Living in hope, finding a way


A lovely old garden shed  on the “to do” list needs some TLC

I live in Hope.

I do that literally, as in I live in Hope Ness. I also live in hope of learning how to tap into the special spirit of Hope Ness so at this late stage in my life I can finally do justice to it, and life.

About time; it’s been 37 years since that wonderful, hopeful moment when I came out of the woods, around a curve in the then still-gravel county road and was stopped in my tracks by a place that called out “home” to me.

There were more twists and turns, more ups and downs over the years; here sometimes, sometimes not. But hope and stubborn perseverance have seen me through, and I’m here to stay for good now in Hope Ness, at the place I have come to call Cathedral Drive Farm, beside the Hope Bay Nature Reserve, the Hope Bay Forest, and Hope Bay itself, of course.

I hope to make the farm a retreat and refuge, as well as a fun place, for members of my large extended family, including many grandchildren, and so far one great grandchild.

A splendid section of the 750-kilometre-long Bruce Trail emerges from the Forest at the end of my driveway, the forest Wilma called Cathedral Woods. I hope hikers will feel welcome to visit and take some time to rest their weary feet, or spirits. I will put up a sign, just so they know.

I also hope to welcome visitors from anywhere in the “global village” who find their way here, by chance or on purpose; and that includes the new immigrants and refugees who have come to Canada, in hopes of starting a new and better life.

I think, for example, of the couple who called to me from their van as I was planting seeds in my garden last spring in the front field. They were looking for Hope Bay, but had missed that road, turned down the Hope Ness Road, and then Cathedral Drive, and found the farm. I walked over and gave them directions. “You have a beautiful place here,” the woman said, with something approaching wide-eyed wonder, as her husband nodded in agreement. I hope they come back.

I think it’s fair to say I live on hope to a large extent these days. It may be absurd, foolish even, under all the circumstances.

My income is modest. For some time now – and for the time being still – I have lived marginally here, managing as best I can without indoor plumbing. I make do with water jugs filled up at the ever-running Berford Lake artesian well. But I have electricity, which is something the people who lived in this house didn’t have before about 1950. So, I have a stove to cook on, and a fridge. And, continuing on the bright side, I have a newly-shingled roof on the main part of the house, and a new furnace to keep me warm enough, with the help of storm windows or plastic.

So I’m way better off than a lot of people in this world.

Still, I have hopes and plans for this coming spring and summer, to renovate the back addition, upgrade the wiring, get some plumbing installed; and maybe more.

I must, for some reason, always be working towards something more, to make life “meaningful,” or – and this is probably more what it is for me – to energize the moment I have, even if it’s the last one.

I can’t stop. I have to keep going. Like the aging, local woodsmen told me a year or so ago, “If I stopped working I’d be dead within a year.”

I doubt I could do that without hope.

I’m not finding it easy to admit growing old, including to myself. I look in the mirror and I can hardly believe it’s me I see, because I’m still a child at heart in lots of ways. So, I guess I’m in denial about it; but I can’t escape the reality, that I get tired, I who used to have so much energy to back up my hopes and dreams, however foolish; I who could work all day, 12 hours a day or more.


A pile of old straw that wants spreading, a water trough asking for help.

I have a daily “to do” list now that’s way too long; no time at all to be just frivolous and nothing else, without feeling guilty about it. I could go up, down, and around this old farmhouse, take a walk over to the barn and around the property, and see a thousand things that need to be done; and that’s just to keep things from falling apart, or to deal with the detritus and clutter of the last broken dream. There’s a life’s work right there, let alone the time and energy for new, hopeful creation.

Yes, it can be discouraging, depressing even; it feels so overwhelming sometimes, so hard just to figure out where to start.

Is it unrealistic to the point of craziness? Am I setting myself up again for failure? Is it time finally to stop and say, enough, I will not do this again – maybe even just walk away, to God knows where? Is that the truth I can’t bring myself to admit?

I hope not. I have to believe there is a way, and not just for my sake. Who knows who may find their way here, and the good it will do?


Well, now that was interesting. I had just finished what you, hopefully, just read when the power went off. A wind storm that went through early this morning without causing me any problems must have sent in the second wave.

So, I called the Ontario Hydro outage line to report it. A recorded message said thousands of other people were without electrical power in various places. I later learned high winds had caused a lot of outages in the Lion’s Head area, with trees coming down and all. I scurried around to get my 3000 watt Honda generator hooked up to a small portable heater. But it wouldn’t start, likely because of stale gas, I thought. So I drained the gas tank and the carburetors, and checked the spark plug for good measure. That was the problem: the gap was blocked with carbon. So, I cleaned it, put everything back together, filled the tank with fresh gas . . . and then just as I was about to pull the cord to start it, the power came on. It had been off about three hours. Our local Hydro repair crews are good.

By the way, the generator started like a charm after all that. I ran it for a few minutes, and told myself it was high time anyway I did that routine maintenance on such an important, and pricey, piece of equipment.

Here’s the moral of this little addendum: most small engine problems are caused by stale gas gumming up the carburetor and valves; more than 30 days and it starts to be suspect, and maybe smelling a little like shellac already , because that’s what it’s turning into. And yes, I should know better.

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