Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Migration patterns of Canadian youth

I landed in this city unannounced. Nothing was remarkable about my arrival, and no one awaited me---a singular party caught in a mass departure---a wayward bird caught in a hurricane, and just as prepared. Children of small towns are economic migrants, even in Canada.

Reared in a rural coastal village, I threw myself from the nest with wet feathers. Maladjusted and armed only with certificates of insignificance, I bought my ticket out of all I knew well, for the uncertain unknown, for the urban existence of rape and murder, for narcotics and homosexuality. For fear-after-dark and beasts less recognizable than the chubby and misunderstood man up the street. I traded in the rattle of sea stones, the night sky, feral eyes in bushes, and sadly, my family. I traded the loneliness of a socially awkward adolescent in a small hamlet, for awe. And, here I am, still awed.

Surrounded by mechanisms barely understood, I very slowly created a new personal culture, within which I developed new belief systems, new approaches to supply and demand, new ideas about cause and effect. Several years later, I developed comfortable patterns. I learned to function effectively in my new urban environment as an entirely new species.

No longer can people can see sand on my scalp, or in my shoes. I regularly return to my loosely laid roots by the sea. This is my new migration. I am no longer unwittingly blown off-course, but still maladjusted.

When I return to my home by the sea and in the woods, I dust off the silt of the urban landscape. The local species recognize me as a fraud, an impostor. They ask me how I like living in the city, but they are really asking: "What are you and what are you doing here?" Locals have always been suspicious of my intentions. As I have come of age, so have presumptions about my nature. First, I was a "lesbian", now, I am a foreigner. I capitalize on the nature of my hometown. The handicrafts are cheap. I know the good beaches. The seafood is fresh and can be purchased straight from the boat. The people will at least pretend to like you, at first.

I can't explain to them why I return so often. I miss my family. I love tasting the ocean in the air, and smelling the beached, decaying seaweed. And, sometimes I miss the gangly child I used to be, who greets me there with a horse-toothed grin. That, is how I know I am home.