Just before Christmas, I saw an old friend from my childhood neighbourhood. She was in town for her mother's funeral. The last time we had connected, we were wrinkle- and worry-free teenagers. It seemed a lifetime had slipped by. As we shared highlights of the passing years, I mentioned how nice it would be to get together in a happier time. When would she be coming home again?
Her face fell. She didn't think she had a reason to come back, now that she had no family remaining here. She felt a little adrift, she said. Like she no longer had a home.
Her comments stirred a chord with me as I am an only child.
What will I be feeling when my parents are gone? Will this still be home? Or will a thread be broken? Will an unravelling begin?
I think the reason I enjoyed a The Good Earth so much is that it spoke to the part of me that has been exploring the idea of our connection to landscapes. Perhaps there is a part of me instinctively striving to find a firmer foundation, knowing that as the years pass, my family ties become more fragile and tenuous.
I am comfortable in my world beside the Bay of Fundy, like it whispers in a familiar voice from some time before my living memory and experience. I walk the forests unafraid, trace the coastline with curiosity, and feel a strange sense of pride - almost like ownership -when I discover something new and wondrous. I feel protective.
In the biographical book I just finished writing, a young Mary found herself alone, separated from family, home and possessions during the war. She survived, finding strength, solace and continuity in the natural world. So perhaps my interest is no coincidence...Perhaps her story is teaching me to do the same.