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Sunday 31 January 2016

Wisdom in a Bulb

Four years ago, my friend gave me a bulb vase and a hyacinth bulb for Christmas. I had never grown a bulb this way and was anxious to begin. It was a wonder. All one has to do is add water and place the filled vase in daylight. Within an hour of the water kissing the bottom of the bulb, the roots began to grow. Over the next two to three weeks, the roots proliferate, the greenery emerges and the flower buds develop then bloom. Sat on the window sill in winter, the vase and its contents are a curiosity to visitors and a welcome distraction to the winter scene outside. We love it.

This little bulb is a reminder that we only need the bare essentials in order to flourish. If our basic material needs are met, the only other essential is love. It is the water and light to our essence, allowing us to send down roots, reach for the sky and bloom.

It is also a reminder of the potential in each of us. The bulb itself did not look very impressive; one could have thought it worthless and discarded it. Its appearance masked the potential waiting to be nurtured, just like the promise that dwells in each of us.

The colour of the flower is always a surprise for us. We've had various colours, all equally lovely. They are all an expression of their beautiful hyacinth selves, none better than the other, each precious in its own right. They are another reminder to their human viewers that each of us is a unique expression of the same humanity, regardless of colour, creed or anything else.

There is much to be learned from a little bulb.

Friday 29 January 2016

The Influence

Last weekend in our county on Prince Edward Island, Canada, there were eight people in a population of 45,000, arrested and charged with impaired driving. A few weeks ago, a member of our family had a close call with an erratic driver whilst on the way to work. Drinking and driving is a serious problem in this province.

Several years ago, when we first moved to Summerside, I took a course in mystery writing. Our instructor covered the basics, then we explored the justice system in this province which included a trip to court to watch the proceedings for the morning.

It was plea day. Numerous people appeared in court to answer charges, many of whom had been in the jail downstairs overnight. There were many charges of impaired driving; most of the defendants were older men, many with a history of the same behaviour. There was one younger man with a first offense.

As I sat there, I was furious. With each new charge and person stood to face the judge, I became more angry. As time went on, it felt like my head would explode.

This anger arose from years ago when I was fifteen years old and one of my classmates was killed by an impaired driver. Her family was headed to Church on Saturday evening when a young man, leaving a club after an afternoon of drinking, hit their car. This was in the days prior to seat belt usage; she went through the windshield. She was a bright, capable young woman who did not have the chance to grow up.

Her parents were in hospital, so our class walked to the funeral home and sat vigil for her. In that room with the closed white casket, a glowing candle and the smell of dying flowers, we sat looking at that box, not believing that our classmate was there. I caught myself looking around to find her at one point, then realized she was gone forever. I did not understand what that experience had done to me until that day in court.

Fifteen year old Marie, in an older body, was sat in court that day, watching and listening. Before sentence was pronounced, lawyers, most often a legal aid lawyer, gave a history of the defendant. This information included the person's past offenses, the employment history and place of residence.

During that morning, it became obvious that the situations and tragedy were repeated from person to person. By the end of the session, I felt exhausted and needed time to process what had happened. The class went for coffee and speaking with the others, I realized the anger was gone, replaced with sadness for my friend and the people caught in the grip of alcohol, where a vehicle can become a weapon of self destruction and terror for others on the road.

Over the last few years, I have thought of those men, including the man who killed my friend. How has he lived with what he did that fateful day? Will my family or friends "meet" any of these impaired drivers on the road some day? What became of the young man who appeared for his first impaired driving offense? Has alcohol taken over his life as it had those older men? Is he one who will be appearing in court numerous times over the years? Will any of them be the cause of great tragedy for another family? Have they given the car keys to a designated driver, called a cab or walked home when needed?

My hope and wish is for each to find a life free of the influence. 

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Down by the Frozen Bay

While our neighbours to the south along the eastern seaboard of the United States were pounded by a blizzard last weekend, we had two glorious winter days. We bundled up and headed down to the boardwalk by the bay. 

With the windchill, it felt like -11 degrees Celsius, so bundling up was essential.

The bay is frozen and snow covered now;

the sun with the blue sky made for a brilliant day.

Summerside, at sea level, is near indistinguishable from the sea as ice and snow blend together now.

The boardwalk, the human-made contribution to the scene, is bare and safe under foot.

There were not many people out that Saturday morning, not too many willing to brave the cold. But the place and the circumstance were beautiful; 

a short walk and we were ready to head home, make some soup and sit by the fire.  

A book of short stories awaited

Monday 25 January 2016

She Got Me Drove

Georgie, the golden retriever granddog, has been back home for a few weeks now. Reminders of her are everywhere as the two hundred million or so blond hairs she shed are never disposed of that quickly. We will find these furry remnants for many weeks to come. By the time she visits again, we may be down to the last few tufts.

