I forgot how big the sky is in the prairies. Even though the faint outline of the Rocky Mountains was to my right, the land and sky stretched out in all directions around me, unimpeded by the ocean shores or jagged peaks I had become used to lately.
At once it was freeing to be in the middle of a wide open space, but also intimidating. Especially because within my sight was a massive storm, and I was driving right for it.
I could see the exact edge of the heavy rainfall, cars would suddenly be visible as they emerged from it and others would disappear into it. It stretched out like a wall from east to west, its forceful imposition playing out right before me. The weather update on the radio station warned of high winds and heavy rain, nothing that this tough Alberta girl hasn’t seen before, but slightly unnerving just the same.
I turned to the passenger seat – it was empty. I’ve driven this route from Calgary to Lethbridge a hundred times before on my own, but I never felt so alone.
I get this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I’m around Calgary. When I’m in the northwest near the University, I feel like I have a paper due. When I’m near downtown, I’m late for a meeting or I need to prepare myself for a long night of work. You would think that with enough time and distance between myself and the stresses of my former life that those sick, pit-of-stomach feelings would pass, but they haven’t.
I feel more self-conscious about my appearance here. I don’t like the stream of gas-guzzling trucks crowding the downtown streets, or the immediate fraying of my nerves as I drive Deerfoot Trail.
In short, I feel no nostalgia, and little attachment to the place I called home for so many years. And it’s not because it is an awful place, quite the contrary – there is so much beauty in the area and many dear friends that I am dying to see, but my view has been spoiled for so many different reasons. The difficult times that led up to our decision to travel, the years of my life I chose to waste in a cubicle at the expense of my health and sometimes my relationships. It’s those gnawing feelings that I just can’t shake.
Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. So, maybe I didn’t give it a fair chance. In the blinding ambition of my youth, I didn’t see it as a place to enjoy, but only as a ladder to climb. I submitted to the mentality of do-better-get-bigger; I didn’t have the maturity to strip that away, to balance my life with actually living.
It’s not the place. I’m pretty sure it’s just me.
I’ve spoiled it. It’s not my home.
So, what is?
I entered the storm with both hands gripped firmly on the wheel, and slowed my speed to under the limit. Wipers were going full tilt, but only intermittently, as the impressive grey wall did give way to light every few minutes before closing in again. Such is southern Alberta weather, constantly changing and always keeping you on your guard.
I talked to myself: pep talks when I was passing semi trucks, wary of their spray, and cursing during those few seconds where nothing was visible through the pounding water that blurred on the windshield.
Pete and I don’t spend much time apart. In our chosen lifestyle of perpetual travel, we are together most of the day, everyday. We have become important appendages to each other such that even when I’m in familiar territory, even when on a route I have traveled solo many times before, his absence was severely felt. It had only been a few hours, but I missed him.
Maybe it doesn’t matter that I felt no attachment to what was my home for fifteen years. Because as I drove away from it, and even into the uncertainty of a storm ahead of me, I was beaming.
I knew that my home wasn’t a place, but a person.
And I’d be there soon.