This story was written as part of my Story Republic writing group from the prompt “Moving On.” It explains a little bit about our move to our semi off the grid existence along the shores of the Winnipeg River near Kenora, Ontario. Light reading that was inspired by the prompt as much as the arrival of spring here in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Is there perhaps anything I have failed at more greatly than “moving on”? Whoa. Sounds like a song. I’m sure my friend Michael Averill could write one that would bring to the surface what so many of us face in the conundrum of “moving on”. Okay let’s dig in because there is that one time…
I was sitting across the screen room from my partner of 20 something years. We were sipping our morning coffee, the trees rustling in the incessant wind that was actually a godsend as there was no air conditioning in our country home – or “camp” as they call it in these parts. The locale, just under 3 hours’ drive from our city home.
Mike had been through a rough patch in his fledgling graphic design career. I was flourishing in my writing career having just put the finishing touches on a historical account of the evolution of workplace mental health in Canada. Dry stuff I know but a passion project that had consumed much of my worklife for a decade or so.
Hence there was a disconnect in our existences in our city lives that seemed to somehow disappear and fall from our shoulders once we stepped out of the car into the cabin. Here we were truly “together”. While many have a romantic notion of a cabin, ours was an evolving work in progress under Mike’s hands of recreating, refurbishing and turning something into something else with an eye on doing it with the smallest footprint possible.
Watching him sit there on this morning, I noticed how his shoulders were relaxed, his crossed leg swaying gently as he recounted something from yesterday’s fishing trip out on the river. My partner has a beautiful face in repose, and I was struck by a moment of gratitude to be in this place. Before I knew what I was about to say, and just as he paused mid-sentence, I blurted out. “We could do it you know…”
He looked at me confused. I have that way with people, my brain firing ahead with an idea that no one knows I was actually thinking. “Do what?”
“Move here…like for good…why not?”
He put is cup down and leaned forward, “Really?”
I settled back, letting the idea spread through my stomach that was so often clenched in anxiety back at home. I felt a calmness that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“I can see this place is calling you home.” There’s more to that. Our camp is about 20 minutes in one direction from Mike’s childhood home and another 20 from the small town where his mother now lived with her third husband.
It’s kind of crazy we’d never had this conversation before. I think we’d talked about retiring at the lake but the idea of moving here during our income-earning years hadn’t really been a topic we’d dared to consider.
Things had changed. Mike was struggling as a graphic designer (as most were with ‘free’ being unbeatable competition) so had taken a job as a fishing camp maintenance guy the summer before. I’d hated having him away but would drop him off at the docks every Monday before I headed back to the city and pick him up on Fridays heading back to camp. Our son was still in high school, and my larger projects needed more reliable Internet, so I’d make the weekly trips back and forth.
But our son was now graduated, working and had a girlfriend so he was pretty well ensconced in city life. I didn’t think he’d want to make the move with mommy and daddy. He was a grown up, after all. But he still needed us. If there was one hesitation that was it.
On the plus side, high speed Internet had arrived at the lake and most of my clients were in other cities anyway.
There were a ton of other reasons that this might not be the best decision, but something was settling into me as the idea started to gain some traction in my brain.
Reality is, the time to make a choice was likely coming as we weren’t going to be able to afford both places for much longer and if push came to shove…I was more than prepared to move to a place where Mike could breathe. With all its conveniences and yes friends and family nearby, the city was killing him.
It was time for him to come home.
That’s a loaded statement with some of the history “home” holds for him, but I could see the changes in him every time we spent a few days at the lake. He would be outside all day, constantly creating beautiful things that were in contrast to what his work had become in the city. He could be the man he wanted to be, the one his career and city life were knocking down day after day.
“Are you serious?” He looked like a deer in the headlights, not sure if he should jump up and hug me or run for cover when I changed my mind.
It was in that moment I realized that I had held Mike captive to the life I thought our family should have in the city for too long. 23 years to be exact. It was in that moment I also realized the depths of my unconditional love for this crazy guy. I would go with him to the moon and back. The lake wasn’t nearly as far. This would take courage and willpower. I was ready.
“Yes” I answered. “I’m serious.”
It was time to move on.