Thursday, June 11, 2009

Square 18: Home

Square 018

My friends Jaye and Christine are moving out of their apartment and I have the opportunity to take it over. My current living situation is tolerable, but at various times the place has been a source of anxiety, frustration, grief and even outright terror. I have survived neighbours from hell, sleepless nights when they were screaming at each other outside my door, harrassment, police visits in the middle of the night, and a suicidal visitor who left bloodstains on the hall carpet. They finally vacated the upstairs apartment 18 months ago, so I've had some peace and quiet. After they moved, workmen left the windows open (in winter) to air the place out and pipes burst, flooding my apartment and destroying furniture, photographs and books. It happened again, twice within a month of Mom's death. Add to the mix a passive landlord who turns off the smoke alarm instead of fixing it, says repeatedly that he is going to replace the broken front door but two years later nothing has happened, and so on. The place is a fire trap, with no alternate escape from my flat. There are many good reasons for moving out.

But few decisions are that simple. It is home after all. I have lived there since June 1998. Eleven years is the longest I've stayed any place in my life. On Tuesday evening when I heard about Jaye and Christine's apartment and told them I would like to look at it, the first thing I did was have a panic attack. The timing is bad. Work has been slow for the past year and the long-anticipated contract has not been finalized. I have no money in reserve.

But on the occasions I've been ready and looked for a place to move, this was what I looked for: a two-bedroom apartment with comparable rent (cheap), within walking distance of all my favourite downtown hangouts. Guelph Farmers' Market is right across the street—how cool is that? The living room and kitchen are similar size to what I have now, but the bedrooms are larger. There is a communal backyard where Jaye and Christine have established a good-sized vegetable garden. Best of all, the property manager responds promptly to maintenance requests. When they asked if they could paint and showed him the colours, he brought paint to their door within 24 hours. The place is almost as bright as the old apartment, with windows on three sides. The only things I will miss are my sunny, south-facing office, and the rock garden I planted last spring.

I would move August 1. Despite all the positives, I woke up yesterday morning thinking, "There's no way I can do it just now." But I met Christine to look at the place and said I wanted 24 hours to think it over. I went home and picked yarn for a square, an act of meditation on the decision.

Peace and light: those are the most important things in a home. I thought about them while I worked. Out of peace and light comes room for creativity, represented by the bright streak of Manos del Uruguay yarn.

I had to do laundry and go grocery shopping. I talked to Danny, Sylvie and Dad about it; they all encouraged me to go for it (Sylvie knows Jaye and Christine's place). There wasn't much time for quiet meditation, but I took the square to the laundromat, and as I knitted the path became clear. I completed the last few rows this morning, then called Christine to express my intentions. I can't afford to pass this opportunity. It's what I used to call a leap of faith.

Peace and light to you.


  1. Sometimes these opportunities come along that we can't pass up. I moved from Milton to London four years ago ...with excitement and some trepidation. Now I am very glad acted when I did. It's a fresh start and I think you are doing the right thing. Your contemplation of the move whilst you knit this square was very enlightening. New digs will freshen your outlook. I expect the burst of creativity you will experience will be wonderful.

  2. Hi Susan! I can't remember whether I told you about this new blog, but I'm glad you found it. I've included a link to yours in the sidebar.

    I didn't realize you had moved to London so recently. Thanks for the encouragement. This does feel like a good new start for me.

  3. Wow, Van, all the very best of luck to you. It sounds like a lovely place & it will become home soon. From the photos I've seen of your interior decorating style, I'm positive about this!

    I am guessing that you are similar-minded to me when it comes to pulling your roots out of the ground, fearing to feel lost. Yet deep down we know, our haven is rooted inside of us, and it is from that core that we spread our leaves, colouring our environment.

    (A timely post for me, this was, pondering emigration as I am. Thanks for sharing.)

    Hey, and good luck with the job, too!

  4. Haha, Pippa, yes, I certainly live in a place! But I missed that you were considering emigration. Where to? Absolutely, rootedness must come from within, but I also feel it comes from connection to the Earth, for me at least. Here I have a little rock garden and strip of soil along the fence for vegetables, but otherwise it is sidewalk and parking lot, nowhere to sit in the shade and read. I can walk to the park, but I can't just pour a cold drink and go outside to read. One think I look forward to at the new place is the communal backyard.