Newfoundland! Yes, B’y

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.  The hikes!  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.  The colour!  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.  The accented lovely way of speaking!  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We were on the escalator heading down to street level at the St John’s airport in early June.  Excited to start our eight days in Newfoundland’s east.  We had butterflies of excitement and I think we may have been holding hands, my love and I.  Dean, hailing from there, was all smiles to be ‘down home’ again to the salt air and the fog, the twang and the good-naturedness of Newfoundlanders. (Pronouced: newfundLANDers)

I was casually scanning the crowd on street level.  My glance fell on a dark-haired man sitting in profile to us on a bench against the wall.  He was smiling, looking around wide-eyed and boyishly swinging his legs back and forth.  Could it be?  I was almost sure it was him but what luck would that be?!  Michael Crummey, I said quietly.  I nudged Dean beside me.  Michael Crummey, I indicated with my chin.  We both said aloud for him then: Michael Crummey!  And he looked at us and smiled with recognition as we arrived at his level.  He and Dean had attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) back in the eighties and played a bit of soccer together.  We had attended Michael’s readings on his books and listened, rapt, while he read from his latest book the last time: Sweetland when he visited Wolfville’s Acadia University in the recent past.  We had pints and shared stories and jokes at Paddy’s Pub.  We were nearly best buds, the three of us.  Well, not really, but it was certainly wonderful to see his smiling face.  He was awaiting his mother and then she joined us and we were introduced.  A moment later we were offered a ride to our hotel and off we went in his car while Michael told us of places not to be missed and I jotted notes on a scrap of paper in the back seat…this was sure to be a great trip and it was that for sure.

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.  The hikes!  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.  The colour!  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.  The accented lovely way of speaking!  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We checked into Hotel Newfoundland and were offered all manner of treats from the lady going by with a cart from the exec lounge.  Don’t want to throw it all away, she said.  We loaded up, then stepped out to look at Signal Hill via the crooked little neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi. Boardwalk clutching shear cliffs and spray of salt water with a backdrop of the huge deep St John’s harbour and small icebergs off in the big blue.IMG_0580 (3)

Colourful ancient houses clung impossibly on the hillside of rock and steps galore! as we made our way for the next two hours. Exclaiming at the beauty all the while and sweating while climbing the flights of stairs up the rock face.  I would not have wanted to be the builders of that staircase.  Newfoundlander builders wouldn’t have thought twice about it, likely.  I recalled my barrel-chested, cheerful brother-in-law in his good black leather jacket, hat less, stepping out into the driving, sideways freak icy rain one Christmas in Corner Brook. It’s not FIT! he turned, smiled and shrugged at us watching from the damp doorway or Dean’s eldest brother.

Next, a meal which had us enjoying the lightest, sweetest fish and chips ever and a pint of the local brew at The Duke.  Simply awesome.

Day two, we walked all over the pretty and old, twisty knotted downtown and then up around the University Campus after an incredible brunch at The Rooms Museum Cafe overlooking the harbour.The Rooms Cafe

We met Bill, Dean’s friend from University, at his house and then dropped everything to go take a look at Petty Harbour.  The sun just happened to come out while we were there.  Afterwards, we ate a wonderful steak supper with Bill, then walked back to the hotel still in the day light.  Gotta love the long days of summer.  We then fit in a pint with Michael Crummey and told the tales of our lives, three glasses clinked, then three heads together as we caught up on all the news at the Ship Pub.  We laughed at the memories of Codco who used to hang out at The Ship Inn which was sold and so imaginatively renamed.

Pint with Michael Crummey

Day three, we picked up our rental car after a scrumptious meal at Chinched and off we went to tour the Irish Loop with a stop to hike La Manche trail, part of the East Coast Trail system and see the suspension bridge out in the ghost-town wilderness.  Later that evening, we found a nice B&B and just got in the door when the rain began to pour down.  The owner was a small lively man with a few good stories for us.  Then we enjoyed some rest.

Day four, we ventured into Tickle Cove and did the little trail around the pond IMG_0550 then had a dessert and tea at Maudie’s Cafe, which was sweet.  Later, we found a small hotel room on Bay Roberts and walked for a ways to see the old churches, enjoying a pint overlooking the bay on the route back.

The next morning we were nearly ordered by the hotel manager to do the Shoreline Walk, which we are so glad to have done.  Simply beautiful, with its old stacked rock

IMG_0457foundations and stone cellars from before the town was moved further into the crook of the bay.  At the end of the two hour hike, we came across a diner and enjoyed touton (pronounced TOUT-on) BLTs and fish cakes, the server so talkative she forgot to take our order for several minutes.  It was scrumptious.  There, we overheard an exchange that we are still chuckling about. The server asked a guest how he wanted his eggs.  The Newfoundlander answered: I don’t want to be any trouble but, I’ll have one scrambled and one poached. but I don’t want to be any trouble.  Pause.  The server stood with a look on her face, searching his for a glimmer of fun, then all erupted in laughter.

IMG_0643Day five, we pulled into Trinity and booked a room for two nights in a large house with many rooms all with ensuite bathrooms.  It was like a hostel for adults, said Dean.  We enjoyed swapping stories with some of our house mates and then had food and drink and a stroll around town, marveling again at the use of colour.  Why so much colour we wondered?  It was so that the seafarers could find their way home in the fog, b’y.

mv with sea stacksDay six, we did the Skerwink Hike with its sea stacks and rugged coast, ending the trail beside a pond with a resident otter who made himself known.  This is my pond, he indicated with his snout held high and in our general direction.  Later that evening, we found our way out to the CBC TV Miniseries site of Random PassageIMG_0606 and were tickled to be the only folks there.  I had read these books and LOVED them, a quarter of a century ago living in Corner Brook and being new to the culture.  They shed a ton of light for me.

IMG_0649 (2)Day seven, we were back to St John’s were we met up with one of Dean’s nieces and had tea while catching up on all her news.  We had walked around Quidi Vidi pond to get to her at a little cafe, but first we had met Dean’s friend Bill at The Mallard Cottage for a pint and an incredibly delicious lunch.

Day eight, we were packing up to catch our plane back to Nova Scotia.  Our little tour of Newfoundand’s East coast had been amazing.  Colourful, sweet, homey, rugged and beautiful.  We shall return.

