Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Life's Long Shadow

April 2014

"It seems like Stella has been gone a lot longer than two weeks," my mother said last night.
It does feel as if we've all gone on with our Stella-free lives rather easily but Stella is not forgotten. Even though I don't feel her, or hear her, or even sense her, Stella is still here.
Stella wasn't an easy dog to live with and now that she is physically gone from our home, I believe she had a huge energy that overpowered everyone else's, particularly mine and including Abby, our three and a half year old dog. We are adjusting to having the energy level in our home drop to a normal level; it's no longer dominated by the force that was Stella.
I can't tell you how lovely it is to walk a dog on a loose leash. After 12 years with the incorrigible Stella, it's a delight to walk an easy dog like Abby. If Marmaduke and Cujo had had a puppy, that dog would have been Stella.
A friend who had two Boxers once remarked that she thought she preferred having only one dog because with two, you never really get to know their separate personalities as fully. I'm now seeing what Abby is like when she isn't battling the effect of Stella's energy, Stella's presence, Stella's constant vigilance for food.
"I dropped a peanut half on the floor while making supper," my mother told me on Tuesday, "and Abby didn't get off the couch."
Stella would have eaten the peanut before it hit the ground.
So our household is adjusting. I'm adjusting. Stella is gone but she is not forgotten.
I haven't yet written about the remarkable last three days of Stella's life because I'm editing another book and can't step out of that zone. Besides, I promised Stella I would write the story of her life and making that promise seems to have evaporated my immediate grief. She's hanging around because of that promise, knowing we have one more walk to take together.
Ah, yes, two more. Stella wanted her ashes spread where she loved to walk so over the field she'll go. Her epilogue.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Artful Afternoon

Artist Erin Laende helps care partners with their sculpture.

I spent Sunday afternoon at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in downtown Halifax as an observer of a joint program between the AGNS and the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia for an article I'm writing for the Chronicle-Herald.
This is the second season for "Artful Afternoons" which began in 2014 to provide people living with dementia and their spouses, children or friends a chance to spend an afternoon once a month in the studio. Each session is inspired by a current exhibit at the gallery -- April's was sculpture -- and begins with a short tour followed by 90 minutes in the studio doing a project based on the topic. Yesterday, the pairs worked on sculpting birds out of newspaper, masking tape, glue and tissue (papier mache).
What I noticed as I wandered around taking photos and talking with people is that the afternoon isn't about what is created, or even finishing it; it's about having fun and socializing. It was interesting to note those who clustered in one big group and were loud and chatty with each other, and those pairs who chose to sit by themselves away from the crowd, to be in their own quiet space with each other.
I'm not a good enough photographer to capture the uniqueness of each set of care partners. Elizabeth's big smile as she laughed. Jack's eyes lighting up as he talked about his cat. Michael's animation as he talked about his long-ago days as an art teacher.
Whenever cuts are needed in schools and in communities, it's always the creative arts that are hit first and hardest and yet it often is art and music and dance that is able to slip inside a person' and bring alive the part of their brain not (yet) affected by whatever neurological disorder or injury that person is living with.
Anyone passing by that room, hearing the laughter and the chatter, would have no idea half of the people sitting around those tables were in the early stages of dementia.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grey Skies

No matter how grey the skies are, how thick and moist the air is, no matter how much we need some sunshine now to dry up our yards and the fields, the sight of fuzzy pussy willows bursting to their limits as a sign of spring mean
all is good.
The robins came back, the ospreys arrived, the river opened up and the pussy willows puffed out.
Funny how they look like little snowballs along the rain-darkened branches. Even the first crocuses coming up in my garden are white. We are still snow blind.
I first wrote "snow bling". That's much better: Pussy willows and crocuses are the early jewels of spring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day

