I ran away from Toronto like a rabbit from a wolf. Moving to the country’s largest city from my smaller Ontario hometown had been like poking my head above ground and entering the wide and open field. It only took two years of exposure and uncertainty before I gathered my courage to bolt – across the country, in an old camper, to the Yukon.
Here I found many places to hide. The midnight sun was not the spotlight of the streetlamp at 3 a.m. outside the Toronto bar, nor was it the searchlight of the attractive stranger’s face. Yukon summer was a blanket that concealed all desires save the drive to be outside, awake, alive.
I made my home everywhere. I could drive down a road off the highway and find a small patch of forest to call my own, where no one else could see me. I made new friends, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with them. With the endless wilderness as my playmate, I stopped feeling like I needed so much from other people.
Soon daylight began its retreat from winter’s quiet advance, and I retreated from my camper to the warmth of a little cabin outside of town. As the cold sealed me in, I made a home in darkness. Nothing shone on me but the January moon. And I came to know the shapes my shadows take.
Three seasons later I find myself on the cusp of another Yukon winter with a heart heaving to leave hibernation. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss Toronto. I decide to return to Ontario for the winter.
In the weeks before my departure I begin to feel the hot breath of the city on my neck. I worry what will happen when I return to the open field I never knew the ends of. A place I left like a stage in the middle of a play.
One night I have a dream: I’m lost inside a giant mall, unable to find my way out. When I finally push my way through a door to the hustle of a Toronto street outside, I turn to see the sun kissing the tips of the waves of the endless Lake Ontario. Ah, I think, filling with peace and confidence. Here I am.
The anxiety around my return resurfaces when I finally take a weekend away from my parents and head into The Big City. But as Toronto’s limits near, Lake Ontario rises into view. I get off the highway as soon as I can, driving along the lakeshore as I enter the heart of the city. On a whim, I pull into a parking lot, open the door for my dog, and run to meet the water where it licks the sand of the beach.
I look out. Lake Ontario spreads itself before me, stretching to meet the cloudless horizon. Every inch of its surface is exposed, naked to the unblinking gaze of the sun. And it shines. It is brilliant.
I fill with peace and confidence.