winter sunrise out my window

Bittersweet Transition: Why I will miss Huron County

shores of an Ontario lake

My time as a resident of Huron County is rapidly ticking away: only four  sleeps left!

As excited as I am to move in with Johnathan and have our own place together with out own backyard and laundry room, and as much as I anticipate being able to regularly visit specialty grocery stores and discover new restaurants and take the bus or a bike instead of my car, I will miss rural life.

a backyard party
A backyard party with lots of yard... and a tent trailer

There are many aspects of life in Huron County that make this transition bittersweet. First, there’s that sense of community that is only possible in small towns and rural areas. I’m talking about when you can count on knowing a percentage of every group and gathering, or on running into someone you know in every store and on every street.

Then there are the small stores where you know the owner and at least a part of their personal story and they recognize you and maybe know your name.

Out of the Storm
After last August's tornado, Goderich held a fundraiser concert called Out of the Storm. It took up half the downtown square, and everyone we knew was there!

Small-town events are the highlight of each season, like Goderich’s Winterfest or Clinton’s Pluckinfest or annual beer tents and parades. That’s not to mention the stag and does/buck and does/Jack and Jills that happen every weekend from April through Thanksgiving in every town, and where you can expect to meet up with friends new and old and be greeted with the same selection of cheap domestic beer and plastic cups with shots of vodka, rye, and rum await ice and Coke.

I will also miss the vistas. Yep, I used the word vista. For example, I live across from a corn field. It likely sounds boring, but I love being able to look out my big dining room window and see not other houses, but corn almost as far as the eye can see, or a snowy field, with a line of evergreens at the far side of the field.

winter sunrise out my window

Who could forget the proximity to the beach? One of the very best parts about Huron County and one of the things that I missed the most when I lived in Mexico is how you can get to the beach of one of North America’s biggest lakes in less than half an hour. Huron County is Ontario’s West Coast, after all! Did you know that several of Lake Huron’s beaches have earned the Blue Flag organization’s designation of quality beaches? Yes, we’re proud, and rightly so.

What I will probably miss the most is that certain smell. It’s clean, fresh, slightly sweet, and I believe it’s unique to Huron County. But I could be wrong. If you haven’t experienced it, you won’t know what you’re missing. Having been raised on it, that smell is home to me. Nothing about having my own house in the city could replace that scent.

Luckily, Huron County is only a relatively short drive away, and I have plenty of reasons to visit.

Flo on a rainy road
My '52 Chevy, Flo, on a rainy country road
light the night

Locality: Light the Night in Bayfield, Ontario

It’s becoming a big week for A Transparent Life – this is the second weekly series that I have introduced!

Meet “Locality,” a series that will feature something local every week. I am from an area that is rich with heritage and culture and  talent and community and agriculture and so much more. It took leaving the country for several years and then returning for several MORE years to really appreciate all that Huron County is, but it has finally sunk in: we’re not all hicks!

For the inaugural post, I have chosen to promote an activity that is part of Family Day celebrations in a town that has come to be one of my hometowns: Bayfield, Ontario.

This is a new tradition in Bayfield, but one that I hope will continue for many years to come. Please tell your friends!

light the night

Really, who wouldn’t love a winter stroll down a quaint heritage street carrying sparklers and sipping hot chocolate?!

For the schedule of Family Day events in Bayfield, go to the website.

You can also get Family Day event updates by RSVP-ing to the event on Facebook.

A Wee Subversion

Yesterday, while driving around The Square in my hometown, Goderich, (which is really an octagon but we love it so much we call it by a much more prestigious-sounding shape name), I noticed an anomaly on the marquee sign for the movie theatre.

Curious, I drove around The Square to see the other side…



I love that someone was able to make me stop, look, and take pictures with this little subversion. I wonder if anyone else noticed…

Spring has Sprung 2011! – a set on Flickr



This past weekend I had the pleasure of walking around the bed and breakfast/inn where I work and marveling at the spring flowers popping out everywhere. Aren’t they amazing?!


Spring has Sprung2011! – a set on Flickr.

Limbo: A Return to Transparency

I’ve been on a journey. We’re all on a journey, I guess, but my journey took me into territory I couldn’t have foreseen. It could also be said that it took me out of territory that I DID foresee myself living in forever. If you had asked me when I was 25 what I would be doing in 4 years, I would not have said, “Going to university in Canada after living there for 4 years”! I would not have guessed I’d become a server (and a good one, I daresay), join a local band (or two), fall in love with a local guy, have my own apartment in a tiny hamlet without even a general store or gas station… the story goes on. Key to this blog is the fact that I definitely wouldn’t have predicted leaving my church, growing disgusted with the institution that is the Church, and setting my whole “Christian” life on a little-used shelf in the back of a dingy basement.