If we keep going down this road 
-- clear cutting our woods and not replanting what we take -- 
we will not carry down this road forever.
What trees provide to the earth
-- not just to humans but to birds and animals,
to the air and the soil --
far outweighs what we gain by their destruction.
Oxygen, food and habitat.
That's what trees provide 
but to more than humans. 
If the birds and the animals disappear because the trees are gone,
how can we not expect humans to follow right behind?
It is too bad we cannot disappear first,
and let the trees take back the earth. 
Oxygen, food and habitat.
Those truckloads of logs driving past our rural homes
are not a sign of progress and a booming economy.
They are omens of
We, too, need oxygen, food and habitat,
and if we think those come without the help of trees,
we are too ignorant too survive.
Put down your phone, step away from the computer,
get out of your car,
and walk on the earth today.
Put your hand against the bark of a tree
and say thank you.
The trees have ears.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Time of Goodbyes


When I arrived home from church yesterday, my husband turned off the vacuum and said, "I have something to tell you."
Good news rarely comes from a statement like that, unless perhaps the shockingly good news of a lottery win.
"Rose is dead."
Rosie is the last of our three rabbits and unlike the other two, she appeared in good health and fine spirits. Lonely, perhaps, since her sisters died in 2011 and 2013. She seemed to like to watch the chickens wandering around outside her space in the chicken coop. For that last two winters, she's had more of a "condo" space than a pen and if she'd wanted to, she could have hopped up onto bales of hay or around the whole outer coop area. Are rabbits nocturnal? Maybe she did a lot of exploring at night when we weren't around.
It was a bit of a shock to hear she had just died. Unlike Beulah the chicken or Stella the dog, we had no indication Rosie wasn't feeling well. I didn't even have a chance to say good bye. I tossed some kale to her Saturday evening when I went out to collect the eggs, said, "Hey, Rosie-Ro," the way I always do as she munched down on her favourite food.
She didn't even look dead when Dwayne brought her out of the pen yesterday afternoon to bury her. The only difference from the photo above was that in death, her ears were laid back.
"Are you sure she's dead?" I asked.
 Rosie was a nice bunny for one not treated as a pet. Dwayne says that when he put his hand in his pocket, where he'd put a carrot or some stalks of kale, she'd lift up on her hind legs and sniff the air. Her looks reminded me of Thumper from the movie, Bambi. She didn't have a lot of freedom but she was safe and she loved her "cottage", the outside hutch where she spent the spring, summer and fall. She, too, has missed another spring, didn't get one last summer.
So now Rosie, who joined our flock when we got chickens in 2008, is gone and we are now rabbit-less. She has joined her sisters buried in the ground at the top of the field under slabs of shale.
I think this is enough death for awhile.

Peppa, Daisy and Rosie in the "cottage".

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spring Spurts

My fall planting project, to create a swath of daffodils along the ditch by the road, was not nixed by all the snow. I dug the bulbs into an area that gets lots of sunshine and is clear of snow early and that's the saving grace for these courageous spurts bursting through the needles and the leaves. In most spots, I should add. There is one area by the stop sign that is still blanketed by snow; we might see those daffs in May!
We have the sunshine, now we just need a south wind to warm everything up.
Isn't this what we love, and long for, about spring? Hope. You can't help but feel optimistic on a day like today.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why I Walk

We walk in memory of a father and a father-in-law.
The Walk For Alzheimer's, supporting the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, is Sunday, May 3.
I walk because my father had Alzheimer's disease. I walk in his memory and I walk to make a difference in the lives of others living with dementia and their caregivers. I walk because Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are a fact and denial is not an option.
I created TEAM PACHYDERMENTIA -- because elephants never forget -- because it is a group effort to support those living with dementia and those caring for someone living with dementia. I created the team because this isn't about me, it's about all of us with personal experience of dementia. We all know someone who is affected by dementia in some way.
Family, friends and neighbours have a role to play in helping those living with dementia, whether it's donating money to the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, phoning a friend to see how he or she is doing, taking a pot of soup to a couple struggling to remain together at home, offering to clean the house during that transitional week between home and long-term-care facility or joining us on the walk.
With our ageing population, cuts to health care and not yet enough training and education around person-centred dementia care, we need to think in terms of being in this together, of supporting each other on this long journey like no other. I don't use words like "fight" or "battle" or even "struggle" or "suffer" any more because yes, my mother and I struggled as caregivers and yes, my father suffered but that was because of everything we didn't know then. I've changed my language because I want to change attitudes towards dementia, towards the men and women diagnosed with the disease and towards their caregivers. It's better to be "dementia friendly" than "dementia ignorant".
I walk because living with dementia and being a caregiver for someone with dementia can be very, very isolating. The more we know, the better we do, and the better we support each other so that no one walks down that long road alone.
If you would like to join our herd or if you would like to donate to Team Pachydermentia, please visit the website and click on either "Register" or "Sponsor A Walker".
You also may contact me by email (use the button to the right). Your donation of time and/or money is greatly appreciated by a whole lot of people. Perhaps even your family, friends and neighbours.
The herd thanks you!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Till Death Do Us Part

