Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 18, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

Waiting for summer


I step out of the car. I can smell and taste the salty air. I can see summer on the horizon.

It is possible that June is the very best month of the year if you are lucky enough to live in the Maritimes. June reeks of anticipation.

Who loves June more, a school teacher or a student? It’s a tossup. After the arduous grind of a school year, everyone is ready to bust down the school doors and head for the hills when the final buzzer sounds near the end of the month. The camping gear is aired out and dead flies removed from the tent. Many of you will head to Stanfest in a few weeks’ time to soak up the music and possibly get soaked doing it. When you’re on vacation, nothing can dampen ones spirit.

It is lobster supper season. Pretty well every weekend, a person can drive 30 minutes in just about any direction and enjoy succulent crustaceans, potato salad, fresh rolls and pie at one of the community run events. I love these. Even when there’s a big lineup, it’s not a hardship knowing the rewards for your patience. And you get to meet old friends and talk about the weather, politics, sports or your summer plans. It’s laid back. It’s oh so Maritime. Did I mention pie?

June is for brides and grooms. Weddings are anticipation on steroids.

With summer around the corner, people are planning vacations which could include a road trip to far flung places or maybe just a jaunt down to Whidden’s, one of the best camping grounds in these parts. It’s hardly roughing it when you can get a Wheel pizza delivered to your campsite or taking the three minute walk to their establishment on the Main.

Smores. Roasting wieners. A cold can of Keith’s. A singsong around a campfire. And blackflies. Now there’s a buffet fit for a king.

Family reunions abound. And high school reunions. I’m working with a group of former classmates of the former Antigonish High School who are planning a 50th reunion in 2020. Fifty. How in the hell did that happen?

While all of these things are precious, just feeling the warm sun on ones face is such a joy after a cool, wet spring. Take time to enjoy the summer. Savour every moment. Tell stories (and a few lies!) and belt out the refrain of Barrett’s Privateers. Go to the waterfront in Halifax and enjoy the buskers and watch the massive cruise ships enter port. Visit a winery… or two.

Hike the Skyline trail or go trekking through the woods on one of our many fine locals trails like the ones at Keppoch Mountain.

Count the stars and count your blessings.

Embrace the day. Feel the wind and try to catch it. It is fleeting, like life itself. Put the wind in your sails and the pedal to the metal.

It’s summer. There’ll never be another quite like it.


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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on June 14, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with 3 comments


“And he will raise you up, on eagle’s wings,

Bear you on the breath of dawn.”

On Eagle’s Wings – Michael Joncas

Reflections on death and dying, and the aftermath.

Four weeks ago today, our mother “slipped the surly bonds of earth.”  Death remains one of life’s great mysteries and it is not a subject that I would normally tackle in this space. However, watching our “north, south, east and west” leave this world has caused me to do a lot of reflecting over the past 28 days.

Is there a good way to die?

No one has been able to tell us what it is like. Many people have claimed to have had near death experiences and have talked about the white light phenomenon. However, many of us have observed a loved one dying.

I am not going to attempt to weigh in on tragic deaths. This is a totally different domain. I wish to speak about dying at an advanced age after a life well lived.

Spending one’s last days surrounded by family with lots of talk, laughter, music and prayer might be as good as it gets. Most people want to be at home in their final hours but many times this is simply not possible. Many people end up in a care facility. There has been a perception for a long time that this would be the last place a person would want to go at the end of a full and productive life. But from my own experience spending time visiting various nursing homes in the area, this perception is erroneous. The care is first rate. The staffs are competent and compassionate. Many of them have palliative rooms for the comfort of the resident and their families when the journey is coming to an end.

We don’t want to see our loved ones suffer. When death is inevitable, we want the suffering to end quickly. But not too quickly. The conundrum of death.

And then it is over. The struggle, the pain and the worries, along with all the joys of a long life for our loved ones ceases. And we are left to ponder.

When the centre of a family’s universe is gone, there is an empty feeling that’s very hard to describe. Every birthday or special event, family reunions and gatherings of all manner, have centred on your parent for nine decades. The feeling of loss is palpable.

This is followed by a deluge of memories and stories. With many of us coming from large families, there’s no shortage of stories.

And photos. It reminds me of the old Jim Croce song, “Photographs and Memories”. Mom was a meticulous organizer and nowhere is this more apparent than photo albums she carefully arranged by date going back to the mid-1940s. Every picture tells a story.

There’s a picture on my writing table. It is from our last family reunion in 2015. Amidst all of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren sits the matriarch of the clan. While her physical presence won’t be felt again, her spirit lives on.

No death is joyous but a life well lived is to be celebrated.





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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on June 11, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 4 comments

An evening at Crystal Cliffs

It was with some bemusement that I listened to the call in show on CBC’s Maritime Noon last Friday on a short road trip to Port Hawkesbury. A professor at Cape Breton University has been awarded a $350,000 grant to “study the links between leisure and nature”, as the lead in to the story indicated. Excuse me but do we really need a $350,000 study to tell us that a walk in the woods is good for the body and the soul? Regular readers know that I wrote a post about this very topic on May 28th and didn’t get paid a cent to pass along the wisdom of 66 years on this planet.

How sad that it has come to this. We now have to instruct people in the fine art of combining nature and leisure. It’s not surprising with the amount of time many people spend staring at a screen of one sort or another. At least we old farts have the benefit of having grown up in a two channel television universe. Our parents threw us out of the house when we were children and nature was our playground. Nowadays in big cities, people are calling child welfare authorities when they see kids playing outdoors unchaperoned.

I don’t think we need an expensive study to tell us what we know. To feel better, ditch the electronic devices and get the hell out of the house for a few hours.

It is tragic that many children and young adults will never experience the wonders of nature like the symmetry of a spider web or the flight of a monarch butterfly. They won’t get to see turtles laying their eggs on a graveled road or wild, fragrant flowers blowing in the breeze. If they hit the pause button and go to The Landing, they might see an eagle teaching its young how to fly or a beaver hauling branches to build its home. Sadly, most young people will never experience the pure joy of climbing a tree or building a fort. Soppy sentimentalism you say? I don’t think so. A generation devoid of experiencing the outdoors in an unstructured way can hardly champion the environment later in life.

We routinely take our grandchildren to local beaches. Looking for rocks, shells, and other treasures is surely one of the most rewarding experiences for a young child and adults.

It doesn’t require a research grant to state the obvious connection between leisure and nature.

Have you heard enough about Trump and Ford? I thought so. But here’s my tiny postscript to the Ontario election. On the day of recent election, I polled a few friends who live in Ontario. Full and complete disclosure: they are Maritimers and see the world through a different set of lenses! You could sense the trepidation about what was to happen. Here is what I wrote to one of them: “It’s so tragic that politics has become so tribal all over the world. It doesn’t matter who the candidate is any more. It’s about winning at any cost regardless of morals, ethics, or talent. A very sad time for democracy. Actually, democracy is under siege.”

Winston Churchill once said that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”

It is indeed a worrisome time in the history of the human race but this is nothing new. We just know about things instantaneously.

Here’s an idea. Stop fretting about things you can’t control (like Trump’s Twitter feed). Grab a friend and go for a walk, preferably with someone young who doesn’t get out in the fresh air often. Show them the flowers of a chestnut tree like the one below. Tell them that these beautiful flowers will turn into brown chestnuts. In a few weeks’ time, go back and take a prickly chestnut, bust it open, and show them how to make a chestnut necklace. Worry will soon disappear.

Have a great week.



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