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Thanks to an abundance of sunshine  in the Valley and a longer stay than usual, it was difficult to tear ourselves away from Nova Scotia this year.  We had guests this summer, both friends and family, in greater numbers than other years. It was a challenge, but it gave us an appreciation for some aspects of life in Grand Pre that we may have started taking for granted.  The friends just up and down Old Post Road, the amiability of the local population, the wonderful fresh produce at the farm stands, and the amazing art.  We managed to squeeze in a vacation to Newfoundland and take several long swims across Lumsden Pond, but a couple of magical moments arrived right before we left.

The first came completely out of the blue.  One of my wife’s former colleagues at McGill University arrived in the area with his wife and sons in tow to attend his niece’s wedding.  Let me be the first to say that I am not, by nature, a wedding crasher. Neither is my wife.  But when we learned that the wedding would take place out on a spur of dyke land just outside Wolfville, and that the bride would be transported to that particular spot on a wooden boat that the groom had built, well, we just had to see it.

Our friends had invited us to share a feast at the lobster restaurant in Hall’s Harbour the night before the wedding.  We drove out there in a downpour.  The ferocity of the rain, which taxed the capability of the wipers and the patience of the back seat drivers, did not bode well for a late morning, outdoor ceremony the following day.

But the next day broke with a smile.  It was Saturday, the day of the farm market in Wolfville.  We had convinced ourselves that it would be gauche to crash the wedding, but when we drove into town and looked out over its little harbour, we could see the wooden dory just getting underway.  It was too good to miss.  We joined the throng of familly and friends in their fancy clothes and braved the muddy path.  They had chosen an idyllic spot for the ceremony. When the applause subsided, we slipped quietly away.

The Bay of Fundy is part of the Atlantic, a long inlet with the highest recorded tides on earth.  It is a large, mud bathtub that fills and empties twice every 24 hours, about twenty minutes later each day.  Geographers tell us that the amount of water that runs in and out is equivalent to all the water in all the rivers on the planet.  At low tide, one third of the bottom of the Bay is exposed to the sun.

We have a tide clock in the parlour which keeps reasonably good time.  I had promised my wife that we would go for a swim in the Bay before our departure for Durham.  On the very last day, in the middle of packing and putting away any number of things, local high tide arrived at noon.  It was 1 or 1:30 before we reached Hidden Beach, a stretch of rock and mud where  semipalmated sandpipers stop to feast on mud shrimp before taking off again for their long journey to South America.

These tiny birds come in the thousands from their summer habitat in the far north. They settle in the same spot for a couple of weeks and do nothing but eat, doubling their body weight in the process.  They are spectacular in flight, synchronizing with one another, flashing alternating colours as they bank and turn, low as bats over the surface of the water.  We try not to disturb them because this is their rest period before the long flight South.  Right now, their mud shrimp are covered with salt water, and the birds are biding their time.  A handful of fishermen nearby cast their lines.

We slip into the ocean, surprised by the buoyancy of the water after a summer of freshwater swims.  It is warmer than Atlantic water has any right to be, baked by the sun over the long summer.  It will get warmer still, but we have run out of time.  The tide rocks us, massaging the water against our skin.  Occasionally, a handful of sandpipers take flight, alarmed by some danger invisible to us. They are beautiful, flicking through the air with the grace of aerial ballerinas.

We float and swim and stare at the puffy clouds, not going anywhere.  We feel strangely comfortable, at home in in the bath of the Bay.  It is natural magic.  It is the kind of day you want to last forever.


When the grandchildren come to visit, you can hardly make a better investment than the purchase of a hammock.  For those of us raised in countries settled by Europeans, the hammock is exotic.  It seems insubstantial and a little scary. How can you trust such a thing to hold you up?  But there is the allure of comfort and the gentle swaying motion that take us back to the womb, or back to the days when we lived in trees.  In a hammock, you can relax with green leaves overhead, the gentle brush of a breeze on the skin.  Mosquitoes.

Our long summer in Nova Scotia this year allowed my son’s family the opportunity to squeeze in a visit.  Their two children are four and one now, so the trip from Portland, Oregon would have been trying, even without the missed connection in Toronto.  After a very long day, they rolled into the Halifax airport at 10 PM, sans luggage or car seats.  Fortunately, the airport is quite prepared for such eventualities.  They brought out a couple of car seats and we were on our way.  The luggage arrived at our house the following morning, before the family was awake.

For someone who takes more interest in documentaries and non-fiction books to cartoons and story books, Lucas has a lively imagination.  Long before we hit the hammock, we had introduced me to some of the stick hippos to be found in our field.  They were numerous, and some of them seemed to be thirsty.  So, we wandered down to the stream that borders our property to let them drink.

His little sister is less interested in hippos than the prospect of missing out on some activity her brother has taken on. Zooey’s language is limited, but she has an infectious smile and a refreshing, big “yes” in her vocabulary.  Like the clever little face recognition function built into my camera, Zooey’s neurons light up when her favorite people come into focus.

As the week progressed, the pattern of our visit sorted itself out.  Eating and running around, bath time and sleeping.  I joined their family for a visit to a private zoo on what used to be a farm.  After that adventure, I retired from the daily outings to concentrate on cooking.  Even with our full size Volvo, three adults and two car seats make for a tight squeeze.

A highlight of their visit was a trip to Ross farm, a “living history” farm where one can learn about blacksmithing, oak barrel construction and milking a cow.  The cow captivated young Lucas like nothing else on the trip.  If he had to do it every day as a chore, I suspect the magic would wear off fast, but squeezing hot milk from a large bovine animal made his day.

At one time, there were twelve boys and one girl growing up in the Stewart House.  The twelve boys slept in the very room were I am typing these words.  It was called the “dormitory.”  The wooden pegs where the boys would hang their clothes are still there.

One year, the contagion of diptheria spread through the village like wildfire.  Four of the boys succumbed to the disease within a few days, but my wife’s great grandfather asked for a pickle.  Thinking he was out of his mind with fever, his mother consented.  The acid in the pickle broke through the phlegm that was choking his swollen throat.  Charles Stewart lived to sire his own children, and the old farmhouse stayed in the family.

With the exception of one very wet day, the weather gods cooperated with my son’s visit.  And when the time came to pack up, most of the scattered toys reappeared from places they had been scattered.  Some had been camouflaged by the floral pattern in the rug.

We made our way back to the airport, tucked into lunch at Tim Horton’s, a Canadian institution, and said our goodbyes.  A good time was had by all.  The sticks and the hammock will be here waiting, next time they come.  In the meantime, you never can tell when a hippo will come in handy.

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August 2010
M T W T F S S
« Jul   Sep »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
August 2010
M T W T F S S
« Jul   Sep »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

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