On Friday night, we dragged the fold-out couch from my studio out on the deck of the studio in order to watch the Perseid meteor shower. It’s now Monday and our outdoor bed has yet to be dragged back inside – and I think it’ll stay there the rest of the week even though I’m back at work today and I don’t get to luxuriate under the trees quite as long in the morning (though I do wake in time to see sunrise).
We’ve been here on Gabriola Island for about two and a half months now – and this is just one of the things so different from our last home – the ability to sleep out during the warm nights of summer (something we could never do in Hastings-Sunrise or Grandview-Woodlands because of light pollution, noise, and just general safety). Of course, this isn’t the only difference in my life these days, moving from the city to the country this time around has been much more of a transition than when I last took flight for rural community. This time around, for example, I am not commuting to the city for work. Not only that, I have elected to work from home three days per week so I feel much more fully attached to my home and community. So what else has changed?
- Although I have been working for much of the summer, my at-home orientation 3 days per week means that I work much earlier in the day and so finish much earlier also. Although my actual number of hours worked/to myself is the same – this orientation of time makes it feel like I have many more hours of my own with which to hike, swim, or go into “town” for things. It sometimes feels as though I’m summer holidays even as I’m completing work tasks and participating in teleconferences – the space around me is so different and my time allocation is more of my own choosing. Also, going from house to studio is a commute of one minute, which means I don’t have the hour plus commuting time I had in the city or the 2 hours plus commuting time I have when I go into Nanaimo for work.
- Working at home – I exercise my body differently than I do in a cubicle – standing and walking around during conference calls, sitting in the arm chair when I have to read a bunch of documents. In a regular office environment I sit at my desk in front of my monitor eight hours a day (often only leaving to use the washroom). At home, I do what’s more natural and move around my space according to where I need to be at the moment.
- We spend a lot more time outside here. Granted, it’s summertime – of course we are outside a lot! But Brian and I both notice that the orientation of our new house encourages using outside space seamlessly with inside. At our last home, the backyard was a level below the main floor of the house. At this place our back deck is contiguous with our main living room. Also, we no longer have neighbours close by which means that outside feels a lot more private and like “our space”. With half an acre (our house smack dab in the middle) we’ve got lots of room on all sides, plus lots of trees, shrubs, and fencing for privacy. Also, ocean swimming is right down the road and there are hiking trails everywhere. I’ve barely scratched the surface of places to go on this island.
- This is going to sound strange but…. I don’t feel the need to bathe every day here. I suppose it’s because I’m not grimy from the city or germy from taking public transit- but I average a shower every 2-3 days instead of every 1-2.
- We don’t have to lock up our bikes. I went into the hardware store the other day to get a chain and lock so that we could leave our bikes outside (instead of locked in the storage room) and the salesman refused to sell one to me because it was a waste of my money. In East Vancouver, I kept my bike in a locked shed, and I locked it to itself or another bike in the shed just to make sure no one would take it.
- I say yes to pretty much every invitation. Want to learn how to make ceramics? Yes. Want to come for a boat ride? Yes. Want to buy some pickling cucumbers from a neighbour? Yes. Want to stop by for a drink? Yes. I’ve got to meet people after all, and that means saying yes to pretty much every invitation which is the opposite of city-me.
- Further to that last point – I am much more willing to go out here. It’s just much easier when you don’t have to battle traffic, parking, or transit full of drunk teenagers. Also, I don’t mind going out alone here because it doesn’t seem to matter. Also, this island is full of really un-hip people (who are also very cool, don’t get me wrong) – so I never feel as though I’m not stylish enough or whatever I would often feel when I went out alone in the city. For that matter, lots of younger women have grey hair here also – there is a lot less makeup and chemicals in daily use by the general population. I love that.
There are other things too, I’m sure, that are working to take away my anxiety about this move – but these are the ones that most come to mind. Of course there is the other side of things also. I notice, immediately that I lack the sense of *centrality* that I have had at work and in the city for the last several years of my life. I realize that I am out of sight and so often out of mind for lots of folks. But that’s ego work that I don’t mind doing, because that sense was always illusory anyhow. I also suspect that until we meet more people, winter could be quite lonely, and it will definitely be very dark on this island with no street lights. I won’t know for some years yet whether we really *fit* here or not – I figure it takes about five years to truly get a sense of that (4.5 years is when I left the Sunshine Coast after realizing it wasn’t a good fit for me) – though so far I have met a great many people who seem like natural and immediate friends.
One thing for sure is that our home space and property are inviting me to dream up the re-creation of every corner into exquisite space – which means on some level I’ve decided that I’m staying and not just for a year or two (because some of these plans are years in the offing). When we first came here I was reluctant to invest too much into any changes upfront, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt eager to start making the spaces more *ours*.
It’s been interesting, this time of transition, and only time will tell how this island will shape us and our future together – but so far I like these things that have changed. I like sleeping outside without fear, I like swimming in the ocean when I’m done work for the day. I like the combination of having privacy with friendly neighbours. So I think I’ll just keep going with that.