Where I Belong

“Thank-you for choosing West Jet” the email read.

My heart sank. While I was unwilling to leave this magnificent landscape, the healing salt air and the gloriously open and warm people, I’d received three pieces of worrying news. It was time.

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We all make assumptions. When I arrived, I assumed I’d be living in Newfoundland for the entire fall and winter. Then last month, medical professionals in St. John’s suggested I was delusional for seeking assistance with an allergic reaction that results in moments of mental confusion and tears. The assumption there is that all allergies attack the lungs: in truth, allergies (especially mould allergies) can attack any major organ. Shortly after I booked my flight to Ontario, a headhunter called my cell begging me to interview for a Toronto technical writer position—one that I hadn’t even applied to. I went to two interviews when I got home, delirious in the thought that maybe this was me returning to my magical life. The interviewing manager declared that my resume sounded like a hippy reliving her youth. With each assumption, I was horrified that we do this to each other, and to ourselves. The universe had been pretty specific: all three pieces of news I received pointed to Kingston. Apparently, my nomadic lifestyle needs to continue, regardless of what I think, and of how others perceive it.

After booking my flight home, I looked out my St. John’s hostel window at the cool, drizzly day and snuffled.

“Oh screw this!” I thought, suddenly annoyed at it all. “I’m not going to sit here and wait for tomorrow’s flight.” My nomadic feet needed to be on that rock face. For all the glowing recommendations I’d heard, I had yet to personally enter the East Coast Trail from Battery Road, so out I went in my bright yellow anorak, giggling at how others might perceive this behaviour.

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[Note: I enjoyed the hike and the landscape so much that I returned the next morning in sunlight and retook some of the images, which explains why sometimes the ground looks soggy and other times it looks dry!]

Hiking up the cliffside on the paved roads was hard work in itself. Once, I was tempted to get down on my hands and knees and crawl that very steep ascent (I didn’t)

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Over the space of three hours, I met exactly one cat and two other hikers, all obviously Newfoundlanders. They greeted me warmly, I think impressed that a Come From Away (with her hair stuck to her head, jeans soaked through) would choose this weather to explore the trails. Weather has never deterred me, having northern Ontario in my blood. I climbed that Rock, chin out, determined to live in and on the landscape one last time.

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Treacherous is an excellent description of several points in that trail, only adding to my sense of accomplishment. The hillwork alone was deliciously challenging,

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and this chain, offered to assist worried travellers, reminded me of the avalanche scene in Lord of the Rings. The trail being slick and me being new to it, I took the proffered chain gladly. Who has this kind of adventure? Well, me. As I hiked, I realized I wouldn’t wish some of my life’s experiences on my worst enemy’s meanest pet, yet I wouldn’t trade moments like this with anyone.

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These stairs were the best workout I’ve had in months!

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During the hike back to the city, I was overwhelmed by the expanses of blueberry and cranberry plants that grow wild alongside the trail.

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Oh, to be in Pouch Cove, hunkered by a black dog named Nina, both of our faces stained and foolish with contentment. Instead, I stopped at a solitary rose bush and ate late rosehips one last time. Newfoundland, you are my foraging heart’s desire.

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Over coffee in Kingston last night, my sister offered her loving insight.

“I agree that you need to be here, for what it’s worth,” she began. “Don’t try to change who you are and don’t ever regret what’s happening in your extraordinary life. We all struggle with the bigger picture, wondering why we can’t steer a clear course, and worried at what others think of us.”

As we stood to go, my little sister hugged me tight. “I’m so glad you’re here!” she whispered. “You’ll get there. And meanwhile, you have stories to share, wherever you are. Please don’t stop writing!” she begged. This same sentiment has been emailed to me repeatedly and vigorously by others, including my very best friend, in Ottawa.

*sigh* Alright universe. Get your hat: we’re going on an adventure.

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I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the deserts bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.
—Johnny Cash

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