Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hot Days, Hot Writing


The editing of the novel I wrote last winter is coming along well. This is a different way to use my brain; when writing the first draft, I had to be open and relaxed to let the ideas flow out of me without thinking but when editing, I have to be focused and intentional and question every sentence.
I find editing less gruelling than the free writing of a first draft, although there is a magic to that writing that is a joy to experience; but I like the crafting of the story that comes with editing with intention and knowledge of its beginning, middle and end. Both require the discipline of sitting in a chair all day and ignoring everything else.
Except lunch. I love lunch. I never forget to eat lunch.

Since I don't have to plan a church service this week, I set it aside for editing and it's nice to know what I'm doing every day; it's really nice to be working on a book. It's nice to be working with a new mug and another bracelet.

My biggest quirk as a writer is my penchant for talismans -- objects associated with my work. Since animals are characters in their own right in my novel, I thought about putting the goat, chicken and horse figurines from a shelf in my living room on my desk but let's be honest -- there is no room on my desk!
Every book gets its own mug, however, and my brand new mug is a nod to the small role the book "Anne of Green Gables" plays in the novel. Now that was a moment that came out of the writing flow; it was not a pre-planned or even a conscious decision to include AofGG in my story. With editing, I don't get those surprise moments of joy -- "Where did THAT come from?!" -- but I do like the contented joy I feel when I've re-worked the ending or re-written the opening and it's exactly what it needs to be.

Also, I'm wearing the bracelet I finally found that looks a bit like the one my character wears -- leather and turquoise -- which connects her to her mother. Figurines and mugs and bracelets don't get the work done, but for me, they keep me grounded in the work, connected to the story and its characters, and trusting of my skill and my process as a writer.



Friday, July 13, 2018

The Search for Heart and Home Begins Inside


There is a fan running in the guest room next to me, drying the drywall put around the new closet we had built in there for my mother's clothing overflow.
There are roofers pounding on the roof outside my office window.
My husband is mowing the lawn.
So we're making the house look good on the inside and the outside.

Yet these are just minor adjustments. The shingles were old and curling up; the closet gets rid of my mother's stacks of plastic bins and tidies up my guest room; the lawn looks nice mowed but I've always thought it would be nice to have sheep to keep the lawns short.
It wouldn't bother me in the least to have sheep poop all over my yard.

When I saw this graphic online this morning, my first response was - "This is how my life in rural Nova Scotia makes me feel." It makes me feel good on the inside. It makes me feel like I am truly home. And more importantly, it makes my heart content.
I don't worry about having a clean house or weed-free gardens. I don't care that I no longer have my own car, let alone a new one. We don't go out for dinner much or even get the movies like we used to. Our last trip out of the country was six years ago. I wear big rubber boots as often as fancy shiny shoes -- although both seem to end up with chicken poop on the soles.
I admit I have too much stuff; too many knick knacks, too many collections, too many clothes and shoes, perhaps even too many books (what?!). There's a lot of clutter in my house, and especially in my office, but my husband says it makes the place looked lived in and that makes him feel like he's home, and he's fine with it, so I'm not worrying about the clutter either. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps when I'm a really famous author, I can auction my collections and my knick knacks off for charity. Someone might want Sara Jewell's chicken collection.

And that's my one inside struggle: doing more for others. Doing for others rather than doing for myself. I've always felt this pull to share my good fortune, to use my skills to make life better for others, but I have yet to discover what I'm being pulled towards. Nothing sticks. I'll keep searching.

It's a shame how many people think that appearances matter above all else. That the right house and the right vehicle, the fancy vacations and the shiny jewelry are the paths to peace of mind and a satisfied heart. Stuff is not the solution; I have a lot of stuff and it doesn't make me happy. In fact, it drives me crazy with its uselessness, with its wastefulness.
What makes me happy, what satisfies my craving for home and contentment and belonging is looking out the window at the field, at the chicken coop, at a plate full of home-cooked food, at my husband's tanned and lined face, and feeling so lucky and grateful, my heart could burst.
Gratitude. Deep and abiding thankfulness for the life you're living. That only happens inside you.

I once knew a woman who was constantly redecorating her living room and bedroom, trying to find happiness, trying to find peace and joy in her life. She was rotten on the inside -- selfish and manipulative -- so no matter what her new furniture looked like or the colour of the new paint on the walls, she wasn't going to be content. Her search continues, I'm sure.



