On The Road Again
Swimming and Sticks
The View From Here
I have never walked out into the day without looking north to see the sea. Of its own volition, my head turns and smile erupts to witness today’s colour and tidal height. An implant from Upper Canada, the salt water view and distant hills are still pure joy even after twenty years here!
Remember to leave a comment. I love ‘em!
This pretty and incredible place is found not far from my front door. It is one of my favourite places to stroll and to contemplate. There are several of these pretty inlets that reduce to red mud as the tide ebbs. It is a peaceful place which is abuzz with pollinators and a flutter with birds.
The Right Side of the Tracks
What is it about an abandoned railroad track? It is just so walkable and inviting. The smell of the creosote and the echo from the boards, the crunch of the gravel… All of it bringing back childhood memories of skipping from board to board along with grasshoppers and butterflies. I sometimes imagine the days before highways when the train transported folks to their destinations, soldiers to their training camps, goods to the various shops in town. Will those days return when fuel for vehicles is no longer feasible?
Everything is growing, blooming and buzzing. It’s a place to sit and watch life bubble up around me.
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.
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 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.
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 schoolyard 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?
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.
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!)
A Simple East-Coast Life
Seeing the hand-lettered notice SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE…we knew it was meant to be
I am from Ontario and Dean is from Newfoundland. Leo was born in Virginia. How did we make our way to a small East-coast town and how did it become our home in 2003 when Leo was four?
We had been living West of Toronto in a country property for a couple of years. We had bought it upon returning from two years in Virginia where Leo was born. (And what a birth it was!! A couple of stories from Virginia in the 90s folder: Prune Juice & Pregnancy and Locked Up in D.C.)
While there, Dean was working at a huge, multi-national corporation and his commute was 1.5 hours at high speed across the top of the city on the 407 doing about 140 km per hour. He soon over-taxed the engine of his vehicle and it began to need a lot of oil. That may have been the straw that broke to camel’s back because, it was about then that I told him that this lifestyle was just not working. Although I had all kinds of time with our son and we had a big country house, we had large week-end long parties for family and we had Neighbour Night gatherings, his work life and commute was not what I wanted and he, being quite exhausted by this point, seemed to agree rather easily. I had come up with an idea for an exit-strategy. Ask for a transfer to their East-coast office. Even if it had to be on our own dime, it would still be quite welcome.
Sure enough, they, accepted the idea and said we could move East as long as it was at our own expense. For two former Logisticians that would be too easy! On-line, Dean found us a furnished garden apartment downtown Halifax near the large public gardens and we were allowed to have our two dogs and cat with us. We packed our things and sold the house.
We arrived on the East coast, in Halifax, and just breathed a sigh of relief. Immediately we noticed the sweet nature of the people. They were prone to smile and chat and just be sweet, almost all of the time. Even when walking the hounds in the pouring rain, I would see folks and they would smile at me. This was such a gift to me, the jaded upper Canadian. Also, I was in the early stages of pregnancy and feeling a bit off. I would take the dogs out before Dean left for the office so that he was home with Leo. I would hope and pray that this had been a good move for us. All these years later, I can say that it certainly was. Without a doubt.
Two years went by. (We had lost the pregnancy, and that had been a very sad and traumatic event: The Loss of Dane is the story.)
We had bought a Halifax house (2 story salt box) but, we were not yet feeling that this was the situation that we wanted. Dean’s company began to offer some employees an exit package if they would quietly go away. Dean and I thought it would be a perfect time to do that extended bit of travel we had wanted to do. Four months in Mexico and Central America. Could we really make that happen? With our four-year-old? The planning began, and it was extensive. We bought our flights into Mexico, to arrive at Guadalajara….
While away on our trip, we took the opportunity to talk about what we REALLY wanted in our next living arrangement. We made a simple list:
- Live in a small, walkable, nice little town;
- Live walking distance to Leo’s school;
- Make a circle of new friends;
- Start a business together;
- Volunteer in our community;
- Live in a small-ish house;
- Live a simple life.
Getting back from Central America we decided to take day-trips to all of the various towns around. We spent a day in Antigonish – too far North; Mahone Bay and
Lunenburg – too quiet in the winter; Truro – loved the park, but not quite right; Parsboro – too far from everything. Hubbards – too small. Then, we rolled into Wolfville….it was
just right. Instantly we felt at home. People were everywhere, smiling, chatting, drinking coffee and discussing things. The positive energy was palpable. The students were all over the University green. It was April and Spring was springing and everyone was out and about. We walked on the dykes and my cell rang. It was my sister Eva calling. I tried to explain to her the phenomena of the dyke-lands (now a World UNESCO Heritage Site). She would see them for herself when she visited in March, she said. We had a wonderful day and were quite hopeful when we left to return another day, just to be sure.
