Mountain Top Experience: The meaning of home

By Eleanor Deckert


I counted. By the time I was 30 years old, I had lived in 12 houses. If you add in the dormitory, grandparents, live-in-nanny jobs, tents, summer camp, hospital, and relatives, also sleeping on the train, in a VW van and on a boat, the number of places I have stayed overnight is much higher.

Yet, I only call one of them ‘Home.’

In fact, whenever anyone asks me, “So, how did you decide to live in Avola?” My answer is always, “Because I grew up in Colorado…” I was looking for a place in Canada that reminded me of ‘Home.’

My Dad had land there. I arrived just before I turned 5 years old, and we left just before I turned 11. When I do the math, that sense of ‘Home’ comes from a mere 1/12th of my life!

So, when I had a telephone interview with Ruby Hogg, I understood her point of view.

Her childhood was spent in the forest and beside the streams in Valemount. Running free and pretending, the out-of-doors amidst the splendid mountains is so deeply embedded in her bones that when she and her husband became parents, she felt the urging to return to provide her young one with the same upbringing.

However, in-between her Valemount childhood and Valemount parenthood there is a long and winding road.

“I wanted to move to the city,” she told me. “You always want to taste something you don’t have.” She found a place in southern Alberta. Flat! Her discontent in that environment without the mountains led to an appetite to travel far and wide. Australia, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Africa. The list goes on and on.

Sometimes she stayed for months. Sometimes for years. “I wanted to experience cultures, to understand the infrastructure, to participate in developing countries. I volunteered in refugee camps. I tried to find places I could help make improvements. I volunteered in a school.”

I was curious about what she learned from all of this, and whether she ever found a place to call ‘Home,’ and why she returned to Valemount. She told me, “All of these experiences were eye-opening. I realized that I had not appreciated my own childhood home. Canada. Valemount. The freedom. The safety. The abundance. When I met, travelled with and married my husband and realized we were expecting, we returned to Valemount. To family supports.”

I took a quick peek at Ruby’s web page, ‘wideopenworld.ca’ and I was astounded at both her photography and the places she has travelled with her now growing daughter.

“I realize now that I have been away that I took Valemount for granted. Now that I have returned,  I value the bond, the sense of family, the spectacular mountains, the love I have for the earth and living beings and how much I care about all of this. This is ‘Home’ and this is an important sense to develop in  our daughter, no matter where we roam.”

This is the stuff of poetry, of song, of myth: Where is ‘Home’? Defending ‘Home’. Leaving ‘Home’. Longing for ‘Home’. Returning ‘Home’.

To quote an unknown author:

“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

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