A warm spring greeting to my kind subscribers and new visitors who may have arrived here with the intent of visiting wharnsby.com for updates on my musical projects or tours. Please do not be confused ~ this is indeed the web-site of Dawud Wharnsby, only somewhat more “stripped down” than in the past. New pages about my CDs, books and performance whereabouts have been added for those of you more interested in my songs and poetic outpourings, but after many years I felt it was time to have my on-line home be more of a personal blog from me, than just a Flash animated PR site about me. There is no doubt that the old site was graphically stunning. Built by my good friend and talented artist Qutaiba Mahawili, we worked very closely to ensure that it was an accurately represented of my life ~ at the time. We gave it a “cabin in the woods” theme, kept the cheesy PR photos to a minimum, filled the pages with images of my doodles and even pictures of items that graced my studio walls. But over the past few years, my furthering experiments in trying to simplify my life have taken me down some interesting roads, to a place where even the old site seemed like the brochure for someone else.
So, as of April 11th the old “promotional” website was laid to rest, making this blog my official on-line home ~ working in conjunction with a Facebook Page and Youtube channel. Thank you to the many friends who supported my decision…including those who respected my passion even though they did not quite believe my decision to retire the old site was a very wise professional one. Time will tell. Though this site is admittedly very plain, I believe it truly reflects where I am at at this point in my life ~ sipping at simplicitea.
Speaking of “homes”, what an adventure my family and I have had in recent months with a move out of the little condo I often wrote about last year.
Skipping through past blog posts, you will read how my family and I made an abrupt move back to my hometown (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) upon news of my mother’s poor health in October of 2011.
The blog entry “Pakistan to Canada, Canada to Israel…It’s A Wonderful Life” detailed the incredible story of how we came upon an ideal condo to inhabit and virtually exchanged lives with a young family who wanted to leave Canada for their own peace of mind as badly as my family and I needed to re-settle in Canada for ours.
With my mother’s passing in 2012 and the reality of my aging father’s circumstance, my wife Ayesha and I knew it would be important to remain in Canada for the majority of each year, spending only about 4 months annually back at our home in Pakistan. The dream of trying to live “off the grid” and as “simply” as possible became even more of a focus for me, with the looming fear that a full-on relocation to North America would place me in an environment where my susceptibility to “consume” would be greatly tested, as would my ability to confidently discern “needs” from wants”.
After a year of being back in Canada, Ayesha and I agreed that we were paying way too much rent for our small condo. Beyond that, we were unhappy with the pre-fab nature of the condo’s construction (as detailed in “New Hobby”) and the cold, unfriendly nature of many nearby neighbours ~ primarily wealthy, young, single folks with obviously high amounts of disposable income and little interest in slowing down their BMWs for a toddler on a tricycle or lifting their heads from their iPhone twittering long enough to acknowledge a tweet of “hi” from a friendly young two-year-old. Our neighbour Jason was my only partner in ecological passion. He was an environmental studies student at the local university, worked part-time on an organic farm, grew oodles of veggies on his back terrace and was often seen shirtless in the woods beyond our housing complex, scouting for fallen trees he’d later fashion into tables or shelves with his ingenuity and wide assortment of power tools. I’ll miss Jason.
Last October, with winter approaching (and risking a second year of tight quarters during cold months) we began house-hunting for a new rental abode.
During my autumn music tour, Ayesha made call after call and stayed ever vigilant on-line for new rental house postings in our area. Between my travels and shows I’d return to Kitchener where we would do marathon house viewings of prospective homes, but after several weeks, we had still not found a place that seemed fitting to our family needs. Weary and emotionally worn out, we decided to quit the hunt and hold tight in our condo until spring.
One weekend back in November, while away on tour, Ayesha spotted a house ad as it was posted: A cute bungalow with large detached garage and pleasing back garden, for $100 per month less than our condo. Arriving home tattered and tuckered from my travels, Ayesha explained that she’d set up one last viewing for a perspective place. Initially uninterested I looked at the ad and was struck by the hobbet-hole-esque house, which happened to be in a neighbourhood only a few blocks from where I lived as a young boy, and only 2 minutes drive to my father’s door. My interest was ignited.
