Please al­low me to in­tro­duce my­self

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Thom Barker

It took me 28 years, but I’m back.

In the sum­mer of 1989, I was a ge­ol­ogy stu­dent work­ing for the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of Canada in north­ern Labrador. It was a trans­for­ma­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. The beauty of this big land, its stark vast­ness, its pris­tine nat­u­ral­ness, its rugged in­ti­macy im­printed on my psy­che never to be dis­lodged by the cir­cuitous path that would even­tu­ally bring me back.

When I grad­u­ated in 1994, it was a bad time for ge­ol­ogy jobs, but the shift to an econ­omy based on com­put­er­i­za­tion was full on and any­body with a pulse was in high de­mand by the high tech in­dus­try. My science de­gree and some na­tive writ­ing abil­ity served me well and got my toe in the door as a tech­ni­cal writer for Nor­tel.

I rapidly pro­gressed in the in­dus­try even­tu­ally land­ing in Austin, Texas. By the dawn of the new mil­len­nium, I al­most had it all, the six-fig­ure job, my own house, a hot car, an even hot­ter young girl­friend. What was miss­ing was a sense of sat­is­fac­tion in what I was do­ing with my life.

I had al­ways wanted to be a writer. I moved back to Ot­tawa in 2002 and got to work build­ing a free­lance busi­ness. The pay sucked, I had to live with other peo­ple and I had noth­ing, but I was much hap­pier. Even­tu­ally, I man­aged to cob­ble to­gether enough by­lines to catch the at­ten­tion of a news­pa­per ed­i­tor in north­ern Bri­tish Columbia and got my first re­porter job.

I also met and fell in love with my won­der­ful wife Lor­raine. Her ca­reer tra­jec­tory would carry us east, first to my home prov­ince of Saskatchewan where we spent nearly a decade. We al­most sank some roots in York­ton, a small city on the far east­ern edge of the prov­ince. We bought a house, got our­selves a New­found­land dog and lived there five years, about as long as ei­ther one of us had ever stayed any­where. The pull of Lor­raine’s home prov­ince was too pow­er­ful, how­ever, and when she was pre­sented the op­por­tu­nity to be the nurse prac­ti­tioner for Postville, the move was on again.

The move for me was not with­out its com­pli­ca­tions. Af­ter driv­ing 5,500 kilo­me­tres across the coun­try, I was stuck in North West River for four months be­cause our house in Postville was not ready. Don’t get me wrong, North West River is a great place to be stuck, but when you are anx­iously await­ing re­union with your spouse, it is kind of un­set­tling.

I got to make a fair bit of art, how­ever, in­clud­ing a paint­ing of the North­ern Ranger, the ship I would fi­nally board on Oct. 30. It was chal­leng­ing with a 130pound dog and three cats, but we made it to Postville on Hal­loween. It wasn’t quite over, though. High winds pre­vented us from dock­ing in Postville for al­most 24 hours. I spent that night look­ing at our house on the shore from the Ranger’s deck. So close, yet still not home.

I’ve been here al­most a week and I can re­ally feel my­self de­com­press­ing. The north coast is every­thing I re­mem­ber it be­ing. I al­most can­not be­lieve my luck to find my­self here again, this time to stay.

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