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.
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.
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.)
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.
Arriving 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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 inVirginia 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
‘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.’
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!)
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.
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.
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.
At 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.
Next 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Her hair is Harlow gold
Her lips are sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She got Bette Davis eyes
She’ll turn the music on you
You won’t have to think twice
She’s pure as New York snow
She got Bette Davis eyes
My beautiful sister Amy…where do I begin. She was always a guy-magnet with her long blond hair and huge, kind, blue eyes. She has an aquiline nose and peaches and cream, skin but even with those attributes, it is her character that the guys fall for in a big way. She is sweet-natured, generous, thoughtful, fun, kind and hard-working. A guy gets a whiff of that, and game over. Trust me, I have witnessed this phenomenon my whole life.
Amy was born second in the Player family line-up. She was born ten months after Eva, in 1955. She is eleven years my senior and a very close sibling and friend to me. I could tell Amy absolutely anything and she would nod in a kind and understanding way and with non-judgement would do her best to see my reasons why. And then, she would join me.
One of the first men I can remember who LOVED Amy was Ike whom she met thru the A&W in Walden. They were quite young when they met and it was the days of free love, peace, drugs and bell-bottom jeans. Amy and Ike spent every waking minute together, that they could get away with. It wasn’t long before Amy found herself in the ‘baby’ way. Of course our parents did what any good Catholic parents would do.
They hastily and by cover of night, sent Amy off to Toronto to live with the Nuns.
For months we barely saw or heard from Amy. Suddenly she had been ripped from my life and because I was just a little girl (I was six), it really really hurt. Amy came back once to visit and I remember my older siblings behaving strangely. Of course they didn’t want me to notice her baby-belly because how would they explain it to me. We all lived in such a tight-lipped manner back then. I can still remember this wonderful black velvet, embroidered, baby-doll blouse she wore on that visit and how pretty and rested she looked. Her cheeks were a healthy pink, her hair was lustrous and thick. A couple of months later and she was back with us, as if nothing ever happened.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I learned the truth. One night, Mom and Dad had friends over and Dad had too much to drink. I had been sleeping in my bedroom down the hall from the living room but had awoken upon hearing Dad’s voice raised in anger. He was talking about how his blond daughter (whom I knew must be Amy) had had a baby with ‘a club foot’, ‘out of wedlock’ and had given her up for adoption. My little brain began to spin. I was an Aunt, but not an Aunt. Where was my baby niece? I did not sleep that night and at the crack of dawn, pounced on my siblings for answers.
Poor Ike, a few years later, lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. Their daughter grew up, married and had a child. They all found each other after thirty years, but, alas there were many challenges in the relationship between Amy and her daughter, Kassie. Kassie was raised with different values. She had serious health issues, addictions and, of course, mobility issues. She had a wonderful sense of humour but she was needy and was always asking, inappropriately for a hand-out from her biological mom, Amy. Now, in the way of money, Amy survived and did okay because she worked bloody hard as a hair-stylist and a single-mom to Josh, who was still in middle-school at that time. She routinely pulled twelve hour days, eating poorly and barely sitting down. No matter how kind and generous Amy was, it wasn’t long before, with sinking heart, she realized that her daughter was a user. Amy suffered with guilt and self-doubt but, she finally told Kassie that there would be no more hand-outs. Kassie was rarely seen again for about fifteen years.
She is now back in Amy’s life and is no longer the free-loader. One ironic thing about this story that niggles me in the back of my mind is this. If Kassie were to stand beside her biological father, Ike, you would see a remarkable family resemblance. She was her father’s daughter. AND, they both have just one leg.
Next up was a guy Amy actually married. Dick was a quiet and haunted seasonal mason. In the off-season, he was basically a full-time stoner. It wasn’t long before we got wind that Toe-shit was physically abusing Amy. Our oldest and second brothers, Matt and Mark went to their flat and moved Amy out of there and brought her home. Toe-shit was an asshole.
Buzz was this short, dark-haired, crooked smiled cowboy who was a farrier (horse-shoer) by trade. He suffered from short-man’s syndrome. Buzz knew it ALL, and then some. Name a topic and then just sit back and listen to him spout the bull-shit. It was incredible. He would come up to the camp with Amy and wear this teeny little noodle-bender Speedo bathing suit and yes, he would hope that you glanced down to check out his stuff. He was quite proud of his manhood. WhatEVER. Bottom line was that the guy was completely bad news. As soon as the Player family met him, we wanted Amy out. He was a user and he was verbally and emotionally abusive. We are still not sure what Amy saw in the Buzz-ard.
Blain was a car salesman. Tall, blond and a real talker. He had a Great Dane named Thor (compensating for something?) and fidelity issues. Enough said.
Phil was from the village on Eight Mile Lake. He was constantly in bare feet with a smoke between his teeth, of which a couple were missing. Phil was a nice enough guy and we all liked him but, he was completely passive aggressive. Everything had to be done his way. He was also without a driver’s licence and often without work and therefore a bit of a drain on the finances, especially considering that welders can make big money any day of the week.
