Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Ant sac, or disturbing my nest again…

You probably have seen what happens when you kick over an anthill and all of the ants panic and run all over the place, carrying the egg sacs, looking for safety?

Back in the days pre-divorce, the ex and I used to call our regular sorting and rearranging of stuff “ant sac” activity – we’d be grabbing our things and rushing back and forth between floors of our house, through rooms in a panicked, not quite sensible manner…

Now I am ant-sac-ing again, carrying my stuff there and back, up and down, in and out…

You see, the pandemic disturbed my anthill.

I live in the glorious Maritimes. In fact, I am writing this from the balcony of *the best apartment ever*, overlooking the Halifax harbour, pausing now and again to gaze at the ocean. I’m seizing the quiet moment before the heat of the day begins and I lose all sentient thought…ah, maritime humidity. I remember flying into the airport from Ontario and the air here felt like breathing through a water-soaked sponge…

(Pause to gaze at a container ship easing on by, seemingly silent…)

But see, the pandemic. I do love it here, but the enclosure of Covid-19 has left me with a slightly lonely tinge to my thoughts – my family is all so far away. And the Maritimes is all about family. If you don’t have one here, well,…

And yes, ‘friends are the family you choose’ – and I’ve been blessed to meet so many wonderful people here and I am going to miss them all madly, but as I creep towards my dotage, I realize I need to be a bit closer to my relations- my kids, my cousins, my sister…Nova Scotia is just that little bit too far away.

So I am busily sorting my stuff, carrying it here to the “for the recycler/junk people “ (a large pile) and there “for the move” (an unpleasantly large pile still). I feel like the panicked ant, trying to save my babies but also wanting to give them all away, start a completely fresh nest elsewhere…

But I just have to keep this book, this piece of art, this crafted coffee mug, the cat…and so I continually sort through the piles, tossing more things, packing and unpacking, trying to squeeze my stuff into smaller spaces.

Just heard a voice from the BBC (which I always believe because…British accent…) counselling people not to make any irreversible decisions during this time of oddness. As my father in law would say, “‘Too late,’ she cried, and waved her wooden leg.” It’s all in motion and I am on the highest point of the roller coaster, waiting for that exciting swoop down into the loops.

I’m not regretting my choice. I’ve had a lovely ten years here, way more than was originally planned. Its been like an extended holiday, with a bunch of new and exciting travel partners. But it is time to go home, and much as I tried to claim Nova Scotia as my home, it just won’t take me.

I blame the fiddle music. Lord, I do hate a fiddling jig.

So it’s farewell to Nova Scotia in about a month. I’m hoping it’s not a permanent farewell- I have the sea in my bones (and in my lungs- how I long for a good dry-out in the prairies!) and will likely have to come back to visit. Good friends are hard to leave.

The sun was setting in the west
The birds were singing on every tree
All nature seemed inclined to rest
But still there was no rest for me

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea bound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
For when I’m far away on the briny ocean tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me

First entry, #NYCMidnightflashchallenge, a.k.a. “The Grand Derangement”

It had to be historical fiction, in a secret bunker, and involve a bag of coins. So here goes:

Picard - 4The Grand Derangement

Synopsis: In 1758, the British expelled thousands of French Acadiens from their farmlands in Nova Scotia to places all over the eastern coastline, separating families and allowing many to die. Anastasie, her daughter Marie-Madeleine, and her cousin Marie-Josée are sent to freezing George’s Island with two hundred other women and children and must use their wits to survive.

Marie-Madeleine shivered and tugged her scarf more tightly around her thin shoulders. “Maman? Why won’t the soldiers let us inside? It’s freezing!”

Anastasie Bourq pulled her daughter in closer. “They say they don’t have space in the barracks, Marie-Madeleine. I only hope they will send your father back soon so he can speak to them in their English.”

It was November 30, 1760, and the Bourqs and two hundred other Acadien women and children shivered on the slopes of Île a la Raquette, what the English called George’s Island, after their king. The only man with them, the Abbé Francois le Guerre, had managed a warm berth in one of the warehouses – not comfortable for sure, but better than out here on the wind-swept ground.

Anastasie remembered well when the English soldiers had pulled them from their churches, how they had taken her husband, Joseph, and the men, and sent the women and children to this island. Already twenty were dead from exposure.

Anastasie’s cousin, Marie-Josée, spoke some English and went to the Barracks, seeking warmth. She had been gone for days when Anastasie heard her shouting at them across the field.