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wasting Good Wood


My husband spoke to a couple of the drivers hauling wood out of the massive Bragg/Irving clearcut deep (but not that deep) in the woods behind our home.
"Great looking load of poplar you've got," he said to one of them, admiring the large logs. "Those going to the veneer plant?"
The driver shook his head and said that most of the wood is going to the biomass plant in Port Hawkesbury.

From a CBC News Halifax report by Jean Laroche posted online in April 2016:
"Two top bureaucrats in the Department of Natural Resources told a legislature committee Wednesday that high quality hardwood is not being burned in Nova Scotia Power's Port Hawkesbury biomass plant."

Yet here's proof that instead of being used for firewood, pallets, crates, furniture frames, plywood, and veneer, perfectly good poplar (a hardwood) is being WASTED in a chipper to fuel the biomass plant that creates electricity. We've been assured time and again that only "waste" wood and unusable/unmarketable wood would find its way to the biomass plant but here is confirmation from men driving viable hardwood logs to the plant that those assurances are lies.

"In the end, the deputy minister concluded that the only hardwood likely to be burned for biomass is from the odd tree collected as part of a larger scale harvest. 
'With the various reports we've seen, interacting with Nova Scotia Power, our Department of Energy, the contractors, what we see on Crown land, we're very comfortable that this is virtually no high quality wood other than the inevitable slippage that's involved in any large scale operation,' Dunn said."
(A note: the land being cleared behind us is not Crown land; it is owned by a private corporation and being harvested by a private corporation.)
Also a more recent newspaper story: 2018 - http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1553824-old-growth-burning-reignites-biomass-debate


Monday, July 09, 2018

This Summer's Babies


I realized I hadn't posted anything further about Dwayne's maternity ward!
By June 28th, ten chicks had hatched themselves out; sadly, one of the first to hatch couldn't use its legs so it had to be put down a week later. An eleventh chick was unable to make it out of its shell so it died in the incubator.
These things happen. Dwayne did admit he lay awake one night trying to figure out how to splint the little chick's wonky legs to see if it could be fixed but he's not gone so soft as to actually have attempted it.
So we have nine healthy chicks cheeping away in their cozy red light district of the chicken coop.
I don't know why babies make Abby so tense and intense. I can't tell if she wants to eat them or protect them -- but the choice is not something I want to find out.

The chicks are two weeks old now and growing just fine. You can already see the bars marking their Barred Rock breed in their tiny wings. My friend Shelagh, from Ontario, spent this past weekend here in rural Nova Scotia after her conference wrapped up in Halifax, and after discovering what a great alarm clock Andre Poulet is, she declined my offer to take one of the big chicks home with her -- just in case it turned out to be a feathered alarm clock.





Friday, July 06, 2018

In the Garden


After our cold and wet June -- with just enough sun to make the weeds grow -- I'm playing catch up with the plants. It seems while it was too cold to plant, it wasn't too cold for weeds to grow and insects to infest.

Caterpillar worms have been eating the rose bushes planted under the living room window. I didn't notice until I saw one through the window the other night. When I ran outside to inspect, I discovered four fuzzy worms, including a giant one. When cut in half, they oozed bright green alien blood.
So I saved the world that night.

The two orange blossom bushes under my mother's second-floor deck are loaded with aphids which have destroyed a quarter of the bushes. But luckily, there are three blossoms right now and plenty of healthy branches. I spent Friday morning snipping and spraying and shouting, "Begone, ye devils".
So I saved the world that morning. 

The exciting updates are...
...the bee balm planted "down front" two summers ago seems to be coming back. Perhaps it felt challenged by the planting of a clematis in its neighbourhood.


And I have
a little brown toad.




Thursday, July 05, 2018

Not Blessed By Babies This Year


Normally at this time, I would be posting a photo of the first sighting of the baby ospreys' heads appearing above the edge of the nest for the first time. Alas, there are no babies this year.
There are still ospreys, however, flying around, sometimes landing on the nest, sometimes sitting on the perch.
There is one on the perch now as I write this.
We believe the solo osprey is Her, the osprey who lost her mate at the end of May, the widowed osprey, the female in search of a new mate.
She flew over me this morning while I was walking down the road. She came from the river and crossed the misty field, passed over -- "Hello, osprey," I said, as we always say -- and kept going. An hour later, as I reached home, she flew over me again, coming from the river and heading towards the perch.
Oh, osprey.

