Friday, November 16, 2018

The Tree For Boston

 Since 1971, the province of Nova Scotia has shipped a Christmas tree to the City of Boston as a "thank you" for that city's help in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917.

For the first time, the tree comes from Cumberland County -- from a backyard in Oxford, no less. What a great day we had to celebrate what this coniferous gift represents.
Since I moved to Nova Scotia twelve years ago, I've only seen this whole "tree for Boston" rigmarole on the television; experiencing it in person is a completely different experience, especially since I've been reading about the Halifax Explosion for the last couple of years (last December marked the 100th anniversary).

Imagine -- the Halifax Explosion is not a HUGE part of Canada's history. This was a major event for our eastern port city; the stories are of both devastation and death, and courage and heroism. Every child in this country should know this story. Outside of a "heritage minute" commercial on the television, and Hugh McLellan's 1941 novel, Barometer Rising, that I read in Grade Nine (and didn't leave a last impression on me vis-a-vis the explosion, I didn't know anything about this event. Thankfully, now there are many well-written books of fiction and non-fiction that we can sink our teeth into -- both adults and children -- stories that really bring to life the Halifax Explosion, and what happened afterwards (I mean, honestly -- a big snowstorm hit the day after half the city was levelled by an ammunitions ship exploding in the harbour).

Right off the top of my head, I can recommend five books:

Non-fiction: "The Great Halifax Explosion", by John U. Bacon (William Morrow)

Fiction: "The Blue Tattoo", by Steven Laffoley (Pottersfield Press); and "Tides of Honour", by Genevieve Graham (Simon Schuster) *Nova Scotia authors

Children's: "Explosion Newsie", by Jaqueline Halsey, (Formac) and "The Little Tree by the Sea", by John DeMont and Belle DeMont (MacIntyre Purcell). *Nova Scotia authors

For more, simply put "books about the Halifax Explosion" into your search bar and you'll find lots to choose from.

Monday, November 12, 2018

If You Are New to "Field Notes" - Part 3

Introduction - One Hundred Thousand Welcomes (in Gaelic)
While flipping through the book looking for page numbers, I realized most of the sketches that appear for each section come from my collection of photos as well. The sketches of the chickens for Section Two are illustrator Joanna Close's own.

Section One - Blessed Be the Ties That Bind

My editor, Emily, loved this photo so much, she included Joanna's version of it on page 82
Our osprey nest for Section Three - The Country Lives of Animals
Section Four - The Rural Appreciation Society 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Remembrance Day

The only photo in the parcel of letters is of Merlin Mode, my maternal great-uncle.

When I phoned to wish my friend Colleen a very happy 88th birthday, we got to talking about Remembrance Day, and I remembered that when we lived in Cobourg, Ontario, I used to walk to the cenotaph with my father. I would have been a child and I remember standing next to him -- he wore a navy blue trench coat -- and looking at the green and red of the wreaths against the pale grey stone of the large cenotaph.

This fall, my mother received a large parcel of family letters and cards, and many of them are the letters three of her four maternal uncles -- Merlin, Everett and Donald -- sent back home while they were posted in England, and for a time in Italy, during World War Two. But because none of them died -- as officers, they weren't on the front lines and they weren't bombed while in England (although Everett mentioned losing his address book when all his stuff was bombed) -- I haven't felt the personal connection to the war that many do. In our family, it was those who died back home while the three boys were gone -- their mother, father and only sister -- that was the poignant story from the war.
Reading these letters certainly changes that. Some of them are hard to read because they are written in pencil on onion skin paper, and the uncle who wrote the most, Donald, had small writing.

The earliest letter in this parcel was typed by Uncle Merlin to his father. It's dated Saturday, October 12, 1940, from "Records Section, 2nd Echelon". Here are some excerpts from that letter:

"The bombers come over every night and are making life miserable. Here we are lucky and have little excitement in that respect for as a rule, he leaves us alone. London is still bearing the brunt of the attack and quite a bit of damage has been done there..."

