Chapter 1 of Questing Home:
Home is More Than a Structure
Chapter 1 of Questing Home:
Personal Growth Through Travel
By: Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed.
Home is More Than a Structure
The lush green farmland and the long vista across the Holland Marsh are familiar and comforting. While my husband and I were touring France, life continued here in predictable sequence. In those three weeks we saw places that were new and interesting. We created memories that will last our lifetime. Driving north on Highway 400 I can feel the tension sliding from my shoulders. It's good to be home.
As I take the sweeping turn north of Barrie in my sporty red car I open my windows. I feel the wind in my hair and smell the familiar scent of manure. Black and white Holsteins graze in the field next to an old stone barn. I have seen them often. I smile to myself as I ascend the familiar hills, gaze across a field of sunflowers, pass the green slopes of Mount St. Louis Moonstone Ski Resort and dip into the valley at Wabaushene. The sun is sparkling on the water. The brightly coloured canoes and kayaks lined up for sale remind me I have my red canoe waiting at the cottage. I long to glide across the water in silent joy. I have felt so out of control - no, not out of control, controlled, controlled by my desire to please my husband, to avoid conflict and to ensure our twenty-fifth anniversary trip was a celebration of our years together and a beginning of the years to come. He can be so hard to please.
Another wide arc and I start into the Canadian Shield with the distinctive granite rock formations. I breathe deeply. I feel a profound sense of returning home. The highway crosses the Trent River at Port Severn and I can see a large pleasure boat manoeuvring into the lift lock. Someday I must take the time to stop and explore Port Severn. Today, like most days, I am eager to get to my cottage.
Construction to widen the highway has created a traffic slow down and dust billows from behind the massive earth movers. I close my windows to avoid the worst of it. I feel impatient yet thankful the highway will be four lanes once this section is complete.
The process of building a highway is much like rebuilding a relationship. First they cut down the trees and clear the land. They burn the brush and remove the large tree trunks for use elsewhere. Perhaps some will become telephone poles while others will be milled into lumber.
During our travels through France, we talked a lot about where we have been and where we want to go. We cleared some of the clutter and cut through the underbrush to reveal thoughts and feelings that have been hidden for years. I hope we have cleared enough to get down to the bedrock of our relationship. I hope we can work to change some of the problem areas between us.
The huge bundles of old tires that are used when they blast the rock to prevent the pieces from being hurtled dangerously through the air now lie motionless. I have heard the loud rumbles of blasting and enjoyed the raw rock walls where the roadway cuts through when it is completed. I have shown my children the drill holes where the dynamite was placed in the granite just as my father showed them to my siblings and me when we were children.
The legacy of my life and the lasting results of my words and actions will influence those who know me far longer than I might ever imagine. I often have clients tell me that something I have said has stuck with them and influenced their life. I cannot know what specific thing struck them so intently but when they tell me, I know more about what mattered to them. I can then direct my work to those issues. Being a marriage and family therapist has awesome responsibilities. It is demanding work. I enjoy it immensely.
As I pass the stands of evergreens and the sparkling water of lakes ringed with rocks, spectacularly calm after the construction zone, I momentarily feel serenely peaceful. A rippling sense of dread soon flickers. I wonder how bad the water damage really is at the cottage. Has my eldest daughter Julia exaggerated or minimized the problem that she called me in France to ask about?
Jack has returned to work. I allowed myself several days before starting to see clients to cope with whatever family tasks are required. I accept the responsibility to face the problem of the leaking cottage plumbing as household responsibilities are mine. Jack is the primary earner and my career is developing slowly as my children become more self sufficient and independent. I have been the homemaker and primary parent.
My clients start later in the week. This will be a brief trip. I am also eager to get the plumbing problem solved. Water damage can be so insidious. Mold can develop quickly and be very difficult to eradicate.
I stop in the beer store in Bala to hug Julia. It is great to see her happy and busy enjoying her job. I find out what she wants for dinner then walk next door to get fresh vegetables from Mr. Farley. I stop to buy a piece of salmon and some wine. It is as if I have never been away.
I stop and chat briefly with a neighbour walking on Dudley Road. He teases me about the freedom Julia has had and the wild parties she has enjoyed. I know he is jesting. I am conscious of how good it feels to laugh openly. I wasn't aware how tense I have been.