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All photos by Martha Valiquette

Highest Tides ~ Fastest Bird ~ Only in the Valley (part 3)

Today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day…

We were scurrying quickly away from the possible dive-bombing Peregrine Falcons and their surely sharp talons on a local beach near Avonport, Nova Scotia.  (Peregrines are not to be trifled with, being the fastest creature on planet Earth, who can reach 320 km / hr with sharp talons and beak).  My hubby of 26 years, Dean and I had been strolling on the pebbly, blue-tinged shale beach marveling at the warm day in late May and kicking around ideas for future world travel, a topic we come back to again and again it seems.

Yes, the warm day…we have had an awfully cold spring which would have me donning a toque up until, oh, yesterday.  But today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day.

About thirty minutes down the beach, the shreeeeeeeeek of the Peregrine.  (I have known this shreek and had heard it recently and curiously near our house in Wolfville.  That mystery was about to be clarified.)  It seems we were a little too close to their nest which was lodged up on a ledge in the sand-stone cliffs which towered over the beach.

A senior couple was coming down the beach in hats and rubber boots. Large camera had she, binoculars had he.  Pauline and her special friend Bernard Forsythe and was it truly our fortune to meet them!  Firstly warning them about the mad! mad! mad! falcons but they didn’t seem to want to turn around.  They nodded knowingly about the speedy upset pair and so, with one eye-ball peeled, we stood and talked on the pretty beach for the better part of an hour.

Bernie and Pauline

Turns out, Bernard has been a serious naturalist and birder since the 70s featured here on CBC Television.  Both he and Pauline had lost their respective mates in the last few years and had found friendship in each other through the Blomidon Naturalists Society.  Bernard told us that he is 77 and still climbing trees.  He has tagged more than 800 barred owls and routinely mounts owl boxes all over, to aid the owls in the nesting needs, now that old growth forests are not as prevalent as they once were.  Bernard kept us highly interested in the various and many conservation activities he takes part in, mainly he says, for fun!  He told us that Peregrines would have been in Wolfville due to it being on their flight path returning from the south.  That’s why I would hear them sometimes.  Mystery solved.  I made a mental note to let my friend Daisy know this.  She had wondered the same thing.

We asked Bernard if he happened to know our niece who had attended Acadia University and is now completing her masters in ornithology at York, Taylor Brown.  He said…. Yes, we met one day by chance at the eye doctor.  We were both bored and got to talking and then realized how much we have in common with regard to birding.

Dean and I were afraid to go back down the beach toward the nesting site but Pauline and Bernard assured us that we would be fine.  If we formed a group, they said, the falcons were unlikely to attack us.  I picked up a flat rock and used it as a helmet, to be extra sure.  Once near to but far beneath the nest, we were able to clearly see a proud, puffed-up Momma on the nest and a serene protective Dadda on a tree just a bit further on, standing guard.  Stoic.  Soon, Pauline exclaimed that she could see a fuzzy chick’s head moving just above the rim of the nest.  Time to leave them be, said Bernard.  They need to hunt and take care of necessary falcon parenting business and shouldn’t be interrupted too much.

On our way back up the beach, we were fully captivated by the many fascinating stories that Bernie told us about his adventures in ornithology, owl banding and nesting box mounting.  He would be called upon by Acadia University to take various students ‘under his wing’.  One such student was studying the murder of crows who would roost on Boot Island.  They would go to the island to study them together and so that Bernie could instruct the student in banding and other bird ways.

Bernard is also a wild-orchid enthusiast and counter.  We would have been at the Orchid Show at the Acadia University KC Irving centre in February when my sisters were visiting.  He pointed out that he studies and counts the wild ones though which he said involves a lot of hiking through the woods of Nova Scotia.

lady slippers
These were found on a hike with ‘The Bee Man’ Henry Hicks on his property in Halls Harbour

He then found us a highly interesting fossil of a fern and was bent over pointing at it as if he was in a teenager’s body.  This incredibly youthful senior man has done and still does many hikes and out-trips on his various conservation missions.  Now though most times with his friend Pauline by his side except when he is climbing trees.  At those times, she waits on the ground.  Both of them have a quick smile and a glint in their eye.  They are wise, vital, active, witty and incredibly interesting.  At one point, Pauline told me she wasn’t worried about the falcons dive-bombing because she was wearing blue and they don’t like blue.  Aren’t you lucky I said.  Why don’t they like blue? I asked. Only kidding she said.  She had me going and it was funny, we belted out a good laugh about that one!

Again, I felt completely privileged and indebted to these lovely folks of the Annapolis Valley where we now call our home.  They took a lovely day and made it even better, and… just by chance.

Only in The Valley.

Click here to read Part 1 (Reid’s Meats) and Part 2 (Dabro Farms).

 

(Peregrine picture was found on google images ~ thank you~ The other two are mine.)

Here’s another view of the area at low tide:

Just over the hill at Dabro Farms

We are big fans of really good, local, fresh food.  We aren’t fanatics about it, we just really appreciate it when it is offered and when we can get our hands on it fairly easily at a decent price.

Similar to the story about Reid’s Meats, Dabro Farm is just west a bit and is a family run farm, over the hill from our home with an honour-system market in a small barn.  It is surrounded by grazing cattle, sheep, chickens, the odd goat, geese and a couple of horses and donkeys, and the ever present Gaspereau River flowing lazily on by just across the paddock.

This one day, a few months ago, needing eggs, I rolled on over to the hill to Dabro after a sweet stroll in the sun along the canal with my then old furry girl-friend Lady Jane.

dabroArriving at the barn, set beside the country road, I parked and walked in.  The egg fridge was usually my first order of business as one grown son of mine is a true egg fan, eating two or three when he is over for breakfast.

Opening the fridge, I was shocked to find nary an egg when normally there were several dozen awaiting purchase.  Now, I didn’t let it bother me too much as I had the proprietor in my contacts on my cell.  We had taught his two sons how to drive years ago.  My trusty cell still held his phone number.  I quickly texted Shawn Davidson letting him know my predicament.  Somehow I knew that Shawn would be able to help.

I’ll be right there, he texted back lickety split.

