Home is where the heart is

On EDGE: Opinion

Blaine Wasylkiw

Driving to work today with the sunroof open to let the warm California sun shine down on me, I took note of the streets lined with palm trees, the fact that I wear shorts year-round and that we are already swimming in backyard pools. I could not imagine a life more removed from the one I had growing up in Yellowknife.

Sacramento is now my home and I genuinely enjoy living here, with all the perks of the sunshine state enjoyed on a daily basis. However, the older I get and the longer I live here, the stronger my heart aches to be North of 60. I miss going to work, and then returning home, in the dark on those long winter days. I miss the endless summer nights spent around a Long Lake camp fire with friends. I miss the panic mode setting in when milk is about to become more expensive than gold and fresh produce becomes as mythical as a unicorn when the ferry goes out (although, granted, that’s all a thing of the past thanks to the new bridge and the magic of wolf urine to keep the bison at bay.) Most of all, I miss the genuine sense of community, and connectedness, that is shared by all in Yellowknife.

I stay connected to the north by way of Facebook, Twitter, news websites and TuneIn Radio (it’s surreal to drive down an eight-lane freeway while listening to Mix 100). Texting lets me keep in touch with friends and family back home as though I was still in my old house on Negus Place instead of driving across the Golden Gate Bridge while looking out across the water at Alcatraz.

I think back to how I couldn’t wait to get out of Yellowknife once I graduated from high school and, once I did, how I ran as far away as I could to attend university in Montreal without once looking back, eager to trade small-town life for the bright lights of a big city and find my place (and myself) in the wider world. Yet now, at an age that I begrudgingly admit is middle-aged, I realize just how true it is that “home truly is where the heart is.” The longing I feel for Yellowknife – for my home – is so profound that it’s a physical ache, one that hurts my heart in a very tangible way. I try to travel back at least once a year, usually for New Year’s Eve so I can get my fill of “real” winter and do my best to expose my family to the place where I grew up, in the hope that they might grasp even a faint glimmer of why Yellowknife has such a firm grasp on my heartstrings. Yet I realize that is ultimately futile, as while they may enjoy their time up north, they cannot possibly share the lifetime of memories and emotions that make Yellowknife so much more to me than a rare trip to a remote destination.

While I try my best to keep up with goings-ons and Long John Jamborees and childhood friends becoming mayor, I must begrudgingly accept that I am now but a passive observer, stuck on the other side of the glass looking in, yearning to be part of the generational turnover that I see taking place in Yellowknife. I long to be part of shaping the future of my hometown and wish I could be involved in reviving civic pride by way of politics, festivals, and viral videos…

But I can’t, because while I may yearn to return to Yellowknife, Sacramento is where my family calls home and where we have planted our roots. Our life – my life – is here. And while I may logically recognize that fact, emotionally I struggle to shake the longing to once again hear the sound of fresh snow crunching under my boots as I run to my car, cursing the miserable cold through a frozen, wide-mouthed smile.

Born and raised in Yellowknife, Blaine now resides south of the border in Sacramento, California. He does his best to make an annual pilgrimage home to celebrate New Year’s Eve under the northern lights.

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