Wandering Home

By Pearl Pirie – guest blogger

It seems I wander, wander so far it is summer again, in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love winters here, snowshoeing through a quiet forest, past the deepened gurgle of a waterfall and river under their helmets of ice. But summer in countryside is spectacular in a different way. It a whole other planet than a city.

Over the last 30 years I’ve ping-ponged between city and country and suburb on average every 3 years. I’m at my 4th forever home. I hope this one will take. It seems likely. I’ve been in the Wakefield area 7 years. I know more people than anywhere I’ve lived. Part of that is volunteering more. Part of that is this unique community that welcome each other.

In a few places I lived it was all liminal spaces of polite averting eyes. I’ve never gotten used to that city distance. Where I grew up most people were in two categories: family, or married to family. Everyone was greeted.

Decades ago I lived in Kemptville, Ontario where no one greeted but oh, they watched. I went into an optician I’d never entered and a stranger asked, how was your trip to France? Spooked I became more of a hermit. Of course, it might have been my doppelgänger who also happened to go to France. I know I have at least one. She pickpocketed me in Ottawa once. Even on surveillance playback I had to admit I’d have accepted photo i.d. too.

Much of community is people you actually see. Tricky in times of Covid, Flu and Norovirus caution.

But the lifted three fingers off the steering wheel, the walkers who stop to exchange time of day, the falafel guys who know I’m a return customer, it all adds up to a kinder world.

Last summer I was intent on getting a photo of blue weed. The car had to be safely off the road so it was off the side road. Like a blissed bee I bobbed from wildflower to wildflower, stooped over with my phone. A crunch of gravel as a car slowed up beside me. Two older women in the car voiced concern -Are you alright dear? Are you ill? Do you need help?.

Although deeply embarrassed at drawing attention to myself, acting so oddly to cause red flags of worry, it was comforting to be checked in on, to be seen. It is a sign of a caring community.

In idle conversation with a (now former) neighbour, she mentioned biscotti and offered to show me how to make it. We made some together. Making excuses to spend time together is part of community.

We’ve had singalongs, and group snowshoes, and neighbourhood picnics. Some are French, some English, some Catholic, some Protestant or irreligious. It is largely “milky” so far but that inevitably changes as people move around more. We are all neighbours. Some move away, others come in and are brought in.

For a few years, when the ice is good and thick, we have gone out as a group to shovel a rink on the lake. Community is being not only recognized but made to feel welcome, a part not apart.

When the storm is thick, the road washed out again, or the power out for longer than usual, our neighbours check with one another through Telegram messaging. If someone ventures through the storm they offer to bring back requests if anyone needs anything.

We got that community sense from the start when we were first building. The delivery of rock wool came & the truck deposited it as the bottom of the driveway. People appeared and started a water brigade carrying them to the top of the hill with us. Some came and introduced themselves and offered to lend tools. I still don’t know who a couple of those passing angels were.

Over at Rupert Treasures each opening seems like a family reunion with the lineup waiting to go in full of conversations. People aren’t insular but a group exchanging compliments, jibes, news and time.

It’s a curious place, this Wakefield area. It’s like Louise Penny’s Three Pines but with none of the murders.

Pearl Pirie is a poet with 4 collections, most recently Footlights (Radiant Press, 2020). She won the Nelson Ball prize for poetry of observation for the chapbook rain’s small gesture (Apt 9 Press, 2021)