Wolfville or It Ain’t Over ‘Til…

19 12 2009

Urim and Thummim

I wasn’t sure when I would officially end this particular journey; My last farm? After exactly 6 months? Moncton? Arriving in Avonport?

Then I remembered my rocks. I collected them from the beach in Victoria, after leaving my two rocks from Newfoundland there. The idea was to bring them all the way back across Canada, and at times when I was unable to make a decision I could pull either the light or the dark one out of my pocket and act accordingly. However, just like in the Alchemist, I found that I was able to make decisions without them and for the last 4 months they have been carried in my purse instead of in my pockets.

I had thought that I would deposit them close to my former home in Grande-Digue, but today, when Melanie (my new housemate) suggested we took a walk on the beach, I realised that this was the final resting place for both myself and my rocks. Well, until the next time…

Goodbye Friends

I am now installed in my new home, overlooking the Bay of Fundy, but from the other side. Melanie has a ‘real job’ with responsibilities, staff and set hours. I am the bum who lives in her spare room and doesn’t ‘do’ anything. Hopefully that will change soon.

I went to the Wolfville Farmers’ Market today and reconnected with some farmers and inspectors that I have known for some time. This evening there is a party and then another one tomorrow night and another one the night after. Apparently it isn’t always like this…

Melanie dancing by her sparkley Christmas Branch

So ladies and gents, the fat lady has sung and all that is left to do is clear away the chairs and tables and stagger home merrily singing. Tomorrow is a brand new day.

Melanie, Zephyr and our little house to the top right


Up the Creek in Three Fathom Harbour

18 12 2009

Three Fathom Harbour

I’m staying with Colleen just outside of Dartmouth in Three Fathom Harbour. It’s a beautiful, windswept place with the best surfing beaches in Nova Scotia. Last night we went over to Colleen and Sheldon’s neighbours for a meal and I was asked how Colleen and I knew each other. “Well”, I said, taking a deep breath “I was the evil woman that Colleen was supposed to apprentice with for 6 months, who then just disappeared in the middle of the night”.

Apparently I beat myself up about the events in May of this year a little too much. It all worked out for the best in the end. Carolyn and Colleen were able to stay together. I found them a new mentor in Andrea Berry of Hope Seeds and Perennials who was thrilled with her luck because she had just lost her own apprentice. They, no doubt, learned a huge amount from her and now Carolyn is working for a seed saving organisation in the States and Colleen feels like she could farm if she wanted to. They got what they needed and I did too. Though I often think about what would have happened if the three of us had stayed together for those 6 months.

Colleen works for Environment Canada so she and Sheldon went off to work this morning while I updated my blog, fired off some emails, updated my finances and then decided to take a walk along the shore. I was getting a bit peckish so I ate a piece of cheese before I went out but figured I’d wait to heat myself up some lasagna until I got back.

The landscape here is beautiful. Very rugged, wild and Scottish. I spent a good hour and a half wandering trails and photographing leaves, rocks, bark and water. I’m fascinated by textures and patterns in nature and a lot of my photos were in sepia, so that the eye doesn’t get distracted by the colours.

The Shore

I got back to the house just as my blood sugar was beginning to drop a little and I muttered to myself about taking better care. I’m hypoglycemic and can get a bit bonkers if I don’t eat at regular intervals. I’ve made that clear at each of my host farms, but I still don’t take enough care with myself.

Sheldon had left me with a key, various comupter cables and codes and clear instructions on everything, except the fact that I had the key for the deadbolt. When I had left for my walk the alarm started making funny noises, so I slipped out the door as fast as possible, locking the other lock in the process. I had a key to the right door, but to the wrong lock.

It was nobodies fault, but it didn’t alter the fact that it was -11C out with a wind chill of -20C and they weren’t going to be back for at least 2 hours. I had cleaned out my pockets of all the junk I had in them the night before so I had no money, no credit card to try to break in, no telephone numbers and no idea about what to do next. On the positive side I had a new super-warm coat, scarf, fleece and boots from Bonnie and gloves from Alison so at least I wasn’t going to get hypothermic too quickly.

Then I had a brain wave. I would go over to Colleen’s neighbours place. Debbie would be at work but Ian might be home. Or at the very least, their house might be easier to break into than Colleen’s (which is like Fort Knox). I started off down the drive then stood there at the end of it with no clue whether I needed to turn left or right. I had a feeling that it was left, but it was pitch black when we’d walked over there so I had no landmarks for guidance and was relying totally on my sense of direction. I tried looking at the house from different angles; I’d seen the number of the house illuminated by a torch at some point, but was that when we got in back from the neighbors or when we’d arrived from the bus station? The more I played scenarios through my head the more they got confused with my memories and in the end I decided to just try walking in one direction until I saw something that made sense.

