There’s a big wild, world just outside our backyard.
There are trees and woodland animals and hollow logs inside which captivating creatures surely lurk. There are bird’s nests and raccoon dens and a tiny creek where ethereal minnows flash and dart to escape the grasp of chubby fingers.
There is magic out there.
Even if I didn’t always see it.
I was not born a city girl. I was born in a small town and I had to fight to win the cloak of urban style that for years I wrapped around myself.
I was living in downtown Toronto when I fell in love with a sweet and serious man who suggested we buy a house in Don Mills where he grew up. I balked. Don Mills was only 15 minutes from the epicenter of a metropolis of several million people, but it seemed worlds away from the hip, downtown world into which I finally, finally, fit.
Moving out of downtown, I feared, would be a regression.
And I guess in a way it has been, but in the best possible sense.
I had a charmed childhood. I grew up, steeped in rural traditions and familial love, on the outskirts of a tiny village surrounded by lakes and endless woods.
Across the fields I sailed on my trusty bike, legs pumping furiously, my heart swollen with conviction that just an ounce more effort would surely launch girl and bike into the sky and towards the heavens.
Through murky creeks I sloshed, chasing frogs and swampy creatures I imagined had just emerged from primordial ooze and held the secrets of the universe within their dirt and slime.
And while a woman may need a room of own, a girl does not. A girl needs only a tall tree that she can scramble up and sit and contemplate the world below in perfect contentment.
But contentment has a way of turning into yearning and as I grew I did begin to yearn. A walking cliché, I yearned for the bright lights of the big city, imaging that I would conquer it and bring it to heel with my vigor and enthusiasm.
And I did, in my way
I landed a good job with glamorous overtones and collected witty, urbane friends. I enjoyed exotic travel and buzzing parties and strange and unusual things my childhood self had not even the capacity to dream about
And it was all very good but once again contentment turned to yearning and I finally did leave my sexy little place downtown to move here to a house with a door in the backyard which seemed to lead right back to where I came from
I have walked for miles outside this back door. I consulted the trees as I planned my marriage and prayed to the birds and the squirrels for a child. When I finally carried one in my stomach, every night I marched purposely alongside our creek, sending up each step as a tiny, separate prayer for his safe arrival.
And as I walked I began to see that this place, these woods, filled a need in me that I had long denied existed. I began to see that this place, Don Mills was the place where my childhood memories and my adult reality could co-exist.
It’s a place where a boy may climb a tree and survey his private kingdom, where scientific wonders may be captured in muddy bottles and a forest path might possibly lead straight to heaven’s gate.