"At this time of year at home, the coal dealers all over the country will have their yards well stocked with fuel. Here in all my travels I have yet to see even a coal yard. The miners are only working part time and instead of getting a good supply ahead, they will not get the coal out until it is actually needed, with the result that there is always a shortage of fuel. Last year people were rationed to 1 bag (112 lbs.) a week and when I told the landlord that we used about 2 tons of coal a month at home, he thought I was lying. How the folks here can keep warm on a bag a week is a mystery to me."

"The war situation is changing again and the scene of war seems to be shifting Eastward. We of course have no idea of what will happen but if serious war does start in the East, I would not be at all surprised if some of us are sent there. In a way, I rather hope not, for I have no desire to see that part of the world as a soldier. It would be grand to see it as a visitor but not so good under military discipline. I prefer England any time."

Merlin's letters date as late as 1944, and in one he talks about being homesick. It appears he was posted in England the entire time, as a sergeant (once complaining how he wasn't getting the promotion to sergeant major he should be getting) and in the records department.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

If You Are New to "Field Notes" - Part 2

Maggie,  in 2002, shortly after we'd arrived on Pugwash Point from Vancouver.
When we did the book launch for "Field Notes", the book, in November 2016 in Pugwash, I had a large computer monitor set up on a table showing a slideshow of photos for each essay. The one above, of Maggie with my British Columbia-licensed car, represents the essay, "Starry Starry Night".
It wasn't possible to include a section of photos in my book but I've tried as often as I can to share the photos, to share the memories and the people who have inspired me, since I first visited Nova Scotia  in the 1970's and since I moved here in 2007.
Thank you for buying Field Notes and for letting me know that the stories resonate with you.

Sue Mundle (page 206) with Horton Hanover in 1986 (page 188)
Fern (page 155 & 226)
Jane, the goat fondler! (page 177
The "back shore" in 1979 (opening essay)...

...and in 2006 (closing essay).  

From the opening essay, "One Hundred Thousand Welcomes":

There IS a lineage here [in Nova Scotia] for my family. We may not be able to claim multiple generations on the same land or a homestead dating back to the 1700s, but we did put down roots. They run close to the surface but they are there, eagerly grasping for a hold in this red soil...

Friday, November 09, 2018

If You Are New To "Field Notes" - Part 1

Dwayne with Jack the Bear (page 42)
I've been conversing via email with a woman who lives in England and currently is reading my book (how cool is that?!). At one point, she asked if I could put captions on my photos of my animals and I realized she, and others reading Field Notes in the last year or so, might enjoy seeing the pictures that go with the essays.
As someone who loves to look at photos of the people I'm reading about in a non-fiction book, I totally get that people would love to see the characters from Field Notes.
So today and tomorrow, I'm going to post a few of the photos for everyone who is new to Field Notes. Thanks for reading both the book and this blog. 

Diana and I with Clancy in 2006 (page  16) 
Nanny and Grampy get an iPad! (page 51)

Stella and the new puppy, Abby, in 2011 (page 128)

The friends I meet, and treat, on my morning walk (page 142)

A funeral for a mouse included bubbles (page 163)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Ready Or Not, Naughty Or Nice

I just emailed off my last writing assignment of the fall. It's been a very busy two months but all worth it in the end. Now everything is about this play!

I wrote it, a comedy in three acts, a couple of Christmases ago. Back in 2015, when I did my first Advent and Christmas season as a lay worship leader, the idea popped into my head I think it started with the idea of a donkey who keeps biting Mary (she wasn't riding him) so she ends up on a bicycle. That's where everything starts -- just one idea! But in that new year, I started working on the Field Notes book so writing the play was put off. When I tried to sit down with the idea in the spring, no way! Sometimes you really do have to be in the zone in order to writing something as particular as a Christmas play.
So the following year, in the week between Christmas and New Year's, I put the soundtrack of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on repeat in my office and wrote the entire play while I was still in the seasonal frame of mind. Finally, this season, we are able to present it.