The night before we both officially became Nova Scotia country girls, July 2007.
 I have been trying to figure out all day how to write a post about Stella. I suppose it's a eulogy, given that she died yesterday.
But I can't write about her yet, am still living with her last two days, her last two hours, her last two minutes. This loss is still in its early stages of grief. Which surprises me but more on that later. Perhaps.

In many ways, I can't write it better than this, the column I wrote when Stella turned 10 in 2013:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

4Hers Embody The Rural Spirit

As first published in The Citizen-Record on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by  Sara Jewell

The teams for the senior water boil were spread out across the pavement, each pair crouched over a can of soapy water and a pile of sticks. Soon, one was gathering up shavings and putting a match to them while the other hacked up kindling to keep the flames growing under the can.
The water boil is part of the 4H Woodsmen competition and the one I witnessed happened at the recent Cumberland County rally held in Pugwash. While the Woodsmen event doesn’t appeal to every member, it certainly is as much fun for the spectators as for the participants.
It got particularly exciting when Becky caught fire.
To build the fire under the can to a tiny but roaring inferno, the pairs stoked the flames by taking a turn at blowing on them. Blow, roll away for a breath, blow, roll away for a breath. It’s the rolling back to the fire that poses the greatest risk for eyebrows and clothing.
Becky was wearing a sweatshirt over her coveralls and at some point when she rolled away for a breath, her sweater was on fire. People were hollering at her, someone was trying to pat her out, but Becky either didn’t hear or didn’t care; her focus was on keeping that fire going. 

I’d planned to write more about this and what I’m learning as a journalist spending a year with a 4H club but the provincial budget came out and the “rural” part of Nova Scotia was wiped off the board and suddenly, Blazing Becky and her Sweater of Fire became a touchstone for my response to a decision announced in this budget.
The Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism has been axed and replaced by the Department of Business.
What I know about business has to do with marketing and promotion, and with building relationships; my strengths are ideas, not financing and bookkeeping. But I’m also a writer and I know the power of words. If “rural” is no longer in the title, it no longer exists.
We’re fighting school and hospital closures, and the creative and innovative thinkers wanted by the Department of Business know the power of small and local and community-based, but the government is stuck in its belief that bigger is better. Wouldn’t three small departments covering three very specific areas do a better job of addressing the diverse needs of this province than one monster department trying to be all things for all people? Someone always loses out in that scenario and after last week’s budget, it’s rural Nova Scotia.
Rural Nova Scotia is bleeding people, services are in decline, and businesses are closing as a result of government policy and now that we no longer have even a share in a department, it’s clear the government has slammed the door on rural people and how they live in their rural communities.
As I watch the young people who make up 4H participate in speeches and Woodsmen, in cake decorating and judging, I realize that part of the problem is the dominance of urban needs and perspectives. Decision-makers living in the city can’t accommodate rural interests and values because they don’t know what they are.
Rural values are about growing what you need, replacing what you use, not wasting time or materials, supporting local businesses, working together as a community, and honouring those who tilled the way. They aren’t so much about the skill of lighting a fire as they are about the hard work and perseverance to keep it going in spite of a cold March wind. They aren’t so much about coming to a boil first as they are making sure you finish the event.
It’s time for a Department of Rural Life, where rural values are not just understood but promoted. And I want it run by someone like Becky who knows how to catch fire but not get burned. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You Know It's Bad When...

