I love where I live. I love the noise and energy of the knockabout downtown. The diversity of all us that live here. And the tourists. The history welling within the bricks of this old neighbourhood. The endless supply of new things to do, different foods to try and culture to explore. That I don’t need to own a car. And that I can walk to work! Many unique neighbourhoods to discover. Grand building and humble alleys. A killer view of a really great skyline.
And a short walk to a small, floating, quieter world where just sitting down to watch if for a little while will soothe the mind and breath from all that bustle when it needs to.
It's one of those most luscious winter Saturdays. I watched large flakes falling down thick and heavy over my morning coffee, having a private celebration of the day of this daughter's birth twenty-six years ago. Every year she is lovelier than she was before, and I am lucky to get to share in her life.
I love the nesting tendencies that take over in January. And today, it's a rare, quiet Saturday, and all about the nesting - cooking, washing floors, cleaning in corners, washing rugs, throws and bedding, reading recipes, mandala painting and journalling. And playing with random word magnetic poetry as I look out the window to a lovely January scene.
celebrating winter with lazy coffee moments
and gorgeous chocolate secrets
that melt the ice
while dreaming of summer gardens with you
So I made peace with his landlordship. No, we didn’t discuss the Matter of the Windows or his Jacking Up the Furnace Policy. Let’s just say we both know it’s an issue that would remain unresolved for as long as I chose to live there. He did say he’s thinking of building a deck for the upper apartment, so perhaps that’s his acknowledgement of most peoples’ need for fresh air and an enjoyment of summer. He probably thinks that the next tenant’s utilisation of a deck space will eliminate any need to open windows – but that’s a discussion I’m not going to need to have ever again.
At any rate, the exchange was friendly and generous on both sides, and I’m glad to be leaving him on good terms. He expressed sadness that I’m going, and I understand that. It’s not about the money for him; it’s about the comfort of having another body moving about in the big house. And it’s hard to find a good tenant, particularly when one is inclined to make much ado over small things. I’m glad to be leaving his control issues and mind games. I’m sad to be leaving behind the friendly, slightly cheeky man who gave me some prints of his bird paintings, which I’ll hang in my new home in honour of his good qualities, and because they’re lovely.
I get possession of my new digs tomorrow and the official move is Monday. I hope to use the weekend to get the cupboard and closet stuff in place, and thus ease SOME of the unpacking pain.
But then I never find moving painful. Well, leaving Windsor and the place I lived my entire life was painful. More bittersweet: moving closer to my family, but leaving my friends; becoming a homeless empty nester, but embarking on a month-long adventure to find love across the ocean in a country I’d never been to before. I couldn’t have known then that it would take years to overcome that shock to my system, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I’ve always loved change – I crave it sometimes. I suspect that now I’m that empty-nester I’m a little too free to run after change any time the whim takes me. I won’t even begin to discuss my thoughts on where this has left me in the love and relationship department. Maybe I should be like my favourite bloggers – refreshingly honest and personally forthright – and lay that out on the table. Maybe in doing that I could affect some internal change in an area that could really stand some improvement.
But not today. I’m too jazzed about the move. It’ll be the fourth neighbourhood I’ve tried in Toronto since 2006. It’ll be different than any type of home or neighbourhood I’ve ever lived. Because in making this decision, I thought that it was time to let go of some ideas about re-creating that kind of neighbourhood and HOME that I had when my girls were growing up. After all, everything’s different now. I AM alone and I CAN follow these yearnings and go where the wind takes me. I truly believe in following the rhythms of the universe, and I’m looking forward to discovering where the path takes me.
As of Monday, everything will be new again. With wide open windows.
Change is the only constant. *~Heraclitus
Me and my landlord have got ourselves into a bit of a standoff sitch. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed on for living above a retired bloke. Not that there’s anything wrong with retired people, I love lots of them from the bottom of my heart – it’s just that for many their worlds get smaller again, and for some, their lives are centred on their four walls. Living above someone who carries on most of his existence in the space below would of course mean lots of attention placed on me and what I do.