There is a pair wanting to claim the nest. They appear every so often so sit in the nest. They don't know us or trust us. As soon as I step into the yard with the camera, one flies away.
Yet the other day, as my husband was tending to his sunflowers, an osprey flew over him. He whistled at it, and it tilted its wings and flew back, passed over him twice, looking down at him.
"I know it's Her," he said to me later. Because "our" osprey know us.
She remains alone, keeping vigil on the nest she and her mate claimed ten years ago. Is she waiting for him to return? Or is she simply holding her space, for next year, when she returns with a new mate?

Those are questions we might get an answer to next April but for now, we can only speculate on the love lives of ospreys. Regardless, there are no babies this year, I can officially say that today. Another heartache but I think I'd rather have eggs abandoned mid-incubation than endure an eagle snatching of the fledglings from the nest, picking them off one baby at a time (which happened in August 2015).
Even without human interference, the natural world is always changing. Arrivals and departures, wondering and waiting, births and loss, destruction and rebuilding.
And still, the osprey sits and waits.



Tuesday, July 03, 2018

If A Tree Falls In the Forest, It's a Logging Operation

Checking out the latest clearcut behind our home in late May. 

"It's like I've cursed this place," I said to my husband last night. "Ever since I moved here, it's been clearcut after clearcut."
He snorted, as if I was being foolish, but I feel cursed that every other year, we have to endure a logging operation in the woods behind our home. I love trees, I love the woods, yet they are being decimated around us. The area squared by Route 301, Carrington Road, Beckwith Road and Dickson Road is slowly, surely being stripped of its trees.
The current logging operation, which began last fall and continues to this day, is the largest one yet. And by largest, I mean most destructive and devastating.
These operations rip everything apart to make the road, then clearcut everything else. I've always been dismayed by the amount of waste generated by these logging operations. When we drove into this clearcut for the first time in May, my husband shook his head at all the trees and small logs left behind. He says that wood could be donated to low income families.
Nova Scotia's wood harvesting policies are bullshit. They aren't sustainable, they aren't mindful of wildlife and habitat, they aren't looking towards the future; it's all about getting as many logs out of the woods as possible, in order to make as much money as possible. Habitat and humanity be damned.
This province's government -- no matter what party is in power -- is ruining rural Nova Scotia, and in particular the county in which I live. But if I say anything? It comes down to jobs and the economy.


I was riled up last night because a couple of empty logging trucks had swung onto the old road running alongside our home, field and woodlot early in the evening. Coming down the main road quickly, they'd applied their jake brakes in order to make the turn, and had wheeled onto the old road so quickly, if we'd been sitting in our car waiting to get onto the main road, we'd have been smucked. You can't see the end of our road from a distance, and they approached far too quickly to stop if we were approaching.
That's a pretty scary thought. It's a pretty reckless way to drive.
We've always complained about how fast the pickup trucks drive up and down the road. With every logging operation, my husband has had to tell them -- or get their boss to tell them -- to slow down.
"If you run over my dog, I will shoot you," he always says.
Yeah, I know it's not a subdivision, I know we're just one house but that doesn't mean we don't notice your jake brakes, it doesn't mean your truck lights don't shine into my mother's room when you stop at the end of the road to adjust your load, it doesn't mean we don't notice the dust billowing out behind your truck when you tear up the lane that used to covered in grass and wildflowers.
I have no respect for commercial loggers, for those contractors doing the work of the corporations like Braggs and Irving and the men hired to cut, stack and haul away. The guy running this current operation fixes whatever we complain about but the fact we have to complain in the first place? I have no respect for the men who don't respect my home, and the home of birds, animals, amphibians and insects. I have no respect for men who wouldn't allow their families to experience what they put us through.

"How about I get a piece of bristol board and make a sign that says, 'Slow the fuck down, you assholes'?" I said to my husband.
This time, he laughed. "Not yet."

How much did this pileated lose to this clearcut? Home, food and family. 





Sunday, July 01, 2018

Standing Corrected on Canada Day


Awareness is important. And ignorance, my own not knowing, flattens me. I don't like getting things wrong, especially if it's from my own lack of awareness. I don't like hurting people by excluding them, making them feel like they don't matter, losing connections with those who came long before me.
I don't want to miss the opportunity to celebrate everyone in this great nation of ours. I don't want to be part of the history of erasing people from our land.

