Hamilton At Night

I was raised in the city … smoggy, gritty, industrial, lunchbucket lugging … Hamilton, Ontario.

And I loved it. It was home.

Steelmaking was its lifeblood – so the price to pay for coke furnaces belching thick billows of smoke into the Southern Ontario skies was a Beijing-lite atmosphere. A city built by tenacious blue-collar immigrants from around the globe.

The white-collar high-finance banking and head office territory of Toronto, just 50 kilometres east, made for clearer skies there so long as smoggy flatulence from Hamilton didn’t waft in on them like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Hamilton isn’t usually described as a classically beautiful city. I get it now.

Hamilton – perched on the shores of the western tip of Lake Ontario.

Hamilton – a burg filled with autumnal panoramic swaths of bright orange and fiery red maple and oak trees cloaking, like soft wispy pillows, the hillsides of the escarpment “Mountain” – the very same escarpment that leads slightly southward to Niagara Falls’ waters tumbling ferociously over the parapet.

Hamilton – central to the history of the War of 1812 where British soldiers and local Indians held their ground against invading American frontiersmen; almost within musket shot distance of where Laura Secord spied on the Yanks and saved the British hides before becoming a fabulously successful corporate chocolate icon.

Laura_Secord

Laura-Secord-chocolate

Hamilton – whose only true professional sport’s team causes its citizens to chant the Oskee Wee Wee battle cry as if it held a sacred Da Vinci Code-like meaning outside of a football field.

Hamilton isn’t a sparkling jewel to look at. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We are products of our childhood. Not knowing any different, we accept the world that is given to us.

We develop rose-coloured glasses that can transform a plain woman into a stunning beauty because of the joyful energy and love she exudes.

Hamilton, through my rose-coloured glasses – not Vancouver stunning – was beautiful to me because I knew it as HOME.

And I thought it would be my home forever.

And then one day it wasn’t.

………………………

In Grade 13 Physics class – yup, Ontario had Grade 13 in those days –  ginger-haired Mr. Miedema taught me about various forms of energy.

I was a really crappy physics student – Strangely? Fortunately? The only two concepts I learned and understood that year were those of “potential energy” and “kinetic energy”.

Stored or “potential” energy signifies the idea that harnessed energy can readily be transferred as work.

When a rollercoaster sits still, having inched to the top of a monster hill, it has harnessed a huge amount of potential energy in those seconds just before it plummets at vomit-inducing speed down the track ahead.

Then, once  the rollercoaster begins its descent, the “potential” energy transforms into “kinetic” energy  energy that is in motion. Moving water and wind – and plummeting rollercoasters – are good examples of kinetic energy.

rollercaoster

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was filled with late-teenage “potential” energy. It was bottled up inside me waiting to be unleashed.

One morning before heading off for a Blood Banking job interview at the hospital where I had interned in lab technology, the phone rang in the apartment I shared with my sister.

It was Marg Allen, head of the laboratory at Stanton Yellowknife Hospital, way up in the Canadian Arctic.

“Larry, we’d like you to come work for us here in our lab in Yellowknife.

OMG, had I really sent an application to the land of the Inuit?

The expression, “Go North, Young Man” clattered around in my foggy head.

This one little phone call rocked my world of “potential” energy.

An earthquake, a tsunami, and a tornado all hit my existence simultaneously.

I was full of fears:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of leaving my hometown, my friends and family behind
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear perhaps, even of Polar Bears and Musk Oxen and Northern Lights (I could be frightened of my shadow at this point)

Once the palpitations had settled and I breathed (does breathing include stomach contents?) into a brown paper bag for a while, I gathered up my courage and phoned Marg back.

Thank you for the offer Marg … I’ll be there next Monday morning.“, I nervously mumbled.

Yellowknife_northern_lights

Yellowknife and the Northern Lights …

My “potential” energy had been locked away in a safe I didn’t know existed.

Pulled from its cocoon, it transformed into “kinetic” energy that late-September day in Hamilton, my hometown.

Life changing experiences – forks in the road – come along a few times in our lives.

One transformative phone call can change us forever. One e-mail. One kiss. One accident, good or bad.

I learned as the months passed that I wanted a life filled with kinetic energy experience.

I learned that I could adapt to different climates and people and embrace the huge and exciting diversity that I never understood or realized existed before that day.

I learned that the solution to ignorance is to throw yourself into the messy milieu of life and understanding would follow.

I learned that my best experiences in life would appear like magic out of the ether… Black and White Swans that neither I nor anyone else could have predicted.

I learned that the best way to live with fear of the unknown is to plow forward with positive hope and enthusiasm.

I learned that I would rather regret the things I did, than regret the things I didn’t do out of fear.

I learned that to die by a thousand cuts of rippling fear of the unknown is not the way to live, truly live.

I learned that Home is heartwarming and comfortable. Home is welcoming and loving.

I learned that home is actually inside of us whether it’s in Hamilton or Yellowknife … or for this Man on the Fringe … Summerland.

waltons at home

 

 

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