Back in Windsor we lived next to two old retired guys, both of whom obsessed over their yards. And mine. Dominic and Joe would stand on their porches and watch me cut my grass. Once, when I was finished, Joe walked over to the fence and asked me, “You going to bag that grass now?” I was nice, and didn’t respond that I, who worked and went to school full time and was raising two little girls and managing a house and yard, actually didn’t approve of bagging grass to send off with the garbage man when it’s good for the soil anyway. I just sweetly said “no” and carried on.
I always try to be nice to people. I believe you get what you give in this world and goodness me there’s enough bad feeling floating around out there already. And my landlord is usually a really nice man. He’s got all kinds of Irish charm and he loves to talk. That may be part of the problem – I think in me he was looking for someone to talk to. He’s got loads of people to talk to – he spends hours on the phone every day and visits friends all the time. But I wasn’t signing on to keep him company. I am a nice person, but I am relatively reserved and I abhor small talk and I choose my friends carefully. Maybe it sounds uncharitable, but all I wanted was a nice clean place to hang my hat in a nice neighbourhood and a normal, congenial landlord/tenant relationship.
It became evident that renting there was a mistake right after I moved in and the head games started. It took several days of him playing his TV very loud very early in the morning and me overhearing some agitated sounding telephone conversations, which I sensed I was supposed to be overhearing. I found out through a third party (the agent who took care of finding him a tenant) that my living room was above his bedroom and I was staying up too late and he could hear my TV and me walking around. And that he didn’t like the smell of what I had cooked the weekend previous.
It was a low moment, coming to terms with the mistake I had made. A comfortable home is one of the main ingredients to happiness in my books. Both my sister and a friend of mine assured me he was simply peeing on his territory and the dust would settle, but I knew I would never claim that flat as anything like “home.” Sure, I had rights, but he was making it clear this was HIS home and he wasn’t going to let me forget it.
So I changed things around in my flat and we eased into an agreeable relationship. But there on in I would carry guilt for staying up into the morning hours on weekends, or coming in late or cooking fragrant meals.
Then, last year, he again got to “communicating with symbolic actions” rather than speaking to me, when arose THE MATTER OF THE WINDOWS. He likes his place warm. And as it turns out, sealed shut. It’s not so bad in winter to come into a nice warm place, as long as you’re comfortable enough with yourself to walk around half naked most of the time. When spring came, however, I would – like most other people in seasonal climates – crank open the windows to enjoy the fresh warm days and rid the place of the winter’s stale forced air.
He soon made plain his displeasure in open windows, because every time I committed this offence, he took to cranking up the furnace to an unreasonable degree. I’m not sure what the point of that is – our apartments have separate entrances, closed off from one another. There is no way that me opening a window would affect the temperature of his place. But clearly, if he wasn’t trying to make some kind of point then he was trying to ensure I wasn’t comfortable.
It was late spring – eventually he would switch over to the air conditioning, but this was certainly past the time when I or any sane person would engage a furnace.
This year, unwilling to endure the furnace game for another season, I gave him the obligatory sixty days’ notice and began a search for a new home. He was nice about it. He was going to go abroad for the month of May and said he was glad he’d be back before I moved out. And I was glad because I’d have the month of May to make as much noise as I wanted packing and to open the windows and relish spring. And as it turns out we’ve had the most wonderful, early, warm, sunshiny spring.
With the warm sunshiny spring and continued running of the furnace came a warmer and stuffier apartment. And so again begins the battle of the windows.
I don’t open them wantonly or to provoke him, and I always close them when I leave. But unfailingly, as soon as I open one, I hear him go outside and then come back in and with a growl the furnace rages forth. One night it got up to 87°. Herein lies the standoff. Not willing to suffer in unreasonable dry heat, I open the windows. And he, not willing to endure an insufferable window opener, jacks up the thermostat.
