Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When there's no turning back

A postcard from Lake Ainslie sent back to Ontario by my mother in 1967, during my first trip to Nova Scotia.
Do you ever wonder what could have been? If you had made a different choice, or followed a different path? If you stayed put instead of moving on? Or if you said yes instead of no to a new life challenge?


We are all making choices constantly in our lives. Small choices, like what to have for breakfast. Or big life choices, such as changing jobs or changing life styles. It's all the constant decisions that we face that can sometimes become overwhelming.


We made a big decision ten years ago, and started making plans to move from Ontario to Nova Scotia. I had lived in Ontario for all but one of forty five years, and my husband had lived there for most of his life as well, albeit he moved around the country with his job for many years. Friends asked us why we wanted to move, and most assumed we made the choice to be closer to a son and his family. But that was not the case, as we were leaving a daughter, son, and grandchild behind. You can't make a choice between children.


No, my longing to live in Nova Scotia was buried deep in my psyche, something that I had carried in my heart from early in my life without any explanation. Maybe it started when I traveled to Cape Breton with my parents when I was six. I have no memories of that trip, but perhaps I'll be able to find some evidence when I go through my father's slides. When I was eighteen, I convinced a friend to take a road trip with me and, with our parents' permission, we drove from London to see  the "Gathering of the Clans" in Nova Scotia and PEI. I had visions of thousands of people gathering, but that wasn't the case. We saw some highland dancers and a few bagpipers, but most of our trip was driving from place to place just absorbing the east coast atmosphere. We had some adventures that my parents didn't hear about until we got home. The flat tire in Montreal on the day we left home, and replaced by a spare that we traveled on for the rest of the trip, horrified my dad when he heard about it. We didn't realize that a spare wasn't the same as a regular tire!

Thirty years after my first trip to Nova Scotia, I vacationed in Cape Breton with my husband and son. It would be ten more years before I could make my dream of moving to Nova Scotia a reality.
But real life got in the way, and I spent years climbing the corporate ladder and raising a son. I finally got back to Nova Scotia in 1997, when we rented a cottage in Port Hood for a glorious two weeks. Followed the next year by another stay in Cape Breton, I was hooked. A few years later, my feelings were cemented in place when my step son and his family moved to Halifax. Every time we visited, we put more mileage on the car by traveling around the province than we did in driving from Ontario. Finally, our youngest son graduated from college and it was time to make dreams come true. I sold my business, we bought a house, spent a few more months anxiously trying to sell a house, and finally everything came together and it was time for us to head down a new life path.

Recently, we took a trip back to Ontario, something we have done quite a few times since moving. And that brings me back to the question I opened with. Do you ever wonder what could have been? We did a lot of that during our recent trip. What if we had never moved? What would we be doing now?


Of course we'd be seeing more of our Ontario family. We would still be living in the same house, and our son would feel like he was coming home when he visited instead of coming to an unfamiliar place with no memories. We have two grandchildren in Ontario who we would be spending more time with and seeing their changes.

We drove by our former home and reminisced. When we had bought the house, the neighbours called it "Little House on the Prairie". There was an acre and a half of property with not a tree in sight. We purchased one hundred and fifty trees from a local tree farm and wondered how many trips it would take to transport all of them home. I waited in the car while my husband went it to make the arrangements, and saw his sheepish face as he returned with one paper bag. All the trees were inside that bag! Our little seedlings were all planted, and nurtured through a drought the following year. And now they cover the property in a miniature forest. We created that, and we looked at them wistfully as we sat in our car on the road in front of our former home.

But there is no going back, especially when your heart belongs somewhere else.

As we battled the traffic and hustle and bustle of a big Ontario city, my husband commented that it reminded him of ants on an anthill. A swarm of activity that we were no longer part of. We have no desire to move back to the place where we spent so much of our lives. I would much rather have the time to talk to the cashier at the grocery store, to acknowledge and chat with people when I'm walking my dogs. No matter where you live in Nova Scotia, it's just a quick drive to the coast. The ocean is my grounding place, the place that makes me feel at peace. I feel like I belong here, and that's a good thing to focus on.

Published in the South Shore Breaker - May 3, 2017


  1. This is a lovely post.
    And, very true... sometimes there's no going back.

  2. Boy I really needed this post.

    As my daughter plans on moving back to Ontario from Nova Scotia I keep running through this in my mind.

    Where do I belong ?

    Nova Scotia is such a very special place and I understand entirely your love of this magical friendly province.


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