Hmm, "able to present it." When you have a very small congregation made up of older people who are already exhausted from doing everything they've been doing for years, and you're in a small community where everyone has their big Christmas events planned, it's rather challenging to find people to fill parts. I have two left to fill -- Joseph, and the donkey (which I'd rather do "live" - as a person dressed up - rather than made out of paper and paint). I'll keep you posted...

** We have a Joseph, and we found the handmade donkey used in an Easter production years ago! So we're good to go. I am SO looking forward to doing this. **

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Cleaning House and Finding Clarity

Leonard and Remi. Their posture kind of represents some days of marriage, doesn't it?! 

I'm fortunate to have a husband who helps around the house. He does dishes and cooks meals, he does his own laundry, and vacuums the rugs.
It wasn't always like this; in the early years of our marriage, when Dwayne was still working long hours for the Department of Transportation, I did all that work because I was home.
Once he was off work due to his shoulder injury, however, he started to do more around the house. When I wrote Field Notes in the winter of 2016, and last winter when I wrote a novel, he gladly took care of everything to allow me to focus on my work.

At some point, though, I said to him, "I shouldn't feel like I have to thank you every time you clean the house or do the dishes. I mean, you live here too; it shouldn't be something special that you clean up. You don't have to thank me, I don't have to thank you. We're just doing what needs to be done."
To me, it was like making a big deal of a father "babysitting" -- when it's your kids, it's not babysitting, it's parenting!

Despite saying that, I've continued to thank him because it's feels like I'm wrestling to hold the words in. It feels weird not to say thanks. It feels weird not to acknowledge what he did, or to have what I've done be acknowledged.

This morning, when he headed out early to help his father get his day started (because his mother is in the hospital), I looked around and realized the floors desperately needed cleaning, and even though I had work to do, I postponed it to sweep and vacuum. It didn't seem fair to leave the chores for Dwayne to do even if I was working.
When Dwayne arrived home later and I wandered downstairs to see how his morning went, he said, "Thanks for doing the floors."
I shrugged. Why would you thank me when I live here too? Yet I appreciated his noticing.

This niggled at me -- why does it feels wrong not to express thanks for such mundane daily activities? -- so I let my brain work away at the question while I worked until the answer formed itself into a proper sentence: Thanking each other is who we are.
It has nothing to do with traditional gender roles or "babysitting" or equality. It's about the two of us.
It's the foundation of our marriage: Being thankful and expressing that thankfulness. It's how we CHERISH each other, and the marriage we have, and the time we get together. For me, it's about who we are and how we are together, and that's why it feels wrong to not thank him for doing the dishes or vacuuming the floors.
I'm not thanking him because he's a man and he's doing something out of the ordinary; I'm thanking him because he's my partner and this is how we live together.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Field Notes Halloween

From the Field Notes essay entitled, "Hobgoblins":

"Dwayne and Jane's memories stir up my own, long tucked away once I stopped dressing up. They had me thinking about how my mother did Halloween: homemade costumes, themed tablecloth, and a few decorations (specifically the happy old crone: five feet tall with stripped stockings, a huge, warty nose, and a cauldron full of mice. She hung on our dining room wall one day a year.)

Just as Dwayne raided his grandmother's clothes chest, I headed to my mother's closet for inspiration. The gown for my princess costume was the red caftan my father had given her for Christmas one year...Nothing could top my mother's old fox-fur coat -- we tried to incorporate it into our costumes every year -- or the tangled, long-haired brown wig the beauty salon next door had 'gifted' us for dress-up. I wore the wig to my sixth birthday party before it became part of my witch's costume six months later."

