This is the first time in my life thus far that I am not, officially speaking, a transient. Or, as my mother once called me, "her little gypsy." I have a P.O. Box and a bank account at the local branch. The cashiers at Delma's Co-op know my name. I possess the kinds of things people who live somewhere awhile possess: waxed paper, three sets of sheets, a hot water bottle. I arrived here with a backpack and now my possessions would easily fill the Toyota Corolla--and more. But it's more than that. I have friends. Friends I've grown to love and depend upon. And I have this thing called a community--people that will change a flat tire for me, or come to hear me read poetry (even if they don't like poetry).
For years while traveling alone in the kinds of places I've never told my mother about, my life often depended upon the kindness of strangers. Now it depends upon this community. I think of all the things that could go wrong while living off-grid 16.5 kilometres from town, and who I could call for help. The list is long. In fact, I know I could call anyone with a phone number and they would come to my aid. This fact comforts me. Who do I thank for the gift of such a comfort on such a remote and windswept archipelago?
And who do I thank for the continuum of small gestures that make a gypsy feel at home? Thank you for buying my poetry book, for the gift of blackcurrant jelly, for the loan of your truck. Thank you for stacking my firewood and picking up my library books. Thank you for saying you wish I could stay whenever I think it's time to go.
Last night, an older and wiser friend advised that it's these types of gestures that create community. Not potlucks and loonie auctions and clothing swaps. It's not about being somewhere you think you should be. It's about doing something. Something small. As she turned to cream butter and sugar, I realized, as usual, she was right.
Today I wonder if community could mean a place of common humanity rather than common residence, if we need a place to call home to create it. As the north wind continues to blow and the water barrels freeze, I wonder if community could fit into my backpack. For when I leave, as all gypsies must, I hope you'll travel with me this time. You, the one who left a bottle of salal wine on the kitchen table, who changed my oil free of charge, who always remembers my name.