I just listened to a beautiful song by Nathan Wiley titledHome. The first line goes “When I was a boy I had everything, I had silver and gold.” The song ends with the same words – like a circle. The song has me thinking of my past. When I think of who I am and where I come from, when I remember my childhood, I want to reach back and grasp something that I seem to have lost along the way. But I’m not sure what to reach for.
As I look out our cottage window at the deep snow, unmarked and fresh, I remember the winters at our farm. The sunny Sunday mornings filled with plans that my twin brother and I made to build snow forts or ice rinks. I remember the excitement we shared over a fresh snowfall, not just because it meant we had a new landscape to explore, but also because it marked a change in our world. For us, every little change brought new discoveries and we approached the changes with a strong desire for adventure. I don’t think I’ve lost that attitude, although it isn’t as carefree as it once was.
I remember lying in the tall grass on long summer days; the rich smell of damp earth; the chorus of 1000 frogs that sang us to sleep on hot summer evenings; and creating stories from the shapes we made of the clouds in the sky. We swam in a neighbour’s pond, explored the nearby swamp and choked on cigarettes made from dried leaves and weeds. We rode horses from the neighbouring church camp, sneaked into their gospel hall and sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight over their public address system, and flour-bombed their prayer wagon. We grew. We fought and argued. We worried over each other – best friends and bitter enemies all in the same day.
We pushed ourselves to be strong and brave – testing our limits. I remember the fear and exhilaration that came from swaying in the upper branches of a tall tree on the crest of a hill, as an August thunderstorm rolled, clashing and bursting over the fields, toward us. It made us want to sing. We sang Born Free at the top of our lungs, our voices carried away by the wind and thunder. We raced down the ice-covered hill in our apple orchard, each balanced on one ski, wanting to fly and hoping not to crash into the trees we zipped past. Some days we disappeared into the forest with our lunches tied to the end of a stick, like Huckleberry Finn, returning at dusk full of secrets. I can’t think of a better childhood. I was very lucky.
I don’t think I’ve lost my curiosity. Even now I look for fish in the still water of the lake and search for signs of change along my path. I will always want to know where things come from and how they came to be here.
I don’t think I’ll ever lose my strong urge to sing – it brings out the carefree child I was. I’ve taken to singing into the answering machines of company presidents. My goal is to sing to every CEO or president in Canada in order to get a meeting with them and build some sort of reputation. In some ways it confronts propriety – but it’s working. I’m meeting interesting and smart people whom I’m learning from and sharing ideas with – and it’s all because of the singing.
I don’t think that I’ve lost my sense of adventure, either. I still get a thrill from being lost or jumping into things without looking. This newspaper is one of the biggest adventures I’ve ever undertaken. Building an independent newspaper, with a unique voice, in this age of media monopolies is challenging, exciting and a little bit crazy – everything that makes for a great adventure. But my sense of adventure is now tempered by wisdom.
Have I lost my innocence? I approach change differently now because I know that it can bring sorrow and hurt. I know about loss and the feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach that has a way of growing into you, becoming part of you. I know that happiness can come and go. This knowledge is something I’d never experienced as a child; but I think its price was my innocence.
My childhood home was my Eden. Can I ever go back? Would I give up the knowledge I have to return to it?
I look around at this beautiful cottage, at my husband stoking the fire, at Lake Rosseau, smooth and covered in snow, and at the ice rink we just finished shoveling off. I know that in some ways I am almost back. I’m home, where I belong. The little, devilish girl still lives in me, but life has changed her. I feel more deeply now than I did as a child – like laugh lines that deepen with age.
Perhaps if I live long enough, the knowledge I have might slowly begin to melt away and someday I’ll regain the innocence I’ve lost. If that happens I hope to be like my dear grandmother, who also enjoyed meeting new people. She was brilliantly happy in her dementia because she got to meet a new person (even though it was the same person) every five minutes. Life is, if you live long enough, one big circle.
There is a beautiful song fromThe Lion King titled The Circle of Life. It begins with the lines. “From the day we arrive on the planet, and blinking step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done….”