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirty

Day Thirty!
And I can't really say anything better than this graphic.
I don't mean it in a lecturey way, either. Every day, I remind myself how fortunate I am. Life can change in a moment -- because of a car accident or a stroke or a pink slip -- and I want to be grateful every day, all 365 x infinity, for being safe and secure, healthy and happy, for working and planning, for being loved and for loving. Life is good. I am grateful. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Nine

When I first moved to Nova Scotia eleven years ago, I worked at a substitute teacher at the high school level. After four years, I started working at The Oxford Journal community newspaper then began working as a lay worship leader for the United Church. But after a seven year hiatus from subbing, I'm back, this time at the elementary level.
What an eye-opener.

High schoolers are so autonomous that as a sub, you don't really get to know how any particular student is doing. But at the elementary level, where teachers and students feel more integrated, more familial, where there are Educational Assistants in every room to work only with a particular student with a special need, it's so much more obvious how each student is doing.
A lot can change in seven years as well, and I can't say our education system is working any better than it was seven or eleven years ago. Too much government interference, too much trying to reinvent the wheel AND rediscover fire.
But being in elementary schools... honestly, I don't know how teachers do it. You can tell they WANT to be teachers, that they are CALLED to be teachers, that they will persist regardless of the stupidity of bureaucrats who think, by sitting at a desk in an office, they know more about educating children, particularly CHILDREN AT RISK and CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, than the teachers who are actually IN THE CLASSROOM.

Yes, I'm yelling.
I've subbed six days this month and already, there are two students in one grade -- just ONE grade -- with whom I'm obsessed. I'd like to go into the school, scoop the two of them up and tell the principal, "Give them to me, and I'll have them up to speed for reading and writing and math. Please."
Because they are at the age when they fall behind quickly, but worse, the age when they KNOW they are falling behind.
The problem is, no one on the front lines of teaching (principals, vice-principals and teachers) can make that kind of hiring decision. They can't say, "That would be great."
Instead, the government will say, "You can having a learning centre," and then twenty at-risk students end up there, the same size as the average class, and the teacher who wants to make a difference in their learning ends up losing all of them because there is still no way to work one-on-one.
Reading, writing and math -- those are the most important skills we need. At the least, every student should graduate from high school possessing those skills. They should know how to read, how to write (and by write I mean spell and use grammar so their texts and emails MAKE SENSE) and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

How did we end up with an education system that can't even provide those basics to every, and I mean EVERY, student? You want to cut down on behavioural issues in the classroom? Make class sizes smaller and make sure every kid is keeping up.
Teachers have enough to do with the average class of twenty students. So give me those two students. Give them to me. Just give them to me...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Eight

Remember the nine little chicks we hatched out last June? Six were roosters and three were hens. Well, the first of the three little hens laid her first egg yesterday.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Seven

The bulbs are planted! For the first time in several years, I'm not rushing around at the last moment - as the first flakes start to fall and I have to dynamite the frozen soil to make holes - trying to get my bulbs in the ground.

This is a wonderful ritual, this planting of the bulbs; as we clean up leaves and cut down dying plants, as the sky clouds over and we look up and say, "Looks like snow," and "It's getting colder," it's such a symbol of hope and possibilities and plans (ha, ha, plans!) by planting those small bulbs.
Into the the cold soil they go then we wait six months to see them poking through the snow and the dirt and the grass to say "Hello again!"

Transformation and redemption are my favourite kinds of stories. Caterpillars into butterflies. Eggs into chicks. Bulbs into daffodils. All the possibilities, all the hope, all worth the wait.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-six

Last spring, a teacher friend suggested I apply to be a presenter at the October conference of the Association for Teachers of English in Nova Scotia, and I'm glad I said yes. This was the first workshop (and I presented it twice this afternoon) that I've done as a published author but also for a large audience; thirty people were in the first session, and 23 attended the second one.

It certainly was lovely to see this familiar face sit down in the classroom for session two. Angela Roach, whose mother was my dearest friend Diana and inspired the Field Notes essay, "That's What Friends Are For." I kind of feel like she is carrying on that tradition -- when she saw my name on the list, she chose my workshop, and was kind enough to say it went well.