People feeling free to tease me indicates their level of trust that I will accept the teasing and be able to laugh at myself. Long ago, I was far more sensitive to teasing and felt hurt and criticized. My children were the ones who taught me to accept their teasing in good fun. Having children broadens life. I have never met a parent who hasn't learned from their children.
My dog Pickles has heard my car tires crunch on the driveway and is peeking out the little round window in the door. His little white furry body wiggles and his tiny tail wags furiously once he is freed. He runs in circles around me and barks in obvious glee. Tears fill my eyes. I catch him and hug him close. He nips at my fingers and licks my face. I put him down. He runs to and fro. I laugh and cry and know that I am truly home.
Being away from familiar people and places demands a sense of awareness. We cannot rely on what we automatically repeat, knowing our way and the location of what we might need. While the sense of discovery can be exciting, returning to the familiarity of our life can be a welcome relief. I feel this relief flooding through me.
This is a place where my heart is open and I know I am safe. Here I can give and receive love freely and know that to be my Self is all I need to be. No roles and no pretences are necessary. It is much more than this physical structure. It has an emotional feeling that resonates with my inner being and allows me to experience and explore the best of my Self. Home is a place where we can heal the wounds of life and rest from the trials and tribulations that have come our way. We feel at peace and also connected to our spirit in a place that is truly our home.
Some people feel at home in a church, synagogue or place of worship. Others feel at home in nature. One person's home may be someone else's idea of discomfort. Knowing there can be a place where we feel truly our Self, with no inhibitions and with the assurance that we are exactly as we choose to be, allows us to connect with our higher self and be our own Holy Grail.
Slipping out of my shoes I walk across the green ground cover that is the lawn. It is filled with creeping plants and weeds and in the spring is filled with violets and dandelions. I love the natural look but watch for bees as I go toward the water's edge. Pickles runs ahead, turns to see if I am following, races in a circle around me, then heads to the shore and drinks from the lake. I trail my fingers through the water. A swim would be nice.
The bay is calm and quiet. I consider sliding my canoe into the water but responsibility beckons.
Suddenly I feel tired. My shoulders are aching. I breathe deeply. Tears fill my eyes. I had many wonderful experiences on our trip to France but I am so very glad to be home.
I return to my car and carry the groceries into the kitchen. Once the very basics are put away, I venture down the hall to inspect the water damage. The hall carpet is squishy. Water comes up between my toes. This is not good!
The floor tiles near the tub are lifting. Mildew is growing on the grouting. The bathtub surround is soaked with water stains. I poke my finger at the swollen bottom edges. It is mushy. I'll bet the people I bought from never took showers so the simulated tiles were acceptable.
It is nearly a year since I bought this cottage. We have not had this problem before. This doesn't appear to be a leaking tap. Is it the length of shower Julia takes that has saturated the whole area? She has lived here for the summer and showers every day so it never dries out.
A bathtub is built with a lip around three sides and the wall covering is placed inside that lip. Caulking makes a water proof seal. The wall covering should be water proof. Obviously this is not. The caulking is broken. Water has both soaked up the bottom of the wall board, and run around the rim onto the floor. The shower curtain wouldn't stop this. Sliding glass doors are better at keeping the water inside the tub. I had better consider installing them as part of fixing this problem.
The taps are on a wall that gives easy access to the back of them from the hall by just removing the wallboard, I know finding and fixing a leaky pipe will not be too difficult. Finding a hammer and screwdriver, I carefully pry off the skinny wood trim, and remove the piece of paneling. I can see right in under the tub and it is obvious we have had mice. The floor boards are dry.
I pull the thick hall carpet from the tacks that hold it to the floor, folding it back until I get to a dry part. I remove the soaked under pad and throw it out the door, dripping water on the way. I must find a solution, at least a temporarily one, so this dries up and more water isn't being added to the mess. I open all the windows and set up a fan to blow air over the wet carpet. Thankfully it is a dry sunny day. I check to see if the moisture has seeped into the adjoining bedrooms. Luckily it hasn't.
