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Sunday 31 May 2015


Spring is well under way. The leaves are newly emerged and the temperatures have risen enough to allow for sleeping with the windows open. However, one thing that is missing is fog.

Having grown up in St. John's, Newfoundland, I know fog. When the warm Gulf Stream current reaches northern latitudes and collides with the colder Labrador current, the result is fog, plenty of it. Newfoundland is in its path. Fog rolls into the harbours and bays, over the hills, enveloping everything natural and man made. It impedes air travel and makes highway travel more risky as well. People adapt their lives to pea soup-like fog conditions.

Rick and I spent our married lives in central Newfoundland, as far away from the ocean as one can get on the island of Newfoundland. While there was not as much fog as in the coastal areas of the island, fog was still a part of life.

Now, living in Prince Edward Island, near the ocean again, it is curious that there is so little fog. Lacking the interaction of the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Labrador current, there is little generation of the misty droplets. We notice its absence. 

              Harbourside in Summerside

Here, the ocean view is rarely shrouded in fog. The grey, blue, or muddy dark waters glisten under the sun, at high and low tide. Sometimes however, we miss the fog of home; or is it the connection to our birthplace that we really miss?

              Water Street at Low Tide

Thursday 28 May 2015


With the beautiful weather this week, it was time to tackle the vegetable patch again. We had already boosted the soil with some composted sheep manure. It was time to add some seeds. Over the last two summers, I planted too much in the garden box and am determined not to do the same this year. I needed some string and nails to section off the box to help organize the planting. Of course, my husband, Rick had everything I needed. 

While he assisted me, he told me the story of the kite string which we used on the box. Years ago, in the late 1980s, we visited my family in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland in late August. Mom's next door neighbour moved to Labrador that summer and left this reel of string on the lawn. It was there for the entire time we were visiting. The day we left, Rick picked it off the lawn and took it home to Grand Falls with us. It was not used until this day.

Like his grandfather, Ern, and his father, Melvin, before him, Rick keeps things, just in case he needs them another time. This is Ern Smith's legacy, that genetic make-up that causes his grandson to hold on to something because it might 'come in handy' later. And so it did, more than twenty five years later. 

We laughed about the history of the string and thought of Ern while we worked on the garden. It was a great day in every way.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

The Miracle of Green

The days are upon us, those few days every spring when the leaves burst from their buds. It starts with that hint of green replacing the bare branches and twigs which weathered the worst nature could muster.

A week ago, trees looked the same as they have for seven months. 

Mere days ago, snow covered the ground at the base of the trees, now just one small patch. 

Suddenly however, the promise of green is evident.

Watching this eruption is one of my favourite natural spectacles. It is slow, not for the impatient or those needing instant gratification. It unfurls slowly over a week or so, resulting is that new green, 

fresh from nature's factory, a mix of molecules which, under the right conditions, renew tree and spirit.

We have the privilege of watching the miracle!

Sunday 24 May 2015

Dancing Spirit

She was a reluctant newborn with a tenuous hold on life. Since that time however, over four years now, Sylvie has celebrated that life with joy. Her very being is a testament to love of life including dance, movement.

At two, she spent hours watching The Nutcracker on youtube with the attention of an adult. Her ballet moves, as she called them, were practiced often and with much enthusiasm. She watched Angelina Ballerina so as to copy the movement.

Then she went to ballet class where she watched for a few weeks, afraid to move to the dance floor, watching from the sidelines. When she finally tried it, she was taken with the music, movement and the group led by the teacher. The classes were not long enough.

Now the group is preparing for the year-end show. She will be one of a group of butterflies, whose wings can actually move. Sylvie is thrilled with the costume and the fact that she will be on the stage where she has seen other performers. Her excitement is infectious.

Witnessing Sylvie's love of dance is entertaining and heart warming. The performance itself will be a bonus.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Our Little Echo

There is an echo around the homes in our family these days. It emanates from our two year old granddaughter, Caitlin. 

She is on an approximate five second delay, then repeats anything she hears. This goes for sounds such as laughs, screams, giggles or words. This is especially true when it comes to repeating after her four year old sister, Sylvie.

  Peat and Repeat, Sylvie and Caitlin

Caitlin's echoing is very dangerous for older people in the family who have a renewed need to be careful of each word uttered. A sudden expletive can be repeated by our echo with perfect diction; self-censoring is essential for all adults in Caitlin's company now.

Meanwhile, our echo is trying everything out, sounds and words, as if the ability to repeat them is the real magic. She is thrilled with herself and her new found voice. We, her family, cherish these moments with her because they pass all too quickly.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

To Sleep Or Not...