Since the publication of Field Notes almost two years ago, I've expanded my knowledge and my awareness of Nova Scotia, through following other voices on Twitter and reading books by other Nova Scotia authors. I've paid attention, and I've learned.
This is a pretty amazing province and its history -- both the nasty and the remarkable -- is worth knowing, worth celebrating. (It's hard to believe I knew nothing about the Halifax Explosion until a couple of years before the 100th anniversary.)
I've made friends with Acadians, met the author of a cookbook celebrating Acadian food, interviewed Mi'kmaq people, and visited a farm in an area settled by Germans in the 1700's.
But it wasn't until Mother and I visited the South Shore last weekend that I put all of that together, and realized what I'd been missing as a writer. So as I stood in the LaHave River Bookstore for my evening reading, I admitted this to the group gathered there:

In a paragraph in  the opening essay of my book, I missed some important facts, and the publisher missed my omissions as well. We missed the fact that Nova Scotia is founded not by the British and the Scottish but by the Mi'kmaq. And the settlers of this province include not only the British and the Scottish but the French and the German as well.

So in honour of Canada Day, I'd like to offer this minor rewrite one sentence in the middle of the paragraph at the bottom of page 2:

"For a region that now honours its Mi'kmaq heritage, and celebrates its Scottish, British, French and German roots, and can claim a geological affiliation with Africa..."

Happy Canada Day to everyone who claims this red soil as their own, in shared community and history, with respect and gratitude.
Wela'lin


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rock and Water, Air and Sun


It hit me all of a sudden, instantly in the moment I stopped watching my feet, stopped thinking about the photos I wanted to take, worrying about Mother tripping and falling. When I stopped moving, stopped thinking, when I stood still and looked up, when I looked out, it happened.
The rocks. The water. The sky.
It all hit me.
Like a wave. Not knocking me over but washing over me and into me, filling me up.
Instinctively, I breathed in deeply. The air, the air, the air. There is nothing like sea air. There is nothing like the air at the edge of the sea, at the edge of a continent.
There is nothing like breathing in the vastness of that nothingness, a nothingness that is full of everything that makes us human, that makes this world what it is, that makes you forget you are ruining everything about the earth and the water and the air.
It makes you remember who is in charge. Because our bodies need earth and air and water to live.

Peggy's Cove was the first stop this past weekend on our annual road trip for Mother's birthday (which included a book reading on Saturday night at LaHave River Books). Since I haven't visited Peggy's Cove and the south shore of Nova Scotia since I was 14 years old, essentially this was like seeing the place for the first time.
It felt like feeling the sea for the first time.
One of my goals for this visit was to get a photo of my book with the lighthouse in the background so that took up the first half hour of our visit. Which is why, when I finally focused on where I was, the impact of this simple place hit me so powerfully.
My first thought was: My cells are rearranging. They are reorienting themselves to the water. What a strange and wonderful feeling.
My next feeling came as an understanding of why those who live at the ocean, those whose lives revolve around the ocean, feel. How their bodies and their spirits become one with the sea. As if they are more in tune with the tides and the waves, the wind, the sun, than they are with other humans.
As if they are themselves creatures of the sea.

All that from standing on those rocks at Peggy's Cove, with the lighthouse behind me and the water as calm as anyone could ever want. If I felt that on a calm day, what would have happened on a wet and windy day? Those who know the sea, who live the sea, who die in the sea, seek that out, I'm sure, seek out the power and the energy. I doubt they could help themselves. There is a magnetism. There is a siren call. I felt it, and I'm a lake girl from Ontario, married to a man who has a river running through his veins, as landlubbery as they come.

Which reminds me of something I wrote about in my book: standing in the field looking up at the night sky, seeing the universe expand as I stared, seeing more and more stars appear.
That's how it feels to look out at the endless sea. You think there is nothing to see, you think there is no life there, you think there is no message for you, yet the longer you stand and look, the more absorbed into the universe you become.
And you understand exactly what you are a part of.

 Peggy's Cove has become a cliche about tourism, about tourists, about the careless who refuse to think the warnings about the danger of waves and wet rocks apply to them. Those who don't feel and respect the power give themselves over to the sea in a different way.
For me, it's now a conduit to a new world. Once your cells rearrange like that, you can't return to the way you were.
We were there on the finest day possible -- cloudless sky, sunshine, a light breeze -- but it wasn't busy, so I had the privilege of standing on those rocks and forgetting there was any one else around. I had the privilege of experiencing, for a brief moment, the energy of land and the sea commingling under the feet and rising up through the legs as the energy of the sun and the sky flows in from the head.
Breath and heartbeat -- wave upon wave upon wave.

