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Wednesday 27 February 2019

The old house

Old homesteads always catch my eye as my husband and I drive around rural Prince Edward Island. On my own on a calm sunny day this month, I stopped occasionally to take some photos of old houses.

The most interesting one this day is mere meters from the road with a view to the sea not 100 meters away. 

The two story single dwelling looks to have been white in its day with a blue storm door. There is a window in the attic and a shed attached on one side. Light shines into the main floor from the windows on the back of the house and is visible through the front windows. The roof is sagging and may be leaking.

I can imagine its history. Those walls witnessed the young man bring his shy young bride into her in-laws’ home. They absorbed the cries of the woman’s pain in childbirth and delighted in a young child’s hesitant first steps.

The old house cradled his dying parents as the grandchildren played in hushed tones by the fire. The repeated lessons done at the kitchen table almost made the old walls learn the times tables too. Almost.

Then the young ones were gone, the girls married in a simple white dress which they all wore. How handsome the men looked in their best Sunday clothes. Then my imagination fails me as the scene approaches my current life story and I have questions.

Who was the last resident of this house? Is that person in care somewhere on the island or is the older generation deceased? Who owns the old place now? Are any family members left on the island? What will become of the old place?

Once this house stood proud against the elements as children were conceived, born, raised and death took some family members. Time and the elements can be cruel to the old homes which wrapped their walls around the tears, pain, love and joy of a family.

Monday 25 February 2019

Frozen land and sea

The Evangeline region of Prince Edward Island is just west of our location. On a calm winter day, I took the camera and went for a drive along the coast of Evangeline. I took the ice grips for my boots since the walking is treacherous. The land is icy this year after numerous freeze-thaw cycles. 

Driving along the coast, looking out over the frozen fields and beyond to the sea, it looks like the land and sea blend into one this year.

Sometimes though, it is easy to tell when the land ends.

Often, it is difficult to distinguish between the frozen land and the sea, such as in the area of this cottage. 

Headstones mark the land but where does the sea begin?

This is not the place to have a picnic today.

A few straws of grass behind the colours of the Acadian flag give a hint of land.

Nobody will sit here today.

Smelt fishers often drive on the sea ice. Would you?

Friday 22 February 2019

Old friends

The usual creatures were present along the boardwalk and were the subjects of many conversations among walkers. Many stop to feed and all admire these old friends.

A flock of chickadees was busy along the bridge, flying in from the trees where they kept watch for food. 

They are unable to take unshelled peanuts but if you shell them, the tiny birds will fly off with the nutty treats. 

My husband and I spent time cracking the shells for them.

A female hairy woodpecker will take peanuts any way they are offered.

She doesn’t mind the chickadees and competes with them for the same morsels.

The blue jays were sounding off in the trees but stayed away from the rail of the bridge when the woodpecker and the chickadees were eating. This was unusual for the jays who are normally aggressive around the other birds. 

A raven kept watch above the bridge, surveying the scene. Rarely have I seen them foraging among the treats left by walkers.

Several squirrels were busy in the feeders people leave along the boardwalk. 

One, sat on a branch, chattered loudly as if scolding another for some transgression.

As we walked along the upper part of the boardwalk, a mature bald eagle flew about 20 feet above us, shifting its head from side to side as it hunted. I was unable to photograph the unusual sight. 

We hoped this predator didn’t make lunch of any of our old friends.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

There goes the sun

We’d had twelve hours of snow and high winds and it took a day to dig out. A sunny morning followed without a breath of wind. It was time for a walk along the boardwalk but by mid afternoon when we finally could go, the sun was covered with a thick cloud, so we thought. A rain storm was on the horizon as the temperature rose. 

The area had that calm before the storm feeling and the sun grasped for its last look through the clouds. The trees were an island in a sea of white.

From the gazebo, the cloud along the horizon had a hint of pink beneath a blue which faded into white. The sun tried its best to get through but to no avail. 

From another angle, the river, land and sea all appear as one.

As my husband and I walked the boardwalk, the pink near the horizon lifted and changed colour, making room for more blue. The mid afternoon February light resembled twilight.

Further along, the harsh weather has taken its toll on the deciduous trees along the shoreline. They stood out in stark contrast to the sea of white.

From the bridge, the cloud over the harbour looked like blue sky. The sun had disappeared.

This place provides something different with every visit.

Monday 18 February 2019

Islander Day

This is Islander Day on Prince Edward Island, a holiday which allows families time to have some winter fun. It is a break from the winter routine and a chance to celebrate family and community.

