I grew up on a large dairy farm in the old Toronto Township, long before subdivisions crawled in, the name was changed to Mississauga, and the landscape was forever altered. Perhaps that is why I lost my connection with the land I had loved as a child.
When I was a little girl, there was a song on the radio that I liked to sing along with about a land of milk and honey. My older sister told me that it meant a bountiful pace, a place that had everything needed to feed you, the best place to live. Since my family raised purebred Holsteins and kept bees, I knew our farm was a land of milk and honey, which gave me a strong feeling of attachment and security.
Hours of my childhood were spent outside climbing trees, picking pears and apples, playing hide and seek around the barns and sheds, catching and investigating insects, collecting woodland and field flowers and observing animals as they poked around searching out sustenance. I had jobs like bringing in the cows, assisting with the milking, driving the tractor for haying, and tending a huge vegetable garden. All the neighbours knew one another and helped out in times of need. The local school hosted regular community events and the church picnics were well attended. I had an intimate knowledge of and connection to the farm and the community where I lived. I had a strong sense of place.
It was over ten years later, when highway 403 cut through, mangling the farm into unworkable sections and placing the farmhouse in the middle of a subdivision, that I fully realized all the ways the farm had fed me. With the farm gone, it was like I was homeless. Various resting spots around the countryside, within driving distance to my job, failed to connect me. I remained transient in my heart.
It was not until my husband and I bought our cottage near Bracebridge on Lake Muskoka that my heart found its home and I was reconnected with the land and a community, as I had been as a child. Even without the cows and bees, this was the land of milk and honey.
Since our first summer here I have been a devoted student of Muskoka, learning all I could about the land, the history and the people. Some days my conscience reproaches me when I envy the people who have had a lifetime of living or cottaging here.
A guilty twinge reminds me that I came from a place with a history worth digging through, land forms worth marveling at, and people whose struggles and triumphs were worth recording in books. My family had nearly a two hundred year history in one place. However, that place lost its sense of home for me. It was a place that I no longer knew and hardly recognized when driving through.
Suburban sprawl and the loss of community severed my connection to my first home, and I am now the adopted daughter of Muskoka. The sparkle of the lakes, the texture of the rock, the colours of the landscape, the calls of the loons, the sighting of wildlife, combined with time for increased family intimacy and shared playtime, anchor us to this place.