I shaded my eyes to look out over the water. There was nothing there that didn't belong entirely unto itself.





Thursday, June 21, 2018

Maternity Ward


We're going to have babies!
Almost three weeks ago, a neighbour gave my husband an extra-large carton of eggs containing 18 fertilized eggs.
It takes 21 days to incubate an egg until it is ready to hatch, and this Sunday is the due date. I hope a few come late -- like me -- because I'm on the South Shore this weekend but I love watching a chick hatch out of an egg. I love watching the beak first appear, then the skinny, wet body. I love watching the chick fluff up and start walking around. I can't wait for the symphonic sound of constant cheeping!

This morning, Dwayne said to me, "I dreamed last night that all 18 eggs hatched at once. We had 14 chicks and 4 puppies."
Of course, I said, "Puppies! Oh, let's hope so!"


Monday, June 18, 2018

The Hip Bone's Connected To the ... Ground

I washed my riding clothes on the weekend...just so I could land in the dirt today. 
"Well, if you're going to fall off a horse, that's the way to do it," Bobbie said as we were walking around the indoor arena, me in the saddle and my horse on a lead line. 
Dakota has an injured eye and isn't riding until next week so Sienna was tapped for my practice ride this morning. Sienna is a beautiful red mare, larger than Dakota, but just as quiet. 
I couldn't get a feel for her.  In fact, I felt completely disconnected from my own body. I couldn't remember anything. It was an off day, and for a beginner like me, with no confidence in riding and no inherent "I'm the boss" energy, it was the wrong day to be on a different horse.

It's not Sienna's fault I fell off; it's mine. I don't know why she started tossing her head up and back and around, I don't know why she was backing up and doing tiny bucks. I had been trying to get her to trot and it wasn't happening so likely, the way I was holding my hands and elbows and my knees were sending mixed signals. What I do know is I didn't know how to arrest her reaction; I only know how to stop a bolt - and those actions were the opposite ones for whatever she was doing. I was tightening when I should have been loosening.
Bobbie was shouting, "Let go of the reins," but I know you NEVER let go of them. If I'd listened to her, I would have dropped them completely and that might have made things worse. What she meant was, "Ease off the reins." I was supposed to move my arms forward to ease the pressure on the bit. But I was using the information I had, and trying not to panic, and wondering whether she was going to buck me off or smash me in the face with her head.
The next thing I knew, I was falling. But Sienna didn't throw me; she laid me down.

She laid me down. Seriously, I think she realized she had to arrest MY behaviour so she just leaned to the left and off I tumbled from about five feet off the ground. Both of us ended up lying on our sides in the sand of the indoor arena. Despite the soft landing, I'm going to have a sizable bruise on my left back hip, where the pelvic bone met the ground.

But I now know why you need to get right back up on a horse you've just fallen off because I wasn't afraid to ride a horse while I was standing with my feet on the ground, but once I was up there in the saddle again, it was a different feeling. Every leg movement, every head twitch, every resistance to my forward command made me tense up. I could feel my "freaking out" meter rising the longer I was on her back. At the same time, I recognized that if I didn't stick it out, the apprehension would get the better of me, would be all I remembered, and I'd never get on a horse again.

"I need you to put the lead line on her and walk with us," I said to Bobbie. "I don't want my nervousness to cause a problem."
What I'm struggling with now is continuing on with riding. I know it's only one fall, but I'm doing this for fun; I'm not looking for a broken arm or a broken neck. The dilemma is that I won't get better if I don't ride, but not being very good puts me (and possibly the horse) at risk. Today showed me how much I'm still not putting together all the information I need to know in order to ride.
It looks so damn easy!
Bobbie, and others who were there, say, "Oh, just relax, don't overthink," but it's not that easy. I want to do everything I'm supposed to do because I'm on the back of an enormous animal who can act and react in ways that could see me flying through the air and landing on my head. I want to enjoy myself and I want to do a good job.
Recognizing that I am a beginner.
"Did you know how to write a book when you first started writing?" one of the woman asked, which I think she meant as a beginner's pep talk but it's a lousy comparison. No one's life is endangered if I write a really shitty story! 
Writing is so much easier. That's my message to those who say writing is hard: Try learning to ride a horse.
Her message, however, was: Don't give up. Keep getting on the horse and learning.
"You only fall off a horse once a year," Bobbie said. No one gets how UNencouraging that statement is!