Stella with her favourite thing: a bone. sense the vet wants to give you a hug -- and neither of you are the huggy type.
This is worth dropping the f-bomb again, because it's even worse news on a personal level, but if I do that, my mother will stand in the doorway of my office with her BB gun and shoot me until I remove it.
I'll just say this then:
The greatest asshole dog in the world has to be put down and I'm so heart-broken, I can barely breathe.
My story with Stella goes back 12 years and it's a long, complicated one. It's not the story of a really good dog; those are short and simple. Perfect dog stories always are. Stella's story, our story, is book-length and perhaps that's what I'll do next.
I'll call it "A Bad Dog Gone Good" because this is why bad dogs live so long: So we remember them as good dogs. Stella has been a pretty good dog the last couple of years, if I push aside how pushy and annoying she gets about food.
Which impending death doesn't change at all; apparently, she can chase food down as well on three legs as on four.
Stella has advanced bone cancer, which means the huge tumour that is wrapped around her back leg could eat all the way through the bone at any time. As well, there are several small masses in her lungs which are making her cough.
The stoic, protective, adventurous, dominant, stubborn, food-oriented Stella didn't show her symptoms until two weeks ago and now,
I'm broadsided by this unexpected news. I really did think Stella was going to live forever.
And I'm blindsided by the fact I have to put her down before she's ready. Stella is fine, Stella wants one more summer. Her eyes are bright, her face is eager. "Look, Ma, how well I get around on three legs." Stella doesn't understand that the cancer won't allow that; the cancer will force me to make a decision I'm not ready to make.
And like the bad dog she is, Stella isn't making it any easier for me.
As if she wants to give me something to think about. And write about.
If it weren't for the tumours in her lungs, I'd tell the vet to cut off her leg in order to give her one last summer. I would do that for Stella. I would carry her into the sunshine, I would clean up after her messes. I would feed lie next to her in the green grass until she exhaled for the very last time.
But it's not going to happen that way. No one is throwing us a bone.

Kid you not, she'd let a chicken peck at her bone. Not such a bad dog.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Return: Shock and Awe

We were kind of hoping the ospreys would sense the deep snow and stay down south for a few weeks longer but as I returned from my walk this morning, there was the wonderfully familiar shape sitting on the nest.
"Oh, no!" I thought then quickly changed that to, "Oh, good, you're back!"
I wouldn't want them to think they are not welcome. As soon as they leave in early September, we begin counting down to their return in April. But when they weren't here on the weekend, it looked like they might be staying near open water.
It must be what we've witnessed with the woodcocks and the robins: The migration instinct is firm. There is no adjustment for weather, there is no way to know about the weather at their destination. When the time comes, they leave their winter area and head north to the summer home. Even if spring hasn't properly arrived there. The ospreys always return between April 10 and April 13 and yet again, we can, and do, set our calendars by it. I wonder what they make of the thick, white landscape?

Shock and awe must be what this lone osprey is feeling. Last year, they returned to find all the trees had been cut down. This year, they are returning to deep snow and a frozen river. Are they wondering what's happening to their habitat? I certainly am.
When I returned from my walk, my husband said the bird had already begun bringing in sticks to rebuild a nest certainly battered by the blizzards of February and March.
Well, they survived Hurricane Arthur last July; I'm confident they can survive the Spring of 2015.
Truly, it is wonderful to have our fish hawk friends back in the nest. This will be summer number eight of sharing our space with them.

The familiar (but snowy) sight from the back yard.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Seeing Is Believing


Today was a pulpit supply day for me and the scripture was from John 20; it was the story of "doubting" Thomas, the man who wanted to see in order to believe.
After I gave my message (about doubt being healthy and natural and necessary), we opened up to Moments of Gratitude and I mentioned that I'd see tulip leaves coming out of the ground under my front window.
"I'd have to see that to believe it," someone in the congregation called out.
So here is the proof, Before and After I did the clean up that should have been done last fall.