“I thought that was you.” Marie-Josée hugged her cousin. She looked demented, her clothing torn and dirty, her eyes and hair wild.“You know, you can get warm anytime you want, Anna, you just have to be nice to the right fellow.” She grinned, wobbled.

“ Marie-Josée – you’re married! What of your Jean? And the Abbé! What does he think?”

Marie-Josée waved her hand. “The Abbé is drunk – hasn’t been awake for more than an hour for days and awake he is worse about grabbing my ass than the soldiers. And didn’t you hear? Our men were already expelled, on some ship headed somewhere. We’ll never see them again.” She coughed, wiped her nose. She brightened. “But I can help you. I brought food – the men bring it to pay. It may hold you until they bring the ships for us. Unless you want to come in? There’s lots of work …”

Anastasie shuddered. “Non, merci. But the food would be welcome.”

Marie-Josée nodded and put down a bundle tied in a ragged cloth. “I can get more, cousine. This is all I could take with them watching. And, Anastasie, I hear the soldiers talking. There are bunkers all over the island. If you find one, maybe you will be warmer, heh? But lookout for pirates. They shelter there, too.” She turned away. “Bonne chance, Anastasie. See you when the boats come.”

Anastasie spoke to the other frozen women and children on the field. A few came to search with Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine.

“Let’s go, bébé. Perhaps we can find a warm place to hide from the wind.”

They walked around the front of the island, the side facing the ocean, away from Halifax harbour. The wind burned their faces, but there were no soldiers.

Marie-Madeleine called out. “Look, maman! There’s a hole in the hill!”

There was – a dark cave that pointed right out to sea. Anastasie poked her head in, to discover it was a long, curving bunker which seemed to run right around the island. Little holes dug through the wall allowed some light, and she could see several doors, but there were no other people inside. She called the others and they flooded in. As the wind lessened, families spread out along the bunker. Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine sat alone; their only kin were the men, gone now, and Marie-Josée, up with the soldiers. They found a dark corner and ate Marie-Josée’s cheese and bread and dried meat. Afterward, Marie-Madeleine fell asleep against the wall, wrapped in her scarf and finally warm. Anastasie explored the bunker, stepping carefully in the gloom. At the farthest end in the darkest place, as she ran her hands along the wall, she felt a spot of loose crumbly dirt. Curious, she dug at it. In the back of the hollowed out space she touched a cloth bag. When she pulled, out tipped out heavy circles. Coins.

Anastasie sat down against the wall with a thud. Saved!

She opened the seam of her dress hem here and there, pushing the coins in, working in the dark. She had to keep them secret. They had their families; she was alone. When she had them all hidden, she woke her daughter.

“Come, bébé. We must tell more about this place.”

They walked back to the encampment and called to the others, leading them to the bunker. Warmed, the families started to talk to each other about their expulsion and the loss of their land. They wept and raged, prayed and sang. They shared food and clothing as they had before. Once the Abbé visited, but not for long.

Anastasie kept her coins hidden. There was nothing to purchase, anyway, except with her body. Finally the soldiers came and shoved them back to the field.

“Look, Marie-Madeleine! The boats are here!”

“Will we see Papa?”

“Merci Dieu, I hope so.” Anastasie’s heart soared.

The women cheered at the sign of the boats, crossed themselves.

“At last we will be free from this frozen land. I hope we go south,” a woman said. Her fingers were so frostbitten her daughter had to dress her.

They loaded eagerly onto the boats, except for Marie-Josée, who begged to stay behind. Perhaps she’d overheard the soldiers. After two days of heaving waves and sickness, they landed further north instead, in snow-covered Cape Breton. The men were not there.

Anastasie’s coins let her rent a tiny room in Sydney, keeping she and Marie-Madeleine alive until the boats came again to take them to New Orleans. There they found that their men had been recaptured, to repair their dykes and farms. None of the English knew how, and they needed food.

Anastasie counted her coins. Perhaps she had enough for their passage back. Back to Acadie, and Joseph.

Land, Scarlett, it’s the only thing that matters…

I’m having a little fantasy about buying some property.
It has something to do with the impermanence of renting, about the feeling of disconnection in an apartment building, about the dismal performance of mutual funds, etc., etc. But I keep seeing Mr. O’Hara slopping that mud into Scarlett’s hands and telling her that she should hang onto the land, that her connection to the earth of Tara was vitally important.