For some reason I chose to go right instead of left, ignoring my gut feeling. After 15 minutes of wandering I was still totally lost. I considered doing the same in the opposite direction but unless someone turned out the sun, it was never going to look like it did last night. I could have walked right past Debbie and Ian’s house and I would have no idea.

Also, my blood sugar was plummeting and I knew that I needed to reduce my activity levels if I was going to make it until they got home. I tried to get into their workshop but that was locked up solid. Then I tried the greenhouse. It wa a bit warmer there, under the glass and out of the wind, but after 30 mins of reading Canadian Gardener Magazine and jiggling around to keep my legs warm, I realised that I couldn’t keep it up any longer. It was time to start banging on doors.

The first house I tried was empty. I had the feeling that this was a bedroom community for Dartmouth and that everyone might be at work. I was beginning to shake a little and my concentration was going. I dug through my pocket again just in case there were a few crumbs or bits of chocolate or an old wrapper I could lick just to keep myself going for a bit longer.

In the left pocket of my new coat I found some cat treats. I’m still not sure what they were doing there, but let’s just say, they aren’t there any more. If anyone ever asks me what the weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten is, I’m going to be able to respond ‘chicken feathers and ground up carcasses’.

Over the brow of the hill I spotted smoke rising from a chimney so I headed in that direction.

The trail to Steve's house

By 5:30 when Sheldon and Colleen got back from work, Steve and I had discussed everything from climate change, to intentional community to favourite places in Canada. They have been neighbours for a number of years now, but neither Colleen nor Sheldon have ever needed to bang on Steve’s door to ask if he wouldn’t mind if they warmed themselves up by his fire. When Colleen arrived to pick me up I very sincerely told Steve that I was actually quite glad that I’d gotten locked out.

During the course of our conversation, he had offered the use of his land for Colleen to use for vegetable production and it was really evident that they would get along extremely well. It’s so ironic that two neighbouring households, who both relish the thought of intentional community, had not managed to connect until the day I got myself locked out of the house.

It seems that everything really does happen for a reason.

The Nature of Attraction. The Nature of Love.

17 12 2009

I don’t have a type. I thought I did, but over the last couple of weeks I’ve realised that I swing from one extreme to another. A year ago ‘my type’ had hazel eyes, the kind of skin that tans easily in the summer, thick black hair with hints of red and auburn, a muscular physique and a kind of Clark Kentish nerdy-but-hot look. More recently I have had crushes on men of every kind, from tattooed with a shaved head and earrings, to blond haired, blue eyed and adorable, to a Jim Carey look-a-like.

Yesterday, when I was boarding the bus down to Dartmouth, I locked eyes with a taller, thinner, younger version of Ian Handsome-man-thing and nearly melted when he smiled warmly back at me. I was feeling happy and confident so I quietly thanked the Universe then decided that I would give him my phone number. Minutes later the bus driver asked him to switch to another bus – he was going to the Moncton Airport, flying to God knows where.

The real Ian Hanomansing

I didn’t even have time to react. “Seriously? What the heck was that about?” I muttered under my breath. Was he too young? Too cute? Too married? Was this an exercise in religion? – You may think that you want something, but you can’t have it – hah! You have to die before you can be happy, and you have to suffer a lot in the mean time. God had changed from a loving, voluptuous woman into a crushing, smiting dinosaur.

Seconds later I figured out what was going on. I was being distracted. The universe was testing me. I do have some wonderful men in my life, but I am blessed with an inordinate number of awesome women whom I absolutely adore. When I look back over my life, the people who have been consistently there for me, who have loved and supported me, fought for me, said and done little (and big) things that have made my day, driven me around and provided me with the things that I need, have mostly been women. And yet, when I day dream, it is always about men.

One day I may once again find myself in a loving relationship with a man (though it will take a strong man, and a very patient one) but I must never, ever, get so distracted by them that I forget about my Ladies. God still is a loving, voluptuous woman. But she does need to teach me a lesson once in a while.

Joanne LeBlanc, one of my many Angels

6 Months; Closing the Loop

16 12 2009

Yesterday was my last official day of my 6 month sabbatical. For the sake of cyclicity I chose the 15th as the date when I would reconnect with my friends in Moncton. I had left from Moncton and I needed to return to Moncton, even if just for a brief spell. For the duration of this journey my life has been out there for everyone to read and I was sure that people would be sick to death of my news. I wanted to fuel up on what was happening in other peoples lives.