Women of a certain age know all about sleepless nights, whether from nursing a baby when younger, or, later in life, hot flashes disturbing your sleep. While sleep can be evasive, sometimes when it does come, it can be sudden or sound.

My sister-in-law, Michele, comes to mind where sudden sleep in concerned. As one story goes, my mother was talking to Michele in the living room one evening. They were sharing stories of the past week since they had last seen each other. Mom talked and Michele responded but suddenly stopped mid sentence.

Mom said,"Michele, Michele."

Thinking that Michele had died suddenly, Mom walked over and bent to see if Michele's chest was still rising. As Mom leaned over, Michele woke and finding Mom's face in her face, was startled, which in turn startled Mom. Both jumped with fright. After their hearts started again, the story became part of Michele's herstory.

There was a time we needed a jackhammer for work in our house in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland. The contractor came early one morning, and I had just gone to sleep after a restless night. Believe me, you do not get sympathy for sleeplessness when part of your herstory is sleeping through the sound of a jackhammer breaking up a concrete floor not fifteen feet away in your house.

We all have to sleep sometime!

Monday 18 May 2015

Growing Pains

The cold floor was the solution. When I woke with pains in my legs as a young child, Mom and Dad accidentally discovered that when they put me down on the cold floor, it helped. However, the pains continued as I grew into adulthood. Over time I learned how to cope, though sometimes not too successfully. The pain sometimes woke me at night when I was in my twenties.

I learned over time that natural products, such as oil of wintergreen, could be helpful. Though the odour was strong, the oily liquid gave some relief. However, the strong smell limited when I could use the remedy, unless I wanted the wintergreen scent assaulting an unsuspecting public. This often meant I only used the oil at night.

One winter night I woke to the pain again and half asleep, rose to get the wintergreen. I quickly applied it and went back to bed. Several minutes later, Rick woke, and sniffing the air said, "What's that smell?"

"Oil of wintergreen," was the reply. 

"Are you sure?"
"Yes," I replied but I too now noticed the strong, unusual odor.

"Marie, that's not oil of wintergreen. What did you rub on your legs?"

Curious now, and beginning to think he was right, I went again to the bathroom, turned on the light and grabbed the little bottle from the counter. 

Oil of citronella. We used it as insect repellent.

Returning to bed after I cleaned up and reapplied the correct oil, Rick commented, "At least we won't get bitten by any mosquitos tonight." 

He was right!

Thursday 14 May 2015

Ice Cream Tour

It may happen this year. We've threatened to do it for years, but this may be the year to start our ice cream tour of Prince Edward Island. In 2004, we visited our daughter several times during her first year nursing on this island. We noticed the dairy bars immediately, having come from Grand Falls-Windsor, and the home of the big scoop...of ice cream, at Centennial corner store. However, Newfoundland cannot compete with the dairy bars in Prince Edward Island which appear to spontaneously generate in the countryside.

The diary bars open every April now and most close in September. This year many opened when the snow was still around. Still, the people flock for the sweet, creamy offerings, often made with island ingredients. Sometimes the menu includes hot food as well. 
The unusual combinations available are often curious, such as the bacon sundae at Kenny's in Ellerslie, about thirty-five kilometers from Summerside. 

We visited there last year after a picnic at Green Park. 

At Kenny's the hot and cold menu offers lots of variety. 

When we visited, we had our granddog with us, Georgie, who also loves ice cream.

Georgie gave her drool of approval as did we, minus the drool of course. After a day in the park, the ice cream was a welcome treat.

We are accustomed to bus tours as a way to see the world. Ice cream lovers such as we are, would enjoy a dairy bar tour as a way to test the various dairy confections available on this island. For us, the tour will have to occur over many summers; the waistlines and cholesterol levels could not handle it otherwise. Meanwhile, our visits to our local dairy bar have begun already. However, a trip to Kenny's may be on the agenda over the long weekend.

We did bump our heads!

Tuesday 12 May 2015

The Terror of the Pussy Willow

This time of year, pussy willows make an appearance. The furry little buds belong to the willow tree and are one of the early signs of spring. When we lived in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, these trees were part of the border on the back of our property. I often cut some of the furry branches in the spring and displayed them in the house. They brought nature inside after the long winter.

A friend gave me a small bouquet of pussy willow and daphne this past week. The sight of the fuzzy willows in the vase reminded my husband, Rick, of a classroom experience he had in Buchans, Newfoundland. He walked in his classroom one day to find a group of Grade Seven and Eight girls screaming, some almost hysterical. When he asked what was going on, the girls pointed at one of the boys as the culprit.