See, part of the thing is that I really do like it here on the edge of Canada. And I like the thought of owning a piece of it. I have a new friend who has just plain land on offer, where I could potentially build a cabin. A Rudimentary cabin. Perhaps more of a glorified shed. Or not. I could leave it for the birds and beasts to enjoy.

And then I found a sweet cottage like place in my old town of Annapolis Royal. It’s prob a shack. I suspect the worst, after the last house I bought there, with its basement encircled by moats. But I still have a romantic attachment to the place. And it’s cheap.

So, dreaming of reconnecting. Dreaming of holding dirt in my hands and squeezing my soul out of it, finding the heart of it and holding it tight.

It’s probably a ridiculous thought. I’ve just started a new medication for MS that will use up my disposable income every month.

I’m going to tell my financial guy I’m just trying to balance out my portfolio. Or something.
Or I’ll end up giving up and sticking the dream back in my pocket for another year. Who knows.

Where is that O’Hara when you need him?

Gordon Belsher, PEI, and seizing the day

I’m having a serious problem with delight.

PEI is figuring prominently and it’s odd because though I love PEI in its own way, it is far too tame for a wild soul like me. Give me the windswept shores of NS anytime, with their rocky beaches and spitting waves and preferably fog rolling in in a glutinous manner to enclose all in mystery and hidden rage.

Why, they don’t even have much wildlife in PEI – no rampant coyotes or wandering meese or whatevers. I like my pheasants stomping by outside, the occasional sound of a coyote-cat interaction, the feeling that nature red in tooth and claw lives, yea, verily, here in utter suburbia.

But I just spent a lovely restful, beautiful couple of days with my wonderful gal pals over in PEI and it was smashingly wonderful. We talked and examined our lives and ate fudge and altogether too much bad for us food and laughed and slept like dead things and wandered the beach (well, I sat on the beach as my MS-legs were uncooperative). Prior to that, the same pals and I attended a blissful house concert here in NS involving Gordon Belsher (guitar and many other thing player and a major source of warm thoughts for me – admit I have a crush!) and Richard Wood (fiddler extraordinaire and cutie pie). The coziness of the house concert made it seem like we were friends.

I had to buy a CD to recapture the feeling, and lately I’ve been listening to Gordon’s CD in the car and singing my fool heart out. I go through these phases where a certain CD just speaks to my heart, and I listen to it over and over like a teenager. For a while there it was James Hill’s Man With a Love Song…


but now that relationship is over (It’s a good thing overall, alas), I seem to be bonding on Gordon’s “I’m not old yet”, especially the song below, which unfortunately doesn’t have a recording online, but you can sample. It’s the words I love, and the way Gordon’s voice trills up on the chorus. It makes me happy. I don’t know what it is about his voice but I confess to a bad fantasy about grabbing him to sing a special song especially to me. In a field in PEI. With the polished Holsteins that are stood around there. And I wouldn’t mind that it was pristine and that he is married (for I don’t want him for that) and that eventually the song would be over, I’d just listen and soak it up with the sun and the grass and the smell of contented cows and the sea and then go forth and be a better person.

I want to be like the girl in the song. There are parallels, though I’ve never learned Latin.

So, unfortunately, stealing Gordon Belsher would likely land me in prison. I resorted to ordering another of his CDs. I love Richard, too, but Gordon’s voice reminds me of songs around the campfire back when I was young and sweet and lived for the moment. He even sings “Cockles and Mussels”, which my dad sung a lot. Right now I am wrapping him around me like a blanket and delighting. While I get right on with that seizing the day thing.

Seize the Day

©Carolyn Arends

I know a girl who was schooled in Manhattan
She reads dusty books and learns phrases in Latin
	She is an author or maybe a poet
A genius, but it's just this world doesn't know it
	She works on her novel most every day
	If you laugh, she will say...

	Seize the day, seize whatever you can
	'Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
	Seize the day, pray for Grace from God's hand
	And nothing can stand in your way
	Seize the day

I know a man who's been doing some thinking
He's as bitter and cold as the whiskey he's drinking
	He's talking 'bout fear, 'bout chances not taken
If you listen to him, you can hear his heart breakin'
	He says "One day you're a boy, and the next day you're dead
	I wish way back when someone had said..."