The situation was to become even more intriguing. When Ayesha called about the house she was met with an answering machine, to which she gave our contact details and also a bit of background on our little family. “My husband is from Kitchener…we moved back to be closer to his father as his mother recently passed away…we have two young daughters…we are looking to care for a home as if it were our own…”
The owners called us back and immediately set up a viewing for the following day. One step through the door and we all felt “home”.
We learned that our new landlords were very surprised by Ayesha’s message and had quite a parallel story of their own to tell. A young couple (with two children almost the same ages as ours), they too were originally from the area but had moved out of country to study. In 2011 the gentleman’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, spurring the small family’s immediate move back to Canada around the exact same time as our little tribe relocated. The couple and their extended family acquired two houses in the neighbourhood, with the intention of living in one and renting out the other, as they decided to stay near his dad ~ widowed at approximately the same time as my own father.
Two different families in two almost identical circumstances. Absolute serendipity.
We took possession of the new home January 6th of this year and since that day we have been tremendously happy. Our daughters have a delightful playroom in the basement (fully devoted to their learning and enjoyment), my home studio has been set up downstairs as well (with a delightful nook for my desk under the stairs, which I simply love) and on that same lower level we have also designated a small area for my sewing supplies. The added bonus of an old-school fruit cellar is also most exciting, as I hope to putter with preserves and some canning this coming autumn.
On the bungalow’s main level we have our bedrooms, a bright solarium with sky-lights, a welcoming kitchen and a front living room we have designated as “The Masjid” ~ a sparse environment for personal reflection, adorned with only rugs, plants and books shelves.
The extremely large detached garage is gradually evolving into a studio/recording space and general “workshop” for my tools. The back yard, (boasting a gate that leads to a park beyond our back fence) has been adopted by our daughters as their “secret garden”, with abundant rose, clematis and creeping ivy plants soon to thicken with beauty and mystery as summer approaches.
So, what is my favourite part of the new home? Being 120 seconds away from my father’s front door by car to help him with yard work? (…haven’t clocked the biking time yet, but I estimate about 5 minutes) Having delightful new neighbours with dignified handshakes who enjoy stopping to chat? Being walking distance to my bank or the grocery store where I shopped with my father when I was 5 years old? Having a yard, vegetable garden space, studio space, wooden floors, a proper compost pile and a clothesline? Indeed, all of these factors are to be celebrated. However, there is one odd thing that tops the list.
What enchants me most about the new place is the old wooden power post out back, standing near our fence line. When I sit at the window and look out at it’s shape against the sky, fond memories of my childhood, growing up in this same old neighbourhood, begin to replay in my mind. Oh, how many times I sat at my bedroom window as a kid and looked outside at the neighbourhood, wondering about life beyond my yard ~ where I would travel, what I would see, who I would meet and who I would end up becoming in life! In those days, I never took conscious note of the old power posts ~ their grey, tired characters…their slender lamps and drooping wires. But as I have traveled and grown, I have found a world that is often so ridged, cold and concrete. Suburbs with cut curbs and cardboard constructed dwellings next to building box DIY stores and SuperMart eye sores. Moving back here, to the streets of my childhood, it as if the clock has turned it’s face back to me and is waving its hands in welcome to a sweeter time. The old wooden power posts and street lamps that were once my 8 pm nemesis ~ chasing me indoors for bed and bath time ~ now seem so much more like sturdy old friends ~ wise, elderly watchmen ~ their dim light warming the tar and pebble roads between earthen, curb less boulevards.
As a boy I imagined I was superman, able to fly up over the rickety posts and out into the world ~ now, as a man (often tired of flying around the world seeking peace), I imagine I am a boy, looking up at the sagging hydro wires amid the tree-limbs and wanting nothing more than to name the neighbourhood squirrels running along them. On a Saturday afternoon like that, it seems that rich “peace” can indeed be found in one’s own back yard.