I don't need to fall off a horse to toughen me up, to learn to say "Fuck it" and keep going. That was a lesson for when I was 14 years old; I've learned that lesson from other things, and honestly, at 48, I'm just too old for learning lessons this way.

All I can do is see how my next ride goes. I'll be back on Dakota. There's nothing I can do about my energy -- I'm calm and happy but I'm not The Boss -- but I can keep trying. A fall shouldn't be a setback, even if it hurts like hell.



Friday, June 15, 2018

Back At the Desk


After ten solid years, it was time to get a new computer. Actually, the computer decided it was worn out and simply refused to turn on! I've been without my trusty office companion for a week, and thanks to friends, managed to get the most pressing work done on their computer, but now it's time to get caught up on tasks -- while learning a new system!
The weirdest thing? This new computer is SILENT. I was used to the old one humming and rattling, but now I can't even tell this new one is on. Funny what we get used to, funny how we notice silence when it suddenly descends in our busy, electronic, trafficky world.


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Plant What Will Grow



I love bee balm.
I love its colours, whether a deep fuschia or a light lavender.
I love its spiky flowers.
I love its name – bee balm. That’s B-A-L-M. Something soothing for the bees in a world that is trying to bomb the heck out of them with pesticides.

But I cannot get bee balm to survive on my property. I have probably spent a hundred dollars on bee balm plants over the last five years, and so far, not one has returned the following year. 




I love clematis.
I love its colours, whether a deep purple or a light lavender.I love the wide flowers. I love the feathery seed puffs leftover when the leaves fall off.
I love its name – clematis.  It’s symbolic meaning is ingenuity and cleverness because of its climbing prowess.

I have several thriving clematic plants. They love growing on my property. So…I bought another clematis plant. I am planting what will grow.
I also bought another bee balm this spring, and planted it in a new spot, a tried-and-true spot of good soil and lots of sunshine.

Why? Why would I plant something that will not grow?

Because if the clematis represents love and joy, the bee balm is HOPE. Never giving up, persistence. The hope that if I try something different, if I don’t give up, if I  just move it somewhere else, this time it will work, this attempt will be successful.

I planted another bee balm despite the irrefutable fact it doesn't want to live in my gardens. So this is the last time, the very last time I’m planting bee balm. One final attempt because I don’t like to give up until I’ve exhausted all attempts.

This, actually, is a metaphor for the way I live my life. More enthusiasm than skill. Persistence. An indefatigable amount of stubborn keep-at-it-ness. 
I simply don’t give up. Sometimes that a good thing -- my persistence is my sign of faith in myself. On the other hand, I seriously don't give up soon enough, whether it's a perennial, a manuscript, or a relationship. 
  
We all have that one trait we’d like to see less of -- I also have a bad habit of putting off doing something until it makes it more complicated, such as booking accommodations for a road trip -- but we learn to accept that quirk, live with it, work around it. 
Mine is persistence. A good thing and a bad thing.

Much in my life is clematis. Some of it is bee balm. 
Yet without my help, or even my attention, my creative life is becoming rudbeckia and phlox, two plants which are self-propagating all over the gardens!
Clematis for beauty and cleverness,  rudbeckia for encouragement, and phlox which, AMAZINGLY, represents good partnership, harmony, and sweet dreams.
Plant what will grow. 






Saturday, June 02, 2018

Flat Felt A Chicken in Lunenburg

One week today!
Just a few spots left before this workshop is sold out. Can't wait for this event next Saturday.



Friday, June 01, 2018

Some Actual Field Notes


This sudden onslaught of warm hot weather has brought everything on! I love June for its fullness, lushness, and greenness.

As we drove the back roads home from the country store, licking our ice cream cones, my husband looked around at all the apple trees with their profuse blossoms and said, "Heavy blossoms mean a hard winter coming."
Consider yourselves warned.

The photo is of the apple tree on the bank of the river on our lot across the road. A pair of ospreys is tinkering away at a nest on that lot but they also sit in the original nest. Yesterday, we have five -- 5! -- ospreys flying over our yard, two who were in the original nest who flew off to circle underneath another pair, and a lone one who eventually flew away.
It's all very confusing. There will be no babies this year but we have more ospreys than we know what to do with. Not that we actually have anything to do with it.

Speaking of babies, we have goslings!
A pair of Canada Geese nested near our pond in the middle of the field and Dwayne saw three goslings toddling along behind the pair the other day.

