Sometimes I am not really sure why I left the city.
Other times, I absolutely am.
On occasion, I actually feel swayed by my father’s impatient huffs over the phone telling me “this is just a phase, just another adventure” as he again asks when I’ll “get over it” and will return to “the real world.”
Lately though, as I learn bit by bit to stand taller in this body and more solidly upon these feet, I’m finding ways to breathe through the need to please and I actually state, calmly and clearly, that these circular conversations are exhausting, and I merely wish he would support me in my chosen endeavours.
Key word: chosen.
He often shakes his head as I describe to him where I live and what my priorities of the day are.
I too shake my head at the fact that he can’t—won’t—even try to understand where I’m coming from, or accept the fact that although we are similar, we are very different people.
I ask him to tell me about the place where I live and why it does not qualify as “the real world.”
Of course, he cannot. He has never even been here.
I ask him what about it isn’t real.
Is it our wood stove heat, our rain water collection, our temperamental gardens, our unruly forests?
Is it the fact that we mostly have to wear gumboots, Stanfields, and merino wool base layers? Is it our constant mindfulness of where our firewood stock is at, what the tides are doing, and when the winds will blow dinner in the form of wash-up onto our shores?
Is it the rat traps I have to set, clean, and maintain? Is it the water we haul to and conserve at our cabin? Is it the tsunami kits always ready in our cars? Or the small business we were able to start out of an old school bus, made possible by the momentum of support from our neighbours?
Is it the fact that the town slows down every time there’s a death, waiting to ask permission of the affected families before moving forward too hastily? Or how we also slow down when a potlatch is held, so proper preparations can be made, and the majority of the community can attend?
Is it the work I do at the elementary school, one-on-one with children who teach me that the repercussions of residential schools are still echoing loudly throughout these islands, these coasts, this country?
Is it the constant rallies organized and executed where local council leaders sit down and listen, actually listen, to what other local residents have to say about important matters that affect each of us? Is it the fact that attending these events is helping me to speak up and find my voice?
He informs me: The real world is a place where you pay taxes and work hard.
I tell him how taxes still come off my paycheques, and that if he thinks I have not been working hard, then I guess he hasn’t been listening to anything I’ve said during my three years living here.
I am still new to this archipelago, but I am learning more about life and what it means to truly live than I ever have elsewhere.
I tell him: This is how I want my kids to be raised.
In a community so mindful of showing respect to our elders, Mother Nature, and fellow man. A place where people actually know how to hunt, gather, and provide, and execute those habitual skills daily. A place where we can design and build our homes from salvaged and selected logs that we ourselves cut, mill, dry, and shape. A place where kids still find endless days of entertainment outside, along the shoreline, and in the woods.
He tells me: It must be nice, to frolic around in la-la land.
I tell him: I wouldn’t know.
I’m too busy planting my feet deep into projects that will literally get me and my chosen family through the next seasons. I’m too busy splitting pine, and hauling alder, shoveling truckloads of nutrient-rich soil from secret spots hours away, gathering seaweed for the garden, washing dishes by hand with rationed well water, bathing myself in the river, baking meat pies from the deer my dear friend killed, butchered, and smoked for me, so I can feed my friends for weeks to come.
I ask him again: Tell me how I am not living in the real world?
And his response is shorter, coupled with more uneasy laughter.
I don’t need him to understand.
But it would sure be nice if he tried.