Tuesday, 19 March 2019

The Home Show and Canada Blooms

My husband and I spent Saturday afternoon wandering the Home Show and Canada Blooms in Toronto. We haven't done that sort of thing for a while now, and it was great fun though--admittedly--slightly claustrophobic. Lots of displays, everything from rain gutter systems to cured meats to hot tubs to fake grass to massage chairs. We walked through the full-size pine forests and tiny Ikebana displays, ate a potato pancake with sour cream, and talked to knowledgeable people about waterproofing the basement. I enjoyed the mosaics made from seeds and grasses and dried beans (my husband snickered, "That's like what the kids used to do in kindergarten with macaroni"). And we saw the Enbridge truck for which Son #1 did the graphic design, and the Mohawk College garden design that Son #2 helped to install. Definitely beyond macaroni!

I especially liked the sunroom displays. I could easily see living in one. I asked my husband to describe his ideal home, and he immediately said a big square box with an entire glass wall at one end, and the kitchen facing the glass so you can look out while you're cooking. Sounds perfect to me.

That led us to a discussion of dwellings in general. We walked past a lot of displays for granite countertops and over-the-top architecture, and my husband pointed out that on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, our society seems to keep wanting to reinvent the housing part and never moves on to higher things. We keep getting stuck at the lowest levels. It isn't enough for us to put a roof over our heads and say that that need for shelter has been met, so we can move on to other needs. We keep revisiting it, painting, tweaking, up-scaling, remodeling, lusting after double vanities and engineered hardwood, and we're never satisfied. It's to the point where you don't even recognize the home as your dwelling, a simple shelter to keep you safe and warm. Now it's a Home System, with so many features and details and high-end finishes it's become almost suffocating. We spend our time maintaining and paying for our shelter and don't know when to say enough is enough.

So...I'm getting ready to say enough is enough. How much do I really need? Can I let go of all this stuff and free myself up? Become more nomadic? More nimble? I'm going to leave everything behind one day, anyway; why not leave it a little earlier and hit the road in an RV? Or find that crumbling stone hut on a mountain top in the Piedmont. I'm rethinking a lot about what "shelter" really means.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Reinventing Yourself

One of the dangers of bad winter weather is that you can easily get sucked into living like a slug, immobile on the couch, watching back to back episodes of TV shows. I admit I've done my fair share of that during this long, gray winter.

My favourite indulgence this winter has been the BBC's Escape to the Country and Escape to the Continent. My word, the beautiful places there are in this world! The intriguing houses people have built! I've seen everything from huge barn conversions to dinky low-ceilinged stone cottages to actual French chateaux and even an ancient castle gatehouse. We've toured caves of ripening cheese and interesting woolen mills and river long boats and boulangeries that make me want to lick my TV screen.

The thing I find most fascinating, though, is the pervading theme all of these prospective buyers talk about-- they want a slower-paced life. They want more time with their families, shorter work hours, more opportunity to go outdoors, more time for their hobbies. They want to re-focus their lives on what's important to them.

Why do they have to move to Cyprus or Liguria to do that?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love to up sticks and live in a Maltese farmhouse or a mountain-top lookout in Abruzzo too. But why do these people think that they have to go to such extremes in order to change their routines or emphasize their family life? Maybe they live in such an expensive area that they have to work long hours to sustain it. Maybe their current lifestyle cannot reflect their values because of external circumstances. Or they simply don't have the space to develop their interests. In that case, sure, I'd encourage them to downsize or change neighbourhoods or whatever it takes so they can lessen their work hours or gain a garden, etc. It makes sense to move, then.

But sometimes I get the sense that these prospective buyers on the shows could change what they do without moving, but they somehow think that starting over in a new place will change who they are. They talk about taking up new pastimes they have never done before, taking up golf or cycling or gardening or other interests they've never tried, and that for some reason they've never done living where they are (even though there's nothing stopping them from doing it in situ). So instead of trying them, they want to move the whole kit and kaboodle to a new place, thinking that they will somehow magically become different people if they do.

I think if you are a certain personality type, you will not magically change that type overnight by relocating. If you didn't make time for reading or walking or playing with your kids before the move, you won't do it after the move. If you didn't value a quiet evening at home before, you won't later either. You can slow down where you are. It's a matter of making some (sometimes difficult) choices.

I've been through the usual young-parent mode of dashing between soccer, piano, rugby, gymnastics, swimming, archery, dance, cub scouts, karate, and band practice. I've done the on-the-bus-by-5:00a.m. to get my kids to seminary. The drop-offs at friends' houses. The dentist and doctor appointments. Just thinking about it all makes me exhausted, and I wonder how I survived it. How do people do it who have more than three kids? When your kids grow up and go, you automatically slow your pace a little, but I personally don't think you have to wait until your kids are gone to slow down. We got to the point where we realized things were too crazy, and we limited the kids to one sport and one musical instrument each. I cut out some of my interesting-but-not-vital activities. I started auditing classes instead of taking them for university credit. I started saying no to things that weren't crucial to someone's well-being. I can safely say my life is pretty calm now, I have time to read and sew and garden and learn new things. I've let go of some of the trivialities.

I think what I'm saying is, you don't have to relocate to find a better way to live according to your values. And relocating won't suddenly change your values. No matter where you live or what your current circumstances are, you are still free to figure out what is important to you and emphasize it in your life.

Now, having said that, if someone wanted to offer me a hilltop home in the Piedmont, I wouldn't say no...

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Falling Apart

Injured my shoulder so can't turn my head. Sleet falling outside. Phone is dead and Rogers can't get to the box outside to fix it, because it's under four feet of ice. Spent yesterday with a pick-axe trying to locate box, to no avail (shoulder was injured prior to that -- not related). My car is out of town and I couldn't find a ride to church this morning. And to top it off, I woke up with pink eye.

Definitely a day to stay on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and my Farley Mowat book.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Rejoining the World

Hi. Emerging from a wintery stupor and realized I haven't posted for the past month. It seems all I can do these days is slog to work and back, and then I spend the rest of the evening on the couch watching endless episodes of Escape to the Continent and knitting. Just don't have the energy to do anything else. This winter hasn't been very long, really, but it has been intense. The constant snow and freezing rain and -25 temperatures just zap the energy and ambition right out of me.

I watch these TV shows about people looking for new homes in Italy and Spain and Portugal, and I think they're onto something. I could easily be persuaded to spend next winter in Malta, for example. I could use a winter without freezing rain.

Then again, winter means hot chocolate and chili and fuzzy blankets and apple betty and coziness in general, so I can't complain. All too soon I suppose we'll be plugging in the floor fans and complaining that it's 45 degrees (celsius) and the garden will wither and we'll wish for winter again. Humans are a discontented species on the whole.

So I'll potter around with my lettuce and kale growing on the kitchen counter, and I'll take my vitamin D and sit under grow lights and try to reconcile myself to the gray doldrums. I'm also going to start learning Maltese...