As I drove home from Halifax yesterday, I listened to a radio program on which a woman discussed her problem with porcupines eating her house. Really! They're eating the verandah and the floor boards and the cedar shingles. The munching wakes her up at night.
All of a sudden, an idea for a children's book popped into my mind. With rhymes, no less. If I hadn't been driving, I probably would have written the whole thing right there in the car, but I remember it and I worked out an ending while walking the dog this morning so some thinking time with a mug of tea and a notebook are in order.
And no, she doesn't want to shoot the porcupines. Like me, she doesn't have the heart for that. 
Dwayne planted his sunflower seeds yesterday, seven rows in the two beds along the road. I think this profusion of sunflowers in late August, early September has come to mean a lot of people driving up and down our road.
I'm still being asked about "my" sunflowers and I always say, "Nothing to do with me. Those sunflowers are all Dwayne." He grows the happiness. 




Monday, May 28, 2018

The Lost Osprey

On the wood pile by the fire pit in our backyard, in early May.

 A week ago, on the holiday Monday, I said to my husband at the end of the day, "The only time I saw an osprey flying around today was when the one on the nest flew off to chase away an eagle."
The other osprey did not bring any fish to the nest during the entire day and that is not merely unusual, it is wrong.
Because that's what ospreys do: they fish and they lug that fish back to the nest for whomever is sitting on eggs, or later, for the new babies. It happens two or three times a day, at least. One is fishing for two.
"Come to think of it, the last time I saw the other osprey was Sunday morning," Dwayne said. "He was sitting on the tree outside our bedroom first thing in the morning. He was soaking wet because it was raining." 
I saw him too, and that was our last confirmed sighting of him. 
Because there is no way to tell them apart, we simply refer to the one on the nest as "she" and the one bringing in fish as "he". After the babies are born, it's a crapshoot as to what pronoun to use because both parents take turns bringing in fish.

Only this year, for the first time since the first baby was born in 2009, there won't be any babies. Mid-week, the one on the nest - she - abandoned the nest. She couldn't feed herself without leaving the nest, and the eggs couldn't survive that long with her body. What could she do? The eggs had to be sacrificed.

One osprey in the nest, waiting, hoping, hungry.

 But in the meantime, before she'd given up, other ospreys showed up. Not to help her, unfortunately, nature doesn't really work that way, but perhaps to claim the nest. How did they know there was a crisis here?
It's simply not possible to know who is who: who is original, who is new. We've always claimed to know "our" osprey because they are not afraid of us; they sit in the tree outside the bedroom, they fly low over our house and look directly at us sitting on the deck.
The two who were sitting in the nest yesterday morning flew off as soon as I appeared in the yard with my camera.  "Our" osprey were not camera-shy.

One of the new tenants flew away into the cut after I appeared in the yard.

Ospreys mate for life, unless one mate is lost. Then they will find a new mate.
We have no way of knowing what happened to our lost osprey. Did an eagle kill him? Did he get tangled in discarded fishing gear? Did someone with a trout pond shoot him? We will never know, and that's hard to accept.
What is saving our sanity is the presence of these other ospreys. On the post and wheel my husband installed on our river lot across the road a few years ago, someone has laid the foundation for a nest. Perhaps this other pair who is flying around? Yet there is also an osprey sitting in the nest every morning. How sad if it is her, the one who lost her mate, the one who can't help but return to their nest. Just in case.
That's what I think. Just in case. If only hurt, the lost osprey might have been found by someone, taken to the local wildlife rescue centre, and saved. After rehabilitation, the centre always returns rescued birds to the location where they were found.
Always that hope for a happy ending.


The nest across the road shows signs of interest.

It's all very confusing and upsetting, to be honest. It throws the routine of our days out of whack. Our world revolves around the presence of these birds. First thing in the morning, we look at the nest; at sunset, we check the nest and the tree. Even without being conscious of it, we listen for the sounds of a fish coming in. We always hear the ospreys chirping at each other, for food, for flight, and for warning (of an eagle approaching).
Back in August of 2015, when the eagle killed the three fledglings, it was such a shock to suddenly not hear the ospreys any longer. Their voices are the soundtrack of our spring and summer.
And now, at the end of May, their voices are silenced again. It won't seem like summer if there are no ospreys chirping in the nest and in the sky.


