Friday’s Essay – Homeplaces

Saskatoon Winter Sky

Saskatoon Winter Sky

This year I have done and will still do a lot of travelling.  I was in Las Vegas in April.  I’m in southern Ontario now.  I’ll be in the Pacific Northwest in November.  A few weeks ago I started planning four to six week trip to the UK.  A couple of weeks ago I went to hear Susan Aglukark speak and she graced us with some beautiful songs in Inuktitut.  I realized that all of these places and things have one thing in common – Home.  I was born in southern Ontario.  I can trace my ancestors to a particular township as far back as 1832.  When I go to the Nairn cemetary and the elementary school across the road, I visit the resting place of my ancestors and my mother’s childhood playground.  When I am in Middlesex County, Ontario I am home.  I lived in Iqaluit, Nunavut for a couple of years about twenty years ago.  I fell in love with the stark beauty of the cold tundra and the warmth of the community.  I spent most of my pregnancy up there, too. One of these days I will go back, hopefully with my daughter – her second middle name is an Inuk name after all.  When I hear people speaking Inuktitut, which is rare down here, I am home.  Seven years ago I moved to Edmonds, Washington – a town just north of Seattle.  I loved my job, my congregation, and my colleagues.  I love the smell of the ocean, grey drizzle of rain and the sound of the ferry pulling into harbour.  I am looking forward to visting friends and seeing the Pacific ocean again in a few weeks.  When I can sit on a rocky beach, tall cedars behind me and vast ocean ahead of me, I am home.  And, now I am planning a long trip to the UK.  It probably won’t happen for a couple or three years, but I am planning already.  This is my biggest, most important ‘homeplace’ trip.  With a few exceptions, the majority of my ancestors are from the British Isles.  If I tell you my ancestors are McNaughtons, McPhees, McFarlands, Lockharts, Raes, McKenzies, Hedges, Blakes and McLeans it oughtn’t surprise you – I am a very white girl from southern Ontario.  I have been drawn to the UK for quite a while.  As a younger woman I travelled to Holland (another homeplace as my paternal grandmother was Dutch though her mother was English), Germany, Denmark, France and Senegal.  It seemed best to travel to exotic, foreign places, the UK just wasn’t foreign and exotic enough, I guess.  Now that I am old, though, home is calling me and the UK is the biggest homeplace I know.  I look forward to travelling by train to Coventry and possibly meeting my paternal grandmother’s mother’s kin.  I want to feel the earth of Scotland beneath my feet and think about all the people whose blood flows in my veins and whose bones make up that land.  As with all my homeplaces, I am afraid that once I’m there I won’t want to return to Saskatoon.  But I know that I love the province with her flat, straight roads, the river is part of me and this land has seeped into my skin.  Saskatoon is home and will always be a homeplace even when I’m no longer living here.




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