I expected that lunch time would be fairly quiet while supper time would be busier. Of course I was wrong. Moncton isn’t like other towns. People are very willing to take time out of their work days to hang out and chat, but once they get home in the evening, the door closes behind them and that’s it.

The gathering at lunch time was busy but short, because people were on their lunch breaks, so it was really hard to give people my attention. I almost wished that I had booked people in for individual 1 hour sessions! Beth, I felt particularly bad about because she’d come all the way from Sackville on a horrid snowy day, complete with Maeg, her baby.

Still it was nice to reconnect, to hug and to see people that I have thought about often but been a long way away from for a long time. At least now I will only be 4 hours from Moncton. It seems like nothing at all.

In the evening there were just the 5 of us and Joanne and Cyan turned in early leaving Lisa, Fanny and I to talk until late. In a way I was happy that it was just a small group of us and that it was Lisa and Fanny who made it. Both of these lovely ladies gave me a lot of strength and guidance before I left so I wanted to know how their lives had changed and what their plans were for the future.

It felt good to intentionally close the loop and bring myself back to the place I was 6 months ago and I felt happy that I had had the forethought to do this. However, there were two other instances of cyclicity that night that I didn’t plan for and which I had very different reactions to.

A man who was at one time very important to me and who was the last person I saw before leaving Moncton, walked through the door as I was sitting down to a huge plate of pie and mashed potatoes. I did a double take, nodded ‘Hello’ and went from being absolutely starving to completely lacking in appetite in the space of a heartbeat. I explained to Joanne what had just happened, apologized for my change in mood and asked her if she wouldn’t mind distracting me so that I might have a hope of finishing my meal. She did an pretty amazing job, but the gnawing in my gut was still there. I apologized again for my lack of maturity and offered them my meal. There was no way I was going to be able to digest it.

Joanne and Cyan agreed to help me out and I ordered a green salad instead – I needed to eat something. Then Joanne asked me to describe where the feeling was. It was right in the base of my stomach and I recognized it for what it was, fear. But I couldn’t understand why I would be feeling that way. Joanne patiently explained that this man had been wrapped up in one of the most stressful and painful periods of my life and while being away for 6 month had helped me find balance and calm once again, there were still things here, in Moncton, that needed to be dealt with. She recommended that I just went over and said ‘Hi’.

Then I received the kind of insight that can only come from a very perceptive teen. “It’s just like being at school” Cyan announced. “I’m eating my lunch and ‘x’ and ‘y’ just sit there talking about boys”. Joanne and I burst out laughing and told Cyan, very sincerely, that we love her.

Gorgeous, perceptive Cyan

Shortly after, Joanne told me that he was leaving and it was now or never. I would have gone over sooner but he was having a meal with a woman that I half recognized and I didn’t want to spoil what might be a romantic moment. So we said our ‘Hellos’ and ‘Goodbyes’. Attempted to summarize our life situations in 30 seconds, hugged and then he left. And, just like that, the feeling in my gut magically disappeared.

Fear is a funny thing. It is so all consuming that you feel like you might die, that your world will just fall apart but in a very non-specific way. When you try to rationalize it it seems ridiculous, but when you experience it, it is completely real. And the only, only way to deal with it is to stare it down, see it for what it is and then walk all over it.

When he walked into the restaurant my first reaction was ‘Oh, come on! What are the odds?’ but now I see that it needed to happen in order for me to move on with the next part of my life.

Fanny very kindly drove me home because the streets were really slippery and I was sliding all over the place. She dropped me off at Joanne’s place and I tried to let myself in with the spare key. The first door wouldn’t budge so I went round to the other one. Again, no cigar. I giggled a little, took a deep breath and counted to ten. The evening before I’d left in June, I had stayed out late talking to Lisa and then gotten myself locked out of Joanne’s house. I’d knocked quietly and then louder. Thrown gravel at her window and finally yelled from the back deck ‘Joanne, I love you! Please take me back!’. Her sister had heard me from her house next door and had telephoned Joanne to tell her to please let the crazy lady in. I really didn’t want to have to go through the same process again.

At the next attempt the key turned and I was back in the warmth of Joanne’s wonderful home.

Some things change, some things stay the same.

On the Surface

15 12 2009

Yesterday I went into Moncton to use an internet cafe that wasn’t there anymore. I walked the length of Main St to be sure, but no, either I’d imagined it, or over the last 6 months it had gone out of business. By that time I was starving so thought I would look up Bonnie to see if she wanted to have lunch with me. But when I arrived at Maurice Henry’s gallery it had also disappeared. Oh well, I thought, that clearly wasn’t meant to happen, so what exactly am I supposed to be doing here today?