I'm very grateful I don't get nervous about public speaking. In fact, yapper that I am, I love giving speeches and presentations. I rarely turn down an opportunity to get out among people!
Even though this presentation was longer than I wanted it to be -- it ran the full 75 minutes -- I think it came across as well-prepared and full of information; thankfully, my PowerPoint worked fine, and I made sure I included "Activities For Your Students" so that the teachers had some takeaways.

When it's the first "professional" workshop you've ever given, you have nothing to compare it to, but I made notes along the way, and if I'm ever invited to do something this big again, I know exactly how the revised and refreshed version will look.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Five

This is the last bar of the Field Notes soap that Nathalie Deveaux of Roots and Wings Studio created specially for me. It's a rather poignant moment, holding this last bar in my hand, because creating a soap for a book is not something I'll likely do again.
I offered up these soaps at various non-bookstore sales and they also made unique thank you gifts along the way. So many people -- friends and booksellers -- were gracious and helpful to me during my first two years as a debut author, it was nice to be able to offer up a token of my gratitude that reflected the book they were helping me promote.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Four

"Station Eleven" is a science fiction novel published by Emily St. John Mandel in 2014. The novel imagines the world -- but takes place around the Great Lakes region of Canada -- after a flu pandemic has killed most of the population.
It's an awesome and frightening book, and I'm thinking about it a lot lately, with the news of a possible/probably climate catastrophe in as little as a decade. That makes me think about living in a rural area versus an urban area, and how rural dwellers might have a better chance at surviving such a catastrophe because we have more resources and access to natural resources.
In the novel, there is no gas because there is no one to extract the oil, truck it, process it, etc. But what has stayed with me, even though it was the smallest of scenes near the end of the book, was the revelation -- it hadn't occurred to me throughout the book -- that there also would be no medicine.
The book reveals how civilization is reduced to its most primitive state by the destruction of most of the population and utilizes the relics of the past to survive in the new world order.
No medicine.
So today, as I try to keep a cold sore from busting out inside my nose (the place where my cold sores flare up) three days before I speak at a teachers' conference, I am grateful for medicine. For the medicine that helps with an ailment as minor as a cold sore but even more grateful for the medicine that is helping my husband prevent a future stroke.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Three

Give us this day our daily egg...and let us be truly grateful for this weirdly produced bounty that issues from the butt of a chicken.
From the first moment I held a freshly laid, still warm egg in my hand over ten years ago, I have enjoyed collecting eggs from my chickens every day. Every single day. There isn't a day that goes by that there isn't an egg, or two or six or sometimes, in the summer, even twelve to collect.
It's a simple chore, but a satisfying one.
I'm not getting goats or a horse or a donkey or a pig, but as long as I have my flock of chickens, I know I am getting an experience that is unique to my life in Nova Scotia.
(A life for which I am truly grateful every day, as well.)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty Two

I remember how delighted I was when I visited the new pond after Dwayne had spent an afternoon there with his tractor and saw what he had done: arranged the large rocks along the shore -- which is, depending on rainfall, sometimes a beach, and sometimes just the shallow end. I call them the sitting stones because that's what I did as soon as I saw them: I sat down. I put my feet in the water. I watched the bugs on the water and the dragonflies in the air. I admired the bullrushes and the sparkling ripples.

Imagine -- there is now a pond in the middle of the field! We haven't done any landscaping -- there's enough work around the yard that takes priority -- but every time I'm there, I can't help but make plans for a teeny tiny writing retreat. A table, a chair, a hammock. It's such a quiet and inviting spot, our pond, would I get any writing done? It's a place for thinking, breathing, letting go. I get my best ideas on the yoga mat and in the bathtub when I'm focused on other things but the pond is a place where even my busy brain rests with a sigh of relief.

