced us. Our world seemingly slumbered under the snow during the winter months to burst forth exuberantly when the first drips of maple sap plinked into the sap buckets heralding spring.  The ice withdrew back into the lake and returned to water, the haunting song of loons announced the birth of a new season.

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Now I am “Here” and alone in a dry open space embracing majestic mountains, spiritual spaces, plants and animals that survive on the most slender limbs of existence.

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The sound of water marks the seasons here too. The heat induced fatigue of June is replaced by relief as the victorious thunder clouds invade the open sky. The aroma of rain-soaked creosote bushes is as heady as that gentle plinking of the maple sap.

It is a harsh and fragile “Here”. I cannot yet measure belonging in days or weeks or months or perhaps even years. I feel perched rather than grounded. More like a wind-blown bird landing stunned in a strange place than part of a flock with destination intent.

However, my profound sense of aloneness and displacement is starting to give way to curiosity and wonder about this new place. I’m pecking at this new reality and my eyes and heart are opening…

All my life I have been surrounded by water… except Here.

Here water, like belonging is ephemeral.

I’m looking for it….