There’s no place like home, but one needs to get out

Dear Uma: Orson Welles said there are only two emotions on an airplane — boredom and terror. I got to experience them both on my trip to…

Dear Uma:

Orson Welles said there are only two emotions on an airplane — boredom and terror.

I got to experience them both on my trip to Toronto, one each way.

Flying from Vancouver to Toronto was boring, but on the return flight there was enough turbulence to cause a palpable sense of fear in the cabin as we were given instructions that sounded ominously pre-crash.

The thing about putting one’s head between one’s knees — are we being asked to kiss our asses good-bye?

Along with what I imagine are the usual thoughts of loved ones left behind and things left unsaid, I was feeling angry with myself for putting in a cupboard those beautiful bath sheets you brought when you and Andrew visited.

All those times I could have been wrapped from chin to ankles in deep red terrycloth, and I’ve been “saving” them.

I also found myself regretting a life without a dog.

Whether it was the scare on the way home or a genuine emotion I have yet to sort out, I find I am deeply pleased to be back in our trailer in Watson Lake.

Seated at my desk with my big mug of Tetley’s tea, looking out at the tangle of bush outside the window and hearing the twitter of birds and the barking of the neighbourhood dogs, I am filled with a feeling of homecoming.

Four days in one of Canada’s busiest cities was a jolt, after village life, and the logistics of getting there and back from Watson Lake are lengthy and complicated enough (and expensive enough) to make me understand why such travels are not undertaken more often by people who live here.

Not that Toronto didn’t provide a good time; it most assuredly did, and my hosts spared no expense in making me comfortable and keeping me entertained.

Maybe because the research project they wish me to take on involves the 18th century, or maybe simply because it is extraordinary and they wished to please me, I was put up at Eliana’s B & B.

No ordinary bed-and-breakfast place, the mansion was built in 1879 and has been meticulously, luxuriously restored by its present owner, Eliana Bueche, a Spanish born artist and architectural designer.

She ran an art gallery here for many years before buying the old house and turning it into the showpiece it is now. Every room features works of art, antique furniture and sculptures. It has been so perfectly done in every detail that filmmakers often use it as a location.

The exhibit that I was there to see, of 18th-century porcelain, was at the Gardiner Museum, and as you know, Charles — the son of our old friends from Berkley days, India and David Mason — is the new curator.

He is really something, Uma, urbane, handsome, well respected in his work, possesses of a wicked sense of humour and a thorough knowledge of and liking for the esoteric.

Remembering him as a loud and dirty little boy, Chuckie, and then a pimpled and sullen adolescent, Char, it was hard to believe this walking ad for GQ is the same person.

He lunched with the project co-ordinator and me one day at the museum, charming us with stories of Florida where he was working before being head-hunted and moving to Toronto. He took me out on my last night in town — dinner and a show.

We went to a restaurant called Fred’s Not Here and ate their famous lobster bisque. Its fame is deserved; the puff pastry alone made me whimper with pleasure.

The place was packed full of uptown types, many of whom looked vaguely familiar.

Sharon Stone was there, surrounded by a retinue of glamorously garbed people while she herself was prosaic in slacks and a tailored shirt. Charles told me she is currently making a movie here.

The play we saw was Evil Dead — the Musical. Out of respect for my advanced age, he did not book us seats in the two front rows where demon blood got sprayed from the stage all over the thrilled audience.

This is a theatre event described by one critic as being “a bevy of blood, a plethora of pain, a cornucopia of corn,” and he loved it! As did most of the critics in the city, if the reviews are to be believed.

I would not likely have chosen it, but I am really glad Charles did because it was hilarious, with terrific music and dancing. It was exciting in a way that demanded a mind stretch, reminding me that such an exercise is needed once in awhile.

Maybe I am getting old and lazy and have to be prodded to a mind stretch these days. Maybe that’s why I find I am feeling so glad to be back in this little town.

The lack of traffic and related noise, the familiarity of faces, the established routines of our household all contribute to this sense of comfort and of safety — both sensations to be cherished in a time of accelerated fear and hysteria.

Making my long way home, even Whitehorse felt too bustling for me, but in a different way than Toronto.

Whitehorse seems noisily preoccupied with an entirely imagined sense of self-importance. Whatever actually goes on there other than government has eluded me, but it does keep the populace moving around, looking busy and intent.

Life in Watson Lake would be not so enjoyable for me had I not travelled, however, and if I did not still have access to travel.

I need to see and experience other places, people; I need something outside of myself to stimulate, agitate, or challenge me.

I lack the to capacity to create this mental movement for myself even while recognizing how good it is, and wanting the results.

It’s like exercising our bodies; we all know its good for us and we need it, but most of us have a hard time just doing it.

I don’t want to get thickened and deadened to the point where anything new or different is an irritant rather than an excitement. Travel keeps me flexible, and available to new ideas.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on those accounts.

“Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all of one’s lifetime.”

Statements like this don’t come into being and stay around without some truth in them.

Small town residents illustrate Twain’s remark very well, and Watson Lake is largely peopled with these illustrations.

Many residents of this community travel, but they are the sort of travellers who don’t like the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people.

They go for trophies, proof of their journeys; the photos, the T-shirts, the artifacts of the tourist. They might as well stay home for all the changes or fresh understandings they bring back.

Happily there are others who, while ignorant of the world, are not prejudiced, bigoted or narrow-minded, but hold broad, wholesome and charitable views of men and things.

They are not numerous, these generous and kind human beings; they seldom occupy positions of leadership, sad to say, but where in the world are they large in number, or holders of power?

Suffice to say, there are some here in this little northern town and their presence helps to make it a good place to live. Every encounter with these people reminds us to try, in spite of the difficulty, the near impossibility, to be our best selves in the midst of the world’s crush.

Freshly appreciative after my brief venture Outside, I sit at my desk and bask in the blessings, wallow in the well-being, and roll in the riches of where I am and what I have in this little corner of the planet.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.

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