Memories of Georgie linger like the hair. Since I am not a great sleeper, I am never early to bed so as to avoid tossing, turning and disturbing my husband's sleep. Georgie was in the habit of staying up with me the first week she was here. Then she'd had enough.

One night, she rose from her half of the couch and stood in front of me, staring, hardly blinking. When I made eye contact, she looked at the stairs, then back at me, then at the stairs. Repeat. I got the hint. 

While I was in the bathroom, Georgie went to the bottom of the stairs and waited. When I entered the room again, she looked at me, looked up the stairs, back and forth for several repetitions. Georgie doesn't talk but is a great communicator. Any night she was ready for bed, she did the same thing. I am well trained.

Before the days of political correctness, Newfoundlanders had an expression. We'd say things like, "That fella got me drove," meaning he is driving me crazy.

Well, Georgie got me bed.

Friday 22 January 2016

Now and Then

Now we are covered in a blanket of snow 

but before long, rather, three to four months, it will be different. Then the wind will be warm, the sun will have some strength in its beams and linger for more hours each day. Nature will give us her come hither look, tempting us to embrace her in her spring and summer glory. We look forward to the invitation.

For now, photos of some of the summer sights and activities on our beautiful Prince Edward Island will have to do.



Wednesday 20 January 2016

News from the Bay

Sometimes the history of a community tells us a great deal about our family history. We discovered some family history recently in an old newspaper article from the Bay Roberts Guardian, February 20, 1943. Over a number of weeks, the paper printed a lecture given by the Reverend M. Blackmore in 1865, about the early history of the town of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland where my husband's great grandfather, Richard F. Mercer was born. Our discovery helped us understand a bit about this man who died a decade before we were born.

Bay Roberts, located in Conception Bay, was settled later than the neighbouring communities of Harbour Grace and Carbonear. Fishers from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel worked in Newfoundland waters around the year 1560.

The community began as a fishing station about 1700 when these Jersey men established a summer station for salting fish as they worked the Grand Banks. One area of fishing stations came to be known as Mercer's Cove in Bay Roberts.

                                                    Red marks Mercer's Cove

The first permanent settlers to Bay Roberts, the Earles, may have come from Belle Isle, leaving there to avoid conflict with the French. It may be that the Mercers came from that area too, both families settling in the bay in the 1790s.

By 1800, the community had houses located in various locations along that arm of land extending from the bottom of the bay, including Mercer's Cove. At that time there were no roads; a walk along the beach at low tide was one path and another meandered through the woods. It would be many years before the people cleared rocks and forest to make a road.

                                                 Red marks Mercer's Cove

The Mercers expanded to other areas along the arm as their population increased. However, a number of community services were in Mercer's Cove. One of the senior Mercers opened his home for Church services. When a visiting minister was not available, a local man led the services with prayer, verses and a sermon. After this senior Mercer's death, he left his home for religious services for any minister or preacher. This building was in use until a proper Church was built.

Reverend Blackmore spoke about the consecration of the new Church in Bay Roberts as well. He referred to the Church of England Bishop for British North America and Reverend Wix from St. John's sailing into the harbour for the occasion..  

When disputes arose, some of the senior men in the community worked to settle them. Sentencing could include time in the stock which also was in Mercer's Cove.

              Our daughter, descendant of the Mercers of Bay Roberts

More serious infractions were referred to the court in Harbour Grace which was accessed by boat.

When a school was built in 1820, it was located near Mercer's Cove and the first school master was a man from England. 

While we have not been able to trace our Mercer lineage past Richard's father, Eli Mercer, it is likely he is from this line of Mercers of Mercer's Cove in Bay Roberts. With a trip to the archives we may be able to find Eli's ancestry. 

                                             Grace Newell Mercer

Eli married Grace Newell of Bareneed on January 5, 1860. They had five children

Emma Mercer, Oct. 30, 1860
Patience Mercer, Oct. 26, 1863
Mary Anne Mercer, Sept. 30, 1867
John Mercer, Sept. 25, 1870
Richard Mercer, Dec.30, 1876.

The youngest son, Richard became a Church of England minister. As a young minister in Burgeo on the south coast of Newfoundland, Richard married Clarinda Moulton, daughter of a local merchant. 

                                    Richard and Clarinda Mercer

Their only son, Richard was my husband's grandfather.

Richard Mercer, grandson Rick and Classie Mercer, wife

It is not surprising that one of the Mercers became a clergyman with the history of religious and moral commitment and education which the earliest members of the family encouraged. 

        Richard, son of Eli Mercer, graduation from the ministry

The graduation photo of Reverend Mercer is the beginning of a life of religious service in the outports of Newfoundland. He did his family proud.


1. Reverend Wix travelled around the coast of Newfoundland and overland to perform weddings and baptisms for the faithful. He officiated at ceremonies for my ancestors in communities such as New Harbour/Dildo and Petty Harbour.

2. Also, our daughter is pictured in a pillory not a stock. A pillory holds your head and hands in place as punishment. Stocks hold the feet in place as well.