Arriving in his pick-up truck from the other barn down the road, he dismounted and said, give me a sec.

He walked into the hen house and came out about two minutes later with a warm dozen of large brown eggs in a carton held open for me to inspect.  He had left his work at the other end of his farm and come to my aid instantaneously, to hand-pick just laid eggs out from under the feathered ladies in the hen house.  In my mind I was shaking my noggin gently thinking only in the valley.   Shawn began to apologize for not washing the eggs.  I told him to stop it as I gently pulled a warm brown egg into my palm.  It filled my palm completely.  A double-yoker for sure.  At breakfast it was confirmed.  Twin yokes.

Small farms are wonderful sustainable systems which employ families and provide good food to local folks with the circle of life working in a balancing act together.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  The manure from the livestock fertilizing the crops.  It reminds me of that scene in the Disney film Lion King when Mufasta explains to his son, Simba, that when he dies, his body becomes the grass.  The antelope eat the grass and later, become food for the lions.  Circle of life.  A delicate balance.  Done with respect.

dabro inside

So, to describe it further:  this particular farm market down in Gaspereau, has a few large fridges and freezers with various butcher-paper wrapped meats, poultry and pork, steaks, chops, bacon, ham and sausage as well as eggs.

There are also various other scrumptious offerings like home-made jams, jellies, relishes and pickles.  Not to mention baked goods, coffee by the cup, knitted socks, toques, mitts, candles, honey, garlic, ice-cream sandwiches which really hit the spot in the warm summer months, and a little library of novels.  All of these items are sold by honour-system.  There are no staff monitoring the market so, choose the goods, write them down in the little book. Insert cash into the cash box or send an etransfer.  Walk out the door and be careful of the roaming, foraging happy-go-lucky chickens.

Time for breakfast!

Thank you Shawn Davidson and family of Dabro Farms.  You will have noted a large contented smile on my face each time I have been in your market.  Only in the Valley.

 

(all pictures found on google images of Dabro Farms)

 

Amy Goes West in 1974

Amy waited all day in Gas Town for the money transfer to come through, seeing sights that made her head spin.  Men dressed as women. Gay lovers. Protests of every sort. The needle and the damage done.

When my sister Amy was almost 19, her friend convinced her to secretly hitch-hike out to Vancouver from southern Ontario, a trip of over 4000 kms one way.

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The young ladies stitched ‘VAN’ patches to their back packs and with straightened hair and bell bottoms, off they went: flower children off to find themselves.  (The prior year, my brother Matt had gone west with a buddy, hopping on and off rail cars.  It was a trendy thing to do then, to head West and to always ‘hit the ground running!’)

They were lucky to get rides in transport trucks with very attentive and caring knights of the highway who fed them and took them the extra mile to their destination.  They also took them on little side trips to Banff Springs Hotel and to the Okanagan Valley.  The gentlemen put the girls up in a hotel room of their own for two nights…sheer luxury and after four days they were dropped off in Vancouver at a hostel which the men paid for, for a night.  So generous!

The next day, the young women went to see Donna’s uncle in Port Alberni.  He gave them money to stay in a hostel for a further week so they could visit Wreck beach, Gas town and Stanley Park.

The friends walked all over the city seeing various vendors, musicians with tambourines and hippies everywhere as well as trans folks. Amy and Donna didn’t have a clue as to what they were seeing sometimes.

At Stanley Park in Vancouver, the sight there was not the best. The park was strewn with tons of garbage and many youth were strung out and laying around on the grass.  Some folks were meditating or in some sort of drug-induced trance. Everyone was friendly but, it wasn’t anything like what Amy and Donna expected.

At the hostel which was nice and clean and more wholesome, there was a kitchen with folks baking bread.  The meals there were mostly stews and bread.  Sitting in a circle at the hostel, everyone would share stories about where they came from.  There were many minstrel musicians and artists there with a general attitude of living on love, not working and being cool.

Walking through Vancouver one morning, seventeen-year old Donna saw a dance studio with a dancer in the window.  This dancer became her husband and they are still together today, going on to open a water-bed franchise and doing well on the water-bed trend of the eighties.  Remember that?  (Amy reminded me that she had two water beds in her apartment in the eighties where I lived while waiting to get into the army.  My husband Dean installed a waterbed in his residence room at university!)

In Gas town there were many people sitting on the sidewalk and shooting up and doing all manner of weirdness, almost like a mini Woodstock.  They seemed to be doing anything they wanted without a thought for the law.  Long hair, headbands, bare-chest, jeans, cut-off shorts, macrame belts with beaded tail a hanging down the thigh.

Georgie‘ girls would walk by in peasant blouses, long, flowing skirts and hair, floppy hat, beads, bracelets and anklets and Jesus sandals, patched and needle-pointed bell-bottom jeans and no makeup.  No bra.  Some wore moccasins and everyone had a backpack which identified them with sewn-on patches of their home town and of different places they had been. No cell phones. No email. No video games. No social media and no effing selfies. Just patches, music and spoken word. Imagine.

At the white-sand, nude Wreck Beach Amy recognized John from home who was sunbathing nude, stretched out on the fine, warm sand. Amy told him to throw a towel on if he wanted them to speak to him.

Soon the money ran out and Amy needed to get home.  From the ‘free’ phone at the Trans Union office, she called Mom and Dad and begged for airfare, mentioning that she didn’t even have money for food.  Back then, a student could fly across country for under a hundred dollars.

‘Our blond daughter is coming back from finding herself!  Wailed Dad to Mom.

Amy waited all day in Gas Town for the money transfer to come through, seeing sights that made her head spin.  Men dressed as women. Gay lovers. Protests of every sort. The needle and the damage done.

Back home to reality and work at A&W.  Dad and Mom had let Amy, Matt and Mark have the house that summer while they were at the lake for the summer.  Bad move as there were parties galore and the house was getting more and more weathered due to them.  In the seventies when the baby boomers were teens, there were just so many of them about that they took over every aspect of life.  They walked around in packs.  It’s hard to believe now in 2019, that they were ever that young.  The baby boomers are now aging and their vast numbers are taking over the assisted-living homes, seniors resorts and most of Florida. Stores are stocking more and more seniors’ needs: reading glasses, purple shampoo, compression hose, knee-braces, Epsom salts, sore muscle balm, soup and the like.