Amy came out to visit me for two weeks in August 2013 when Phil was still living with her and we had one wonderful vacation together. It started with a weekend yoga, herbology and belly-dancing retreat entitled:
The Juicy Goddess Retreat at Windhorse Farm done by two of my friends, Daisy and Lucy.
The retreat was such a great time. We did lovely yoga led by the highly skilled teacher, Daisy. We ate wonderfully prepared, catered meals that the caterer continuously told us proudly were ‘vegan’. I would then say, that’s nice, but no need to go through the trouble because we aren’t vegan. The next meal though, she would announce the same message again: I hope you enjoy this meal. It’s vegan. I was left wondering if I had imagined the previous conversation. So I told her again: that’s lovely but, please don’t trouble yourself, we aren’t vegan. When she announced it a third time, I took a look at her face to see if she was joking. She stared back at me rather vacantly and smiled.
Ooookay. Stepford Wives much?
We hiked all over the property of Windhorse Farm and were given a herbology talk by my lovely friend, Lucy. The weather was hot and dry. It was an incredible day and we learned all manner of wonderful tidbits from Lucy. Next, we put on belly-dancing costumes and makeup, had white wine, and were given a lesson. We then walked through the peaceful lush forest of the farm and did yoga moves on fallen logs taking photos and such.
The next item on the agenda popped up out of nowhere. Lucy had mentioned to us that she had a tooth that was bugging her and that probably just needed to be filed down a bit so that it would stop irritating her cheek.
Amy says: ‘Morgan can do it!’ And, with that vote of confidence, so I did. I put my reading classes on, and in belly-dancing attire, filed down Lucy’s problem tooth. The pictures were hilarious. I asked Amy later why she nominated me for such a task. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘because you were in the ARMY. You can do anything.’ Ooookay. Just checking. (The other day, my teenage son said something similar. I was asking him to show us how to download a free movie. He says, ‘come on Mom. You were in the ARMY, you should be able to download a movie. Geesh.’)
Leaving Windhorse farm, I took Amy to Hirtle’s Beach. I wanted her to experience the vast, white sand beaches of Nova Scotia. We got out of the car and barefoot, took the
boardwalk over the dune to the beach. Amy gasped at the sight of Hirtle’s. So vast, so empty, so perfect. Arm in arm we walked the beach and Amy told me then the sad tale that she and Phil were not going to last. Up until that point, I had thought Phil was the ‘one’. Amy had not told me her struggles with Phil. She told me then, on Hirtle’s. I will never forget that exchange. Sadly, Amy told me that she thought she would end up alone in her old age. Fat chance of that, I thought.
Upon leaving for a Cuban vacation, our second brother, Mark told Phil to be moved out by the time he and Amy got back, or he would move him out himself.
At my best-friend Flo’s wedding to the asshole she finally just got rid of twelve damaging years, but two beautiful sons later, comes this proposition. I had just finished saying my speech about Flo. It had gone over well. I was especially glad to see Flo’s Dad, a retired cop, laughing so hard he had pushed himself away from the table and bowing down between his knees. He found the story about ‘get out before she blows’ (from the post Fun and Foibles at the Camp) quite hilarious and the fact that he never had heard about it, was also funny.
Anyhoo, I was pleased to be done. I walked to the back of the room and there was Amy speaking to Flo’s mom who then turns to me and says, ‘Morgan, your sister Amy is a remarkably beautiful woman’. Like I didn’t know this? She carried on to another group of folks and Amy and I then chatted and laughed and were anticipating a great evening of dancing. Then, over walks Flo’s brother Sam and begins a friendly conversation with Amy and I. The next thing you know we are all chuckling and enjoying ourselves with recalling fond family memories. Sam had been our youngest brother, Luke’s best friend. During the course of the conversation, it came out that Amy was now single.
Sam leans in, ‘So, Amy, you’re single now?’
Sam inches a bit closer, turning his body slightly toward Amy. His eyes riveted on her face.
Picking up on the body language, Amy cocks her pretty head to the side, blond hair cascading, smiles and asks, ‘So, Sam, how OLD are you…..?’
‘……How old do you WANT me to be?’
We laughed uproariously, bent over double at his sweet attempt to entice Amy.
Just the other day, I was on the phone with Sue, the guy (yes, Sue is a guy) from the post Fun and Foibles at the Camp 🎣 (18). We were talking about all the members of my family that he had met over the years and especially at the camp. It wasn’t long before Sue asks, (and I wasn’t one bit surprised) ‘So, what is Amy doing these days? Is she single? Tell her I said hi. I always thought she was so nice and pretty, even though she made me clean up her car after I got sick in it.’
At the next opportunity, I told Amy that Sue had asked after her and was saying he was interested. Amy says, ‘Oh that’s sweet, he was always such a good head. How OLD is he, Morgan…?’
‘……How old do you WANT him to be?’
Total Guy Magnet.
(Credit for the feature image at the top goes to my other big sister…the ever talented, Eva Player)
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