It was 29 years ago today that I found myself wandering for the last time around the little one bedroom Toronto apartment I shared with Joe; the apartment with the drafty front room, the life sized poster of Bogart, the red shag carpet and the pinkish-red leopard skin patterned curtains that I had hand sewn myself. Joe and I must have been in an altered state when we bought that slippery fabric, spotting it in a store on Bloor and Bathurst beside Honest Ed’s.
While on that particular day those garish curtains still hung in our livingroom window, there was little else left in the place. The movers had carted off most of my wordly possessions, meagre as they were at that point in my life. Little more than books, records and a sound system. Little treasures.
The boxes were bound for Baffin Island. I was bound for the same place…Frobisher Bay, later to be named Iqaluit.
I don’t remember much of what I thought about during those last few hours before I boarded the plane. Joe was to join me six weeks later and I do recall wondering if he really would take such a leap of faith. For me it was easy…I had a job to go to: my first full time position as a reporter with CBC Radio. And after all, I always had wanderlust in my blood. I couldn’t wait to embark on this new adventure. Joe had no job and at that point was a city boy through and through. For him it must have felt like falling down the rabbit hole blindfolded and head first. And while it was tough for him at the beginning, we both stayed. When we chose to leave three years later to travel and later settle back in Toronto, all we could think about was coming north again. And so we did. And we haven’t budged since apart from holidays and Joe’s educational sabbaticals.
So what keeps me here? It’s sure not the weather. I don’t like the cold and I don’t like the darkness in the winter. I desperately miss being able to grow corn and vine-ripened tomatoes in the field. I don’t like being at the other end of the country from my family and some of my oldest friends. But for most of 29 years, something has obviously overridden all of that; something that I’ve never really been able to put in words when people ask me why I choose to remain in the North.
Sure, there’s some obvious stuff, like clean air and water, beautiful scenery, the ability to live so close to nature, and the lack of traffic jams, crowds and noise pollution. But it’s more than that. A lot more actually.
So here’s where I need the help of those other Northerners who are reading this. How do you explain to non-Northerners why you live here? Maybe collectively we can help people better understand the magic hold this place seems to have on all of us; a hold that for me has lasted nigh on three decades.