This past weekend my husband and I spent time with our daughter and the children as they skated. While my husband cooked lunch, I stayed with the youngest, Owen who had a cold. His mother and sisters donned their skates and, in spite of the cold, enjoyed the morning outside.

Every time we’ve had a snowstorm this winter, it was followed by a rise in temperature, rain and then a flash freeze. With the ground frozen and the island so flat, water accumulates and now there is ice everywhere. Our daughter’s backyard and the land around it is a natural ice surface.

They had such fun. The girls giggled the entire time they skated. Their mother commented that the ice was better than at the stadium. We hope to repeat the exercise again today.

This is a Canadian scene, a natural ice surface with kids skating and having fun in spite of the cold. The only thing missing is a game of hockey. The girls haven’t taken to hockey yet. Will Owen? We’ll see soon enough.

Note: again I am unable to comment on other blogs! Frustrating!

Friday 15 February 2019

An adventure with Mary

My mother didn’t acquire her vehicle license until after my father died, when she was sixty-one years old. She tried driving when my brother and I were young but quit when she almost drove through the garage door. After Dad died however, their car was parked outside the door and Mom had to rely on others for transportation. She was motivated and after her third attempt at her license, Mom was successful. It was a huge accomplishment, a testament to her determination in spite of fear.

When it came to work on the car, Mom always went to the same garage. The first time she went there was shortly after she had her license. This garage had a pit in the middle of each car bay. 

“Put yer car in here, Mam," said the mechanic. 

Mom looked at the bay and said, "I don't know about that," pointing to the pit.

"You can do it, Mrs. Just take yer time," was the reply.

You can imagine where this is going, or rather, where the car went. Mom touched the gas and the car leapt forward, down into the pit. Though the car was undamaged, it took six men four hours to lift it out. 

Years later, after Mom died, my sister-in-law took their car to the same garage. The workers remembered my mother when my SIL said her name. They laughed about the event. Mom was famous at this garage. Every new employee heard about her pit stop years after she was gone.

Life was always an adventure with our mother.

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Winter in a fishing village

It’s a winter morning in the little fishing village, Victoria-by-the-Sea and not a soul is in sight. The only movement is a garbage truck as it makes its rounds. Without that truck, one might think the little community was frozen in time.

Although the sea is frozen, the community still shows its connection to the water. The signs of life with the sea are everywhere.

The slipway is frozen to the road.

Channel markers are ashore ahead of the freeze-up.

A pleasure craft is high and dry near the wharf.

The hoists are frozen in position, until the fishers need them to lift the catch from their boats.

Restaurants are closed waiting for the fresh seafood.

Palmer’s Range Light has a history museum though the door won’t be open until the tourists return.

Two old boats are at rest near the range light.

The little village is quiet and deserted in the muted light of a cloudy February day. My husband and I are privy to a three dimensional work of art.

Monday 11 February 2019

In the village

We visit the village at least once every summer but a recent mild and calm winter morning drew us out of the house to Victoria-by-the-Sea. The little fishing village in Prince Edward Island is a tourist attraction every summer, as visitors flock to its streets lined with colourful homes, boutiques or the theatre, a vibrant part of community life.

The village is bordered by farmer’s fields while along the wharf, boats may be unloading their catches as they were this past summer when we visited.

The seafood available in the restaurants doesn’t get much fresher.

On this winter day, the sea is frozen from the shoreline as far as the eye can see. The bay, which last summer was home to a flock of Great blue herons, looks like a white wasteland.

Another difference in the village is the rock along the shoreline this winter. An old concrete wall had been breached a number of times by violent storms and was the worse for wear. 

Now a pile of huge rocks provides a barrier and break to the sea and will slow erosion in the area. But for how long?

In recent years, the rate of erosion has increased on our sandstone and sandbar in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Rocks like those in Victoria-by-the-Sea won’t protect us from rising sea levels. In years to come, will there be an island for our grandkids to visit?

Friday 8 February 2019

On-air personals

A television program about people living on a remote refuge in Alaska caught my attention. People live off the grid and off the land as hunters and trappers. The remote cabin dwellers receive news from their families in more populated areas of Alaska as personal messages via radio. A family member can phone the radio station and leave a recorded message which is played on air, or the message can be read by the announcer. This type of communication goes on today in Alaska and is very important to the people involved.