Trying to get to the bottom of the situation, Rick told the boy to come with him to the corridor.

He asked, "What's going on in there?" 

Shoulders slumped, head down, the boy lifted his clenched hand from his side and slowly opened his fingers to reveal a single pussy willow bud.

The girls thought it was a caterpillar. 

Sunday 10 May 2015

Spring Melt

Winter weather started late but then came with a vengeance, as if to compensate.
The winds, ample snow and bitter cold made for two months of misery.

The melt got off to a slow start

With the sun's heat settling the snow.

Then the rains made a mess

Which required vigilance and pumping.

Slowly the lawn emerged

As the earth absorbed the run-off.

More grass appeared daily,
As if a blanket was rolled back.

Then a temporary setback!

Uh oh!
Where's the mower?

Thursday 7 May 2015

Mother's Day Traditions

With Mother's Day in North America this coming weekend, some of the traditions around the celebration of our moms come to mind. Aunt Marie Smith tells about Mother's Day in Corner Brook years ago when she was a child. The children made flowers by twisting crepe paper into the shape of roses, often leaving their hands full of dye. The color of the rose signified whether the mother was alive or deceased, 

red for a living mother, 

white for the deceased. 

Men wore the appropriate rose in their lapels and they dressed in suits and ties, attending Church on Sunday afternoon. The day was really commemorated on a community level.

Aunt Marie accompanied her family to the Salvation Army Church in the afternoon where the Sunday school children did a pageant for the mothers. At the end of the pageant each child pinned the flower on his or her mother. While Marie and her family were not of the Salvation Army faith, they joined others  at that church to celebrate the occasion.

In our family, for the last number of years, we celebrate with a meal of lobsters, the first of the season. 

This tradition started in Newfoundland, before we moved to Prince Edward Island. However, this year the season has a late start because of ice conditions around our island home. Lobster fishermen are heading out to set their traps this morning, a week later than scheduled. We hope to enjoy our tradition of lobster, if not Sunday, then next weekend.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers! Whether the roses are red or white, you are always in our minds and hearts. 

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Storm Attitudes

Every time I experience a thunderstorm, I think of my grandmothers. Though they were very different women, they each raised their families in the early part of the twentieth century. However, my maternal grandparents, Monnie and Gus, lived off the land and sea, fishing and farming, with uncertain economic outcome. My paternal grandparents, Ida and Sam, lived off Sam's income as engineer on the railway which was a steady, predictable income.

The women responded very differently to thunderstorms. My mother always spoke of her mother's deathly fear of such storms. With the first clap of thunder, Nan disappeared under a bed or cowered between the bed and dresser, not coming out until the storm was over. Nan trembled with fear at such times.

Dad's mother was the opposite. She embraced the display of nature, sitting by the window, reveling in the sights and sounds, watching for the streaks and flashes of light, delighting in the sound of the thunder, especially when directly overhead.

It is interesting that the woman whose livelihood relied on nature was more afraid of its display in such a storm. Was she enough in tune with nature and the dangers associated with it to have more then a healthy respect for it? The other grandmother, not as reliant on nature for her livelihood, was more taken with the beauty of an electrical storm and witnessing it. 

These two women had two very different reactions to the same display of nature. I wonder how each developed her storm attitude?

Sunday 3 May 2015

Rabbit Tales

Newfoundlanders often take advantage of all that nature has to offer. Hunting and fishing are common practices. People hunt moose, caribou, birds of various types, bear, seal. Rabbit is sometimes shot but is often caught in snares.

Rabbit makes a delicious meal and is a welcome addition to the menu. Snares are wire lassos that are attached along the path of a rabbit run, an area showing rabbit activity through the underbrush. The lasso tightens around the rabbit's neck, killing it. Hunters set their snares and check them daily during the season.

When we lived in Buchans, Newfoundland, we often had rabbits from acquaintances in Buchans Junction. We lived in a mobile home then and Rick cleaned the rabbits underneath the trailer, keeping all the mess out of the house.

Rabbit stew with a pastry cooked on top of the root vegetables was delicious. The rabbit available in the grocery stores today just does not have the same appeal as that wild rabbit.

Recently, my niece, Samantha, visited. She is well versed in the modern electronics which she sells in a major electronics franchise whilst attending university. She can quote specifications, prices, and brands with surety and speed. There is one thing she did not know about however.

Samantha and my husband, Rick, discussed the tv channels available now and the programs they watch. Rick, not much of a tv watcher, commented, "I would be satisfied with CBC and rabbit ears."

Samantha replied, "What?"

Note: CBC is a Canadian national public radio and television broadcaster.