Silence of the Clams

19 Sep ’06

We’ve reached the end of our long summer sojourn in PEI. On Sunday the lowest tides in ages left wide flats exposed on the beach, and so we dug for clams, skipped stones and marvelled as two seals from the next bay followed us along our walk, periodically peeking their heads above water to watch us, watching them, watching us. Eventually they disappeared, perhaps distracted by passing mackerel or a clam bed, and we returned to the task of remembering every sparkle on the water, every passing gull, every breath of ocean breeze, before we packed up for the drive home. The morning beach walk is a glorious way to start the work day – all is blessed silence except for waves and gulls – and the sounds of their busy work are the perfect backdrop to morning meditations on our day’s work.

While the future is creeping in here, I’ve come to understand that PEI is Canada’s Shire – and inevitably that Islanders are our Hobbits. The population here is only about twice what it was at Confederation (Ontario, about 10 times), and while it has certainly become more urban, this land is still largely pastoral – there are constant reminders of the past evident everywhere, and every panorama is equal measure blue water and sky, green land and red soil. These Islanders are deeply Canadian, but also wonderfully unlike Canadians I’ve met anywhere else; particularly steadfast, imperturbable, kind, intensely social, humble and utterly dedicated to this beautiful land. Perhaps living a rural maritime life – being at the mercy of nature – teaches you a little about the ultimate folly of approaching life without humility.

As we prepare to leave I’ve been thinking about one of the main lessons of this summer’s experience here. What began as a dream in April last year – summer teleworking, far from the city – has become reality, and our experiment in whether satellite broadband can provide the bandwidth and reliability we need has been a rousing success. Over a year ago, on the announcement of rural broadband satellite, I said “this changes everything”. Yes, everything. And more. Now, our offices are where we to choose to keep them. We work when (early mornings? days? late evenings?) and where we choose to. And our clients understand and appreciate the difference, because working in this way – the way of our choosing – allows us to make choices that serve them more effectively and efficiently. And of course, because many of them are doing the same thing.

My family came from this land. I see our family names on storefronts and road signs – I can point to places where my grandfathers played as children, and their grandfathers, too. We left, a generation ago, to do what could not be done here. It is profoundly satisfying to see that technology is finally allowing us to return. It is profoundly satisfying to come home.

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