This story reminded me of a similar time in Newfoundland. A radio program sponsored by Gerald S. Doyle, a Newfoundland businessman, gave the news, followed by a bulletin. It aired from 1932-66. The weekday program helped Newfoundland families stay in touch. 

The Bulletin often reported on people away at hospital in St. John's, telling families of their medical progress and plans for their return home. It was common to hear things like, "To Sally Jones in Jones Cove, Bert is doing well after the surgery and will be home on the train on Friday." Or, "To John Smith in Smithville, Mary had the baby on Sunday. Mother and daughter are doing well." 

All around the province, people tuned in to the latest news, weather and word of their compatriots. My family on the east coast of Newfoundland and my husband's family on the west coast, listened as well. The program was on supper time province-wide, making the island one big community, sharing personal information the quickest way possible. 

On a lighter note, the bulletin often contained some humorous commentary as well. One story goes that the announcer read this message immediately before the weather forecast, saying "There is a bean supper tonight in Lark Harbour...And now for the gale warning."

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Tree dragon

It is impossible to miss. It sits on the side of the road in Princetown, Prince Edward Island by the United Church. The church has been there since 1870 and this tree looks like it has seen much of that history. Now it is becoming firewood.

The chopping has released the inner dragon of the tree. The dragon’s wings are ready to take flight the next time the chainsaw-carrying human appears. It watches me suspiciously as I circle it, taking photos. 

The reason for the destruction of the old tree is obvious. It has seen better days. Rotted at the centre, it has a cavern at the junction where the limbs branch from the main trunk. 

Animals had their homes in the old tree if the holes are any indication. Squirrels? Woodpeckers? Whatever lived there soon will be homeless. 

Gone are the days of the new green of spring as the buds erupt after a long winter sleep. Gone is the shade from the hot summer sun, as children play under its canopy while parents stop to speak to neighbours after Sunday service. Gone is the colour of autumn as leaves of red or gold fall over the lawn.

Before long, all trace of the old tree will be gone from this place. Soon, someone will enjoy the comfort of a wood fire on cold winter days. Then ashes will become compost to enhance the soil for more seedlings to grow. 

Another tree will rise from the ashes like a phoenix, or in this case, a dragon.

Monday 4 February 2019

Winter in French River

The rolling hills which surround French River, Prince Edward Island are straw coloured today. 

They display the imprint of the machinery which mowed them last autumn. Nothing moves as the fields stretch out in the February light, absorbing every bit of energy they can. Spring can’t come soon enough.

Nothing appears to move in the village either but a lone dog can be heard barking into the cold air. Maybe he wants to go inside too.

New London Bay is frozen. 

Its arm stretches up to French River where fishers have their shacks for storage of the equipment necessary to ply their trade. 

The ice hugs the wharf now but boats will be moored there in April as fishers prepare for the lobster fishery again. The boats have been brought to storage away from the wharf. Many stood near houses along the route to French River.

Across the water, the golf course has been abandoned to the elements for several months as visitors returned home to work-a-day life and the locals leave the courses to wait out another winter.

The coniferous trees look black-green in the February light as they wait for the sun to return to its full strength. 

Nature is asleep.

Friday 1 February 2019

Wise bird

After what felt like weeks in the house, my husband and I headed out to lunch earlier this week. On the way, we decided to head to the north shore of the island to see if ice lined the coast. The sun threatened to appear as wind blew clouds over the frozen land as much of the snow disappeared with the most recent thaw.

We drove to Malpeque Harbour, a favourite place to take visitors. The beach nearby, the working harbour and the farmers’ fields along the way are representative of island life. 

The wind was high enough to make the -7 C feel 10 degrees colder. It was icy under foot as well since we had a flash freeze after the last thaw. I forgot my ice grippers, so I didn’t go far. 

While my husband, who has better sense, waited in the car, I had company as I crept along behind the fishing shacks. A flock of European starlings filled some trees but took to wing as I approached. Several Blue jays landed near the same trees, picking seeds off the ground. 

But the most impressive creature was a Common raven, the biggest I’d ever seen. It  had claimed its place in a tree. 

With its distinctive call, it summoned another raven, which swooped in from a tree nearby but didn’t stay.

The basin was frozen, 

the fishing shacks deserted, 

the area desolate. Some boats were stored in the parking area near the shacks.  

Nothing stirred except the birds and the only sound was the raven. It squawked as I passed by as if to warn that I soon would be frozen like everything here. 

Time to go!