My car is packed to capacity with necessities and belongings that help us feel settled in unfamiliar surroundings. I have office supplies, books and writing materials. I have favourite things including my stir-fry pan, pictures of the kids, candles and a fleece throw. At the end of each “temporary life” season, I wonder how I wound up with so much stuff to take home.
Here I am, feeling a little cramped in the driver’s seat, waiting for my windshield to defrost so that I can take one final look at the view of Lesser Slave Lake. It’s the view I’ve enjoyed all summer.
As excited as I feel to drive south one last time, it’s bittersweet to leave a community that I’ve come to call “home.” I surprised myself on one of my visits with the kids in Calgary when I said I’d be heading “home” on Tuesday, meaning Slave Lake – the North Shore Homestead. I can’t remember ever referring to a different location as home before now.
I am a little distracted by the fact that The Consultant’s four-season contract is winding down. We have no current plan to live back here in Slave Lake. The reality didn’t start to sink in until the middle of my last week here.
Now, I realize all that I’m going to miss about this place –
- Living immersed in nature – rarely a day goes by where I’m not surprised by some type of wildlife activity. This year, I had a deer walk in front of the cabin almost every morning for the first month. There was a squirrel that wanted to join me inside the cabin in the worst way. A black bear ran ahead of me down the road on my drive in the other day.
- Spectacular changing views. I’ve never grown tired of these surroundings and I’ve said it before, “This is Mother Nature at her best.” From the ever-evolving sky, the weather patterns, the artistic motion and reflections on the lake, I was often entertained by simply gazing out the window.
- Roland Eben-Ebeneau – The dad (and property owner) who truly does know everything. I loved our chats about the history of the Slave Lake area and this land he owns – The North Shore Homestead. At the beginning of season one, we were looking for a place to stay and when The Consultant called him, he said, “I have the best cabins and accommodation on the lake.” He really does. If you’re ever in the area, go see Roland and tell him I sent you. This is a little piece of heaven.
- The Rex Theatre – We loved this little theatre. It’s not fancy but the popcorn’s good, the people who run it are pleasant. They show one movie a week for four consecutive evenings. You might get Bridget Jones’s Baby, Antman, …… It doesn’t matter. Dinner and a show make for a nice night out.
- The Fix Coffee Shop – was new this season. It’s a locally owned and operated spot that promotes artists, adding to their cool décor. They have some yummy treats. Be sure to try their key lime pie.
- Champions Health and Fitness – was also new this season. I was so happy to have a well maintained, well managed facility to use when the whether wasn’t cooperating for my Devonshire Beach walks this summer.
- Gilwood Golf and Country Club – a lovely little 18-hole course, perfect for a beginner like me. Our only regret is that we didn’t discover the great food in the club house sooner. What were we thinking? The bonus is, if you stay at the North Shore Homestead, you can drive over in your golf cart. It’s right next-door along the TransCanada Trail.
- The northern lights – Everyone kept asking us whether we’d seen the northern lights while living in Slave Lake. Well, we finally saw them a few weeks ago. Just in time. I was afraid we’d missed our chance.
- A welcoming community – I was never treated as a stranger here. People are kind. They see each other, so I never felt anonymous. I feel so lucky that The Consultant’s work landed us here.
I’ll always be grateful for the time I’ve had to explore this area. I have so many fond memories of the town of Slave Lake and this region in northern Alberta. I know I haven’t covered everything. You’ll just have to visit and see for yourself.
You know, I had planned to really settle in for this, our final season here but, it’s been a challenging summer to be away from my true home. Family members have been tested by unexpected circumstances. One life leaves us, another arrives.
I’m looking forward to offering unconditional support to those who can use it, meeting my new great-niece in person. With mixed feelings, I’ll help Princess move out.
Season four of the Slave Lake chapter of our temporary life has come to an end. I’m looking out over the lake and thinking, “This is it; our contract really is over.” As I pull away from our cabin, I wonder where we’ll go next. And I wonder whether I’ll ever call another temporary location “home.”