Tuesday, April 6, 2010

La Chasse-Galerie

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Home. The word is deceptively simple. It brings to mind the most essential people and things in life, or perhaps early associations of home and family. Or maybe the various places one has lived. But the more I think about it, I realize the complicated emotions, longings, and dreams that are all bundled up in that little word. 

There is a Québécois legend called La Chasse-Galerie that is probably the most famous of all Québécois legends. In the story, a group of men who work out in a timber camp in a remote area of Québec make a pact with the devil to fly in a canoe to go home and see their girlfriends on New Year's Eve. They encounter near-breaches of their contract and risk their souls in the process. The endings vary, depending on the version of the story, and in the Honoré Beaugrand version, the teller declares that it wasn't worth the risk to go home.

In the story, "home" was somewhere outside, somewhere other. In a world where people move frequently from one city, state, or country, to another, how do we define "home?" Is it a location? Is it an attitude or approach to life? What is it that is most essential? Some might say an internet connection, and I can understand that since technology today allows our community to transcend geography. Yet for me, there is still this feeling of home being somehow connected to location, to the land. And why is it that I still have deep feelings of "home" about Norway, where I lived for three years a decade ago? What about when you are only in a location (apartment, city, whatever) for a short time? That space between wanting to put down roots yet feeling like one is temporarily camping like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years is a frustrating state. And when you perpetually rent, the things you dream of doing have to be balanced by the reality that This Apartment Is Not Yours. Then you think of purchasing a house. Excitement begins to bubble to the surface, and dreams grow of a place where you can fully unpack every box, and get rid of all the collapsed boxes that are now waiting in a closet for the next move. Living in a home you own seems to be a state where the air is fresh and you can breathe deeply and slowly. And know that your investment in making that place a home matters, and that you will be able to enjoy it for a long time.

So we are thinking. And dreaming. And browsing on the internet. Maybe unlike Beaugrand's character, we will decide it is worth the risk?

PS. The photo is a mural of the Chasse Galerie that we stumbled upon shortly after I moved to Montréal. We haven't seen it since then and have no idea where it actually is downtown.


  1. Oh, I know the feeling of wanting to put down roots! I am working really hard on convincing myself that renting is ok, if you love the space you're in, that plenty of people do it, even with kids, that it might be the right thing to do financially... but that's exactly it: there is always that thought of This Apartment Is Not Yours!
    I dream of a place where I will finally be able to have all of my books on shelves, instead of in boxes... that will be home to me.
    (Good luck with the house searching!)

  2. House hunting! So exciting!

    Great post.