Tuesday, June 1, 2010
This is where I was born and raised. This is where I went to school and to University. Here I had my first job, my first love, my first child. This is where I was married, and it is where I hope to be buried. This, my friends, is home.
I have read that at some point in your growing up years, you look around at what you see, and that is what you love for the rest of your life. This must be the case with me. Raised on the flat, flat prairie, next to a dirty river, in middle class neighbourhoods in gritty city bursting with culture, history and character, that is what I know, and that it what I love.
I have been other places. One summer we took 3 trips out to the Fraser Vallery area of British Columbia, an area that my fellow Winnipeggers talk about wistfully, far more glamourous than our home. Full of tall, lush evergreens, rolling hills and mountain ranges... I missed the sun. Even on days when was not raining the sky there seemed smaller. They took me to the ocean. Twice. Both times I could see land on the other side of the water - Vancouver Island. I missed Lake Winnipeg at home, where you can look out over the blue-green water, and see dots of green islands, canoes, loons, and the flat watery horizon. I like flat.
Prairie land is the way everyone wants their land, you know, even if they don't realize it themselves. Even if they deny it with their dying breath! When you build a house, or a store, or even a parking lot, what do you do to the land, to the floors? Level. Even. Flat. As people build their hallways, so we build our roads on the prairies. As people build their rooms, so we build our pasturelands.
Now, of course, I never grew up out on the prairie land myself, but flat landers in the city have advantages, too. Cycling is much easier without the pesky up and down that other communities have to deal with. And on a clear day, you can see from the edges of the city, straight to the skyscrapers downtown, with nothing to obstruct your view. Seeing the buildings rise up out of the earth like that is like looking at the Emerald City, without the sparkle. We in Winnipeg have very little sparkle.
And that is another thing about home. I am an oddity in Winnipeg in that I love this place, and want to tell other people how great it is. Most people from Winnipeg are quiet about their city. There is no arrogance here, no bragging about our origins when we are in other North American cities or abroad. When people from exotic locales move here, we are always surprised. When young people pack their bags for Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver, we are not. We are not the jet set here. Fast-paced, glittery, brand-name lives await you in a city other than this.
In Winnipeg, most of us are content to just live out our lives, working for a living, keeping in touch with old friends, maybe raising a little family. We bundle up in the winter and go camping in the summer. We coupon clip and go out for dinner once and a while and try to make ends meet. When we can afford it, we get out to the festivals, and concerts and performances nearby and sing and laugh and drink with friends. We extend a hand to our neighbour when he needs it. We talk about the weather.
We are ordinary people in an ordinary place. But don't be fooled. There are treasures here and around this place, and although they may attract little more than a handful of tourists, they are an enrichment to those of us who live here. I look forward to sharing many of them with you in upcoming posts. Because I love this place. It is part of me. Love me, love my Winnipeg.