After 30 years when my husband Barry and I took joy in teaching, writing and living at the 800-acre Foley Mountain Conservation Area in eastern Ontario, retirement loomed. As we prepared to turn the rented park house over to a new supervisor, we were challenged to find a satisfying living place of our own. This was the beginning of a journey to better understanding of what home meant to us.
Over more than a year, we rejected 80 houses because they were surrounded by too little land, or had land that had been hopelessly compromised. Then, when we were close to giving up, we fell deeply in love with a property so beautiful that we knew we had found our place at last. Returning over and over to the magnificent water meadow guarded by high hills, we planned for a small, simple house that would fit unobtrusively, surrounded by woods, and overlooking the ever-changing wetland.
Yes, the story I have told in my recent book, Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, includes what we learned about designing and building a house that would suit us. And indeed, after much thought and work, we ended with a dwelling that pleased us. But, important as this was to our happiness, what we discovered was so much more than helpful counters, cabinets, storage, and well-placed windows.
Over long careers, Barry as an environmental education teacher and I as a nature writer, our goal was to invite as many as possible to see nature as home. Now, settling into the house we had seen grow from the first days of construction, as we savoured the flow of light, watched stars in the darkness of wintry nights, smelled the first earthy sweetness of spring air, heard the passing raven call, there was so much to discover, so much to learn. In the end, what mattered most was nurtured by living as closely as possible with our endlessly fascinating natural surroundings. For both of us, it was the land itself that was our real home.
For more information about Peri McQuay and Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, visit her website at: perimcquay.org.