Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oozing toward the move

The process of decluttering seems endless, but progress has definitely been made. I now have three empty and mostly cleaned up rooms, awaiting painting. I have thrown out massive volumes of accumulated life detritus. The Canadian Diabetes Association's Clothesline pickup service must be liking me these days. We have dated regularly for more than a month. They have carted off more than a dozen, perhaps as many as twenty huge trash bags filled with what were once treasures and may well be for someone else, "clothing and small household items."

In the end, no one wanted to buy my edited furniture within the time frame I had for selling it, so I had it hauled away. It worked out better this way - I had one potential "buyer" come by to see an antique drop leaf desk I'd been using as a phone center, but it turned out she was not interested in "buying" at all - she already had a condo full of furniture and enjoyed going to strangers' homes just to stare at their belongings. This creeped me (an introvert) out so much that I decided to circle my wagons and simply jettison.

And what a difference a few days can make.

Up until Monday, I was still thinking I'd be moving to Barrie, Ontario.

I phoned my mother, age 85 and holding, on her birthday on Tuesday. A church-going Catholic, she has always considered herself to have been especially lucky to have been born on St. Patrick's Day (no matter that she's not Irish, but is a mainly Polish-French mixture). I've mentioned her before, here. About her being Catholic, she might be the only Catholic woman on the planet who has exhibited apparent life-long immunity to what is supposedly universal catholic guilt.

Anyway, I made one of my obligatory phone calls to her on her birthday and found myself asking her what she thought of the idea of me moving to the city she's living in; Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Clearly the idea has been rolling around in my undermind for a long time. So it finally emerged.

There is background to this: a low hum of discontent all my life with our relationship, a "breakup" with her about 20 years ago, no resolution but a definite truce.. probably all falling under ordinary Mother/Daughter life-long tension. Anyway, I consider myself a grown-up now, and she doesn't seem nearly as big or scary or mean or unfair as she used to when I was a child stuck on a farm with her as my only companion.

My needs are simple. I need time to write, a sunny window, mornings that are clear instead of cloudy, a place where I can live clutter-free in every sense, cheaply, without necessarily having to go out to work just to support a business in order to have it support me back. I need an external environment that feels safe, unlike Vancouver these days with it's gangland shootings at the current rate of about one per day.

Weyburn is this funny little city in the southern part of Saskatchewan where you can see nothing for miles and miles except ... miles and miles. Oh, and a huge upside down bowl of transparent blue sky filled with sunshine most of the year. I must not forget to mention the extraordinary skyscape available to one's photon-starved eyeballs in southern Sask.

It has been the crucible for a few prominent Canadians - Tommy Douglas, former premier of the province and architect of Canada's health care system, and W.O. Mitchell, beloved and famous Canadian humorist and author. I met both of them personally at various times. Tommy Douglas visited our home when I was a child. My father, who rarely got excited about anything, loved this man and his vision, and would have taken a bullet for him. I met W.O. Mitchell later in life, at a dinner party in the home of his nephew. I remember that no one else in the room (about 10 people altogether, maybe) could get a word in edgewise, but that no one seemed to mind. He went on at considerable length about the enormous size of earthworms in Calgary.

Weyburn is also somewhat famous for being the location of a huge mental hospital. In the 1950's it was a scary place where someone we knew worked, I think as an orderly; for some reason our family was friendly with this man, Ab Ruler, and his family. One time he took us all up a shady treed laneway to the "mental hospital" and showed us around a little. We even watched a movie there, The Ten Commandments. The hospital was able to house 900 patients, a capacity equal to a tenth of the entire population of the city, a size that seems very disproportionate to the actual incidence of mental illness in the general population, then and now. It must have represented a collection center for all mental illness patients in Western Canada east of the mountains, and a source of income for many people during the desperate dust-bowl 1930's. LSD experiments were conducted there, in the 50's, 60's... It seems the place was closed as late as 1971.

Anyway, back to the phone call.

I found these words tumbling out of my mouth: "What do you think of the idea of me moving to Weyburn, Mom?" followed quickly thereafter by "I don't want to live with you."

She was taken aback a bit, but very quickly found her footing and sounded delighted with the idea. She started planning immediately. There were condos for sale up the street. She knew a real estate agent I could contact. She knew a spa in town, maybe they'd like to hire me if I wanted to work. The new current under the surface, a swift clear current of feeling, one I can ride until it's over, is that I'm the Oldest Daughter, and can help her remain independent, something she cares desperately about, until it's time for her to make an exit. This current feels congruent with the gravitational pull I have anyway of moving further east, back out from under the cloud, fog, rain and grey dreariness of the Wet Coast.

So, it looks like some day soon I'll be living in a small city, pop. 10,000 and holding, with average age that I think must be older than middle-aged, a speed limit of 40 km. Back to the roots. Arriving "home," just a bit burnt out, with nothing but myself, a laptop, a couple of flash drives, a few special books, in a position (I hope) to be able to take a year off, soak up sun and do what I need to do next.

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