What brings you home?
What brought you here, to this place you call home?
If you’re like most Northword readers, you could have found your way here by any number of means: you came for work and never left. You came as a tourist, left, and came back as soon as your life allowed. Or you were born here and never left or, if you did leave, you came back when you realized what you’d left behind. Whichever your story, something about this place resonated with you, something that made it home.
If you’re one of those who came here from away, do you remember what whispered in your ear and said, “you’re home, don’t go… stay”? Was your feeling for home love at first sight? Or a love affair that grew over time? Was it like recognizing an old friend you just hadn’t met yet? Or maybe it was like finally coming home after a long journey.
For me, it was all of the above. It was cresting Hungry Hill for the first time and seeing the Bulkley Valley with her arms spread wide, from the Telkwa Range on one side to the Babines on the other; Quick laid out the welcome mat ahead and Hudson Bay Mountain beckoned on the far left with Brian Boru marking the edge of the valley over her shoulder in the distance. I just knew this was it. The valley’s first big hug was welcoming me home. It was exciting. It was comforting.
Every time I come over that rise, I re-live that first thrill of belonging.
When I meet people who are new to town—whether it’s my town or any of the communities that dot the highways crossing the top half of our province—I look for that spark in their eyes that reflects how they feel about the place where they’ve moved. Is it home? Or is it home? How does it feel? What does the air smell like to them, how does the water taste? Are their neighbours friendly, do the folks at the grocery store treat them well? Do they like the food? Can they handle the snow? Does it feel like they should—perhaps—stay a while?
It doesn’t happen often but occasionally I’m lucky enough to run into someone who’s been here for a week and simply doesn’t want to go. More often, I’ll talk to people who came for a week 20 years ago and, well, here they are!
If it’s the love-at-first-sight kind of love that enticed you into staying and making this place home, what made you stay after the honeymoon was over? It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the physical beauty we’re surrounded with, it’s hard to resist its charms. After the first sight of the ridiculous beauty of our North and the warmth of that first visual hug, then what? Even when we take the scenery for granted, if we’re here for the long term it’s because we’re compatible. There are lots of beautiful places in the world; time and money willing, we can visit them whenever we want. But how many of them would you call home?
When I read Kelsey Wiebe’s article in this issue about Curtis Hampton, the blacksmith who forged a relationship with Terrace while he was working in camp at Kitimat, it brought home all those first feelings of discovery. Curtis may have gone on to other jobs in other places, but he could well be one of the many who came for work and left only to return. Some day. Or maybe it was just a flirtation.
And the Syrian families who will soon be joining us—in Smithers and across the region—what will be their reactions to these places we call home? My guess is, for them, the whispers of the landscape will be secondary to the warmth of the people who welcome them. Our new friends will bring another meaning to the concept of home that we can only imagine.