Tuesday, June 14, 2022

When people show you who they are, believe them

As the pandemic stretches into a third year, I find myself more and more discouraged. Solutions for ending it exist, but few people seem interested in discussing, let alone implementing, them. The hardest thing now is coming to grips with just how selfish we humans can be - even people I thought of as "good people" - people I considered thoughtful, caring friends. It's been shocking to see so many disregard the safety and wellbeing of others at every turn, time and time again, for more than two years.

I get it. I do. The pandemic has been hard on all of us. And we can't always do the "right" thing, the selfless thing. But it's disheartening to witness so many always put themselves first, even when it means imposing risks on others. It says a lot about our culture - none of it good.

In this part of the world, governments are doing their level best to pretend the pandemic is over - or, at least, that high levels of infection, illness and death are inevitable. They're not, of course, but it seems most people prefer comfortable lies to difficult truths. We've gone from "we're all in this together" to "I won't be mildly inconvenienced to save anyone's else's life" in head-spinningly short order. It's soul-destroying in ways I find hard to express.

I'm not sure how we make it through the next few years without complete social, economic and environmental breakdown. The one thing I do know is that, when this is over (if it ever is), the number of people I will continue to think of as friends is much much smaller than when it began. I can't ever unsee the raw narcissism, entitlement, and greed that has characterized so many people's actions and attitudes.

I wish I could be less judgemental of others, more hopeful about the future, but, if I'm brutally honest, not much of what I've witnessed has surprised me. The people who now think nothing of boarding a plane a few days after testing positive for covid, or refuse to wear a mask at work, are the same people who've always put themselves first. I just never wanted to believe they were really that selfish, but I no longer have any doubt that they're exactly who they've always shown themselves to be. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache by accepting that sooner.

The flipside of course is that there are those who've gone above and beyond to care for others over these past two years - especially those working in healthcare, education and retail jobs - and I'm grateful to count so many friends and family members amongst them. Those friends and family are more precious to me now than ever. When my spirits are at their lowest ebb, it's them I count on to renew my faith in humanity.

So where do we go from here? Personally, I plan to keep lobbying for better from our politicians and fellow citizens, while doing all I can to keep myself and others safe. Hopefully, we'll eventually realize we're in deep doggy do and get our act together. If science comes through with better vaccines and treatments, and a few of our political leaders grow a spine and/or a conscience, maybe we can still find out way out of this mess. 

Sorry to be sharing such grim observations. I just really can't think of anything especially uplifting to say about all this, so here are a few soothing images from recent photo outings instead. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Bee-autiful Bees and Meadow Flowers

It was a hard winter - what with covid still raging and Nova Scotia's new Conservative government. We've mostly stayed home in an effort to avoid getting sick. So far, that's worked, but I'm not sure we can avoid it forever. Fingers crossed better vaccines are available soon.

On the upside, spring has sprung and the meadow's returning to life. I got out and took a few photos earlier this week. I love that our yard has become a safe place birds, bees and butterflies. I haven't taken time to photograph the birds yet but here are a few of the bees I found buzzing in the azaleas.

The azaleas aren't the only things blooming. Here are a few photos of other flowers in the meadow at the moment. Many are quite tiny and don't make much of an impression from a distance but the bees love 'em just the same. As summer progresses, I should have photos of showier flowers to share - that is, if the deer don't get to them first. 

Last but not least, here's a photo of one of our new little magnolia trees, just beginning to leaf out. The trees were gifted to us by a sweet gentlemen who grows them across the river. None is more than a couple of feet high yet so I'm thrilled they all made it through the winter. Fingers crossed they settle in nicely this year and love their new homes.

Speaking of magnolias, I photographed some beauties at the Halifax Public Garden a few weeks ago. Magnolias are my favourite spring flowers. 

Here's hoping summer brings good news - about covid, the war in Ukraine, and the climate crisis. We sure could use some. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Running lessons: Work with the weather

Yesterday was a ridiculously sunny, warm day for November - which made it relatively easy to to go for my scheduled run. It was so warm, in fact, that I shed the long-sleeved shirt I'd been wearing when I reached town, and ran the rest in just singlet. (Thank goodness, I was wearing my belly-covering Chicago marathon singlet, and not my usual running bra.) 

When I arrived home, Husband was preparing to tackle the next chore on our list - garden cleanup - but I quickly put the kibosh on that, suggesting we go for a bike-ride instead. Being the good sport he is, he immediately agreed and got busy loading our bikes on the car so we could drive the 20kms to Lunenburg and bike the trails there. 

