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There's no place like home: happiness can be found in your own backyard
by Martha Ladly

Welcome to FEEL, Version 2

"Man, your life ain't that different from mine!" This universal realization, this sense of a collective story that we share as humans, surfaced recently when HorizonZero guest artist Wayne Dunkley and Net artist Margot Lovejoy spoke in a lively conversation at Lovejoy's home in New York City. Their conclusion - that people are often telling the same story even when their vocabulary and experiences differ - is demonstrated emotionally by the artists and writers who have contributed to Flights and Returns, the second phase of Issue 7, FEEL: the longing for home.

In our special section of short essays devoted to Home and Longing, performer Pascal Contamine explains that the only home he knows belongs to travellers on an earth filled with landscapes and peoples of all kinds. Meanwhile, Montréal's Phyllis Katrapani writes about making her film Ithaque in Greece and Turkey - the lands of her origins - in order to recall her ancestral home. Valerie Lamontagne, in her own search for home, has come to realize that identity is relative. And artist Katherine Liberovskaya, whose family are Russian exiles from Belgrade, says that she has always felt that her home was both everywhere and nowhere.

"Why do we live in Nowhere? Partly because social and economic pressures leave us fewer choices," claims writer and critic Darren Wershler-Henry, whose most permanent home is situated on the World Wide Web. Kirt Ejesiak, who provides new media services to Inuit communities from his base in Iqaluit, Nunavut, asks, "Which way to my spiritual home?" And HorizonZero's Editor in Chief Sara Diamond makes the most of her footloose life while writing about the romance and reality of migration and contingent dwelling.

And in our major features section, we profile the work of Wayne Dunkley: Here you'll find a transcript of Dunkley's conversation with Margot Lovejoy (The Resonating Pool). We've also asked poet and critic Ian Samuels to look closely at Dunkley's online artwork. Samuels likens the longing for home, and Dunkley's Web project sharemyworld.net, to the work of the humanitarian and author Jean Vanier. Samuels writes, "The principles laid out in Vanier's book Becoming Human - that all people are sacred; that maturity lies in working together; that choice (and responsibility for one's own life and the lives of others) is key; that reflection on truth and meaning is a necessity - can in many ways be seen informing Dunkley's online projects."

It is for this reason that we have been excited, moved, and honoured to work with Wayne Dunkley to create FEEL: the longing for home. If you desire more, simply enter our story archive to witness and participate in this storytelling experience. Share your world - with all of us.

Your Own Backyard (or: Martha Shares Her World)

Leaving Canada at the age of eighteen, I was to spend more than two decades of my life away from home and family, in the UK. I didn't know when I left in the early 80s that I would be gone for so long - my plan was to spend a year or two at college. Oh yes, I came back for a summer - an extended period back at art school - but when I graduated it was time to go. And this time, I knew I wasn't going to be back soon.

Why did I leave? To find where I had come from. To fulfil a dream I had grown up with. To see and be where my father's family lived. I had built an imaginary life in this world, which I thought to be more sophisticated, cultured, artistic and exciting than anything Canada had to offer. I dreamed it and drew it and sang it and knew that it was in my blood. My home was somewhere else, and I had to see it.

After an initial short period of adjustment in London, I knew I had been right. Though I never really "belonged", my foreign status conferred upon me a uniqueness, and a slipperyness, that allowed me to escape stultifying definitions of family, schooling and status. These concepts meant little to me. I found it quaint and weirdly fascinating to realize that Britain's elite have spent centuries defending their own, to the detriment of British culture and the country's economic status. Nonetheless, I studied their ways and adopted what I liked. And the British took to me - for my freshness, my lack of a past, my very Canadian-ness. And for many years, I didn't long for home. Not even for one single moment.

Over the years, my annual visits home for a Canadian sojourn took on a quality of myth. Getting away from the rain and gloom of the UK was a pilgrimage, first on my own and then with my children, all of us grateful for the warm glow of sun on summer skin. We devoted our holidays to hanging out with extended family at the cottage by the lake - the quintessential Canadian summer experience. Swimming, diving off the rocks, sunning on the dock, reading, skinny dipping under the stars, eating and drinking and living better than we ever did back in England.

It was when my children started to grow that an unease began to creep up on me. For years I could not identify it, but then I began to realize that it was a feeling of loss, almost of desertion. I was longing for home. I longed for that idyllic childhood relaxation - time now only snatched for a few days between hectic work and transcontinental flights. Two weeks at home didn't assuage the need that was growing in me. Finally, I reasoned that I might recapture that childhood ease, if not for myself then for my children. We could live better in Canada. I wanted to come home.

And so it was no wonder, when I told the girls that they needed to know what it was really like to be Canadians (not just summer holiday Canadians, but real, hard, snow and ice, fending-off-the-cold-for-months Canadians who earn their summer) that my plan faced little resistance. We could get winter without having to drive to the Alps! All views were rose-tinted with that warm sunny Canadian glow.

And so, what is it like, this coming back to Canada, this coming home? Well, of course, for my daughters it wasn't coming home at all. Even though they are Canadians, this has never been their home. They were leaving their home - the country of their birth, and their beloved family and friends in the UK. To leave stuffy old England, their Victorian Girl's School in a Georgian City in the west of this tiny island, was an enormous leap. But they were brave and wanted to try it out, for a time. That was the promise: We'll try it.

And we did. And we have. And we love it. The winters are long, but they're bright, and the snow makes everything beautiful and dramatic. And the summers are just as long and lazy as I remember, if tinted with a dramatically decreased air quality in the city and the hazy suburbs. More reason to get up to the cottage.

It's easier now - to get around, to work, to go out, to pay the bills, to live. We have more money and don't have to worry as much. True, we don't laugh at jokes the way we used to. We don't watch football or enjoy TV as much. We never go to the pub for Sunday lunch. I miss authoritative news and the feeling of being really connected to the European world of politics and culture. But we are surrounded by family, and friends new and old, and the feeling of home. And for now that other longing is muted.

What I hadn't anticipated is a resistance against the idea of having more than one home. I have always found that notion to be a marvellously freeing concept - my escape hatch. If I got tired of one home or family, I could always flee and retreat to another. But this has no appeal for my daughters. Perhaps it is too complicated for the teenage psyche, or too radical for the way we live now. We want things to be definite. We want to know where we are and why. And we don't want to have to make big choices. Life is hard enough.

I'm home, repatriated, and glad to be here. My young Canadians want to stay too, for a while longer than we had originally planned.

No promises of forever. But why should I expect that?

Martha Ladly is the Director of HorizonZero.

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