The pond is a lovely spot in the afternoon but sitting on those sitting stones, the sun is shining right into my eyes. Now that it's too dark to walk early in the morning, and now that the bugs are gone, it's time to check out the pond, and the sitting stones, in the morning. I'll bring a notebook, just in case those stones turn out to be inspiration rocks.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-One

Out for a Sunday drive and came across these two. It was so hard to remain in the truck but the ditch was full of water and the bank was steep -- just crying out for me to go ass over apple cart -- but I could have sat there all day at the side of the gravel road and watched them. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty

Today, I am grateful for the answer to a longtime family mystery.
In April 1945, when her two daughters were seven and almost four, Muriel Everest died. She was my maternal grandmother, my mother's mother.
I grew up knowing that she died young, at the age of 33, and that my mother and her older sister did not know what caused her death.

To this day, I can't believe that. Her father, Fred, never spoke of his wife, never told his two daughters about their mother, and none of the aunts or uncles shared their memories about her until after Fred died.
When I ask my mother why she never asked her aunts what happened to her mother, she says, "You didn't talk about that kind of thing. We just carried on."
But no one thought to tell those girls about their mother and why she died, either.
The older I get, the older my mother gets, the longer we live together, the more this bothers me.

A couple of weeks ago, my aunt was here for a visit and she brought with her a large baggie full of old letters. Most of them were written by three of Muriel's four brothers who were posted in England during World War Two (when the three boys finally returned home, all unharmed, they found out both their parents and their sister were dead).  Among those letters, however, was one from Muriel's best friend and it answered, albeit with no details, the 73 year old mystery: Muriel had miscarried and was to have an operation as a result.
The only fact my mother had known was that her mother had been pregnant when she died. So even that information was incorrect. And perhaps, to cut the grandfather I never knew some slack, that's the reason he never spoke of his wife. The reason for her death was too personal, his loss too much to bear.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Nineteen

Captured what is likely the last moment of sitting together on the back deck in 2018 with a family selfie! Grateful for a beautiful autumn afternoon, even if the wind is cold enough to make us think seriously about winter.
I have a jump on that; seems like I'm already eating for winter hiberation.
Today was the first day of our annual work of getting the outdoor life put away, cut down, and raked up. Also my annual "Oh no, my bulbs need to be planted" panic.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Eighteen

It occurred to me while visiting my local Coles Bookstore in the Amherst mall that I should express my gratitude publicly for the staff's ongoing support of Field Notes, the book. Store manager, Cheryl Nickerson (in the centre, pictured with Terry), as well as Myrna and Kelly have been particularly enthusiastic about both the book and this new, local author.
It also helps that they want more books by me to sell so I'm working hard to get something new  published.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Seventeen

He is the last one.
So I am grateful to have one animal to see, speak to, sometimes even pet on my morning walk.
In my Field Notes essay, "Communion With the Animals", I wrote about the cows and horses and ponies that hung out in the fields along my route, how I befriended them, fed them carrots and apples, watched them run across the grass.
It seemed almost as soon as the book was published, the animals began to disappear. Someone died, moved away, was unable to keep up. One day they were there -- the next the field was empty.
I call this fella, who lives by himself, "Jesse", after the horse in the novel I wrote last winter and is currently waiting to be read by a publisher. Jesse doesn't come to the fence much; he's not interested in being patted. But he watches me as the dog and I walk by, and I talk to him.
"Good morning, handsome boy."
There isn't much else to say.
He is the only one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Sixteen

Two lessons of Alzheimer's disease:
1) Acceptance is key. To deny and resist just causes problems for everyone.
2) It's about the person living with dementia. It's about whatever helps them connect with what they know and who they are in order to keep them calm and content.

When I moved to Nova Scotia from Vancouver in 2002, I learned my father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That summer, I took up golfing so that my father could continue to golf with someone who could get him to the golf course, and watch out for him there. We had some good times playing nine holes of golf in the afternoon. That is one of the things I got right when I was taking care of him. It was about him and what he needed, about doing whatever he could still do -- whatever made him happy, made him forget about the disease affecting his brain, and his life.

