by Lindsay Kyte
In New Brunswick we stopped, stretched and tried to comprehend that we were crossing a bridge not only back to an island that sometimes makes us sigh with longing but also back to a time when anything was possible.
Lisa Carmody, Josh Weale and I drank Starbucks as we drove out of Toronto, now home to our coffee cup collections, bound for PEI’s beaches and breathtaking scenery. Don’t get thrown off by the Starbucks, however. We always drink it with a Tim Hortons’ heart.
PEI captured my heart back as a UPEI student. Upon starting my career as a writer and an actor, I discovered an amazing thing about the PEI arts scene: here, anything is possible. Want to put on a play? Here’s a space and a cast. Written something you'd like to share? We want to hear it. Act on our stages. Share your song and we’ll tap our feet along. Life was heady with the scent of possibility and I was living and breathing creativity as a budding artist.
A grant to study film acting brought me to the Big Smoke in 2004. Here, I was shocked at how Torontonians run like Teletubbies are chasing them to catch departing subways. Shocked at how pedestrians can knock you down and not even acknowledge the human contact. Shocked at how this city can drain your resources and your creativity, as sometimes you’re judged not on talent but how much money you’ve put into body parts that don’t move when you jog.
However, I was pleased to discover that big scary Toronto is actually made up of little communities, each with their own distinct cultures and customs. And Lisa, Josh and I are part of a unique group of actors, writers, musicians, make-up artists, etc. who all have TTC Metropasses and yet also know each others’ father’s names. In Toronto, we young Maritime artists stick together. If one of us is acting on a stage, you can bet the first three rows are filled with people who know back roads where blueberries grow. If one of us is singing songs on little café stools, the rest of us are sipping wine and cheering. Instead of experiencing big city loneliness, we’ve all bonded together to form our own community of like-minded, creative people. And we still say hello to strangers on the sidewalk.
But there is no place like home. Coming back to PEI, we felt amazingly replenished with just a glimpse of red soil and green fields. PEI says to its own, “Welcome back!” while Toronto asks its dwellers, “And what else have you got for me?”
As we met familiar faces and saw new works showcasing incredible talent, I was not the only of our trio to feel a pang of longing. Getting back in that car was going to be hard at the end of this week.
In the faces of those who get to tread on red soil everyday, I met myself a few years younger. The eternal optimist. The artist brimming with ideas. I remembered back to when anything was possible, when I lived in PEI. And all of a sudden, I straightened my shoulders.
In Toronto, you quickly learn that here you will either sink or swim. Guess what, Toronto? We’re Maritimers. We grew up by the ocean. We’re swimming.
After one last shwarma at Cedars and a quick dip to say goodbye to the jellyfish, Lisa, Josh and I left with our noses pressed against the window to glimpse every last dot of PEI’s festive red and green. And then we settled back in our seats. Lisa was writing a song out loud. Josh was scribbling a new sketch. I was working on a script with new fervor and inspiration. We’re not ready to give up the fight in Toronto just yet. We’ve got a lot more conquering to do. And luckily for us, back in the city waits groups of talented young Maritimers doing just that. We went back to Toronto absolutely sure of one thing—as we make our way amidst the smog and the subways, it is the people back home that serve as our inspiration and have helped us stand when others feel the need to run. Toronto may be our office, but the Maritimes, it will always be our home.