Anyhoo,  at home, Amy kept an eye-ball peeled for Donna’s dad who was the police chief. She thought she would be killed if he saw her as he was sure to blame Amy for the loss of his daughter to Vancouver…man.

Daisy

(Eva Player – daisy pic – and Google images..thanks again )

Only in The Valley 🐷 Episode Reid’s Meats

One of those moments that I have come to cherish in this big valley we now call home…

Part 1. Reid’s Meats 🔪

I walked into Reid’s Meats one afternoon on a mission to buy some ribs to cook up a feed, a feed we have only a couple of times per year.  Just every now and then I get that craving for fall-off-the-bone ribs.

I was the only soul in the place, other than the two brothers Conor, whom I always think of as the young guy with the dimples, and the older brother Michael, who is a more serious looking guy and all business (although I just called him and did get a chuckle out of him when attempting to get his email address, a long one).

Before I get further into the story, I need to give a description of the location of this meat shop.  It is set in a tiny crossroads called Melanson at the base of the rolling hills of Melanson Mountain with the Gaspereau River flowing past it, about ten minutes outside of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  This shop is constantly busy cutting wild meats in a separate room all night and domestic meats all day.  When we first moved here, someone told us it was the best place for fresh cuts of meat.  Always on ‘the hunt’ for the best quality food, I found myself patronizing Reid’s Meats.  And, you’re about to read a good example of that.

Anyhoo,

Michael Reid asks me if he can help me.  I tell him I’d like some ribs.  He shoots back, ‘pork or beef?’

K, I didn’t even know beef ribs were an option.  I decided to stick with pork and told him so.

‘How much do you want?’

‘How ’bout six racks about this big,’ as I held up my hands measuring about half a foot between them, thinking of my large roasting pan and how much I could cram in there, knowing the left-overs would be scrumptious the next day.

‘Just a sec’ he says to me and then to Dimples, he says, ‘sharpen my knife.’

Receiving his orders from his older brother, Conor quickly and deftly started on sharpening the knife while Micheal walked into the back fridge.

A few seconds later…

a whole pig carcass, lead by Michael, came whizzing out of the fridge on a huge hook which was attached to a track in the ceiling.  Michael carefully guided the carcass into place.

‘Only in the Valley,’ I’m thinking as I blinked my eyes to ensure this wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  It wasn’t.  Geez, I wish I had the guts to start recording this.  I had been told this was fresh meat.  Got that right.

What happened next is that Michael butchered that pig right in front of me while it hung on the hook.  He had this food-grade chain saw and a couple of different frightfully sharp knives, thanks to little brother, that he used to expertly and efficiently carve that meat, not wasting an ounce.

In a few minutes, while I watched with my jaw hitting the floor, he was smacking those fresh ribs down on the reddish-brown paper positioned on the stainless steel counter in front of me, his eyes meeting mine seeking approval to go ahead and wrap them up. Not on a styrofoam tray with plastic wrap and absorbent pad.  No, in the old-fashioned reddish butcher paper and beige tape that he moistened using a small, wheeled ceramic device with water in its tiny reservoir.

My mind reeled, for a moment, back to the endless summer days at the camp and of ‘Jake’s General Store‘ in Maggie River before the god-awful fire that burnt it to the ground.  Back when we would ride to town in the back of a pickup or walk there, barefoot, with a shiny quarter in sweaty little hands.  The butcher at Jake’s was as impressive and the cuts of meat were beautiful.  The ground beef was ground there in front of you from beef that you chose.  Then, the butcher would reach up and grab the string which was in a creaking pulley system attached to the ancient ceiling.  The package of meat would be wound with this string and his black oil pencil would scratch out the price on it while my large eyes watched in fascination, my fingers gripping the edge of the glass display case, my chin not yet clearing its edge. I could almost taste the burgers that we would have for supper, cooked by Mom outside the office on the grill, perched in the very rocks which formed the foundation of the cabin.  Cooked over charcoal, started with ‘strike anywheres‘ and yes, always with a wee hint of lighter fluid, lending an added ‘je-ne-sais-quois’ to the burger.

More than a few decades later and back to Reid’s Meats…

I just basically nodded profusely at the pile of freshly butchered pork ribs with a big wide smile.  I was feeling so thankful to be a part of such a great community where food is so wonderfully fresh and plentiful and the skill to handle it is still so present and of such a human scale.

Thank you, Reid’s Meats for carrying on a tradition and a family-run business providing this kind of quality for four decades.  This Upper Canadian come-from-away is one satisfied customer.

PIG

Coming soon: Part 2, Dabro Farms honour-system farm market

(Pictures found on google images…thank you.)

Bare Foot Summers 👣

Summers in the 70s lived by the soles of our feet, lakeside

My family had this amazing situation: the seven of us (my brothers and sisters and I) plus our parents.  We would leave the city behind for the two months of the summer and move two hours car ride north to the lake.  At the lake, we would shed our footwear and mostly run around bare foot.  It was incredible.  We were fleet of foot.  We would run through the tender green hay in the early summer which would be blond and tall by the late summer.

When I ponder that aspect of my childhood, I remember the immense sense of fortune at having this place as a retreat every summer and, when not doing morning chores, the sense of freedom and connection with nature that we all shared.

Most days, I would live in my bathing suit…no sunscreen, EVER – we didn’t even know what that was.  No hat, no sunglasses, no shirt, and as stated, no shoes.

Our lakeside acres had patches of earth that I knew to always be damp and mossy.  Patches that were warm and dry.  Tough prickly grass in the big fields.  Slimy slippery rocks like the ones on the path by cabin #1.  Annoyingly painful gravel of the camp roads which would pry an ‘ouch!’ and a hobble out of me every time.  The thick green moist grass outside of Grampa’s kitchen window where the sink water drained. The wet grainy sand of the beach as I would wade in for a swim, digging my toes in and enjoying the sensation.  The soft tufts of maiden grass that grew in the yard up by the porch of #2 cabin.  The baked planks of the redwood-painted docks.  The bottom of the canoe as we would catch frogs in the cove and the sensation of gliding over water that I felt through the fiberglass.