Everyone knows -- even the bureaucrats and administrators -- that person-centered care is the only way to offer dementia care that is compassionate, non-harming and life-sustaining. But we are TOO slow, too concerned with budgets, to adapt our care models and our facilities to this new way (which isn't new, the UK is light years ahead of us when it comes to person-centered dementia care). When people living with dementia are calm and content, they are less likely to be volatile and violent, which leads to fewer drugs and fewer injuries for both the person and staff, which means fewer hospital visits. All of that reduces the costs, which is what matters to bureaucrats and administrators.

So I'm grateful to learn about this program (out of the UK) called "The Butterfly Model" that is making its way into care facilities here in Canada:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Fifteen

My morning walk. As it appears right now on this perfect October day.
In June, this walk happens at 5:45. This morning, we started out at 7:15. While I do prefer the earlier start to my day, I love starting my day with a walk so I'm trying to get out on the road as often as I can before the Morning Walk Season comes to an end.

This is my favourite part of the walk, on my way back home, when I come over the hill by Claude's house and I can see the Cobequid Mountains in the distance. Fields, sky and mountains. And no traffic. I can't help but take a deep breath at this moment, a breath full of gratefulness and contentment.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Fourteen

How could I not be grateful -- eternally grateful -- to be in possession of these two brilliant original works of art?

The chicken toque, which I picked up yesterday, was crocheted by my friend Lisa, who I met through my dog blog back in 2002 when I first arrived (seasonally) in Nova Scotia.

The painting was done by Pugwash artist Archan Knotz (not pictured is my other painting of hers, of three hens).

My friend Bruce made the barn board frames.

So a cornucopia of creative things to be grateful for today.

Or as Dwayne would say, "You're spoiled." No, honey, I'm not spoiled; I'm rotten with gratitude.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Thirteen

Grateful for a great day with my mother in Halifax as we attended a food writing workshop hosted by Simon Thibault, author of "Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Discovering Acadian Food".
Mum and I are working on a cookbook together -- her recipes, my stories -- and along with my three pages of notes, Simon's gentle questions about my writing sample helped me figure out how to rewrite the introduction and how to better define the focus of our cookbook.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twelve

By the end of a day of substitute teaching, I'm grateful to see my husband's truck parked at the curb. I'm grateful to see his face, his smile, and hear his voice. I'm grateful to sink so soon into my resting place -- which is always alongside him. Even at night, if I'm having trouble sleeping, I just have to reach over and touch him, and I fall back to sleep.

"Your relaxation starts now," he said as he put the truck into gear.

It was lovely to drive home with the vibrant fall colours not yet stripped off the trees by wind, and feel cocooned inside the truck as we headed home for post-subbing sustenance of tea and toast. Dwayne went off to nap and after a second cup of green tea, I slipped upstairs to my office, where it is quiet and cozy on this (lovely) grey and rainy day.

"You're supposed to be relaxing," he scolded from my doorway at four thirty.
"This is relaxing," I said as I nodded towards the cookbook proposal I was tweaking. Oh, yes, after a day of noise and crowd control, hugs and action songs (filling in for the music teacher again), sitting in stillness, hearing nothing but the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, THAT is my relaxation.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Eleven

Twenty-five years ago, I took guitar lessons during the two years I lived in Oakville, Ontario, after graduating from teachers' college and not ready yet to teach high school.
Now, that's part of the lengthy story about why I have returned to substitute teaching at the elementary level after seven years, and it's a story I'll share at another time BUT for now, let me just say


Just as I'm grateful I was actually good at French even though I didn't pursue it as a "teachable" (that, too, is another story -- September was a season of epiphanies, let me tell you). The teacher I've done my first days of subbing for teaches both French and music, and because of my latent French and guitar skills (I also read music because I played piano for ten years), I've been able to hold my own.