Monday, May 21, 2018

A Road Trip to Remember


This is my friend Shelagh, who lives in Cobourg, Ontario, the last place I lived before I moved to Nova Scotia. She has several paintings like the one behind us in her house, and I insist we have our picture taken in front of one of them every time I visit because I really doubt -- despite my obvious hints -- that she is leaving one to me in her will.

When I stay with her, Shelagh and I are the lake sisters. We walk to the lake early in the morning, before church. We pass by the sandy beach and the marina and head to the undeveloped shore, just down the block from where I used to live in Cobourg. We sit on the round, smooth, cold stones on the shore and talk while searching for heart-shapes. I look at Lake Ontario and I feel -- home. I grew up on this lake; my family had cottages on lakes. I'm a lake girl.

I don't look for the tide. I don't long for the tide. 

But then we put on our matching T-shirts and we make plans for Shelagh to come east, to see the Halifax Library on Spring Garden Road (she is a librarian) and the Maude Lewis exhibit at the art gallery, and meet my chickens, and as I think about where I live, I am excited to call the East Coast home. I want to share my life with my friend (who has only read about it in my book).

I come home -
- wondering the entire 16-hour drive, "Is it possible to have two homes? To feel at home, and to miss a place, in two very different places, at the same time?" -
- and after a few days, I find a line from a Maya Angelou poem:
Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved. 

It's from her poem, "Our Grandmothers", and it's out of context here, but still, the one line, without knowing the poem, without knowing the title, speaks to me. I live along a tidal river now, I'm married to a man who loves this river, who can navigate its channel without needing red and green markers, and I know I am rooted to this place as long as he is here, my new roots tangling with his long-established ones.

I can hold two opposing thoughts in my body, in my being, in my space at the same time. I can bear the conflicting heart tugs, and the loneliness of the road trip knowing who waits for me on my arrival.
I can be home where I am reminded of my father and where conversations with lifelong friends simply start up again as if never interrupted by distance and time.
I can be home where my heart and mind rest, where my creative life flourishes, where the stars are clear and plentiful. One home speaks to me in memory, the other in the present.
So it's not really about the lake, or the river -- it must be the water. Along with purity and fertility, water is the symbol for motion, and renewal and transformation. We are all drawn to water, to quench a thirst, to cleanse, to wash away, to rejuvenate, to change.

And then there are those paintings. Birch trees are my favourite. They, too, remind me of my father. Of home. Of being planted, and replanted, of moving and not moving, of thriving and most of all, of loving and being loved. 
East Coast style.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Come From Away


You know it's been too long since you spent a night in your best friend's house when you haven't even met her eight-year-old dog!
When my mother decided to be in Georgia with her grandchildren for seven weeks, I decided to take advantage of having the car to myself and head to Ontario (someone - I don't remember who - asked if my mother knew I was taking the car!). So I phoned my best friend, Sarah, and asked, "How would you like to celebrate my birthday with me?
Hence the decorations in her house when I arrived at the end of her work day. She'd even made giant tissue paper daisies for the dining room! The upside of having a crafty BFF.

We realized this is my first visit to her home since the fall of 2009, when my mother was selling her home in Cobourg and I off-loaded some mugs and ornaments with my best friend. Since then, her family has lived in northern Ontario for three years and returned to Orillia just in time for the start of school in 2016. This is only their second spring in their new home.And she's still using the mugs I gave her nearly ten years ago, although they all have chips in them. Perhaps it's time to off-load a few more mugs (Dwayne would appreciate that; Sarah's husband, not so much. What is it with men and mugs???).

Do you notice the plants underneath the birthday banner? These are Sarah's seedlings; obviously this is a house with no cats. She gifted me one of her seedlings, a watermelon plant, and she's requested weekly photos showing its growth in Nova Scotia. Wally the watermelon seedling is currently hanging out in my office; he won't meet our cold northern Nova Scotia soil until the end of the month. It's a great pressure, having his life in my hands.
My best friend is quite the gardener (along with her husband) and she toured me around her new backyard, showing me where the vegetable garden was going and the fruit trees they are planting. Apple and cherry already in the ground, pear waiting to be planted. She's so clever.
Here's the funny thing: while I was in Ontario, the three cherry trees she'd bought us as a 10th wedding anniversary present last summer arrived at our doorstep! I hope I've brought back home with me some of her green thumb magic. 

(By the way, Sarah served taco soup and strawberry shortcake for my birthday supper, which makes it okay for me to serve lasagna and rhubarb pie next Saturday night when my writing workshop co-host, Marjorie, and her husband, come for supper.)