I knew these things because I detected them with the soles of my feet time and again as I would nimbly move over our twenty lakeside acres all summer.  Once, riding on the shoulders of my eldest sister’s future husband Peter, he remarked that I had leather-bottom feet. I shrugged.  It was my normal.

I was betrayed by them a few times, my bare feet: I knew the agony of a piercing by a hawthorn, stepped on absentmindedly, chubby arms crossed across my round belly, shivering from swimming for hours, as I made my small way past the tool shed.  I cried and bawled unabashedly with the pain, like little children do, and neighbours took me to have it removed by a doctor, such was my carrying on with it. (Mom and Dad were in town so the Pattersons came to my rescue – read a funny account of my brother Mark and the Pattersons in this story: The Camp).

Another betrayal of my barefoot days is in this story: Barefoot Heathens in which my Father forbids the ‘going to town’ barefoot.  We had been discouraged from ruining our school shoes which would be passed down from older siblings until they were worn and gone.

My brother Jobe and I would race through the tall hay in the lower field arriving at the frog pond slowly, lest we scare the frogs away.  We would creep the edges and wade carefully to grab an unsuspecting frog by its tiny waist just above its powerful legs.  Now and then, our bare feet would betray us and one of us would slip down the slick clay bank of the frog pond and into its stagnant waters, the stink and slime on our skin.  Once, we found ourselves a baby snapping turtle in that pond.  Just the once.  We held it like an Oreo cookie while it stretched its neck, beak and clawed feet doing its best to injure us while we ooohed and ahhed at how tiny and cute it was.  Then carefully letting it dive back into its swampy home, as we did with all the little pond frogs we caught.  (This wasn’t what we would do with the big, meaty bullfrogs we would catch in the cove though.  Those guys became breakfast and a crisp dollar bill from the Pattersons for helping to quiet the cove where their tent trailer sat.  The dozens of bullfrogs would ‘ribbit’ their love songs loudly all night long.)

These days, decades later, I find myself in my fifties and marvel at how we were back then.  Mostly carefree.  Mostly enjoying the simple things in life.  We wouldn’t use a telephone all summer.  Now we can’t be without one for a minute, carrying it on our person like it is a lifeline.

We would actually write letters on paper, stuffed into carefully addressed and licked 8 cent stamps on the envelopes, to friends in the city.  S.W.A.K. loudly printed on the back flap: ‘Sealed With A Kiss’.  If we were lucky, we would receive a hand-written letter from them a couple of weeks later, delivered by the mail truck guy into the big old aluminum mail box at the top of the gravel road.  Its red flag up and encouraging us to come. Scurrying barefoot to check the mailbox each day until finally it was there: a letter for me!  Savouring its every word and studying the envelope for clues as to when it was mailed from the city.  The impossibility of receiving news from two hundred miles away.

Times sure have changed as I am about to post this story and knowing that it can be read world wide, in the blink of an eye.  I am ever so glad to have made those simple but priceless memories at the lake, and through the soles of my leather-bottom feet.

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(photo courtesy of google images and the last one was taken by my hubby)

Trying Something New ?? (age 38) 💋

A Friday night visit to the video store ends in mortifaction…

I originally posted this a year ago but am re-posting because this story takes place in my wee town’s video store.  Said video store has since been closed and re-opened under a new name by one of the original, amazingly talented employees.  It then moved twice and now, several years later, it is about to close for good.  It seems there is no longer a market for videos and DVDs, no matter the incredible collection.  I was saddened to read this story in our local paper and then to hear the owner speaking on CBC Radio about her ideas and aspirations for the future.  So, this re-post is a tribute to our closing video store.

***

When we first moved to our sweet little tidal town in Nova Scotia, it was before itunes  and netflix.  For entertainment, we would go downtown to rent videos and DVDs from a little place called L&S Video.  L&S had an amazing collection and going there to pick out a video was a bit of a social experience because the four people who worked there, including the owner, were engaging, knowledgeable and pretty hilariously entertaining.

video-store

So, one Friday evening I found myself at L&S looking at options for Dean and I to watch after little Leo was in bed.  It was a Friday evening so many folks, strangers, friends and acquaintances were coming and going and I was just having a fun ole time engaging with quite a few people — all of us in good moods due to it being Friday night and with the whole weekend ahead of us.

Nick was working that night and he was en forme .  We were talking and bantering back and forth about various movies.  I would say something profound like: you know the movie with that guy?  And he would say: oh ya, TROY. Then I would be like: exactly.  Nick was amazing.  He knew all the movies, plot lines, actors.  It was as if he worked there or something.

At some early point in the better-part-of-an hour that I spent that evening at L&S, I was squatting down looking at a low shelf of vids and reaching into my pocket, proceeded to put on my lip balm.  My lips had been pretty dry and my favourite lip balm: Burt’s Bees, just felt so nice to slather on.  Somewhat absentmindedly, I ensured that it was on real good.  I put it all along the top of my lips and lip edge and all along the bottom of my lips and lip edge not staying within the lines at all. Then I did it again, just to be sure.  My lips tingled. The peppermint in Burt’s Bees actually caused lip-tingling.  I loved it.

I stood up with my selection: I, Robot.  (I LOVE Will Smith).  I didn’t actually exit the store as of yet though.  There were so many friends to talk to and banter with.  As I was talking and visiting with them though, I got the feeling that something was slightly wrong.  I was getting some looks and double takes.  Hmm.  Strange.  Maybe it was because I was looking super hot that night.  I was wearing my new jacket and my hair.  Well, it was a good hair day.  That must be it.  So, I stayed a bit longer.  It was busy in there.  I was on fire!

At the check out, Nick had a wee smirk on his face.  I thanked him for all of his expertise, yet again and wished him a great night.

Off I drove home.  Pulling into the driveway, I smoothed my good hair in the rear-view mirror.

AND

THEN

I

SAW

MY

LIPS

THERE WAS BLACK GUNK ALL OVER and AROUND MY LIPS.  Much like bad makeup on a sad clown. Reaching into my pocket for my beloved Burt’s Bees, I realized my mistake.  I had used my dark brown-tinted Burt’s Bees Lip Balm instead of the clear one.  Anger rose within while my face reddened and I scrubbed the dark lip balm off while my mind clicked through the dozens of townsfolk I had encountered with my very badly done sad clown lips.  Still sitting in the car, I grabbed my cell phone and called Nick at L&S Video.

