To those of us not from the Maritimes, this phrase doesn’t mean a lot. To those of us who have just returned from the Maritimes, this phrase has a double meaning. We went to New Brunswick and PEI to make our home from away in a little white cottage on a quiet bay in Anne’s Land. This island of red and green that is home to tasty mussels, long stretches of amazing beach and a little girl with hair to match the island she was born from.
Home From Away is the name of the cottages I found on the internet when talk of a trip to PEI (Prince Edward Island for those of you from outside of Canada) first came up. I’ve yet to ask my husband why we chose this part of the Maritimes to plunk our family in to but PEI it was. Perhaps it was the wonderful memories we have of our honeymoon in Nova Scotia which is PEI’s neighbour. After a bit of organizing and a lot of driving we spent last week with the kids, my mom and the dog in the beautiful province of PEI with a two day stop over in New Brunswick. My butt aches just thinking about the 4000km’s we’ve put on the van…
With those who make up my heart and home travelling with me, I didn’t get to experience the Maritime meaning of the phrase. To them, home from away is when you return back to the island after visiting or living elsewhere for any length of time. We heard story after story from locals who spread their wings and flew from the island like the amazing bald eagles that brightened our trip only to return to the land of red soil and sand that they hatched upon.
After seeing the island from one tip to another I’m kind of surprised at this widespread Moonie-like devotion. All across the island are abandoned farms and homes that speak of the lives once lived there. Buildings in decay, collapsed barns, house windows broken, paint peeling from the clapboard sides. All tell the story that once people had settled here, made memories here, tried to make a living here only to have to take their home and make it away. For Sale signs line the roads that we travelled to see this island of red sand and a red-haired girl. More people seem to be going away than staying home.
Some people we spoke to were fiercely defensive of the Maritime life and the choices they made. They were going to live and die by the red earth we stood upon. The only away they were doing was the commute to Charlottetown for work or groceries. Nothing was going to make them go away from the land and sea that was as intrinsic to them as the waves that lap upon the shore of the land they love slowly dissolving it foot by precious foot. It was inspiring to see and I wondered what made them want to stay versus those who had chosen instead to go away ?
We spent the week exploring the island and doing the tourist stops that PEI is famous for. I have read all the LM Montgomery books in the Anne series and so was especially thrilled to visit Green Gables, Avonlea Village and the cemetery where LM Montgomery has been laid to rest. Even she came home after being away in Ontario for so many years. It is amazing the pull that home has on our hearts and souls. The desire is so strong that to be buried in the redness of home seems only fitting as a final resting place for the author that brought the island out of obscurity and in to the hearts and dreams of so many.
Each day we returned to our temporary home from away with treasures to remember our time away when we returned to our real home. Sea shells with mother of pearl and stained red, stones gathered from the beaches that we sat upon, art to make us smile and photo after photo of the unique sights and sounds of the island. The soothing salty smell of the home of whales and the many jellyfish we saw would permeate our clothes and leave a lick upon our lips to be enjoyed like a forgotten bit of dessert. It seemed as though we too had become infatuated with taking a piece of our away with us to home.
As our vacation ended, we all had mixed emotions about leaving. My husband and I were tired of driving every where when we knew a huge drive home lay ahead of us. Our hopes of spending sunny, relaxed days on the beach were dashed when a weather front moved in like unwanted neighbours bringing cold temperatures and a wind that would blow the kilt off the most stalwart Scot. Even though we were in the most protected bay on PEI, the water was churned to white caps as though its only goal was to loosen the dead from any watery grave they might have had below. To watch the water was depressing and fascinating at the same time. It was a reminder of how much we depend on water, how powerful it is and how it has the ability screw up your vacation if it’s falling from the sky.
As we made our long journey home, I start to feel a bit of relief. While I loved taking my kids to the ocean for the first time, fulfilling my mother’s wish of seeing the East Coast and getting to spend a little time with my husband, I was ready to be in Ontario. After 18.5 hours of driving and stopping and peeing and sleeping we were finally home from away. Back on our own red soil that sits hidden below the lawns and asphalt of Burlington. While it doesn’t have quite the same effect without the ocean washing it clean, our beaches are edged with red clay that before our trip didn’t seem all that special. Now they’ll serve as a reminder of our wonderful time away and how good it felt to be home.