Having had quite enough of life in the city, my wife and I decided about twelve years ago to move to Nova Scotia, which we’d discovered for ourselves on a car trip to eastern Canada in 2000. When I was a boy, my family often made the long drive to New England to spend a week or two on the coast of Maine, which we considered to be paradise. Nova Scotia reminded me of what Maine might have looked like fifty years ago or more. We were entranced by the empty beaches, the slow pace of life, the plentiful seafood, and the gentle nature of Nova Scotians.
We were also amazed by the low prices of real estate. In our Toronto neighborhood of Parkdale, housing prices had recently passed the $400,000 mark. That got you a dilapidated Victorian with a front yard that could fit under a handkerchief, if you were lucky, and neighbors so close you could touch your house and theirs at the same time. In Nova Scotia, we found, you could buy a place near the ocean, perhaps with acres of property, for a quarter of the price. We hoped to start a family soon, and we had no compelling reason to suffer the traffic jams, overcrowding, and high prices of the city any longer.
It took a couple of years, but we made the move in 2002, after finding a home on the South Shore that was tucked away in the woods but boasted a view of the sea. In more exclusive areas, a glimpse of water is enough to drive prices up by a hundred thousand or more. Ocean views are nothing unusual around here. Even the simplest bungalow or the most pedestrian double-wide might be perched within spraying distance of your larger waves. Our local supermarket parking lot is situated on salt water. I can watch bald eagles and ospreys hunt for fish while waiting with my daughters for the arrival of the school bus. The jackhammers of Brooklyn and the hour-long commutes on Toronto’s 401 are a distant, unpleasant memory.
We’ve been here ten years now, and we’ve put down roots. Both of our children were born here. The crawl spaces under the eaves are filled with empty suitcases and boxes of Christmas decorations. The windowsills bear the teething scars of our children, who gnawed on them for relief when no taller than my knee. The doorway of the utility room charts the heights of our kids and those of our friends. It’s the only home our girls have ever known, and it’s the longest I’ve lived in one place since I was a teenager. I don’t see us leaving any time soon.
Life here seems to move at a sane pace, or at least a pace that contributes to my overall sanity. The best illustration of what it’s like here is a story that was related to me by a friend. It seems there was a local general store that sold various flavors of ice cream, including ten or fifteen of the most outlandish combinations you could think of, but not chocolate. When asked why, the owner said, “We used to carry chocolate, all right. But we were selling too much of it, so we had to give it up.”