An Unforgettable Meeting With the Queen

Even though we had been aware that our Queen Elizabeth was showing signs of coming to the end of her long reign as well as her life, when the world was told on Thursday, September 7th, that she had passed on, many of us were left with a feeling of shock and sadness. Wasn’t it just a few days before that she had inducted the new Prime Minister of England into office, a tradition that has been carried out by the reigning monarch of the UK for eons?

No matter what anyone may think about the value for maintaining the monarchy these days because of its cost at a time when a large part of our world is suffering from famine, climate change disasters, war and terrible injustices, the Queen’s death has revealed to us that there is something very worthwhile about it after all. The debate about abolishing the monarchy has been ongoing for almost as long as the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. The fact that she, a woman who wasn’t the next in line but unexpectedly inherited this responsibility because her uncle abdicated the throne so he could marry a divorced woman, put her in the position of ruling over one of the world’s oldest empires.

Seventy years is a long time to have to reign over an increasingly more complicated role as the British monarch for the “Commonwealth of Nations” which reached to the far corners of the world. Gradually as the world population increased and became more connected, many of the countries conquered by the Brits no longer wanted to be ruled by a distant relative who knew little about them and their customs. Wanting their freedom from the monarchy’s tight control, they either set up their own monarchy or elected their own leaders to form a republic. Despite her efforts to connect with her far flung family with more frequent visits and in some cases a first visit from a monarch, she was dismayed to see more than 30 members leave the commonwealth during her reign. Nevertheless, she handled every crisis within her dwindling empire with grace and understanding. On top of this kind of pressure, she also had to handle the precarious position she was put in as a Head of State demanding she be supportive of the numerous changes of government and Prime Ministers in England whether she liked them or not. Again, she was able to handle every political crisis and leader with an astounding knowledge and understanding of their roles. I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was born to be both a Queen and a Head of State. Totally dedicated to her job with its responsibilities and changes, she revealed such dedication that at times the media blatantly accused her of neglecting her own family. No doubt she did but she never faltered. She came through both her personal and her public life with aplomb.

We, being her people you might say, have always taken a tremendous interest in her personal life. Unfortunately, the media may have expressed too much interest in the the Queen and all the Royals. Many of us will remember the time when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Unfortunately, the Queen was instantly chastised for the how she handled the tragedy. Why had she waited so long before issuing statement after the tragic news to the people, and why did it take her so long to return London from Balmoral where she was taking a holiday? Did she not care? Was she that much out of touch with the public that she was not there to mourn with all her subjects the death of a young woman who inspired all those she met with a freshness that the monarchy had never seen before? All of this kind of publicity was probably one of the worst times of Elizbeth’s reign. I remember distinctly listening to her annual Christmas speech that year when she described her year as a “horriblis annibus”. Well, to her credit, she took the message from the people to heart because from that time on the whole mood at the palace began to change. She made more appearances and somehow appeared to be more vulnerable as a person whom they could connect to. Yes, she had listened to her people and had learned from them.

During this time, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on with the royal family. I had other, more important things on my mind. I remember thinking, however, that the media were making far too much fuss over Diana and being almost cruel to the Queen. I could understand the difficulty Diana would have had dealing with her role as wife to the future king, the protocol that this role required, and worst of all realizing that she had married a man much older than she who was in love with another woman… Camilla…his first love. Of course, the media had a hay day with this family affair making it into a sordid event which must have been extremely difficult for Elizabeth.

Somehow the whole tragic story got absorbed into my subconscious because one night I woke up from a dream I had about the Queen. It went something like this. I found myself enjoying a beer in a typical British pub and sitting across from me at my booth was the Queen! She was casually dressed with no hat and purse. She seemed relaxed and to be enjoying herself. All I could think of was how natural she was and how normal she appeared. Our conversation…can’t remember what we were talking about…flowed so naturally that I felt I was talking to one of my close friends. Not long after that dream, I heard on the CBC news that the Queen was making a huge effort to visit some of the small villages in England that she seldom got to, and that she had actually visited a pub or two. Wow! To this day I fully believe that our dreams sometimes do foretell the future, not just for ourselves, but for others we may know or events that are about to happen.

Now almost two weeks later since her death, the out pouring of love for this remarkable woman has been phenomenal. England hasn’t seen anything like this since the death of her father, King George VI, and the invincible Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who carried the British through WWII to victory over Germany. There have been many great men, including past Kings of England, who have been proclaimed as heroes but few women. Elizabeth II will be the first to have ever succeeded in her role as Queen for over 70 years making her the longest reigning royal in the world. She will surely be missed for her undying sense of responsibility to a job she never asked for. Once she revealed her vulnerability to her people via the media, we came to see her as a human being dealing with the trials and tribulations of life. She became better at her role as Queen and as a person as she grew older. She never gave up. We have been moved by her death more as the person she was than what she represented in a way that we never anticipated. She has been a great role model for us all and will remain in our hearts for a long time.

God bless the Queen and God save the new King”– A quote from an anonymous admirer.

In her later years dressed in one of her favourite colours.

Continuing on the Road Less Travelled

Where has the time gone! I can’t believe that my last blog was published at the end of April over three months ago. It’s no wonder that feelings of guilt have been knocking at my door. Of course, I am as guilty as any decent human being for making up excuses about why we aren’t doing what we know deep down we ought be doing. Okay, perhaps I am being a bit harsh on myself because I need to acknowledge the fact that with the arrival of spring, I needed to get my veggie garden started. By June my transplants had to be put in and before I could catch my breath lettuce, spinach, and other greens were all begging to be picked. My days were consumed by my gardening and attempts to do a bit of landscaping around my property. Dare I compare gardening to a battle that just seems to get a little bit more difficult every year? The other battle I had to overcome was the plain and simple fact that I had lost my mojo to write. I could blame this on COVID, rampant inflation, unpredictable weather, along with myriad other reasons, but I won’t because the truth of it was that I felt I didn’t really have anything to write about. I hadn’t travelled anywhere for over a year and was faced with the glaring reality that my travelling days were probably over forever.

