And then we went home (week six)

At the end of six weeks it was time to come home.

When we left Montreal forty two days ago we thought we'd be gone for a couple weeks. From our Sanctuary in Nova Scotia we watched as the situation escalated daily, in Montreal and all of North America, and by the beginning of week two it was clear we weren't leaving that week, or anytime soon.

Life was in lockdown in Montreal, and Nova Scotia offered more space, fresh air and trees. And of course time with my parents who welcomed us to stay for as long as we needed.

We settled into a confinement groove. Dad went to work, construction was always deemed an essential service in Nova Scotia. He finished a house during our visit.

Laurent worked there a couple days. Brienne washed the windows before the owners moved in.

While Dad left every weekday to build, his passion as well as his employment, the six of us at home had our own commitments and responsibilities. There was school, work, and home chores. Writing, online meetings, art, and projects.

And a lot of downtime for those with more open schedules. (The kids.)

Skills were practiced. Things were completed. And new beginnings were set into motion.

Laurent created the Sanctuary Loop Trail through the woods. Brienne crocheted a blanket and started vocal training. Mom finished knitting a wool vest. I crocheted a cowl.

Celine finished her first year of university. Laurent started his online college training in 3D modelling and animation. Brienne got accepted into college for fall 2020. I finished books and learned about trees. We beat the odds and successful cut each other's hair.

There were emotional ups and downs, kitchen dance parties and daily shared family suppers. Zoom chats with church community, family, and friends; online concerts and vigils; lots of guitar practice (Damien's hobby and love), video gaming, and TV watching.

The days and weeks rolled by as we watched an Atlantic spring, fickle and long, start to unfold outside the wall of windows. There was a full moon and the nightly appearance of Venus to the west, her steady light just above the tree tops. There was the "click click" of quills under the deck from porcupines seeking shelter. There were owls calling in the woods, flocks of robins pecking in the field, blue jays landing on the bare grey branches of the oak tree.

The peepers started calling in the last two weeks and we finally found frog eggs in vernal pools up by the old orchard. There were snow storms and wind storms and rain storms; beautiful sunny days, blue skies, spectacular sunsets, and star-studded nights.

Pippin lived his best life laying in front of sunny windows, hunting rodents, climbing trees, and stalking through the fields with all the import of his large feline ancestors.

Although we were waiting and watching, we were living and we were living well.

But eventually it was time to leave. Nova Scotia is Sanctuary but it's not home. Home is Montreal and our apartment. Six weeks is a long time to leave all the "stuff" of our life, and though we had friends checking the apartment and the mail it's not the same as a regular physical presence.

The government is starting to talk about the re-opening of the province and the city. Activity and enterprise will re-start in Montreal, slowly, eventually, and at an appropriate distance, of course. This is where we need to be to resume our city-bound lives.

The morning before our departure, while I was still in bed, I opened up the Montreal Gazette on my phone to discover the city of Montreal has the ignoble distinction of being the Canadian epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis.

That's the home we're returning to. I don't feel unsafe about the virus. The deeply unfortunate truth is that the virus is causing the most deaths in understaffed long term care facilities for the elderly. This crisis is an apocalypse in the original Greek meaning of the word: a revealing, or an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known.

This crisis is showing us, among other things, the consequences of de-valuing both the lives of our most vulnerable and the work of those who care for them.

This is not surprising to me. We live in a culture that tends to devalue the life of the weak and the vulnerable. And we severely undervalue (in financial compensation and status) the caregivers for the weak and vulnerable, caregivers period.

The apocalypse of the institutional care for the elderly is both horrifying and hardly surprising. (I am not blaming any specific group or entity here, certainly not the attendants, orderlies, nurses, doctors, janitors, cooks etc... who work in these facilities. This is a systemic issue with roots in our core values as a society.)

Week six brought more horror, loss, and grief with the rampage and shooting of 22 people in Nova Scotia. A crime perpetrated by someone posing as a RCMP officer, an institution trusted by Canadians to provide security and safety. The tragedy cast a dark shadow over our Sanctuary and reminded us how fragile and vulnerable we are.

Although our departure has nothing to do with this tragedy it's a hard note to leave on. In a week of horrific news stories, recounted terror, and physical-distanced mourning, Nova Scotians responded with online vigils and solidarity.

With most things still shut down in Montreal there's not a lot to look forward to upon our return except the garden. And that's a significant exception.

I'm a hobby gardener. I garden for beauty and summer salad. But in order to realize those summer benefits I have to be home for spring planting, pruning, weeding, and tending. I want to be home for spring planting, pruning, weeding, and tending.

I want to be cultivating something for the months ahead.

The garden is bright spot on the horizon, an idea I can make into a reality. A reality that will bring beauty into our days, some food on our table, and an earthly anchor during a difficult season.

Except for Laurent who uses the concrete patio for various practices and workouts (soccer, martial arts, dance), my family are not backyard people. But maybe this year will be different. If the backyard is the only space truly open and regulation-free maybe they'll enjoy it more. I'm considering buying a hammock and I've started scouring Kijiji for used patio furniture.

I cannot ensure my family's safety in times of terror. I cannot change how society undervalues the weak and their caregivers. I cannot stop Covid from killing the elderly and causing unprecedented economic impacts. (Though we've been diligently doing our part with physical distancing and self-isolation.)

But right now I can create a slice of Sanctuary in the city, that much is within my control. And maybe as restrictions lift I'll even be able to share it with others; the food, the flowers, the beauty. It's something to work towards. It's a future.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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Building Sanctuary throughout a lifetime »

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