October 29, 2019
Maine's advertises itself as Vacationland. Another popular slogan is Maine: The Way Life Should Be.
Both felt true for me. Because I had always associated the lakes and peaks of the mountain ranges of interior British Columbia with vacation, it didn't take much convincing for the lakes and peaks of Maine to feel like vacation.
Going to the nearby beach every week with the kids all through summer, hiking beautiful mountains and regularly visiting the ocean - discovering a new-to-us culture and geography - felt like living in Vacationland.
I loved it. I still love Maine and a part of my heart lives there.
Maine was where the outdoors became a defining value for our family. And where the mountains started to call to me.
I didn't know I was a mountain person until long after I had left the Alberta prairies, all that farm land just a few hours east of one of the most significant mountain ranges in North America.
If I had known, in my early twenties that I was a mountain girl I would have never moved east. I would have gone west.
When we left Alberta in our early twenties, we had a goal to build Damien's career, which was very important for our single income family. On the eve of the new millenium, the idea of location independence, that you could live somewhere independent of your employer, was a nascent notion in the world of employment, barely at the surface of our consciousness as a possibility. I suppose people were starting to do this but it was still very new.
We couldn't envision that one day we could choose to live somewhere based on lifestyle goals and values.
If we had known in our twenties what we know now, I would have looked for employment opportunities in the west, not east. With the explicit goal of one day choosing to live in (one of) my ideal living locations: the south interior mountains of British Columbia, pretty close to where I vacationed as a child.
But I didn't know I'd become a mountain person. That I'd become a skier, a hiker, and a backpacker. A person who loves mountain peaks, vast forests, and snowy winters. I had to move to Maine and then Quebec to find that out.
We don't know certain things about ourselves until we've acquired some life experience. And sometimes that life experience makes us question the very decisions and choices that enabled us to come to those conclusions in the first place.
Oh the loopy trail that is our lives!
Our lives would have been completely different had we moved to the west coast. Laurent was conceived, unbeknownst to us at the time, on an apartment hunting trip to NJ in the spring of 2000. And of course every other good thing in our lives dependent upon our eastern geography, including Brienne, the people we've met and experiences we've had, wouldn’t have happened.
We wouldn't have lived in Maine, fallen in love with the Appalachian Mountains. My parents wouldn’t have moved to Nova Scotia. (And they love their lives in Nova Scotia and I love that Nova Scotia is part of our family story.) We wouldn't have moved to the Gaspe, hiked the Appalachian Trail, or moved to Montreal.
I have no idea what our lives would look like, but they wouldn't look like this. And this is what I have. And what I have is good.
But I long for mountains and mountain culture.
I can't deny this pull and tug in my life. This undercurrent of desire and restlessness for a home in the mountains.
And I can't say we made the wrong choice. We made the right choice at the time for what we knew at the time and for the things we were hoping to achieve.
Also, I absolutely love New England. New England is as "home" home to me as any place I’ve ever lived. I have more attachment to New England than I do to where I grew up in central Alberta. And I wouldn't have this attachment and love without having moved east.
The story of our lives - your life, my life - illustrates how one thing unfolds into another, creating a snowball effect that yields an outcome we couldn't have imagined at the outset. What seems like a small choice, a temporary change, a little adventure, can have big consequences for an individual, families, and communities.
We think if we just make the "right" choices the snowball will be big and beautiful, all rounded smooth and sparkly. But there is no controlling the outside forces affecting that snowball; the weather which might melt you into puddle of water and then freeze you again into a sheet of ice, other snowballs rolling down that hill with you, all helter-skelter, hitting you and knocking you off course.
So many things influence our lives, it doesn't just come down to the individual choices me make.
We know, in our heart of hearts (and it's scares the living daylights out of us) that in the end, so much of what we hope for remains out of our control. And we remain blessedly naive and optimistically hopeful to the consequences of many of our decisions.
If we weren't so naive and hopeful, I wonder how many of us would even get out of bed in the morning; never mind fall in love; commit our lives to another person (a person who will change and change us in the process); and give birth to children who will cause us worry for the remainder of our days.
Next post in this series: Can we trust our desires?
All the images in this post are from my 8 day backpacking trip in September on the Long Trail in Vermont, home of the Green Mountains.
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