Thursday, 29 August 2013

Coming Home

Peace Flag House has been quietly rolling along this summer with the support of my brother, James. Our downstairs neighbours have moved on (good luck Caitlin and Olivia!), my cousin came and went as his housing needs shifted, our new downstairs neighbour has moved in (welcome Reagan!), and our roommate Erica has departed for law school (good luck!). All of this coming and going while Pascal and I joined a group of fantastic students in Guatemala for two weeks and then jumped continent for five weeks and explored the worlds of Belgium, Paris, Copenhagen, Athens, Santorini, Crete and Iceland.

I have so much to share about our travels. Living in an intentional community and learning from the experiences of former guerrilla fighters at Nuevo Horizonte. The process of connecting with family across oceans, generations and language. Learning to slow down and share a meal Euro-style. Observations on riot police, Athens and austerity measures. The ways in which tourism can replicate the processes of gentrification. Delving into beach culture and body acceptance. Learning to hug my fears of deep dark water and high cliff edges and keep moving forward. Discovering the raw beauty of the world's youngest land mass. Falling in love with Icelandic knitting culture.

I'm bouncing with inspiration, ideas and energy to incorporate back into our Peace Flag House. But today I needed to set aside all of these thoughts to focus on heima, the Icelandic word for home. I needed to come home and rediscover the beauty of knowing a place.

Arriving back in Toronto was a little tough. Both Pascal and I fell in love with Iceland, which made leaving difficult. Not to mention the anti-joys of airport travel: line up, line up again, line up some more, move to the next line up, repeat. Although we were picked up by our fabulous neighbours and friends, (thank you Juliana and Carlos!), driven home and fed homemade channa and cider, the first few days in Toronto felt like putting on a sweater that has shrunk a little.

I woke up this morning feeling like a grumpy mushroom: mushy, lumpy, and wanting dark places to brood over my irritation with life.  Despite my desire to complain and whine, I decided that it was a good time to take a long walk and avoid picking fights.  So I gifted Relish and I with a long walk through the Magwood and along the river.

My broody mood was thick and heavy but I felt myself starting to settle a little as I noticed the jewel weed had begun to blossom along the trail. The false sunflowers were popping open by the river bank. My favourite wild flower, chicory, was glowing blue amongst the green of Queen Anne lace. The more I noticed the more I remembered to breathe.

Chestnuts, walnuts and acorns were beginning to stain the side walk underfoot.  The addition to the neighbourhood elementary school was nearing completion. Tomatoes were weighing on the vine in a front yard garden and the Rose of Sharon was in bloom around the corner.  Life had kept moving forward while we were gone and I could see its tracks.

This must be what place-based educators speak about: knowing a place is to be in an intimate relationship with it.  Recognizing its patterns, its moods, its seasons and its expressions.  I love the adventure of travel and exploration,  but there is a fulfillment in knowing a place from the inside.  Even if I don't stay forever, I know this little corner of Toronto.

After taking in the smell of late summer growth in the Magwood, a nice journaling session along the river and some play time with Relish, it felt good to come home to Peace Flag House and dream about how all our adventures will be woven into the fabric of our home, our lives and our community.

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