I decided to walk up to Calactus to see if Lisa was having lunch there but it was packed to the rafters with people I didn’t recognize. On the way there I ran into Nick and Carol who were having lunch at a cute new restaurant on St George, but something told me that this wasn’t a good time so I kept going. By that time my bloody sugar was plummeting so I headed back to Main St to try to find a restaurant where I wouldn’t have to wait as long to eat.

I ended up at Grafitti where I’d enjoyed a really nice meal in the past and instantly regretted it. There was a table free but the waitress was not inclined to give it to a single diner who did not fit into the charcoal grey pant-suit dress code that seemed to be enforced there. I sat down anyway, and just about managed to hold her attention long enough to order some food. When it arrived it wasn’t what I ordered. I flagged her down and politely explained that, while it looked very nice, I had in fact ordered the chicken. “Oh, I thought you’d asked for that” came the reply (such confidence from someone who had not made eye contact with me or even smiled when I ordered). “Well, as long as it doesn’t belong to anyone else I’ll happily take it, I just didn’t want to be stealing someone’s lunch”.

After that she was a whole lot nicer to me, but I still felt like my money was not worth as much as anyone else’s there. The irony being that I understand what a tough job waitressing is, so under normal circumstances I’m a darned good tipper.

It amazes me what visual animals we are and what judgments we make based on so little evidence. I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell while I was in the States and in it he talks about the kind of subconscious decision making that has value, and the kind that gets us into trouble. Apparently the most successful car salesman in the US is so very successful because he treats each and every one of his customers with equal respect, instead of doing what most car salespeople do – quoting a much higher price to women and people of colour figuring that they are suckers. The other salesmen make the occasional killing that way, but most people they alienate. People actively seek out this particular car dealership because they know that they will be quoted the same price and given the same level of service, irrespective of whether they are wearing a pinstripe suit or coveralls.

After lunch I realised that I couldn’t even buy my bus ticket because I didn’t know whether I was going to Dartmouth or Halifax (I needed to check my email to find out) so I walked back to Joanne’s place through the rapidly melting slush. I’d been in Moncton for 3 hours and all I’d managed to do was eat a fairly unremarkable lunch.

I wasn’t sure what lesson I was supposed to be learning. Maybe that I needed to be patient; I was going to be seeing people tomorrow anyway. Maybe that I’m not supposed to be in Moncton right now. Maybe that I needed some fresh air and exercise. Maybe that, before I reconnected with the people here, I needed to reconnect, one on one, with the place.

In the end, I decided that the lesson I needed to learn was that the world keeps turning whether I am there or not. I had, very arrogantly I know, felt that by leaving I would be leaving a gaping hole in Moncton society. Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh! But there I was back in Moncton feeling like I was back in my old High School a year after graduating; it’s the same place, but it isn’t. The pattern is there, but the energy has changed.

The Invisible Thread That Connects Us

14 12 2009

I was busy boring Joanne to death with my photos when I decided that I wanted to show her some pictures of tattoos (I’m considering getting one myself). The Naked Bike Ride in Victoria was an amazing opportunity to see all of the tattoos that people have hidden beneath their clothes. Something I don’t understand – if you are going to have a tattoo, show it off! It would be like me dying my hair red and then wearing a hat all the time.

So I’m telling her the story about the purpose of the naked bike ride and the sequence of events on the day itself, focusing  on one guy in particular who arrived early and had long hair and no tan lines at all. He clearly did this kind of thing often. Joanne did a double take and then asked me to zoom in (on his face, in case you were wondering). Her eyes went wide and she exclaimed “Oh my God! I know him!” Apparently they used to be part of a group of artists in Halifax. He’d gone out West a long time ago and she had not heard anything about him since… until today.

He's the dude in the yellow shorts... for now at least

She was clearly a bit freaked out by this so I changed the subject to Alyson at Glenn Valley and her gorgeous blackberry vine tattoo. Joanne looked at me sideways. “Is her name Chisholm?” (It is) “Oh my God! We went to school together. She was really into horses. She was ‘from away’ too so we kind of hung out for a while.”

Alyson's gorgeous bramble tattoo

Shortly after I mentioned someone called Bruce. Thankfully she didn’t know him or I think her brain might have exploded.

It reminded me of something that Kate told me when I was at her farm in Manitoba. There aren’t 6.8 billion people on this planet. There are 2 million, who are all connected together by this invisible web and a common purpose. We may get frustrated when the people all around us seem totally unmotivated by the same issues that inspire and enrage us, but if we work together, taking steps in the same direction, ultimately we will reach a critical mass. At which time the others will follow. Not because we shout or yell, beg or plead, but because they can see from our own examples that we are moving in a direction that makes sense for everyone.