‘Why the hell didn’t you tell me????’ I shouted at him.

Pause, muffled chuckling.

‘I thought you were trying something new,’ he said.

EXTREME MORTIFICATION ensued.

twirl

(Credit for this photo goes to the ever talented T.M.B. Renaissance Axe Woman )

The King of Korea 🇰🇷

For a couple of years in a row, we did this thing: we took in a boy from Korea for the month of January and the next year we took in he and his little brother.  Charlie and Joshua were something else (can you say, high maintenance?) and I have to say, when we finally said our goodbyes, I was wiping my brow.  Many parents asked us about our Korean visitors.  They could not believe that parents would send their young children half way around the world for a full month to stay with complete strangers (us).  We certainly could never do that with our son Leo.  The motivation, of course, was for them to learn to speak English.  Worth it to them.  Our motivation was to introduce Leo to other cultures and the idea of sharing his stuff (and us) with a temporary sibling or two.

At that time, Leo and Joshua were 7, Charlie was 8. From the get go, Charlie and Leo were pretty much opposites in most areas of life.  Charlie loved math and studying.  Leo loved to play, draw, run and build lego.  Charlie had a huge appetite, Leo not so much.  Charlie was a black belt at taekwondo, and at any given moment, he would run across the room and execute a seriously high kick which would miss someone’s face (mine included) by a fraction of an inch.  He was a maniac.  Leo was pretty chill, usually.

The morning Charlie arrived from Korea, we had some extra time before school after Charlie’s stare-down with his oatmeal – so I told Charlie he could play with Leo in Leo’s cubby.  Leo had this really cool tiny playroom off the kitchen that was actually the space over the stairs, and it was carpeted, with a light and door – almost fort-like. We painted it purple and added toys and called it his cubby.  I could see him while preparing food and it was ideal for that.  Anyway, Charlie said, ‘No, I must study.’  So, he sat with his University level math book and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from travel.  After a few repeat performances, I took Charlie aside and told him, ‘Charlie, look, you are here in Canada for a whole month.  Canadian kids play every chance they get.  Why not just go ahead and play while you are here?’  Charlie took my advice.  The following year though, I learned from Charlie that he had been ‘beaten’ by his mother because he had decided to play in his free time instead of studying.  So, let’s just look at that: your child is away from you for a whole month, on the other side of the world, gets home and you beat him because he decided to play with other children instead of study.  Oooookay.

Pond Skating 5

When the children would come in from outside, after skating, snow-ball fights or running around and tumbling in the snow, Charlie would ask excitedly, ‘I put inside clothes on now?’  Of course, we would always allow this, and of course this made him very happy.  He would then run and jump and almost kick someone in the face before running off to change.  I imagine back home in Korea, there must have been many more demands on his time…academies of all sorts that took place at various hours of the night.  Charlie had told us that he regularly got to sleep by midnight on school nights and then on Saturday and Sunday they would sleep until noon, then the fam would head out for a movie and supper and start the whole process over again Monday morning.  I was commenting to a friend that Charlie could play a gazillion instruments and was a math pro and my friend said, “When did he learn to play cello?  At 2 in the morning?”  Something like that.

skating with king of korea

Now, we live in a tiny little town of about 4000 residents and Charlie and Joshua came from Seoul (see picture above) with a cool 29 million souls.  Quite a big difference.  One evening, we were heading down the highway to the indoor soccer facility.  That road is dark in January and can be pretty sparse for traffic.  Charlie, in the back seat, says in wonder, “Where ARE we?”  He had never been on such a dark, fast road. My mind flicked back to our travels in Oz, when that was my daily litany.

dark highway

One day, I took the kids to a farm so they could see hens, goats, lamas, cows, sheep and pigs and so they could hold a warm egg, just laid (seeing as Charlie was eating three eggs every morning and a litre of goats milk).  Other outings were to indoor soccer, area hikes, sliding, skating, haircuts, music events and movies and restaurants but their favorite thing, by far, was bedtime when Dean would read aloud from one of Leo’s chapter books: A Single Shard,  by Linda Sue Park.  Three boys in pjs, teeth brushed and waiting for Dean to enter the room to read.  We had put a small cot for Leo in his room. Charlie and Joshua shared Leo’s big sleigh-bed that we had purchased from the Amish in Virginia when we lived there and when Leo was born.  I remember thinking that Leo was doing really well with all this sharing of his stuff.  I’m biased, of course, but Leo was always pretty sweet-natured about things like that, perhaps except when it came to Buzz.

Bedtime Story

Charlie really liked his food.  I would be making eggs in our large cast-iron pan at the stove in the morning and I would feel a presence by my side.  Suddenly a voice, ‘What are you making?’ After peeling myself off the ceiling, I would realize that it was Charlie.  He was inspecting.  He asked me to make his eggs a bit differently.  A quasi fried-scrambled kinda thing with ketchup.  We began to refer to Charlie as ‘The Inspector’.  He had high standards and he wanted to maintain them.  Initially, he would be eating his meal, with gusto, chopsticks flying, and he would moan, ‘more kimchi, more kimchi’.  We taught him to at least look up, meet our eyes and ask for more whatever with a ‘please’ on the end.  He cottoned on.  We weren’t his paid help, like he had at home.  He was a visitor in our home.  He got it.

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Charlie kept us on our toes. Joshua was just easy, a quiet shadow of his older brother. One time, I arrived at the school yard to pick up Leo and Charlie.  Charlie was nowhere to be seen.  I ran around like a madwoman looking for him, my mind whirling with how I would explain this to his mom over in Korea.  Suddenly, there he was.  He had been in the car of the Korean man he had met at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Geez. Thanks a pant-load, Buddy.

Charlie would head into the bathroom on any given afternoon and after a bit, we would hear the toilet flushing about five times.  This always made Leo laugh.  Having a chauffeur at home, Charlie and Joshua hated the walk to school.  Granted, it was about a mile in snowpants and boots and we did it almost every school day, there and back.  One day, we got half way and he threw himself on the snowbank and would not get up.  When he didn’t get what he wanted he would say, ‘It feels me bad’.  We wrote a song about him called, ‘It Feels Me Bad, Baby‘.

