Monday, 9 September 2013

Leaving TO, Becoming Rural Folk

We loaded up a 24-foot Uhaul truck and, with it filled to the brim, bolted to the 401 in hopes that we would beat rush hour. We got caught up in accident traffic just the same and that had us lumbering along for the first hour of the drive before the frenzied pace began, the truck swaying in the current of passing semis, until soon we reached the more leisurely stretch toward Frontenac. We got in around sunset, unloaded what we could until sometime around midnight, at which point we called it a day.

We woke up the next morning rural folk. The sunrises are generally beautiful here.  But we did not take a leisurely breakfast on the porch that first morning. We got back to unpacking. And hammering nails, and calling farmers and feed dealers and custom ploughers.

After a long second day of unloading countless boxes, the burden of a hectic urban routine fading, the stillness struck me and a fear set in. It was mostly neuroses, but it went deep. The question “What on earth am I doing?” which I'd asked myself in a flippant tone many times before the move, suddenly weighed a ton. Bell (the phone company) revealed, after bouncing us from department to department and giving contradictory information, that, though they had confirmed weeks before that they would be installing our internet connection at the new residence, it turned out they didn't actually offer service where we were now.

I read Thomas Pollack's War in the Country recently, which reveals much about the divisions between rural and urban Canada and the fact that the “country” is increasingly forgotten because it is seen as dying and irrelevant. This news furthered the revelation that only cities matter (I should point out that since then I have been recommended a few providers that are quite competitive and widely used where I am. It's not really out of range of the internet.)

But the fear of having grossly miscalculated on my life change still creeps in every day. For a little while that evening, I felt a dread at the image of myself 10 years from now – a sloppy yokel with junk piling up in the yard. 

Despite the general anxiety of living in a new place (which, in my experience, tends to be full of exaggeration and worst-case scenario creation) we are in a community that seems to value community. While we are in a politically conservative rural riding, where anti-government and anti-urban sentiment are not uncommon, and a smattering of xenophobia and homophobia exists, people here are mostly friendly, approachable and laid-back. There is a spirit of the back-to-the-lander movement, though nobody likes that term except me.

It's a place where, if you go up and knock on a stranger's door because someone told you she would be a good resource for learning about raising sheep, you will be greeted with only mild caution and then within seconds a warm conversation will have begun and before you know it, she will have given an hour of her time to explain her methods and happily put you in touch with several friends who can help further. And then the friends recommend more contacts. And suddenly you have learned a great deal about sheep and you sense that soon enough you will have landed a small herd because someone will connect you to a breeder who has none at the moment but who knows someone who does and will be happy to connect you.

I am encouraged to see signs of community. In the evenings, of course, I am reminded of the fact that I'm far from the distractions of the city.  I'm far from grocery stores, coffee shops, pubs, neon. The traffic zips by on the highway a few hundred metres away in one long strand and otherwise, it is quiet.

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