And look who overwintered in the garden! Frog Prince, you survived being buried under a massive snowdrift. I don't think my roses fared as well.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dead Hen Walking

We noticed last week that one of the white hens was lethargic. When a chicken sits in a nest box, it either means she's broody or sick and a sick chicken has a funny look about her eyes. This white hen was a friendly, busy bird so we knew she was sick.
We, terribly, started calling her the Dead Hen because every day we expected to go in to find her lifeless body lying on the floor but for the past week, she's been "fine". Sitting on the step outside in the sun one day last week seemed to perk her up.
But this afternoon, we finally lost one of our two Columbian Rocks. We had two, Beulah and Gabby, although we couldn't tell them apart. I'm a big fan of the Rock family of chickens -- Barred Rocks, Patridge Rock, the Columbian -- because they are calm and curious and not skittish. I like a chicken that doesn't freak out every time you go into the chicken coop.
In the spring or fall, I'm likely to look up from my cleaning of the gardens to find one of the Rocks scratching at the ground alongside me.
I'm sorry Beulah missed spring this year. It came too late for the Dead Hen.

Governments Do More Harm Than Good

Are you fucking kidding me?
First of all, the tax credit is gone for the Nova Scotia film industry, an industry that created jobs and employed people and brought money -- and taxes! -- into the provincial coffers. N matter how the premier spins the "Now it's a proper tax credit" angle, the credit helped the industry far more than it cost the government.
An industry that has been growing for the past twenty years, that people have been working slowly but surely to build and nurture and grow has just had the rug pulled out from under them.Is it because it is a creative industry? Because it's entrepreneurial? Of course because we are dealing with government which can't seem to help but operate in a counter-intuitive way. If those are the areas where we SHOULD be providing tax credits and incentives so that creative people of all kinds don't leave this province, then that's where the government bureaucrats -- not known for their creativity or risk-taking spirit -- will cut.
Because it's an industry that is spread out, the bureaucrats see "tax credit" and think they can pull a fast one. They think no one will care because it's a small, creative, niche industry. It's not a mill in a town. Handing millions of dollars over to one company in order to keep a town alive by putting a hundred or so people to work is all about votes. But more than 2,000 film industry jobs spread around the province (granted, a small area of the province, not here in Cumberland County, of course) means you can't campaign on "saving jobs and a town in rural Nova Scotia".
And speaking of rural Nova Scotia:
Second of all, the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism is now -- wait for it -- the Business Department.
I don't even know what to say about that. In a province that needs to revitalize rural Nova Scotia, that needs to encourage young entrepreneurs in agriculture, creative industries and small business, more needed to be done to make rural Nova Scotia a place to live and do business.
I figured a tax credit on our gas might be nice since we have to drive everywhere in order to do business. So naive! A tax credit? To encourage local spending and small-business in rural areas? The bureaucrats' heads would explode even at the suggestions.
Instead, let's just take the rural out of the province completely. If we don't see the word, it doesn't exit! Now those pesky people can cease to exist. Yee haw! Now we can get back to focusing on...
...what the hell is the province's plan, anyway?
Oh, right. Pandering to big business. Giving payroll rebates and tax credits to profitable, billion-dollar companies whose owners are millionaires with private jets and homes in Hawaii. If a large, profitable company that employs locals in its factory threatens to close up shop and move out of the province if they don't get financial support from the government -- or threatens to take its toys and go home if it doesn't get its way -- the government caves because it wants to save jobs at one company in one town.
That's wrong. On the part of the company, it may be good for business but it's bad business. It's unethical to hold taxpayers hostage when you are making money. So government ends up counter-intuitive AND spineless.
A "Department of Business" will focus on promoting business interests, not programs and funding. So if you live in rural Nova Scotia and want to start a business or remain living there, or if you've been thinking about moving there because of the space and the recreation and the lack of traffic, you won't be able to work here. Because there is no longer a department promoting the economic growth of rural Nova Scotia.
I'm not surprised by either of these decisions, though. Whenever the call is to encourage the creative and entrepreneurial classes, in rural or urban areas, the government cocks its head to one said and says, "Wha?" Governments, of any party, do status quo; they don't do creative.
And here's the thing: The current government said in the election campaign that got them elected that they would extend the film tax credit until 2020.
The film industry is gone. Rural Nova Scotia ceases to exist. Those schools fighting to survive don't stand a chance because this is what they are up against. Governments don't want creative solutions; they want the traditional business model.
Gather up the pitchforks, my friends. It's time for a rural uprising.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Break Out

