The following was written on my first day ever belonging to a writer’s group. It was during the Upaya writer’s retreat led by Natalie Goldberg. For me, this was the take-off – the beginning of the journey – the way forward of getting in touch with my writer’s soul and reviving my creative process. This piece was prompted to the group and I enjoyed writing about it: “Directions to my Home.”
Having moved from a place I once called ‘home’, it is very difficult for me to accept where I currently am. I moved from my beloved, adopted home of San Diego back to my birth city and where my parents live – Ottawa, Canada. I returned to help my ailing Father manage his Alzheimer’s and to support my Mother. Returning to Ottawa was a shock to the system: there is much less sun, sea, sand, and surf here and my entire lifestyle changed.
I have not received any guests to my home since arriving here. Not only was I preoccupied with my parents, but then the pandemic of Corona virus hit, and nobody was visiting anyone, anywhere. In my new apartment, nobody knows the four walls that I live within, each day. Nobody has enjoyed my cooking, my plants, my bohemian style of décor, my comfy couch that has been in storage for years while I lived down south.
The thought of providing directions to someone to come and visit me was a highly unfamiliar one; and it dug into me, evoking numerous emotions. Wow! A first – someone will actually come to visit me! How shall I prepare for them? What shall I cook? What will they think of my tiny, yet comfortably decorated abode?
Scuttling between recommending a GPS, a taxi, or a bus route, I scoured my mind for a way to put this explanation into concrete terms. How can someone get to my home? Someone will visit – what do I want them to know? In the end, it seems I opted for exposing my true character, hidden deep within me, under piles of painful emotions and complex feelings. My real sense of how I perceive life climbed up to the surface, allowing me a fresh breath of oxygen, and a chance to reconnect with who I truly am. A re-birth took place! My humour emerged. I plunged through the piece in the 15 minutes Natalie allotted us.
If you’re coming from the Southwest USA, proceed to the airport, pass through the COVID-19 screening process and board the plane. Plug in your oxygen tank, put your gas mask on – sit squished into your sardine seat – squished between 2 bullies with fat bellies, who use both armrests – because airlines are too cheap to follow the “empty-middle-seat” COVID-19 rule – and feel like a human string bean for about 8 hours.
If you get to Ottawa airport without the need for a hospital transport vehicle upon landing, then saunter outside and ask a cab driver to take you to my address. They don’t allow Uber or Lyft at the airport and there are no accessible nearby side-streets you could walk to, to summon one of those services.
Tell the cabbie (although it’s not likely he will understand English – but you could use facial expressions and arm gestures, I guess) that you want to get to 1200 Anna Avenue, avoiding traffic, avoiding construction, and avoiding sitting in the cab for too long while he calls cousins in his faraway homeland for the daily news catch-up. Oh yes, and “good luck!”
I would say that the quickest way to get there is as follows:
Follow the train tracks…follow the train tracks out westward. Make sure you note if anybody is sitting on the overpass about to jump off onto the street below (because sometimes that’s what they’ll do), so that you don’t accidentally run them over. Then, as you approach Northbound Avenue, turn North and continue all the way up to Bigcity Road. You’ll encounter a lot of construction – that’s what Ottawa is: a perpetual construction zone – in order to raise property values (but all the while, making renters so uncomfortable), and there isn’t even six months of summer here.
I’d say, to be sure to visit me in July which would likely be the only month of the year that sunshine is guaranteed – amidst the thunderstorms! But take note, any good weather with warmth and sunshine WILL be coupled with constant complaining by the residents of Ottawa who are not used to such lovely conditions, causing them to whine for weeks on end until it gets cold and rainy again!
If you get to the River, you’ve gone too far. Turn around, go back, and drive in an irrational pursuit of one-way streets, avoiding the myriad of blocked-off streets until you get to what USED TO BE a gentle, tree-lined, parallel side road to Richmond road. We used to walk dogs there. We used to ride bikes along the winding path. We used to have the ugly Bigcity Road soviet-style high-rise buildings blocked from view by the magnificent and huge fir and maple trees – until “Construction” came and plowed it all away.
On that parallel road called ‘Anna Avenue’, is my house…but don’t even bother driving around to look for it because it was built with the house number facing a different street.
Just get out of the cab and turn on your GPS to walk mode!! Then, you might find my house!’
With those directions, and the taxi driver’s keen sense of how important it will be to take his next cigarette break, you and he make haste from the airport – hopefully in the direction of my street!
Take a few steps towards the house, and it’s total chaos trying to find the front door! Seems like there are side doors, side yards, back decks, and lots of windows. If you do spot a door, you’ll see separate doorbells and be assured that all of your ringing the different doorbells will be to no avail (if you can even figure out which doorbell means what) and for the record, the bells don’t even work!
At some point, there will be success, and I will welcome my very first houseguest!!
Anna Weltman has lived in Israel, Canada, and the USA and is a lover of all things multicultural, emigrational, and transformational! Her affectionate humour arises in all facets of her work, be it developing college courses, training athletes, teaching yoga and meditation, or writing fiction.