New Island resident discovered the wide open hearts of Haweaters

To the Expositor:

I was introduced to Manitoulin Island in 2013. I was so excited to travel north, the farthest I had ever been in Ontario. Always coming in the fall after the Labour Day weekend when the crowds were gone, seasonal businesses closed. The peace I felt every time was like heaven to me, calming me from the stressors of the city. I never felt the city was the place I was supposed to be. I always told my family and friends I wish I had been born in, Little House on the Prairie times. From that first visit, I knew this was the place I wanted to be.

In the wee hours of the morning we would pack the cooler with food and a few drinks and head out. We travelled over the next few years all over the Island. I was always drawn to Michael’s Bay. It is my special place. I always feel so much joy driving down that road by the river to my favourite fishing place.

I liked to start the day with breakfast at Mum’s. It was open all year ‘round and early. We would ask the regulars there where good fishing spots were. I always felt content going to Mum’s, perhaps because it was spelled the English way, just like my Mum, and breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. Maybe not such an important place to some, but to me, always comforting.

Due to life circumstances, my visits abruptly stopped. For roughly two-and-a-half years I did not visit. I longed to be here. Frankly, I was afraid to travel alone. I joined a few Island Facebook pages to keep myself in touch, read The Expositor online, never commenting but keeping my thoughts a little in the heart of the Island. I thought my dream of living here was over.

On July 17, 2019, I took the day off work. I was just surfing the internet and went to my favourite Facebook group, What’s Doin on the Manitoulin. I had no thoughts of moving, no plans for it, just another day. I was looking through posts and I came across a post with two people having a conversation about an employer hiring on the Island. I knew the company and it was a job I could do. I just sat there and stared at the post. Could I do this? Could I do this alone? Was this a way to revive what I yearned for? If it were meant to be, it would not happen unless I tried. I sent my resume right there and then. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was hired, via phone and email, within a few days. Things just fell into place by the grace of God and amazingly fast.

On August 5 I posted on the same Facebook page looking for recommendations for places to live. I received some wonderful suggestions from kind-hearted people. On September 3, I drove up to look at places and to visit my new employer. That visit was incredible. Being back here after so long. It seemed like an eternity that I was away. Any doubts I had at that time vanished. Everything was just brighter and more serene than I had ever experienced before. Everything was dream like all that weekend, knowing that on my next trip up I would not have to leave.

My boys were not too happy with my decision. This was not the way I did things. I always went for safety and security. They knew I did not handle change well. My boys are the only thing I miss from the city. They now see changes in me, good changes and are happy for me. Oh, and one very secondary thing I miss is a C Dubb’s home burger. Love you Tyler, Jack, Matthew.

On September 28, everything packed, all goodbyes said, I started my new life. I was full of excitement and fear at the same time. I knew no one on the Island. All my visits had been spent in exclusion, fishing. No regrets though.

That same day I posted again on the Facebook group about my journey up here that day. Part of the post was that I felt like a child leading up to the days until Christmas morning That pure childlike anticipation and excitement that I had felt years ago. I received so many wonderful responses welcoming me and telling me things about the Island you can only know from growing up here.

I knew it would be a huge adjustment for me, and lonely. I have a big problem with trusting people, but I had made a promise to God and myself that when I got here—I would put myself out there more and start trusting more.

By early December, things however were not working out like I had anticipated. My permanent housing fell through. I could not find a place to live and was only in a room temporarily. I put misplaced trust in a few and my bubble burst a little. I started second guessing my decisions. This was not feeling like home.

God had blessed me with strength to make this move, and he continued to guide me to keep me here, right where he wanted me. He put someone in my path, the day I arrived, a good person, with beliefs the same as what I was searching for. I found a good church and a good pastor. A supervisor at work who was welcoming and kind. I held onto these people.

I found an ad in The Expositor in December for an apartment in Little Current. I met a sympathetic landlord, willing to help me get into my new home before Christmas. Still this did not feel like home.

I have learned that nothing valuable in life is painless. I have learned that every adversity in life is to teach me something worthwhile. As I was sitting at work on a Monday in mid-January, I received a phone call from back home. A doctor had been searching for me since I moved. As I had no permanent address, a new phone number, a new email they had not been able to contact me. It was a routine test from months earlier that I never gave another thought to it. It was cancer. I had surgery, two days later, alone, I was completely incapacitated. I did not know what to do. I was bed-ridden. This accounting of that event may seem short and somewhat cold, but that was how the whole experience was for me. I found out quickly, surgery was quick, no time to think and I was left stunned and in shock when I arrived back home. I was completely overwhelmed.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I prayed and the response was quick. Ask for help. That may seem simple, but not for me. I do not trust people, so to ask complete strangers for help was extremely difficult. So, I sucked up my pride and fear and again returned to that wonderful Facebook group, What’s Doin on the Manitoulin, and posted for help. Just a short post:

“Hi friends. I had some unexpected surgery yesterday and I am looking for some help, i.e. pick up a few groceries for me, a few simple things around the house. Any recommendations or services that could help me. I am in Little Current — feeling exhausted.”

I was completely overwhelmed by the response. I was unaccustomed to the compassion and kindness of people. But then this was what I had hoped for when I moved up here. That small-town kind-heartedness and taking an interest in your neighbour’s wellbeing. That Little House on the Prairie mentality that I always felt was something I wanted and needed to be a part of.

The first person I spoke to who offered help has turned out to be a great, great friend. The first conversation we had was priceless. We were trying to figure out where each other lived. I am new here and knew the name of my street but not the cross street of my home. She asked a few questions and said, ‘look out your Living room window’ and there she was waving at me from the house across the street. Now this God-sent women did so much for me. Shopping, cooking, baking, visits, mail, endless cups of tea, and so much more. A wonderful woman. Others responded with offerings of help, kindness, friendship. My very understanding and patient landlord, a church that helped pay my rent and prayed for me. A small bible study group who made meals for me for everyday of the week, for weeks, and delivered them to me with kindness and compassion. My employer, patient and understanding and supplying assistance and much peace of mind. This was truly more overwhelming than the surgery. That initial first-person God put in my path here, offering me love and kindness and helping me to accept my journey and find my truth faith in God. Every one of you, and many more, was heaven sent and a blessing to me.

I fell in love with this Island in 2012. I fell in love with the peace and the beauty and the air and the water and the sounds and smells, and the comfort the land brought. I have now fallen in love with the people. The complete charity of strangers, their comfort, guidance, love and the welcoming of a stranger and enabling her to trust and have faith again in something far bigger. Each person put in my path has opened doors to others. Each one as selfless and welcoming as the next.

Thanks, Dad!

Virginia Jensen

Little Current