Penny and Gwen went on a walkabout today. They got tired of being cooped up -- it's April, for heaven's sake -- and decided that the snow be damned, they were headed for the front yard.
The other hens and Brewster the rooster simply watched from the doorway in behind the snowdrift. It won't take long for word to get around. It won't take long before the whole lot of them decide to flee the coop.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Open Space, Open Mind

So I'm into heavy editing now, after three months of sending 30 pages to France, where my Humber School for Writers instructor lives, and receiving 34 pages back -- four of her notes plus my edited pages. Knowing that this day was coming, that this was the week I'd begin diving into her marks and remarks, I've been anxious and twitchy, that combination of anticipation and fear that comes as the start of an important, hopefully life-changing project.
It's not pretty to live with but my husband has seen this before, knows as soon as I sit down and begin to type, when I finally stop finding other distractions and actually begin to type, the anitici-fear will become excitement and belief that yes, this can be done after all.
When I'm writing or editing intensely, I eat less and walk more, heading out to the woods every time I surface and realize I'm hunched over cramped up both in legs and brain. At five o'clock this afternoon, I went out for my third walk of the day. The sky was slate grey, the sun a fuzzy pale yellow circle in the clouds. Snow is coming. The wind was raw against my face, waking me up, blowing the threads of used thoughts from my head. The dog was running in zig zags, scooping up snow with her mouth. Her black nose and whiskers became white, instant old age.
And I smiled because this --
-- this field, this space
this walk, this dog,
this writing, this inspiration,
this breathing space, this stretching space
-- is exactly why I live here.

Sunday, April 05, 2015


A few years ago, I was reading Dr. Wayne Dyer's book, Wishes Fulfilled, when he began talking about the "orbs of light" that were showing up in photos taken of him at his public speaking events.
From what I remember of his explanation, these orbs are messages of hope; some people might even consider them angels or guardians. I don't recall what else he said (his book is around here somewhere and I'll have to search it out) and when I Googled it, his blog post on the subject didn't really get into the why? That's up to each of us to decide what we want to see, what we want to believe, what we want to experience.
I appreciate his call to be open to all possibilities. Why not believe? Why not find messages of hope? Who doesn't need blue jays or robins or ospreys to appear and provide a message of hope or encouragement or promise of good things to come if you just keep at it, if you just follow your heart and be true to yourself?
I haven't thought about what Dr. Dyer wrote about his orb experiences since then (the book was published in 2012), not until recently when I was checking out a pyschic's Facebook page. She'd posted a photo of the plane that crash-landed at the Halifax airport and pointed out the huge orb over the wing that was still intact.
That instantly tapped into my memory of what I'd read in Dyer's book. 
On Thursday morning, that beautiful sunny crusty morning, after I'd gone back to the house to fetch  my camera in order to take a photo of that pile of peanuts, I saw an eagle flying over the field.
"Come back this way," I hollered at it as it soared further away, further up the field.
And then it did start to swirl back, closer to me, closer to the sun which lets the white head and tail feathers glow. When I got home and uploaded the photos to my computer, the photos of the eagle all have an orb in the top left hand corner.
A week earlier and I might not have even noticed. 
Immediately, I said, "Hello, Dad."
I haven't bothered to think about what the message of hope actually is; I don't feel the need to. It's enough to know it's out there, it's enough to keep me strong in a time of great uncertainly and creative challenge.

Read Dr. Dyer's blog post here.

Saturday, April 04, 2015


During our lovely walk in the sunshine on Thursday morning, I came across this stash of peanut halves under the bottom branch of this little tree. Those peanuts are from the food we put out in our front yard for the wild birds. Looking at a couple of faint tracks in the crusty snow around this tree -- this tree in the middle of nowhere, at the edge of a field with no other trees around it (thanks to them being cut down last year) -- I think it might be a squirrel's stash.
It was cold enough overnight to make the snow crusty again so Abby and I were able to go for a walk this morning, raw ice fog hanging around us, and I made sure our path took us by this little tree.
The peanuts were all gone.

