When Derrick Nearing first considered writing about his experiences in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Afghanistan, he couldn’t do it, so he decided to venture into writing through stories of his childhood. The result was ‘Anchor of my Heart: Memories of a Cape Breton Childhood,’ a step back to a 1960s childhood.
Nearing, who served as a military physician’s assistant and now lives in Pembroke, Ont., was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005, and a psychologist provided him with information about healing through writing.
“I wrote a story about my father and shared it with friends, and they liked it so I wrote more,” he said. “A lot of things came back to me when I was writing – sights, smells, tastes, feelings…
“As we grow older childhood memories are an anchor, and these stories were comforting to write. Most people say when they read the book it’s a starting point, and they then go off on their own adventure. It reminds them of things from their own past.”
Nearing, who grew up in New Waterford, where his father was a coal miner and his mother was a homemaker, said he thinks the stories, which are two to three pages long, will be familiar to many of those who grew up during the 1960s and ’70s.
He writes about being chosen to clap the chalk brushes or clean the boards after class, playing with cap guns and potato guns, building a cabin with friends (using nails pulled from old wood and straightened with old bricks), and spending much of the summer in a playground where children were expected to get a few scrapes and bumps. He also has a story about spending the last two weeks of his mother’s life with her, while she prepared to die from cancer.
“It’s about being there for one another,” he said.
“There’s a Welsh word — hiraeth — that means a nostalgia for the past,” he said. “You hunger for a time that’s gone and wish you could go back and talk to some of the people you knew then.”
He said he grew up around people who’d lived through world wars, and they were stoic and appreciated what they had.
“We don’t value what we have because we have so much. I see food thrown away here and I think about people who died in other countries because they had no food. In some places children who had very little asked us for paper and pens and books, because they knew education was a way out.”
Nearing is now writing about his military tours and PTSD, for a book he is calling ‘The Soldier Who Saw Too Much.’
‘Anchor of my Heart’ is published through Friesen Press and is available on hard or soft cover, or e-book. It can be ordered online or through book stores.