Finding my Feet in Monkey Town

13 12 2009

Poor, poor Joanne. Her ears must be suffering under the strain. I have turned into one of those annoying travelers who has a story about everything, literally everything.

Still, I managed to go through my mail and get a little more organised, then went with Joanne and Cyan to choose a guitar for Cyan’s Christmas present. She’s only 12 but plays beautifully which isn’t surprising given that her dad is a professional musician. While she tried out guitars to see what worked for her Joanne had to step away because she kept getting tearful. ‘That’s my daughter!’. ‘She’s great isn’t she’.

We started browsing electric guitars, trying to decide which ones we would choose. My favourite had a wood grain but was bright red and shiny. It was this fabulous combination of natural and psychedelic. Joanne chose a baby blue plasticy looking thing. I told her that I thought it looked like a sink unit. ‘I know’ she replied ‘But if I chose one of the others, people would assume I could play. With this one they would know that I can’t.’

I looked at drum books for beginners. I am so happy to be playing music again after a long, long drought, and I want to keep up my piano and recorder playing, but I also have this desire to play drums. Because I think it will help me with my rhythm skills on the piano, in order to improve my co-ordination and because the thought of beating the hell out of something once in a while fills me with joy. I like the egg shaker, but there are times for shaking eggs and times for making some noise.

However, the drumming book included illustrations of a young boy wearing a checked shirt and shorts. Not an image I identify with. I want to look like the lady from the Lasquiti arts fest complete with stripey knee high socks and a centurions helmet.

Now there's a role model

I bought Joanne and Cyan a rather random early Christmas present. I found a copy of it at a farm in Manitoba and read it cover to cover. It’s called ‘Worst Case Scenarios’ and it’s a reference document of everything that can possibly go wrong in your life and what to do about it. My particular favourite is ‘How to remove a bird from your hair’. I guess it could happen.

When we got back I impersonated various wild animals from a stampeding giraffe to an alligator that was trying to steal a golf ball and Cyan acted out what she would do in each of the situations. Joanne stood watching, bemused both by the sight of the mad woman lying on the kitchen floor snapping her alligator jaws at her daughter, and at her 12 year old daughter happily playing along by whisking away the golf ball (cat toy) with her golf club (roll of Christmas paper). I was just relieved that the solution to this particular one didn’t involve hitting the alligator with the golf club.

Teenagers are fascinating creatures. They feel like they need to act grown up, battling on the one hand to have all the rights of adults and on the other hand to have none of the responsibilities. But really, deep down they are just children in adults bodies and given the opportunity to play they will happily grasp it with both hands. Well, wouldn’t we all.

Unfortunately the book does not offer advice on what to do if your friend’s cat hates you. Cyan has a tiny and I mean really tiny, but also really mean cat called Miko. Whenever I try to walk up the stairs she sits half way up the stairs, rears up on her hind legs and takes swipes at me with her claws. Sometimes I’m brave enough to rush past her. Sometimes I run screaming to Cyan begging her to please rescue me. I think it must be hormonal. Miko is not fixed and seems to have issues with females other than Joanne and Cyan (who I guess are family so are non threatening). Gros Tom, Lucie’s pet turkey, was gentle as could be with me but tried to attack Felix for no reason at all. Shaggy adores Alex but tries to take chunks out of Jan.

It reminds me that, despite our belief that we are somehow different to the rest of the animal kingdom, we are still just upright animals in clothes, with hormones, territories and pecking orders. They know it, but unfortunately we don’t. Maybe if we did, we might start putting their needs for food, territory, water and air on the same level as our own. Alyson lent me a copy of Ishmael by Daniel Quinn when I was in BC. It opens with the words “With Man gone will there be hope for Gorilla”. By the end of the book I realised that rather than being the Gorilla’s saviors ( how can these unfortunate primitive creatures cope without us saving them?) we are in fact their greatest enemy (maybe if the human race died out, and soon, then they might have a hope of survival).

The book closes with the words “With Gorilla gone will there be hope for Man?” I sat there on the Greyhound bus, somewhere inbetween the Rockies and Calgary weeping fierce, hot tears, my body convulsed by emotion, feeling like I’d been living my life walking around with a paper bag over my head and somehow the wind had just blown it off.

The man sitting next to me shifted uncomfortably in his seat. I was, once again, the crazy lady, crying on public transportation. I put the book away, wiped my eyes, crossed my legs under me, stared out the window at the speeding scenery and pondered “I know I can’t fix this, but how can I do as little damage as possible?”