Of course, we could have ridden the trails in and around Bridgewater instead but we were ready for a change of scenery and keen to explore the "rails to trails" system in Lunenburg. Also, we knew Lunenburg had more pub and cafe options if we wanted to stop for refreshments at some point. In the end, we only rode for an hour or so before making our way to the deck of the Knot - a favourite pub we hadn't visited since the pandemic began. It felt great to sit in the warm sunshine, sipping a tasty beer and snacking on sweet potato fries and wings - almost "normal".

Some might argue working in the garden would have been a better use of our afternoon but, given how glorious the day was, it seems to me to that taking time for a little fun was the very best thing we could do with it.

Working with the weather is important when you live in a climate like ours. When folks around here complain about the weather, you'll often hear someone reply "well, just give it a minute and it'll change".  It's not at all unusual for us to have three seasons in a day. Given that, it's important to take advantage of the good and not-so-good weather when it happens. 

The first few years we owned our current house, we mostly just stayed in it on weekends. I was still working in Halifax then, and we had a small place in Dartmouth, where we spent Mondays to Fridays. The day we moved in, we stacked a half dozen boxes filled with miscellaneous belongings in a corner of the dining room and I promised Husband we'd unpack them the first rainy weekend. As the months passed without a rainy weekend, the stacked boxes became a bit of a joke but I refused to give up glorious summer days at the beach to sort through them, so we just covered them with a tablecloth and ignored them until the weather finally cooperated. As I remember it, we finally unpacked them shortly before Christmas. 

When I was running regularly, I worked with the weather in the same way whenever possible - modifying my training schedule to run when it was mild and dry. Of course, I wasn't always able to avoid running in rain, snow and/or ice, but I realized early on that running in better weather made it more likely I'd stick with whatever program I was following. I'm trying to do the same now to make my Return to Running a little less painful.

The same applies to the rest of my life. Rainy days are ideal for tackling indoor projects so why not use them for that, saving the better weather for outdoor chores and the very best days for impromptu adventures?  I find I can accomplish just as much with much less effort that way and, now that I'm retired there's no reason not to do things in whatever order makes the most sense. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Camper Adventures: Exploring the Fundy Coast

Our second camper road trip this summer took us to the other side of the Nova Scotia, where we explored the Fundy coast from Windsor to Advocate Harbour. It's a part of the province we hadn't visited in decades so we were curious to see what had changed since we'd last been there. 

Our first stop was in Cheverie, where we paused to have lunch and visit a camera obscura we'd heard about. The camera was built by Dalhousie Architecture students nearly a decade ago and is still in good condition. You can can read more about how and why it was built here. There are trails behind the site but we were on a mission to reach Burntcoat Head while the tide was low so didn't take time to explore them. 

Our next stop was Walton, where we couldn't resist a brief detour to check out the lighthouse and learn a little history of the area. Walton may be a tiny place now but it has an impressive mining, shipbuilding and transportation past that's well worth taking some time to learn about. 

After that, we were off to Burntcoat Head Provincial Park. I'd been wanting to visit for some time, and we arrived in plenty of time to explore the ocean floor. The tides at Burntcoat Head are some of the highest and fastest in the world, so staff are stationed beside the stairs leading to the beach to ensure visitors know what time they need to hightail it to higher ground to be out of harm's way. 

The force of the water rising and falling so quickly has made for some truly remarkable coastline along this part of the Fundy.

By the time we left the park, we needed to start looking for a spot to camp for the night. There weren't a lot of options. All the campgrounds along the way were fully booked so we paused in a parking lot next to the Lawrence House Museum in Maitland to cook and eat supper.

The museum was closed and the parking lot had a terrific view so we'd have liked to spend the night there but signs warned us overnight parking wasn't permitted so we headed a little further up the road and found a less picturesque but quiet spot beside what looked to be a seldom used public tennis court. 

Before sunset, we took in views from a newly refurbished public pier nearby and wandered into the village to marvel at the beautiful old buildings at its core. Most were in need of significant repair but it was still easy to tell Maitland had been a prosperous place at one time.

Our sleep that night would have been peaceful if we hadn't made the mistake of parking next to a marsh. We didn't realize the camper wasn't totally mosquito-proof so spent a good part of the night chasing and killing dozens of the little blighters. 

From Maitland, we made a beeline for the far shore, by-passing the regional hub of Truro. Our first stop after Truro was Great Village, where we found a spot near the river to have lunch and walk Jackie. Then it was off to Bass River and the Dominion Chair General Store, where we purchased duct tape to seal a couple of small holes in our ceiling vents, which is where the mosquitos had gained entry. 