I change into my swim suit and head for the lake. Slowly swimming along the shore in quiet solitude, I feel more of my Self returning. In the grand scope of the universe this is a small problem. We are safely home and all is just fine. I will conquer this challenge.
I have been taught not to swim alone. I recall my mother being fearful of using our swimming pool when she was home alone even though she was a good swimmer. She was afraid if she had a problem no one would hear her call for help. She had taught us all to swim and spent hours supervising us. After many hesitant solo swims, I resolved that I would miss a lot of enjoyable exercise if I waited for a companion. I can touch bottom if I need to. I dislike the squishy muck and prefer not to put my foot down, but I could if I felt weak or cramped.
As I sit on the end of the dock, dripping in the warm afternoon sunshine, my feet idly moving in the water, I ponder my predicament. Being handy with household repairs is neither masculine nor feminine. It is a set of skills that can be learned. Some jobs take strength and some take the proper tools. Experience and guidance from someone who understands how a house is put together is always helpful.
I learned a lot about being handy from my father. Often when I am challenged I can hear his words in my head making suggestions and offering encouragement to keep trying. I wish I had listened more closely. I wish I had watched what he did and asked more questions. I wish he had lived longer. Parents are so important in the lives of their adult children and can offer guidance and support in many ways. A wave of longing passes over me.
I like to be able to fix things myself. This became a necessity in those lean years when Jack worked long hours and wasn't really interested in repairing or building things. Waiting for paid help frustrates me. I am too impatient. I want to get the job done as quickly as possible.
This is not the job for a plumber. It will take someone skilled with wood, possibly ceramic tiles and flooring. I must get an immediate solution so it does not get worse. This will take planning, time and, of course, money.
Sitting in my sunroom, I watch a family of mallard ducks swim past close to the shore. Pickles sleeps at my feet. Midweek in Muskoka in late August is lovely. My mind drifts to that spring day in Dublin when I was on my own and visited St. Stephen's Green and watched the ducks there. I am reminded of our recent visit to France and the ducks in the pond at The Reserve near Bordeaux. I love to travel. I love to be home again too. I love to be me! I sigh in contented joy.
I can feel the soothing effects as I sip my glass of cold white wine. There are many people who say drinking alone is a sign of a drinking problem. Just like swimming alone, there are those who caution that doing enjoyable things on one's own is dangerous. I laugh at the rules and social disapproval of a woman travelling alone. I did get some suggestive looks when I was on my own, separate from Jack, in France. There are people who think a woman eating in a restaurant alone is a sign she has a problem. Oh my, how restrictive rules are for women that if I were a man, no one would question.
Julia comes in from work, looks at the mess of drying carpet and changes for a swim. No shower allowed!
I poach the salmon, butter the boiled potatoes and toss dressing on the salad. We eat from plates on our laps. I tell her of some of our adventures and she shares stories of Muskoka. Her sister Kathy came last weekend and they visited their brother Matt at Muskoka Woods Sports Resort. He was having a good time wind surfing and waterskiing. I am so happy my children are all doing so well. Our marital separation last year was traumatic for them but having our family intact again has been very healing. Marital problems have a lasting impact on children and will eventually have an impact on their children. We have more healing to do but Jack has promised to work with me to rebuild our family trust and sense of security. I had dinner with Kathy and Jack last night and we shared stories of our time apart. I will see Matt on the weekend. The water problem here is a minor irritant. I am blessed to have my family!
Given the time zone change, I am ready for bed early. I listen to the familiar night sounds through the open windows. Pickles is curled by my leg. I easily drift into a deep sleep.
Resourcefulness is an ability to cope with difficult situations and bounce back from setbacks. The more resources that can be used to solve a problem, the more support one has and the greater the accumulation of skills, the easier the solution will be found and executed. Over time, experience builds. Solving problems leads to an accumulation of skills that we can draw on in different situations.
Ingenuity is also helpful. Having creative ideas that lead to the recognition that there is more than one option, leads to choices. Making choices and accepting the consequences of our choices is what being mature is all about.
Wisdom is the ability to use the accumulation of information and experience so we find the best solution for any given problem. It involves being able to apply what we have learned using common sense and logic as well as intuitive ideas. It includes a sense of trust in the Self. Even though the task may be difficult, the results justify the efforts needed to succeed.
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