With a little help from my unicorn friend. Trust me, when it came time to get the attention of 20 students practicing their chords on ukuleles, I was glad to have that squeaky toy with me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Ten

Grateful today, so very grateful, for the trees still standing, still reaching upwards, still whispering their ancient stories, after another round of logging this spring and summer.
Yesterday, the dog and I took our first walk this autumn season back the old road through the woods.
Only there is less woods than before. More acres clear cut, more trees gone, more habitat destroyed.

Imagine a world without trees.
How will we hear the wind if there are no trees?
How will we hear the birds if there are no trees?
How will we hear our own breath if there are no trees?

I stood and listened.
Will there come a day when I can no longer say I'm going for a walk in the woods?

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Nine

I know how lucky I am to be able to start my mornings like this: yoga when the house is dark and quiet; several cups of coffee in a favourite mug; and a couple of chapters in a book because there is time.
Easing into the day is a luxury not everyone gets so I'm very grateful for this morning ritual. It also includes time with my mother and my husband, and even though we live together and no one  but me works regularly outside the home so we spend a lot of time together, I don't take our morning coffee gathering for granted. Life is always changing, even if it's just our moods and our books, and sometimes those changes can happen swiftly and without warning. On mornings when I get to be calm, balanced, and filled with gratitude, I enjoy them.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Eight

It's the season of the free range chickens!
Even though they have a roomy coop and a large outdoor pen, it's just not the same as having no walls or fences around them. I'm grateful that for a couple of months in spring and fall, our chickens get to stretch their legs, eat grass and bugs, and actually run as fast as they want for as far as they want.
Need a laugh? Come watch a chicken run.

I love the first day of letting the hens and rooster out of their pen to roam around our one acre yard. They are so excited and happy to be free, they hardly know where to go. There's a lot of running around and flapping of wings and squawking as they try to hit all the hot spots: corn patch, cucumber patch, the front deck (alas, no tray feeder on the deck railing this year), and the ditch.

For some reason, our chickens love the ditch that divides our yard from the field. Oh, and they love the field, too. (Who doesn't love the field?!)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Seven

These two. Thankful for these two. Through thick and thin. Hot and cold. Up and down. In sickness and in health.
Till death do us part.
It was my pleasure to prepare a meal of thanksgiving -- gratitude grub -- for my husband and my mother.

Not a great picture because I was rushing -- "the food is getting cold". Yeesh.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Six

On this day, two years ago, I saw my first book for the first time. No better moment than this!
While I remain grateful for this moment when I officially became an author, I am even more grateful that two years later, I still receive emails from women telling me how much they enjoyed my book.
Yesterday, an email arrived from a woman who lives in Ottawa but longs to be back in Nova Scotia. My book seems to stir up a lot of yearnings for the East Coast.

Thank you for buying Field Notes, thank you for liking it, thank you for telling me! Being a writer can be a lonely life full of self-doubt and uncertainty, so authors really do appreciate hearing from people who've read their book.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day 5

It wasn't until the three sisters in this book reached Vancouver that I realized - remembered - that I've driven across Canada by myself. That's how I got away from the West Coast and back to the East Coast.
Vancouver to Pugwash.
Me and Maggie, my faithful, wonderful friend. Returning home.
I don't think of that trip much anymore but really, it's pretty something. I'm grateful to have had that experience. All that way, on my own -- Mags and I dubbed it the "Warrior Princess Road Trip". Despite what I was driving away from (an unhappy marriage), and driving towards (uncertainty -- although I wished I'd considered 'freedom'), and not knowing what I was driving towards (my father's dementia diagnosis), I really enjoyed that trip. I enjoyed it with that dog, the best dog I've ever had.

I remember stopping at some pit stop kind of place in Alberta and Maggie's big pumpkin head was hanging out the window as I walked away from the car. A guy who'd come out of a transport truck said to me, "No one's going to bother you with that face in your car."
She was such a good dog. I miss her. Grateful for the memory of that trip with her.

**Written by a Nova Scotia author, the book is a great read, a YA that resonated with this adult, with captivating characters dealing with real problems in believable ways.