Moving our little family from St. John's to Trepassey was not a difficult decision. While friends, family, and even a few strangers asked "WHY?" and likely thought we had finally gone completely off the deep end, we knew from the center of our beings that it was the right choice.
We used to live in an "ideal" neighborhood for families. One comprised of townhouses and condos, sitting on the edge of a well-known family park that spawns 500 acres with all of the usual offerings including playgrounds, swimming pool, fountain, multiple trails, sports fields, and a duck pond. Within 5 kms we had a library, shopping center, dance school, 2 Elementary Schools and even a brand new High School. There were about 20 restaurants nearby and even a Timmies and a Starbucks within walking distance. It was a neighborhood for family life, a Utopia of sorts in the west end of the big city of St. John's. This vision of family-oriented living though was gradually chipped away with an increase in criminal activity and a visible escalation in the use of street drugs. Things really changed for us when we started to notice needles littering the trails around the park. Then there was an attempted (armed) home invasion a street up from us (although we somehow felt relieved to learn it was drug related and not random), and a murder-suicide on the street adjacent to us (although that could happen anywhere). Our address became attached to 3 police files: one petty theft (a random guy stole a gas can and was caught by police before we even knew it happened), one attempted break in (another random guy was convinced we were harboring his girlfriend and tried to force his way into the house to get her), and then the piece-de-resistance: a pair of men arrived in a pickup truck in full view of our neighbors and stole our snowblower from our storage shed. The rest is history. Our home, listed in what was described as a "lovely family neighborhood", sold in 5 days. There was no doubt where we would go.
When I first "met" Trepassey I fell in love with it as quickly as I had fallen for Garry, See, Trepassey isn't something you experience if you just drive the Irish Loop. You have to get off Route 10 and actually go into the town to see it. I had no idea that there were so many beaches, that there was a lighthouse... and I had absolutely no clue how Garry seemed to know every person that drove by. Like any community, Trepassey is not just a point on a map. It's not just a destination on a GPS, or a picture on a postcard. Trepassey is, by its very nature, a quilt made up of patches of cultures and peoples who have attempted to live there - of centuries of families, woven together with sheer perseverance and rugged determination to survive in the brutal harshness of an unforgiving yet beautiful landscape. The incredible history of Trepassey includes a multitude of attempts at settlement from different countries, and the Trepassey of today is made of a combination of people who witnessed an epic economic rise and likewise survived the unexpected collapse of the economy with the end of the fishery. The people there today have either chosen to settle in Trepassey in the past decade or two - or have chosen to stay there with fierce tenacity while watching the town as it was almost disappear before their eyes.
Trepassey has one school. One library. One store. One restaurant (seasonal). One gas bar. There is no bank, no Starbucks or Tims (or coffee shop for that matter). There is a satellite detachment of the RCMP. There is a clinic, small drug store counter, and an ambulance service. There is a building supply store, and one church. One post office.
There is a tangible difference to our lives now. We may not have competing Big Name coffee shops - but we CAN get a coffee at the local store. There's no groomed duck pond in a municipal park, but we can see (and hear) loons from our living room. There are no highways or traffic calming (in fact there isn't even as much as a traffic light), but likewise there is never traffic jams and road rage just isn't a "thing" there. The one school hosts Kindergarten through Grade 12, and it is simply amazing. Having the same benefits as a big city school, the students have a wide range of after-school activities as well as the technology that would be found in any school in town. The difference is that the total student population is 34 students - which means that the student body feels much more like siblings than large classrooms of students who gradually get to know each other during the academic year. One of the highlights for me is that when we hear a gunshot ring out, we don't automatically go into lockdown in our home. It is simply someone hunting birds along our coastline. The real difference for us is the people that live there. Their resilience, determination, and sheer strength is admirable. These are the people that understand why we would move to their town, and they make us feel not only welcomed but appreciated for having moved there.
For us, life slowed down when we moved. We are truly LIVING in this rural town. We are connected to people and groups, and we have time to appreciate what surrounds us. We feel it when we enjoy a drive around the harbour. When we breathe the fresh air. When we run into someone at the shop who asks us how an extended relative is doing. When we stop to watch a seal or seabird on the beach. I'm not quite sure how to adequately describe it, but there is a feeling of belonging to something bigger - of being on a journey - of becoming perhaps part of the fabric.
Life in town seemed to be passing us by without us really realizing it - like hamsters in a wheel we got through the day, but one day blended into the next without notice.
Now, life feels like we are actually living it.