To say goodbye to Charlie and Joshua, we hosted a bowling party at the area bowling alley and invited some friends.  It was a lot of fun.  We never saw Charlie and Joshua again, nor have we ever heard from them again.  From time to time, Dean and I will wonder aloud about what the boys must be doing these days.  We always imagine Charlie as the King of Korea.  Maybe he is?king-sejong

Just a little Stroll…🌲

Yesterday I asked my friend Victoria if she wanted to get out for a mid-afternoon walk in a nearby Watershed Nature Preserve, just a few minutes from our Nova Scotian town. She had never been there she said as I explained where it is located.  She asked if it would be a tough walk because she still had a sore leg from taking a tumble over a root while walking Cape Split the weekend before.  My response:

‘No, it’s just a little stroll’….

Into the woods we wandered, after taking a big swig of water.  ‘Are you bringing water?’ Victoria asked.  My response:

‘No, I never carry water for a short walk.  I just top up now.’…

Our first stop was to look at the old Reservoir Lake, walk over the new small log bridge and then along the shore of the lake for a little bit.  Then, a hard right into the woods again and it was there that I thought it would be a good idea to go on the Ravine Trail for a few minutes.  There was not a soul around and the trail was quite nicely marked with bright orange tape on trees the whole way.  The problem being that my phone rang and so I was not really watching as we got further and further along the trail that I had previously thought we would just be on for 5 minutes or so. I had been distracted and wasn’t really watching the way and thus missed any chance of getting off the trail and heading back to the car.

Victoria asked me if I knew this trail?  My response:

‘Nope, but I can’t image it will be too hard to figure out.  This park can’t be THAT big. Right?

We saw startlingly green ferns bathed in a beam of sunlight and stopped for a moment to admire them.  Little creeks and small waterfalls.  I was tempted to take a drink from the rushing water, but, thought better of it lest I give Victoria a heart attack.  She is from a medical background.  Enough said.  I informed Victoria of the cool item I had seen on TED talk called the LifeStraw. That you can just use the straw to drink from even stagnant water and it is totally safe.  In fact our friend Daisy and her boys had used one in Australia on a hike there.  I had two LifeStraws at home.  Oh well.  It takes days to die of dehydration, right?

We forded a few boggy areas, stirring up many a biting bug: black flies and mosquitoes. Victoria then showed me an angry red bump on her forearm and explained that she gets a bad reaction from black fly bites.  Oh wait, let me dig out my emergency bug dope for you. I thought as I reached over my shoulder for my small day pack.  Nothing.  Didn’t bring anything on this ‘stroll’ except my phone and a tissue…we were now approaching two hours in the woods.  Victoria’s face was getting pink.

I started to imagine what we would need to do if we couldn’t find our way out of this pretty place.  We would have to hunker down and try to stay warm until morning and then just walk until we would come to a road.  I was loathe to get hubby Dean to come look for us, should we then all be lost in the woods.  My imagination was getting the better of me.  We had hours of daylight yet.  For sure we would find civilization before dark.  Right?

I said to Victoria: ‘It could be worse, we could have a fifty-pound pack on our backs.’

‘And an army radio,’ chimed in Victoria, ever the good sport.  We both had army experience, mine Reg force, hers Reserve.  An army radio is an army radio, is an army radio.  We both knew that to be true.

Over another log bridge, a glimpse of a ruins of an ancient moss-covered stone bridge then squealing like school girls when a brown stick wriggled furiously away from our falling feet.  Next, up a soft pine-needle trail where the path split.  One way went slightly down through a nicely cut trail into a sunny meadow, the other went slightly up and into a dim tangle of woods.  The upward tending trail was marked with orange tape and upon inspection of the map just now, the very map we didn’t have yesterday, it would have taken us on a incline back up to the parking lot in about 2 clicks.  We chose the downward sloping pathway and walked for about another forty minutes coming out at a country road.

vinyard

Looking right we saw L’Acadie Vinyards.  I smiled with relief.  I knew exactly where we were.  I may or may not have been here before, sampling their wares…  I said, ‘Okay, now we have to follow this road left and then left again on the next road and the next.’  It would have been 5 clicks more.

Victoria’s response:

‘Can’t we just go in and have some wine?  Couldn’t Leo come get us?’

My response: ‘Um, YES!  What a fabulous idea!’  My son Leo had his licence now.  He could come get us.’

champagne
This was our favourite!

 

Much like that old much-loved but very corny tv show we all watched as kids in which a group heads out for a ‘three-hour cruise‘ and ends up on a deserted island for years and years…we had headed out for a wee twenty minute stroll and ended up in the woods for about three hours.  It all ended well.  Our worst fears were not realized and we even had wine and then a cutie come pick us up and pay the bill.  Gotta like that.

We had zigged when we should have zagged.  Ever done that?  How did it end up for you?

~Leave a comment below.~

 

(Thank you google and those who took them for the pictures!)

Taking Summer Seriously (age 50) ☀️

Last summer an idea struck.  How about I take summer seriously?  How about I make a concerted effort to get out on our beautiful Nova Scotia beaches on as many nice days as possible.  I own my own business and can work flexible hours, so in keeping with the tides, I could arrange my work to allow for beach walks on nice days.  Why in keeping with the tides?  Well, in this part of Nova Scotia, at high tide, there is often no beach to walk on.  Also, there is a danger of being trapped down the beach should the tide be coming back in.  It happens to unsuspecting folks every year.  Best to walk the beach knowing what the tides are doing.  Rainy days would be for catching up on office work. So, no waiting for weekends. I would take summer seriously.  I just wanted to eat those beaches up.  The second half of this was that I wanted a friend or two or a family member or two to accompany me on each said beach walk.  I started asking around and several of my friends sounded interested.

Nova Scotia (23)First up was Blomidon Beach at low tide, once with my friend Lisa, then Jessie (and dogs) and then again with Victoria. Victoria was home for the summer holiday and as eager to walk the beaches as I.  That worked!  Blomidon Beach is a red, flat beach with red sheer cliffs hemming it in.   There are often tiny little avalanches of red stones coming down off those cliffs.  All along the top of the cliffs there are nesting holes for the swallows that make their homes there.

