Belonging, Transition, Travel

Monday Morning Musing #62 – “None of us knew a word of English”


Dearest Jo,

How wonderful to hear of these poignant moments, of the joy of belonging to a tribe. Indeed, how fortunate we are.

As of yesterday evening, I am now ensconced in a seaside resort at a writer’s retreat on the shores of the Atlantic Coast. And as with your busy time of late, I know my tribe will have blossomed and flourished by the end of the week. In fact, Jo, you also know a few who have gathered in the idyllic spot near Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

As always when you begin a retreat, you acquaint people with your journey… my ‘short story’ goes something like this… While living in Houston years ago, I felt incredibly adrift at times. Though I’d been busy raising teenagers, for six long years, our visa disallowed me to work. Yes I volunteered and kept busy, yet my identity suffered after having lived in the Middle East for seven years. I had taught English at an International School and enjoyed a global set of friends, now half way around the world, where did I belong? I missed my tribe desperately. I recall Bruce saying, ‘Imagine when you find your true passion and the tribe that will come along with it.’

It gave me hope and once we had moved to Norway, and since, I’ve meandered down a path of tour guiding and storytelling, of writing and conferences, of speaking and now giving workshops. 

Jo, I would add that this ‘belonging conundrum’ is greatly countered by belonging to this global tribe; a journey woven beautifully and organically.

It’s a blessing for many of us, but then so is my local neighbourhood, my family and if I’m honest, I love ‘dipping’ in and out of tribes wherever I may be.

IMG_0449 2This past week, while touring with my mother through the Canadian Maritimes, I mused often at how tribe-like, how proud the locals are to call their island ‘home’, yet how giving and welcoming they were.

We’ve had a wonderful trip. We toured and wandered, chatted to locals and marvelled at the magic of autumnal colours. There was a real joy in sharing this time together as we collected stories, points on a map, and revelled in a part of the country that neither of us had previously visited.

In the harbour town of Pictou, we came upon the Hector, a small boat that arrived in Nova Scotia with two-hundred Highland Scots in 1773. Against great odds, they persevered, built communities and raised families. Still today, some descendants might have a hint in their accent that harkens to those early roots, as does their music. In truth, my mom knows the immigration story well.


Sixty-six years ago, at the age of ten, mom arrived with her parents and three siblings at Pier 21, the gateway to those seeking a new life in Canada. Between 1928 and 1971, almost one million immigrants passed through this port in Halifax. Most had already begun the immigration process in the lands they had left and after a medical test and processing, they were on their own to find work and build a new life in a foreign land.

As mom and I stood at the door that she had walked though, where those first steps on Canadian soil were taken, it was profound and emotional. She had never been back. Like many immigrants who came through Pier 21, there were struggles of belonging, of cultural and language barriers, and of missing what they had left behind. We reminisced throughout the museum, discovered the records of the ship they sailed on, and we happened to meet Pina.

Pina had arrived from Sicily the same year as my mom. “There’s nostalgia for the old country too,” Pina told us, “but Canada is home.

The two ladies shared stories of their journey, “I had my tenth birthday somewhere on the Atlantic,” my mom recounted. “None of us knew a word of English.”

“Neither did we,” Pina agreed. The two went back and forth with stories… in a matter of minutes, they were a special tribe all unto themselves!

Love for now, and greetings from Nova Scotia,

Terry Anne







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