This week I’ve figured out he’s not going on his trip, probably related to the battle of the windows, but I wouldn’t know, he hasn’t communicated any sort of reasoning or plan to me. Maybe he can’t stand the thought of going abroad and me opening windows and him not being able to protect his house from my addiction to the evil, home destroying fresh air smells with his forced air gas weapon.
I am moving soon and it’s goodbye to head games and bad feelings. I’ve got the opportunity to get my new place two weeks early and I’m taking it. This time I’m moving to a condo down in the harbour, the likes of which I’ve never lived in before. I got a great deal on the rent, it’s in a great location and has nice amenities. It's different and it'll be fun. And I’ll be anonymous.
Maybe desiring anonymity is kind of sad, but living in a fishbowl is exceedingly irksome. Anonymous is more agreeable than being the subject of someone’s need to control her comfort level. I’ve reached the end of my nice; the only thing left to do now is say goodbye and go.
One of my favourite bloggers, Sandra at Herzensart, wrote a post about the idea of “home” the other day. She posted pictures of her grandparents’ home, and talked of how lovingly her grandmother spoke of it, and the stories she would tell about it. She asked readers how they defined the concept of “home” and I was surprised that a number of her readers couldn’t identify a relationship to any particular home. Strangely, that heartened me a little.
I’ve been preoccupied with the idea of “home” for some time. Mainly because I feel like I’ve been looking for home for almost six years now. There is part of me that is probably resisting it, that has no intention of ever finding home. In certain periods of my life I felt trapped – trapped by my youth; trapped in a bad marriage; trapped in a part of the province my entire family had moved away from; trapped by loneliness. I see this ongoing resistance to being trapped as both liberating and disorienting. Managing a perpetual disengagement can be exhausting over time, you know?
But what is home? And why do I want it so bad? Looking back over my life, I have real love for a couple of places I’ve lived in – others are just tucked in an unused, dusty corner of memory, more of an informational file rather than holding any sort of meaningful, formative impact on my life. Or maybe the meaningful formative impacts are things I’m just not wanting to address at this point because I’m a great big avoider.
Of the places I’ve lived I think mostly of the home I sold six years ago. I think of it with great affection and longing for the comforts and strength I felt there. My girls were six and eight when we moved in, and I sold up when my youngest went away to college and my oldest was out on her own.
I knew that house was for us the instant I walked in the front door for the first time. It was pretty as a picture – with white stucco exterior and brown trim, on an old street lined with old trees that lead to the river. The interior was filled with oak trim and original wood floors. The stairs creaked marvellously and it had three stained glass windows in greens and golds. It was haunted by a ghost who looked like Johnny Cash, and our orange cat Woody used to like to sit at the highest point of the stair’s banister, where he could keep watch over his world. The small kitchen had five doorways, and there was a large foyer area, the same size as the living room, in which I was able to place the biggest Christmas tree I could cram into the back of my Honda. It had a large front porch on which we sat every single day in warm weather and over many late nights.
The house was terribly impractical and needed more repairs than I could afford to carry out. The basement flooded regularly, the sunroom roof leaked, the electrical system was antiquated, the old windows needed to be propped open with sticks and it was drafty as hell in winter. But we loved it. It was a house filled with love and growing (both girls and mom) and music and talking and laughter. And when there were tears the house wrapped around us and gave us a place in which to feel safe.
So what is it about that house? It was where I started over. But I’ve started over before that, and after it and don’t associate any connection with places I lived in then.
Maybe it’s about me being a mother and raising my girls and tending to our space and property. But we lived as a family in a home previous to that, and while there are lots of happy memories associated with it, but I never gave those four walls a second thought once we left it.
Is the attachment associated with ownership? This house was chosen by me and had all the things I wanted. Our previous house was chosen by my ex-husband and built on his family’s farm and the builder convinced us to remove all aspects of the design I so loved but he deemed impractical, like the wrap-around porch and the fireplace. Therefore it wasn’t mine.
So then, now that I am renting am I doomed to never feel home again? This spring I’m trying again, and I’m determined to find a place I can make mine.
Wish me luck. I just want to go home.