A few days later, we had another sunshiny day and took the opportunity to drive back out to Wolfville. It was only an hour away. We pulled into a curb-side parking space in front of a Real Estate office on Main Street. I looked at the window to see a small, hand-written notice done in a Senior’s hand:
SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE 542-1234.
I knew it.
I absolutely knew what this meant.
We would be moving here and taking this summer rental. It was another one of those forks in the road mixed with serendipity showing a pattern that I knew was pointing us in the right direction. As I picked up my cell to call the number, cautious Dean says: ‘Marti, we can’t take this place. We’re not ready to move to Wolfville.’ All I had to ask was: ‘Why not?’
The elderly gentleman on the phone had a cheery German accent. I told him we had read his notice and that we were interested in the summer rental. I said: ‘There is just one problem….well, actually two.’
‘Oh?’ he asked.
I told him, ‘We have two large dogs. Would they be a problem?’
He said, ‘No. We love dogs. Come on up the hill.’
Two minutes later we pulled into the driveway of our new summer home which boasted a beautiful view of Cape Blomidon and the Minas Basin which was an off-shoot of The Bay of Fundy. We got the dogs and Leo out of the wagon.
While our new landlords were watching, Grizzly saunters over, backs her ass up and proceeds to pee on their basement window. I was mortified… for a moment. Hubert and Suzanne just chuckled. They had lived interesting lives and seen it all.
We moved in in mid-April and a few days later after putting my resume in to a few places, I got a call that I was being invited for an interview at Paddy’s Pub, downtown Wolfville. I hadn’t stepped out to work in six years. Overjoyed, I found myself jumping up and down in sheer delight at the possibility of winning the position. I was clapping and jumping up and down and smiling so widely that Dean just looked at me and smiled. He knew it was going to be a good move and he was very happy for me. With Dean able to stay home with our four-year old Leo, it would be just lovely to step out to work, knowing that the boys would be together.
I worked the lunch shift and was trained in a couple of days. I was told I would be working on the deck or in the hall for most of my shifts. Translation: many stairs. Many steps. Crap tips. They could have told me I would be working in a shit-hole; I would have been happy. In my mind, my getting this job was instrumental in us transitioning to Wolfville. I met and worked with some great folks at Paddy’s and we made it our business to have a good time a work – finding any excuse possible to laugh. We had a great team and we all backed each other. I served almost every soul in The Valley and therefore, met a good slice of the population. This helped with making good friends and connections in a new Province.
For a year and a half, I worked almost every weekend and many nights per week, missing supper with Dean and Leo and bed-time with Leo. It was tough, physically draining work. Sometimes customers were hard to deal with and sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was emotional.
One evening, the place was dead. It was a Tuesday shift and I was working up front. I saw a lone customer up by the front window. I walked up to the table with a menu and my face must have fallen because I recognized the man at the table. He was a small man with narrow shoulders and a cute chipmunk-like smile. He had been a colleague of mine in Germany when I was posted there as a Captain from 1989-1992. He had actually asked me out one time and I had turned him down. So, this guy looked up, recognized me and with a look of horror on his chipmunk face says: ‘Marti, what the hell happened to you? The last time I saw you, you were an Army Officer awarded the sword on parade. Now you’re serving tables???’
I almost began to cry, this insult cut to the quick. I gulped and waved my hand at him and said something like: ‘Oh, we just moved out here and this is just until we have time to find better jobs or start a business.’
A year later, Paddy’s had a fire and closed. I was out of work. Gulp. My co-worker called me in the early morning to tell me about fire. She said, ‘Marti, um, just thought you would want to know that Paddy’s is burning down right now.’
‘Holy shit’, I thought. I had been working the night before. Had I caused the fire? Surely I had. Later I found out I was wrong. It had started in behind the pizza oven and there was no way I could have caused it. Jeesus.
Next, Dean and I rallied and started our business which we ran for fifteen years. We have never looked back and continue to be happy and content in our sweet little East-coast town.
Our son, Leo, who started here in Primary (kindergarten) has now grown up over six-feet tall, completed a Business Degree at Acadia University on the Dean’s list and is now an Enrollment Advisor for Acadia University just returning from his first business trip to Upper Canada. Leo’s boss sent out an email to inform the school about the Enrollment Team. In it he said Leo was ‘practically BORN’ on campus. I thought that was apt!
On we go, living our Simple East-Coast Life and now, due to the world pandemic of 2020, we have some family from Ontario who have just moved here, where life is smaller and safer, and we are making more memories with them!