A Walk on the Edge – Greg Ellison

A Walk on the Edge
Greg Ellison

I have friends who grew up in British Columbia. They grew up in British Columbia where every day they looked outside their back window and saw the mountain peaks staring back at them. When I met them we had all been away from home for quite some time, and we would often describe what about home we all missed the most. They would often comment how for them, it was the mountains. Me, I never grew up with mountains. I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the largest mountains are a four-hour drive away in Cape Breton. I never grew up with them in my backyard, and thus my appreciation of a mountain range is different from that of my friends. I would always be filled with curiosity, which is why my responses to these statements were often questions reminiscent of “What about the mountains makes you miss them?”. To which they would sit in silence for a moment, ponder, allow a small smile to display across their faces before stating that it was the reassurance they gave them. The reassurance that comes from a mountain’s omnipresence. My friends always knew that the mountains had their backs, almost as if it were an ever-present hug waiting for when you needed it most. Although the mountains may never resonate with me as deeply as they do with some of my friends, I can at least relate to what they are saying.

Me, I grew up with the ocean. I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the second largest non-freezing harbour in the world is a twenty-minute walk away from my house. Me, I grew up with the ocean. I have spent hours walking the seashore at my family’s cottage, feeling the roll of the sand under my feet, moulded by the ebb and flow of the tide. Me, I grew up with the ocean. It is a privilege to be able to discern what is fresh fish, and what is frozen fish, purely by the way the flakes break in your mouth. Me, I grew up with the ocean.

A connection to the ocean is something that is both conscious, yet deeply subconscious. Before I spent significant time away from the water I could imagine what was different between living on the coast compared to inland. Warm weather comes to mind; no seagulls perhaps. These are conscious connections, clear relationships between the ocean and other parts of the world. Although these are valid relationships, they are not the ones that have the greatest influence on my psyche. The connections that make the largest difference are the ones that are ingrained in your identity as a person. The relationships that become implied within your lifestyle as a result of associating with them, not just associating to them. When I associate to something, that is rooted in proximity. In the case of the mountains, if I were to be in a region with a mountain range I would associate to them due to their physical relativity. My friends, however, associate with them; the mountains become a part of their own identity which does not change no matter their proximity to them. Remove myself from the mountains, remove the mountains from my identity. Remove my friends from the mountains, the mountains follow them on their journey. This is the ocean for me. It has found a way to slowly seep into my being, the same way the tide unfurls onto a shore. Before I spent significant time away from the water I could imagine what was different between living on the coast compared to inland. I could not however, realize that removing the ocean would feel as if there was a piece missing from my identity puzzle. Waking up in the morning to the fresh smell of sea hanging throughout the air. Feeling the soft breeze weaving its way through the warm summer air, with just enough personality to keep the bite of the heat at bay. Looking out onto the water to see a fog bank waving back. Driving down a road and having a layer of fog dancing around your vehicle. Feeling the spirit of the ocean pulling at your feet, with a gentle tug that is just firm enough to remind of you of the strength that it possesses. These are the relationships to the ocean which, similar to the mountains, are so deeply omnipresent in your life that your connection to them becomes a deep reflection of your own identity.

Me, I grew up with the ocean. I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the second largest non-freezing harbour in the world is a twenty-minute walk away from my house. Before I spent significant time away from the water I could imagine what was different between living on the coast compared to inland. Looking back, the time I spent away from the water allowed for a better understanding of not only who I am, but how that identity has come to be. The ocean is a large part of that identity: it has found a way to slowly seep into my being, the same way the tide unfurls onto a shore. You will notice I have echoed myself throughout this piece. Imagine this as the embodiment of how the ocean exists within me. A part of my being, reverberating throughout my identity with the same energy as the waves on the shore. It echoes within me, sometimes retreating, but will always return just like the tide.

Me, I grew up with the ocean.


Greg Ellison is a Graduate Student in the Master of Arts in Island Studies (MAIS) program at the University of Prince Edward Island.


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