Friday, April 03, 2015


We enjoyed a fine walk on Thursday morning, the overnight dip in temperature making the snow crusty enough for walking. I don't know how many more of these mornings we're going to have, considering it was raining this morning and no one wanted to go outside. It's hard to believe it's April and yet there is three feet of snow covering the ground. I looked at the top of the fence around the hen pen and wondered how long it will be before our chickens can come out to play.
Remember how I planted all those daffodil bulbs along the lane so that there would be a profusion of colour in the spring before the leaves came on the trees? I wonder if the bulbs will wait or will they think they've missed their time and stay tucked inside their soil pockets?
I'm not a big fan of spring in a normal season, I have to admit. Too much confusion: How to dress, when to walk, all the puddles and soft lawn. I'll take black flies, mosquitoes and heat waves over slush and mud. And yes, you can remind me of that in July.
There is a period between the end of winter, with its minus 15 with a windchill mornings and spring, with the plus seven mornings, when the days are sunny but the ground is solid, when you can go for a long walk in the afternoon and breathe deeply while the dog runs full out for the first time in months.
That period last about five days.
I enjoyed it to the fullest this year, walking between six foot high snow drifts along the Dickson Road. Strange spring, folks, one we'll be talking about for a long time.
Remember the spring of 2015...when we were digging through the snow to plant our seeds?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Four Seasons of Spring

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, by Sara Jewell.
April 1st, 2012. No snow! And all the dogs found was a plastic pipe.
Spring in Nova Scotia is the season of dropped culverts, cold mornings and warm afternoons, and thawing dog poop.
            What? You thought I was going to say the season of robins, daffodils and potholes?
            It’s also the season of what the dog brings back from the woods.
            When I moved to Cumberland County at the end of March eight years ago, the first thing my dog discovered was the old beaver carcass my Nova Scotia country boy was using for coyote bait in the field behind our home. Even though he moved it way back into the woods, Stella brought home “treasures” for months.
            Nothing equals the sight of your big brown dog trotting home with a spine hanging out of her mouth.
            That was my introduction to spring in rural Nova Scotia.
When you think about it, March 20 is rather a cruel joke to play on the people of the Maritimes.
            Spring in Vancouver, where I lived for five years, begins in February with cherry blossoms.
            Spring in Ontario, where I grew up, involves green grass and a long weekend in May when you actually can go camping. Nor did we have to wear snowsuits over our new Easter outfits.
            We know it’s spring in Nova Scotia when the snow melts and the rain starts. Then summer arrives a week later.
            Despite the complaining I do about not having the slightest clue how to dress for spring in northern Nova Scotia (my heartfelt thanks to the person who invented fleece), my recent spring experiences prepared me well for life as a Maritimer. It toughened me up.
For several years prior to moving here permanently, I spent five months with my parents at their summer home on Pugwash Point. Every year, we arrived a little earlier and stayed a little later because my father had Alzheimer’s disease and the further he progressed, the more time we wanted to spend at that house, on that point, in this area.
One spring, the start of what would be my father’s last season at his beloved Pugwash property, I was sent down east as the advance team, to get the dead flies swept up, the beds made and the old house warmed up ahead of my parents’ arrival a week later.
            The dogs and I arrived on April 12. In southern Ontario, the grass was green, the tulips blooming, the daytime temperature around 15 degrees. In northern Nova Scotia, there was a snow bank in the back yard and ice chunks floating in the harbour. 
            That spring, it snowed -- deep, heavy, wet snow -- on April 21.
            That spring, I learned that green firewood doesn’t burn so I also learned how to use a dog for extra heat inside a sleeping bag. 
            The same dog, incidentally, who would drag home parts of a long-dead beaver two years later once she had 72 acres on which to roam.
            So when our younger dog lugged the leg of a deer out of the woods last weekend, she was simply carrying on a traditional rite of spring.
You could see that as a sign of hope, you know. Not for the deer, taken down by coyotes once she was weakened from eight weeks of endless snowstorms. It’s a sign of hope for us, survivors of Winter 2015, survivors of Spring Every Year.
            When everyone in Vancouver is skiing and golfing on the same day, we’re still snowshoeing from the parking lot to the office.
When everyone in Ontario is heading to the garden centre to buy seeds for the vegetable gardens, we’re still heading to the farm supply store to buy seed for the wild birds.
For those of us in northern Nova Scotia, as soon as the dog starts bringing home body parts, we know the melt is on and the spring is truly on the way.
 Also known as the season of mud.