exposed

Many years ago I had a friend that moved from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia. I met her just after she made the big move and I watched her adjust to life on the east coast. It wasn’t always an easy adjustment, but over time she adapted to the Nova Scotia way of life and I think she really enjoyed her time in Nova Scotia. She once told me that she sometimes felt claustrophobic in Halifax, sort of wrapped up in the landscape. She spoke of the hills, and turns in the road and the trees and how different it was from the prairies. She exclaimed that sometimes it was difficult to figure out directions and that the hills and roads were always “getting in the way”. She spoke in terms of east and west and blocks. I spoke in terms of right or left and didn’t really understand what a certain number of blocks looked like. I could not relate - I had never been further west than Ottawa. I couldn’t imagine anything other than Nova Scotia with its hills and valleys and twisty turning roads. It was all I knew.   

Fast forward many years and one lost friendship I could finally understand what she was talking about and could relate to her experience. I had made the big move from Nova Scotia to Manitoba and was struggling with the flat and open landscape that surrounded me 100% of the time, day after day, month after month. The trees were sparse. The roads were all very straight. There was not a hill or turn in sight. The land was sectioned off in perfect rows. I missed my home, specifically the Annapolis Valley which is nestled between the ever present north and south mountains, and downtown Halifax with the steep hills. I felt very exposed. It was a very different geographical experience and one that took a big adjustment. 

The sharp difference from east coast landscape to prairie landscape made me feel very vulnerable. I remember very well the feeling of driving in the countryside by myself and feeling like a lightning bolt could strike me at anytime. I felt like a mouse running across an open field and that an owl could swoop down and grab me at any given moment. I felt like everyone could see me all the time and there was no way to hide. The feeling of exposure seemed to enhance my homesickness. It felt like me and my feelings were out on display for everyone to see, even though that was pretty much in my imagination. I longed for familiar roads and places. It took me quite a few months to become comfortable with the straight, tree-less, wide open spaces. Even now, four years later, I still have moments where I long for lots of trees and hills, a type of geographical refuge. 

The strangest part of this landscape adjustment came when I returned home to Nova Scotia for my first visit nine months after relocating to the prairies. I ended up feeling car sick from the turns in the road. I couldn’t believe it. The hills and roads and twists and turns I loved and missed so much were now an enemy that made me feel sick. Such a weird feeling to have my most precious place in the world turn against me! Now when I return home I spend the first couple of days driving a bit slower, rolling down the window to let fresh air in, and concentrating on not becoming car sick. Perhaps it is Nova Scotia’s way of seeking revenge for leaving. 

For the most part I’ve adjusted to the prairie landscape now. At times I even feel a little happy to feel exposed - almost as if I am happy with myself and life and I don’t care who sees me - I’ve got nothing to hide. This feeling of happiness sure makes those long, straight, country drives across the fields of canola and flax a lot more enjoyable.