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Song of the South.

2004-02-18 - 4:29 p.m.

Hereís the thing: I long for the South. Not in a I-want-to-take-a-week-or-five-outta-this-cold-and-lounge-on-the-beach kind of way (though thatíd be nice too), but in a I-want-to-shake-the-dust-of-the-North-off-my-feet-and-only-return-for-a-dose-of-snow-at-Christmas kind of way. I want to live somewhere with sunshine and spiced food and fragrant foliage all year round. I want to be able to build houses with vast expanses of windows and flat roofs and maybe even the odd sinuous, adobe-looking wall incorporated. I want to be able to wear sports sandals in February. I want to hear lilting Spanish and southern drawls on the streets. So drawn am I to the idea, I have idly wondered if perhaps I lived there in a past life.

Everyone tells me Iíd miss winter if I left. At the very least, that Iíd miss the distinct seasons. I donít believe theyíre right. In the dead of winter I pore over magazines like Western Interiors and pine for the vistas in the pictures. I marvel at the fact that people live in climes where they can actually consider how to transition gracefully or even seamlessly from outside areas such as patios, to the inside of their homes.

Ottawa is a fabulous city. Itís beautiful, clean, smoke-free, bike-friendly, big enough to have some good restaurants and nightlife, and small enough so that it feels homey and the traffic doesnít hold you back at most hours of the day. It is home to museums, festivals, and professional sports teams. As the capital city, it benefits from special attention. My family is here, as is my husbandís. But for up to six months of the year I hate setting foot outside, I pay exorbitant sums for heating, cars are covered in such a thick layer of grime and salt that they appear grey (and you canít wash them or the doors freeze impenetrably shut), my husband I are constantly having to shovel to keep the driveway clear, and we track slush into the house. I am a BAD Canadian. I donít ski, skate or even toboggan. I whine with abandon when forced into the cold unprepared.

I have never understood why, when people can go anywhere to live, they donít go somewhere where they wake up every morning and think how cool it is to live there. I always swore that when I had the chance Iíd go. Then I finished university and ended up coming back to Ottawa to wait for my then-boyfriend to graduate. He was on board with the plan to move once he was done school and then weíd take off for the southern U.S. Then we broke up. I had the chance to move because it corresponded with a brief period of unemployment, but I had no money to actually relocate, or even travel to search for a good place to move to. In one of those funny twists of fate, that exboyfriend and I now own houses a ten-minute walk from each other, not that we ever make that walk and actually visit.

Now Iím married to a man with a business in Ottawa. We own a home here. I have a job, some might even say a career here. When we have kids, our support system will be here. J says that some day we may get to leave. Heís not totally set on staying here. But when? How will we ever leave? Our roots, they are starting to sink in. Thereís nothing wrong with that per se, but I fear I am a hothouse flower.

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