Sunday, August 5, 2012

finding your geography

I live in Ottawa, the capital of Canada (in case you ever need this piece of trivia). Yes, it’s cold in the winter (but not the coldest capital in the world, only the seventh—another piece of trivia). It’s also surprisingly hot in summer and absolutely spectacular in spring and fall. And because it’s the capital, it has lots of cool stuff.

I moved here—as many women my age do—to be near family (my daughter). We had started writing books together, and the 5-hour to-and-fro was not working. Plus I was pretty sure she was going to have little ones, and I wanted to be near. And, although it was not a factor, after multiple visits, I had come to love the city.

What makes a city lovable? Before I left Kitchener-Waterloo (where I had lived for 40 years, and which still had my step-family and friends plus a monster knitting guild that I loved), I was asked by a woman in the guild "Why Ottawa? Where did you grow up?” At that moment, the light bulb went off!

  • I was born in Toronto, a big city on the water.
  • I went to high school in Sault Ste Marie, a small city on the water, huddled against the rocks.
  • Ottawa is a big city, on the water, huddled against the rocks.

I had gone to the University of Waterloo, in a small city surrounded by rolling farmland with little water and no rocks. (Be careful where you go to university: you might get stuck there!) And—even after 40 years of living and working and raising a family there—it had never felt like home.

So my move to Ottawa had me finding my geography. I immediately felt the sense that I was home. My condo is near the river, the river is full of rocks, and I go down there to give thanks every day.

There is a flat plateau in the river near me (at Remic Rapids) where the artist John Felice Ceprano creates "balanced rock" installations each year. Every fall the winter waters wash them out: every summer he creates them anew. This is a small section: go to to see more!

I had heard, but never understood, how much geography mattered. My research on creativity said that it was important to find your space (where you need to work) and your geography (where you need to live). I had gotten the former but not the latter. But now I get it. And I would wish for you to find the same.

Because it is a great gift to know that I will live my final years in a city that makes me happy to the deepest spaces of my brain, my bones, my lungs, and my heart.

If you are tourist to this part of Canada, do not miss a trip to the capital. It is a city of only 800,000 with
  • national galleries
  • the national theatre
  • fabulous architecture
  • lots of pageantry
  • 2 rivers and 1 canal
  • so many parks that you can be in the middle of the city and not be able to see it
  • bike paths and trails
  • the kind of festivals you’d expect in cities twice the size
  • quick access to small mountains and lakes
  • yarn shops!

Welcome one and all!


  1. Sounds beautiful. I live in Australia, born and bred Aussie for several generations but i have constantly moved around this great land, trying to experience all of it. Maybe i need to experience Ottawa one day also.

  2. Oh yes, do come to Canada (and Ottawa).
    And I need to get to Australia! My son spent a year there and longs to return. I'll just hitch a ride with him.
    Thanks for writing.

  3. The only time I have been to Ottawa was during winter carnival. My university friends and I skated on the canal. Good memories of a wonderful city, but I don't think my feet have ever been so cold!