Next up was Scott’s Bay with Victoria. It was perfect. As we rolled along on the highway above Scott’s Bay, we each gasped at the beauty of the scene that emerged on approach to the big hill leading down into the village.  The Big Blue, I like to call it.  And, I can not visit Scott’s Bay without recalling fondly a novel I thoroughly enjoyed which is set in historic Scott’s Bay by local best-selling author Ami McKay.  The Birth House is about the age-old struggle of women to be in control of their own bodies. Imagine.  I would look at the houses and flapping colourful clotheslines and imagine the characters from that novel.  Their tough but incredibly rich lives…all of it happening right there.

The tide was way out.  Victoria parked the car and walked over the small bridge onto the pebbles of Scott’s Bay beach on the Bay of Fundy with the highest tides in the world. We walked out and off to the left, stopping to remove our footwear and talking and relating while we stepped into the cool grey mud of Scott’s Bay at low tide.  The floor of the ocean. Part of the time the grey mud was quite soft and deep. The temperature was perfect.  The sun was high.  It was warm but not hot and it was ideal. We walked and walked, the only two souls on the vast, shimmering beach:

Shiny Happy People Laughing.

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Afterward we had lunch on the patio of ‘The Haze’ Diner which is located close to the beach, on the highway approaching Scott’s Bay.  It was a good day. Homeward bound we stopped at Stirlings Farm Market for something to cook up for supper. Feeling refreshed, kissed by the sun, salt, wind and sand, we had taken summer seriously.

The next trip out was with my friends Mary and Victoria and over to Penny Beach at Avonport. Another perfect weather day and off we went, walking way down the beach, marveling and exclaiming at the beauty all around us.  There was so much to see, to examine, to show each other and to talk about.  I told them about the time, years prior, that Daisy and I had been on this beach, eating a picnic lunch with our three boys when we saw a group approaching us.  They hadn’t even seen us, they were looking at the rock, the shale, the pebbles, the eagles, the shore birds.  I told them that I was curious about what they were doing. Turns out it was a famous scientist and his students and they had come a great long way to see this beach.  He said it was world famous to geologists.  That it was once an inland sea and would have had a plethora of very large creatures and dinosaurs on it.  The boys were quite impressed.  I was just so thankful to have had the opportunity to glimpse them in action.

Anyway, within no time we realized that three hours had slipped by.  On Mary’s suggestion, which surprised me because I think of her as quite fastidious, we walked way out to the edge of the receding tide, knowing that the trip back would be through sticky mud.  In Nova Scotia, when one says they walked way out to the edge of the receding tide, that can be a LOOOOONG way — like a mile sometimes.  No kidding.

Another benefit of walking on beaches with friends is that sometimes surprising qualities and details about them (and me) emerge. In my experience it has always been a positive and our friendship grows deeper as we admire the beauty, sometimes sharing stories and anecdotes and sometimes just walking silently bathing in the salty breeze, sometimes bending to help the other wash the tenacious mud from their feet or the troubles from their hearts.

IMG_4710At the water’s edge, it was astoundingly beautiful, the patterns in the rock, the ripple of the waves, the call of the gulls and before that, the emerald green moss on the tiny, perpetually trickling runoff waterfall.  We savoured it all and it was magical.  Returning to the parking lot, we sat at the hexagonal picnic table and each ate a Valley apple and drank fresh water from our water bottles.  So simple.  So good.  The day had been perfect. We had taken summer seriously.

IMG_4730Next it was Blue Beach with Rachel and Simon.  I picked them up and off we drove on another very pretty day.  Blue Beach is located between Avonport and Hantsport on the Minas Basin. It wasn’t a far ride for us.  We parked and started the wee jaunt down the dirt road to the beach.  Every time I walk down that dirt track, my mind is aflutter with memories of the previous walks on that beach.  The time my step-sister was visiting with her family and her palpable anticipation of this fossil-riddled beach.  She normally walks with a cane.  Not that day.  She was just too excited and the adrenaline was rampant.  She was almost skipping. Then, while she and hubby examined fossils, I spent time with their two children and Leo.  Skipping stones and doing handstands, running and tumbling, chasing and being chased and getting wet with furry, joyful Lady.  A great memory.  Leo idolized his big cousins and it was sweet to watch.

So, as it emerged, we could see the distinctly blue tinge of the rock and sand which forms this incredible beach.  We all walked slowly and methodically, heads bowed to the rocky beach surface to notice its treasures, to bend and point and remark, three heads came together peering at marvels on the ocean floor.  It was magical.  At some point, hunger called us back to the car and away we swept to a close-by coffee shop for a snack and a drink.

betty 2Betty and I did Medford Beach together, parking in the cul-de-sac and walking down the grassy slope, across the tiny bridge and carefully stepping down the eroded small cliff, onto the red sand, beside the fresh run-off stream. The dogs were with us and into it full tilt.  The chance to run free, smelling all the smells and swimming willy-nilly made their tails wag furiously happily.  Following their lead, we kicked off our footwear, sinking our feet into the cool red sand.  Then we walked and walked and talked and talked solving all of the problems of the world.

Betty on beach

Later that summer, Leo and Dean and I went down to the Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct for a hike on one gorgeous day.  It was about a ten-km hike, partially over the windswept hills and then down along a boardwalk and onto a rocky beach.  As we approached the beach, we could see what looked like structures sticking up all over it.  Turned out, to be many many inukshuks. They were everywhere and they lent a surreal quality to the remarkably pretty beach. Leo immediately began to take photos of them and then to build one himself.

inukshuks

From the rocky beach, we walked on a windy woodland trail and then out onto an incredible white-sand beach where we spent some time contemplating a swim.  Make no bones about it, the water was, as always, freezing.  Dean managed to submerge for a split second then rushed out to the warmth of the sand.  It had been a lovely day and finished on a spectacular beach.

keji 2

In was a fantastic summer mission which also included Evangeline, Hirtles, Avonport, Crescent, Margartsville, Aylesford, Kingsport beaches, all with their various qualities ranging from fine white sand to pebble to rocky, red sand, blue sand, golden sand. Near, far, remote, popular, unheard of, it was a grand summer full of wonder, family and friendship.  No better kind.