Heart in Two Places

It’s been almost a year since we left our Yukon home. We left with plans to spend the darkest part of winter visiting family in Ontario and exploring the beaches of Costa Rica. But our beach plans changed mid-vacation, and soon after returning to Ontario, we began talking about moving our family cross-country. It has been the easiest, and also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Here in Ontario, my kids get to experience the connection to their extended family that I enjoyed growing up.  We see my sister and her son at least once a week, and we usually spend our weekends with my parents. P and I are free to go on dates occasionally; Aedan enjoys sleepovers at Gramma’s; we visit my grandmothers regularly.  I didn’t realize how important all of this was to me until I had kids on the other side of the country, 2 day’s travel from our family. Seeing pictures on Facebook of my family’s gatherings, with all of that distance between us, was heartbreaking. Watching my sister get married via FaceTime because I was too pregnant to travel, was heartbreaking. I no longer felt like living in the Yukon was a gift: it felt like an exile, self-imposed. But we had a home there, a business, and roots put down over a decade, longer for P.

We made the decision to move in distress.  From the safety of my parents’ house, I felt intense anxiety at the thought of going back to our little cabin in the woods. I was dreading having another baby so far from my mom, and from all of the support of extended family. So we scraped together our resources, we made it work, somehow, and we bought a house here. What started as a trip “out” became a huge move. P has been back regularly, for work, and I’ve had one brief visit. The boys have yet to return, though.

When I think of our Northern home, I remember the total hush at our cabin. Even in town, there is a resounding lack of all the background noise of a larger city. No sirens wailing, no trains shunting along the tracks, no traffic hum. Rarely, a helicopter’s blades cutting through the air. Instead we hear the wind in the spruce, the leaves of birch and aspen tremble, the shush of the river coursing by. Quiet so complete you can hear a raven’s wings beat overhead. And the community in Dawson is like a huge extended family, looking out for one another. There are the dark parts, too, like any family. But overall, it’s a caring place and an exciting one, too. There are so many possibilities there, and chances to affect real change in the community. In the Yukon it’s easy to raise kids with an appreciation for nature, because you’re surrounded by it. And kids who grow up there are often a little different: independant, enterprising, creative.

Choosing to leave all of that behind was horrible. But when I see Aedan playing with his cousin or when I send the kids to my mom’s when I need a break, I know beyond a doubt that it was absolutely the right choice.  My heart is here, with my family, but it’s back there, too. Robert Service wrote of it in his poem “Spell of the Yukon”. It gets under your skin, that place. It runs in your blood and it beats in your bones. I still identify as a Yukoner; it is such a huge part of who I am today. And I know we’ll return to our hushed cabin in the woods. We’ll find a way to honour our two hearts.

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