A year has passed since we moved into our little green house in Lascelles. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in the country. If I’d been told ten-years ago, I’d willingly move to the country, I’d never have believed it. The move was a spur of the moment decision made on instinct. I’ve always liked cities. By this I mean really big cities, the kind where you never bump into your ex or the girl who tortured you in grade five. Nature bored me. As a teenager in Alberta, I spent time hiking in the Rockies with several youth organizations. Frequently I was the first one up the hill. This was because I liked to smoke and the wilderness provided great places to do this without being spotted by an adult. I don’t smoke anymore. But from time-to-time I still feel the need to hide.
In the Spring of 2010, when we started escaping to the Gatineau Hills, India’s seizures were so frequent, even driving with her could be disconcerting. Often we heard a clunk from the backseat as she fell over to one side. If we stopped at a restaurant, we had to watch that her head didn’t hit the table. We told her neurologist but he offered little guidance. One of the most trying features of this time was that we’d completely lost trust in India’s neurologist. We were convinced he wasn’t exploring every option but never having dealt with the medical system we had no idea how to get help.
I felt like the animal at the bottom of one those sculptures where all the farm animals are balanced on top of each other. And one of those animals represented my neighbourhood. Suddenly little annoyances I once would have shrugged off like a band playing loudly at the nearby pub or a neighbour’s lack of consideration suddenly grated on me. I couldn’t have articulated it then but I believe I craved space. Both mentally and physically.
Continually the first question people ask me about our move is the commute. I’ve only been driving four-years so this was a big consideration. The first time I drove home at night from Ottawa it felt as though I was driving on top of the mist and would fall through at any moment. Now I like it. Driving through the darkness I often think about the story I’m writing or listen to a book on a tape. Moving here, forced me out of my comfort zone. I’m glad of it because every time I catch a glimpse of the hills I’m certain I made the right decision.
This Fall India will be attending a local school. We’ve met with the principal and he understands our situation and is eager to help. The day before school starts he’s called a meeting with all the staff so I can explain the nature of her illness. I’m excited about this. When India was in grade 7 in the city, I wrote countless emails to her teachers. Only one teacher ever responded. I’m pretty sure several of her teachers never even knew she was ill. I remember at one of the parent/teacher meeting this young teacher saying to me, “I’m pretty sure India has a learning disability.”
“Yeah”, I said. “It’s called having a seizure every 20 seconds. Remember my letter?”
Even after that I’m still not convinced I was understood. It’s funny how illness can slant your perspective. Most of the parents at that open house were either bursting with pride or disappointed with their child’s report card. We were hoping ours wouldn’t fall over.
I get so angry when I think about that school. Once in gym, a substitute teacher accused India of lying when she said she had seizures and forced her to run when she was unwell. Who fakes epilepsy to get out of gym?
When I lived in the city my favourite view was from my office window. It looked over all the backyards. To me, it looked like a painting. Over the ten years I lived there I watched the backyards transform from gardens filled with overgrown tomato and zucchini plants and plastic chairs to gardens with urns and cedar decks. The changes I noticed were for the most part economic. Here the landscape is continually changing. A burst of purple wildflowers one day gives way to a bunch of Black-eyed Susan’s.
The thing I do in the morning is look out at my garden to see how it’s changed. So does nature still bore me? Actually I’ve discovered my inner birder. Am I happy I moved here? No regrets, I love it. Though, I still wouldn’tsay no to a little pied-à-terre in Paris.