I can’t think of another mammal that has the ability to transform its appearance so quickly and completely as the male of the species homo sapiens. It is the ability to add and remove facial hair which gives us this odd, utterly useless gift.

I have had beards, off and on, since I first discovered they would actually grow. There was one Mennonite-type beard that I grew directly under my chin. I can’t believe I actually shaved it that way now, but who can explain bell bottoms?

It has been a long time since I shaved off the last one– some thirteen or fourteen years. The reddish-brown whiskers seemed like an integral part of my face. It must have been a spontaneous decision, triggered, perhaps, by the first flecks of gray, or a wish to astonish our four-year old daughter.

The week on the river (the subject of the last post) made me decide to have another go at my “natural” state. The shaved face is, of course, the true transfiguration, but naked has now become the norm. Beards seem odd, like something out “Lord of the Rings,” a relic of the past, almost a disguise.the bearded man

A neighbor here, a good friend who has known me long enough to remember my last beard, told me it was sexy, that I looked like an outdoor intellectual. That convinced me to keep it. Needless to say, she will be on the Eiffel tower of my esteem for the rest of her days. (Pictures do lie.)

I still remember our daughter’s look of stunned disbelief when I emerged for the first time without whiskers. I’m looking forward to her astonishment when I return to Melbourne in two weeks with a full growth of gray hair, an arctic ice cap creeping over a wrinkled, pink continent. Small compensation for the erosion that is taking place up top.

Last week some friends from Montreal came for a brief visit. I took the opportunity to play tour guide, leading them down to Annapolis Royal, one of the earliest European settlements in North America. There are fortifications and a reproduction of the first stockade, and on a sunny Saturday, a garden tour.

We had invited some Australian friends (who live in Halifax) for dinner that night and they had told me they would come by after spending the day visiting the gardens. Sure enough, we caught up with them at the last stop of our visit.

I rushed over to say hello, then froze. They didn’t recognize me! I was some strange furry creature emerging from the undergrowth. They failed to identify my new, sexy, outdoor/intellectual look.

All’s well that ends well. I whipped up dinner and we had some good Australian and Nova Scotia wine, lively conversation with strawberries for dessert. The perfect end of a good day. Now, if only I could get a good haircut….