When we last visited Bass Village 25 or more years ago, Dominion Chair Company was in full operation and a go-to place for folks wanting to purchase high quality tables and chairs. Those days are over, but the general store is still a fun place to explore if you're in the area. 

From Bass River, we continued along the coast to Economy, where we stopped at the Cliffs of Fundy Geosite Welcome Centre to pick up maps and information about the geological significance of the Fundy coastline. We only had time to visit a view of the designated sites comprising the geopark, but look forward to exploring more of them on our next trip.

Our base while we visited the area was Five Islands Provincial Park - a beautiful and well-maintained campground with fantastic views. Our first night - a Tuesday - was spent on a site near the top of the park, where we were mostly surrounded by trees and had only limited views, but we were lucky enough to snag a site with more impressive views for our remaining nights, when folks in a tent trailer checked out early to avoid getting caught in the rain. Fortunately, the skies stayed clear for most of our next two days on the site - though it was raining hard by the time we headed home on Friday.

Wednesday morning, we were up early and headed for Cape d'Or, which I'd been wanting to visit since seeing friends' photos of the place. It didn't disappoint. The road to the parking area situated high above the lighthouse was a bit of adventure at times but well worth it. We hiked down to the lighthouse and spent an hour or more exploring, with mostly just seagulls for company. 

In normal years, the cottages behind the lighthouse house a restaurant and AirBnB but, due to covid-19 restrictions, neither was operational while we were there. 

After hiking back up to the parking area, we ate lunch overlooking the Fundy, then explored a trail along the top of the cliff, before heading into Advocate Harbour for a quick look around. 

There's a wonderful restaurant in Advocate Harbour called Wild Caraway, where we hoped to have a meal, but unfortunately it wasn't open the day we were there. It's on our list for next time. 

En route back to Five Islands, we stumbled on at a place I'd never heard of, Spencer's Island - a tiny community that was home to a substantial shipyard a generation or two ago. There's not much there now but a small cluster of mostly seasonal homes, a private campground perched where the shipyard used to operate, and a large stoney beach perfect for walking. Apparently, those familiar with NS's sailing past know it as the birthplace of the Mary Celeste, a ship with a tragic and spooky history. A marker beside the water outlines her story.

There are a few public parking spots just beside the beach

We arrived back at our campsite in time to take in a fabulous sunset before tucking in for the night. I took a lot of photos that evening but these are two of my favourites.

Thursday morning, we were up early to drive into Parrsboro, where we ate breakfast by the beach then headed out to explore various sites of interest nearby.

A morning view from our campsite

Our first stop was Ottawa House Museum. The house has a long and storied history but it's best known as the summer home of a former Prime Minister, Sir Charles Tupper - quite a fascinating character, as it turns out. The museum, operated by the local historical society, is jam-packed with fascinating (if somewhat chaotically displayed) artifacts and memorabilia so we enjoyed spending an hour or so exploring it.

The parking lot at the museum had awesome views too!
Too bad overnight parking was prohibited. 

Just up the beach from Ottawa House is Partridge Island, a site of particular geological and historical significance for local indigenous and settler communities. An eco hiking trail up and across the Island offered some spectacular views, as well as an introduction to the island's history.

As we hiked the beach towards Patridge Island, we were fortunate to witness Glooscap's grandmother's cooking pot in action. Apparently, as the tide comes in, air trapped in porous rocks beneath the water's surface is released to create a long strip of what looks like boiling water along the beach.

After our hike, we drove a little further down the shore to the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), where we stopped for a bite of lunch, then visited the centre's permanent exhibits, which provide an overview of efforts to develop tidal energy technologies that are robust enough to operate reliably in the fierce waters of the Bay of Fundy. Storm clouds were beginning to form by then, which made for some dramatic views from the centre's grounds. 

Cape Split, shot with my long lens

We made it back to Five Islands just before dusk. With a major storm approaching, we realized it was likely our last opportunity to visit Lighthouse Park. Undeterred by thick clouds of mosquitos, Husband took Jackie for a last walk while I madly attempted to capture a few shots of the amazing light

Clam diggers working quickly ahead of the storm

Back at our campsite, we savoured one last sunset over the bay before tucking in for the night.  

As I've already mentioned, it was raining hard by the time we hit the road for home Friday morning so we only stopped briefly a couple of times and I didn't bother trying to take photos. 

I hope we'll return to the Fundy again soon. There's lots worth seeing that we didn't have time for on this trip, and we'd love to explore more of the geo-sites that make the area so unique.