Looking back, I can sort of trace my progress out of the “Christian” culture, step by tiny step, all the way to where I am today (which is a sort of limbo, I think). Did I turn the wrong way at those decision-markers? I couldn’t tell you for sure. All I’ve got is where I am today, and a hope that all will be well.

Back to this idea of limbo: I’m definitely not in a faith world right now, nor do I have any desire to be. “Christian” culture and lingo and attitudes continue to creep me out. Worship songs do not stir me; I don’t want to sing along even if I know the words by heart. Churches that I know are working hard at casting out hypocrisy and shallowness still don’t appeal to me.

Privately, there are times I cast up a prayer; I know God is listening. Every now and then I yearn to be discovering ancient and earth-shaking truths about the divine. Once in a while I think, “God is the only being that knows EVERY. SINGLE. BIT. about me”, a fact which is sometimes comforting, sometimes intimidating (but I wouldn’t want to believe in a God that a; didn’t know me, b; was never comforting, c; was never intimidating). I occasionally miss a certain depth that I was once working on, “down in my heart”, but then I think about how I’m working on balance and knowledge, and, therefore, depth in other areas that were too shallow before this exodus of mine. At university, I find myself interested in the history of the church and the changing trends that led to the traditions accumulated and passed down through the generations.

It’s limbo because I feel as if I’m going somewhere; I’m on a winding path that is nowhere close to being finished. Along the way I’m discovering more about who I really am, what the world is like, where my moral boundaries are, and what I can actually believe in and why. If/when I return to faith, it will be because my path has led me there, because the time is right and things have lined up; it won’t be because of a feeling of guilt over not going to church or praying or speaking churchese or reading my Bible.

So. Limbo… sometimes an uncomfortable place to be, but for me it means that the place I am going is not the place I’ve come from. It also means there IS a forward motion in effect. I’m liking limbo, and I’ll like it until I don’t, and then I’ll move on.

To Gym or Not to Gym

I made a resolution to work out this year, in a manner of speaking. I told my doctor that doing cardio was a goal of mine, and I really hate lying to people in authority. It’s just rarely a good idea. One can get away with telling fibs to servers and cashiers and nosy aunts, but when one’s health is in question, honesty is definitely the best policy.

When a friend gave me a two-week membership to the local YMCA, I thought, “Aha! My break has come! In I go”. So I did. For two weeks.

And I loved it. I learned how to use all the machines, talked about going to work out with my friends, dreamed of attending morning classes, took my brother ones, looked for the combination lock from my high school locker to put on my gym locker, bought non-cheap new running shoes, etc.

Then I encountered a wall I haven’t been able to breach: $44 + GST/month, plus the $80 activation fee. GULP.

Sure, when you think of it in terms of your long-term health, or how it costs $10/visit if you’re not a member, or how you have absolutely no motivation to do anything physical by yourself and have no TV with which to employ Wii Fit, that amount of money makes sense.

But then the scale flips and you remember your rent, cell phone bill, home phone bill, hydro, gas, insurance, groceries, investments, and other financial responsibilities, and suddenly it’s a big deal again. Yikes.

Yet, if you’re willing to humble yourself

Life in the H.C., Part 4: Dangerous Drivers, aka: Cocky Buggers

Dear Huron County Driver,

I’d like to say you know who you are, but I am not at all sure you do. Here’s a clue: if you see no problem following the car in front of you so closely that you can dig earwax out of the driver’s ear, I might be talking to you. Or if you think those bumper stickers that begin with the phrase, “If you can read this…” are part of some sort of literacy outreach program, I might be talking to you.

Even with my amazing new snow tires, it seems only prudent to me, seeing as how I value my life, to exercise caution when driving on snowy roads. When I say “exercise caution”, I am mostly referring to slowing down below the speed limit (If you’re saying “What?! Who DOES that?!” I am definitely talking to YOU!) and occasionally taking my foot off the gas pedal or, heaven forbid, even braking every now and again!

I understand there are some people who didn’t get the chance (or simply didn’t bother) to take Driver’s Ed, and they might try to use this as their excuse for believing that driving 3 feet behind the car ahead of them is okay, but I’m here to tell them it’s SO not! Did they really want to be collateral damage if I hit an invisible snow drift?

It boggles my mind how some people drive in winter, and, honestly, it scares me. I don’t care who you are or what driving super-powers you may have, I believe I have a right to peace of mind on the roads. If you’re driving behind me, I expect you to respect that. When I flash my brake lights a few times at you, please take the hint: “Back off! I’m uncomfortable with you being all up in my grill!” If you don’t get it the first time, my attitude toward you will NOT improve, and, in the privacy of my own vehicle, I’ll be saying mean things about you, and my impatient brake-light flashes will mean, “Hey jerk! You may not value your life but I do mine! Back the h— off!!”

Yours in fear of her life and limb til the snow departs,

Sarah Koopmans