(Repeat Chorus)

Well, one thing I've noticed wherever I wander
Everyone's got a dream they can follow or squander
	You can do what you will with the days you are given
I'm trying to spend mine on the business of living
	So we're playing our songs off of any old stage
	You can laugh if you want, I'll still say...

(Repeat Chorus)

On the HUNT!!! Mystery authors needed…

I am thrilled to have been made the chair of the 2015 Bloody Words Mystery Conference to be held here in gorgeous Halifax, NS. I think EVERYONE should come. Halifax is a glorious city, the conference is full of surprisingly nice people who have vented their anger at red lights and cell phones and traffic through fictional murdering, and the information and meetings with agents and writers and all is beyond compare.

And did I say how lovely the Halifax area is?

Check out Nova Scotia Webcams and have a look. In the next few weeks the tall ships are coming, so you can see them sailing around. You can see Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse on the cam, the shores all over, resorts and gold courses and ski hills and a lobster cam and a parrot cam.

If you come to the conference, you can even cadge a ride on one of the tall ships. But that’s in the future…

One of the big responsibilities of the chair and his/her bloody gang is lining up the guest speakers – especially the Canadian and International guests of honour. So I’m planning to read mysteries by the zillion, looking for those wonderful souls who write thrilling and day-stealing mysteries and who might be good conference speakers. I need suggestions! We all have favourites and tend to read them most, and I’m working on broadening my reading, but I can use help, guideposts to good places to hunt. Would love your help, dear reader…

Leave me a message with your favourites, or if you are already in Halifax, bring suggestions to our table at Word on the Street in September.

And keep your eyes peeled for Bloody Words 2014 in Toronto. It’ll be fantastic, too.

I will go and not ask why…

Way back about 15 years ago, when I lived in Annapolis Royal, NS, I had two CD’s in the van that I would play as I drove the kids here, there and everywhere. One was Rawlins Cross, a celtic rock band that provides the definitive answer to the question of whether bagpipes can rock. They can. I still love those guys.

The other was an Atlantic music CD that I lost and was never able to replace. On it, there was a song that spoke so directly to my heart I used to cry every time I heard it. It was Stone and Sand and Sea and Sky by the Rose Vaughan Trio. Today, thanks to the wonders of the internet and Seaside FM that played a similar song and sent me hunting, I found the song again on YouTube. It still makes me cry, hard. I’ve been looking for the song for years, and never been able to find it. Now I just need to find the actual recording.

Like the Rawlins Cross song “Open Road”, which I also played obsessively back then, both songs spoke to me. I knew my marriage was over, although it would take me years to finally leave. I felt broken when I arrived in Annapolis Royal for a variety of reasons – the loss of my parents, the state of my marriage, the life of a parent of young children with an absent partner. I was fat(ter), ugly, unhappy.

And then I came to Nova Scotia. I was healed. Four wonderful women believed in me; they made me feel valued, like I had something to say and contribute. One got me into public health nursing, two got me into political activism, and one was the tow line that brought me back home. With their help, I was able to throw off the things that were holding me down, whether mine or someone else’s. I became who I am today, and , although I’m definitely not perfect, I’m at least closer to good (and parts of me are excellent, as Ashleigh Brilliant would say).

I left Annapolis Royal, and didn’t really return to the province until a kind friend took me with him on a breathtaking road trip around Cape Breton. I knew then that Nova Scotia and I were meant to be together, forever. I planned and sorted and finally came, and I haven’t regretted a moment since. I feel like I have been reunited with my soul.

Lately, I am feeling blessed. Several good things are happening to me, and it’s a nice change after a bundle of bad. Into every life, as they say, some rain must fall, but one assumes that that means some sun arrives as well. I’m grateful for both, as they teach me as they go along, but I’ve gotta say, I like the sunny days a wee bit better.

I can’t help but believe that being so near the sea (and stone and sand and sky) has helped.

Stone and Sand

Stone and sand and sea and sky
Rest my heart and please my eye.
I will go and not ask why
Stone and sand and sea and sky.

Early morning rise and walk
Listen to the sea stone talk
Wild geese flock above me high
Stone and sand and sea and sky.

Soon the wind is holding me
Clears my mind so easily
Open, open to the song
Wind and sea have played so long.

I am strengthened by the sea
Something broken mends in me
Hold me till the day I die
Stone and sand and sea and sky.

Stone and sand and sea and sky
I am free to laugh and cry
I feel the spirit lift me high
Stone and sand and sea and sky.
Lyrics written by Rose Vaughan