Nearly two years ago, after twenty years of living away and many years of deliberation, not to mention, waiting for our careers to provide geographic independence, my husband and I sold our home in the city and moved our young family to a small, rural village.
While our move brought us to a place, near and dear to me, where I lived as a teenager and where we would be surrounded by my family, it wasn’t easy to start anew, to leave our urban lifestyle, wonderful neighbours, close friends and, especially my husband’s family.
Granted, there was an immediate comfort and familiarity to our new home and community that felt deeply grounding. My husband, who is a friendly, adaptable fella, has settled in nicely too.
But twenty years is a long time to be away. It’s enough time to lose touch with old friends and too much time to assume you can pick up where you left off.
At the onset of this big move, I was VERY aware of the social sacrifice I was making. I knew, for the first time in my adult life, I would have my family close by and this, this was revolutionary, especially with two young children. Ah, but friends, you need them too and I was leaving behind some pretty great ones. Women that were my lifelines, whom I saw regularly and cherished fiercely. Women who saw me through plenty of shit and who trusted me with their vulnerabilities too. I miss them.
EVERYTHING about our move felt right but the part about having to make new friends? BARF! Who wants to be the new kid in town when you’re pushing 40? And ironically, I did the “new kid in town” thing, in this very same place, when I was twelve and well, it didn’t go so well. All the kids had been together since kindergarten. They were cliquing as HELL and mean as, well, hormonal, insecure, prepubescent sixth graders.
Of course, I knew I wasn’t going to face junior high level ostracism and ridicule, but I was still straight up terrified.
Once the decision had been made that yes, we were in fact going to relocate our family to the country, I had reached out to a couple of women with whom I was acquainted through the interweb and who live in the area where we wanted to be. I had a hunch they were my kind of people. Through many online chats, which largely involved me asking a billion and one questions and them graciously providing insights and enthusiastically following our journey toward purchasing a home in their community, I was extended an invitation to join their book club. Little did I know at the time how much this would mean to me.
As we arrived in our new community, I came to meet other members of this infamous book club. They stopped me at the school parking lot or playground, offering a warm introduction and welcome, they were caroling at our doorstep at Christmas time, they were stopping in for tea and inviting me to attend local workshops and events.
When I attended my first book club meeting, we were very much still in move-in mode with boxes everywhere and amidst renovation chaos too. Although I had the best of intentions, I did not read the book. I arrived feeling so nervous and questioning whether I should have come at all. Should I be throwing myself into a social life while I’m in such a transient state? (This of course, was my introvert heart trying to protect me from rejection).
However, what I experienced that night sold me, hook, line and sinker. Namely because, I watched in awe, as the host, worked tirelessly all evening, in and out of the room, sometimes with one or both of her littles on her lap, trying to get her kids to bed, trading off with her husband periodically, so she could engage in even just a few minutes of the connection and thoughtful conversation that was happening around her table. Not to mention, grabbing a tasty morsel or two of the amazing food spread before us.
At that first book club, I could identify a lot with her; being in the trenches of early motherhood. It was comforting and yet, there was something about it that gutted me. On the drive home, it occurred to me that while I have notoriously been one to put off the things that my soul so fervently craves, in the name of my childrens’ needs, here she was, boldly making my supposed juxtaposition work and sprinkling in a little bit of what she wants on top of the sublime shitshow that is mothering. She knows how to embrace the chaos and I need her in my life.
My second book club meeting was equally transformative and inspiring, as I listened to smart and savvy women converse candidly about food, farming and permaculture. Having spent years in an urban centre, this was hella refreshing! More recently, I have come to learn that farmers are ferociously protective of their crops’ reputation and will defend it passionately and with uncharacteristically colourful language.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, we do read books and talk about them…I mean, I think we do? Sometimes?
Needless to say, I could not wait for the next meet up…
And then, BAM! The world came to a screeching halt. Lockdown. See no one. Go nowhere.
Undoubtedly, this passed year and a half has been devastating and hard. For everyone and for a multitude of reasons. For me, it has been necessary to focus on the ways in which I have been privileged. I am thankful every damn day that we moved when we did. To be close to my parents, my grandmother, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, even when I couldn’t see them in person, it was something. To not have had our livelihoods drastically and negatively impacted has been a godsend. To have so much space and nature right in our backyard so we could all get the hell outside to save our sanity. And to be welcomed into this book club, mere months before the world turned upside down, saved me from a very sad and lonely existence.
The group messages, the comradery, the encouragement, the doorstep drop offs, distance waves, barters and trades, promises of future hugs, future gatherings, and all the love. We got through.
And when things opened up, even temporarily. We made sure to hike, thrift and play at the park.
Belonging to this place and this enchanting circle of vibrant, confident and creative women has been nothing short of magic for me. Perhaps it has all come at a time in my life when I finally feel worthy. Having been a lone wolf for so long, a bit cautious and aloof (and honestly, overprotective of my heart), I have never felt a part of any pack. I have also never known such trust in myself before now. It is a beautiful thing to be embraced within a community at the exact time that your heart opens to it. I am truly elated with gratitude to call these glorious humans my friends and I’m bursting with anticipation for the many extraordinary and even ordinary gatherings we will have together.
With that, here are some photos from our first book club gathering in 17 months, the legendary (annual) Outlander-themed dinner.
Disclaimer: these images will make you swoon.