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The Parrsboro Shore: A Little Cape Breton and Home of the Dinosaurs

Many years ago when I was a student at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, I spent two of my summers working at Keltic Lodge in the Cape Breton Highlands. Cape Breton is an island connected by a causeway to the province of Nova Scotia. Today it’s considered as one of the world’s ‘go to’ places to visit. I am not surprised that it has gained this honour because it definitely deserves to be on that list. However, when my university friend whose family came from the Parrsboro Shore on the mainland of Nova Scotia called it ‘a little Cape Breton’, I was doubtful. Nothing could match what I had seen and experienced for those two summers I spent in Cape Breton. So after fifty years, I decided to check out what she said for myself.

At the same time, I wanted to learn more about why this area has recently won the distinction of becoming a UNESCO site making it another of our world’s wonders needing to be protected. For starters, it can visibly trace its history back to prehistoric times and beyond. Yes, it’s where you can find dinosaur remains and other fossils in abundance. It’s not only a geologist’s delight but also one for our young dinosaur lovers.

Parrsboro Shore with NB gray area upper left.

Today this area stretching from Truro to Cape Chignecto is called the Fundy Geopark. The village of Parrsboro, the Geopark, and surrounding area form a large chunk of land close to our neighbouring province of New Brunswick separated only by the Bay of Fundy. This map of Nova Scotia shows New Brunswick, the gray bit to the north, Prince Edward Island just to the right of that, and finally Cape Breton, the green area on the right.

I am going to digress here a little bit to explain how vulnerable this area is to the effects of our changing climate. NB and NS are connected by the Isthmus of Chignecto which is a narrow strip of low lying marshland. It’s not surprising that it is being slowly eroded by our frequent wind and rain storms which get worse every year. If some kind of action isn’t taken soon, all of Nova Scotia including Cape Breton could easily become an island separating us from the rest of Canada.

For me the best way to travel around Nova Scotia is to stick to the scenic routes to really see what this province has to offer and to get a sense of its history. The day I set out from my home in the Valley, on the western side of the province facing the Bay of Fundy, it was sunny. As I went further north and had hooked on to the scenic highway 214 commonly known as the Noel Shore, the skies began to darken and within minutes I heard the unmistaken sound of hailstones hitting the roof of my car, instantly followed by a deluge of rain which brought me to a dead halt. Thank goodness, it didn’t last long and by the time I reached Noel, the sun had reappeared.

A “Flower Pot” island on the Noel Shore.

Spotting an eye-catching sign naming a place called Burntcoat Head, a place I had never heard of before, I decided to stop. Here I got my first glimpse of the unique rock formations, commonly called ‘flower pots’ which the Bay of Fundy is famous for in the southern part of New Brunswick. Unfortunately, the tide was on its way in so I couldn’t walk the ocean floor to look for fossils. Signs were posted everywhere reminding us to not go down the steep stairs since the tide comes in so quickly and can leave you stranded.

My next stop was the town of Truro where I was going to stay for a night with another Mount Allison friend. We had five years of catching up to do. The following morning, she took me on quick tour of the town which included a visit to Victoria Park, a 3,000 acre natural park in the centre of town. As we walked up the stairs to see the two waterfalls, I was reminded of the fun times I had when my father took me, my brother, and my grandmother in his old black plymouth for a Sunday picnic to this wonderful park.

Leaving Truro the next day, I had to get back on the main highway to connect to Highway 2 now known as the Glooscap Trail. This road will take you through several small villages of note with lovely views of the Minas Basin an adjunct of the Bay of Fundy. The first village, unfortunately, happens to be Portapique. For those who don’t know about Portapique, two years ago this community was literally attacked by a mad gunman, dressed up in police uniform and driving a police car who went on a rampage killing 22 people. Today, it is reported as one of the worst crimes in Canadian history.

The next village is Bass River famous for the Bass River Chair Co. which manufactured and shipped caned-back chairs worldwide until its closing in 1989 after a succession of disastrous fires. One of the original buildings is still there operating as a General Store along with a small museum where you can find many pieces of their fine furniture.

A little further on is the Dutchman’s Cheese Farm in the village of Economy where you can buy the owner’s famous ‘dragon’s breath’ cheese. As the road veered closer to the water, I spied the scenic Five Islands in the distance. Here you will find a popular and well equipped Provincial Park for RV owners and campers providing all the amenities for outdoor living, a spectacular view of the islands, and another opportunity to walk the ocean floor…if the tide is out! Yes, walking on the beaches and looking for fossils are activities around the Bay of Fundy dictated by its tides.

The Minas Basin with the Glooscap Trail to the north.

Furthermore, this is Mi’kmaq land as much of Nova Scotia once was. Legends galore exist with their tales of how much of what we see today was created by Glooscap, their Chief. In the distance, you can see Cape Blomidon on the other side of the Basin where he resided. Legend has it that the Five Islands grew from the sticks that he threw at a beaver damming up his medicine garden. He trapped the beaver and turned him into a lump of gold. Such legends are fun to read and can be found in bookstores and tourist sites around the province.

Entrance to the Gillespie House Inn

My final stop that day was Parrsboro where I had made reservations to stay at the stately Gillespie House Inn.There is much choice when it comes to finding a lovely B&B in this town. I was totally satisfied with my tastefully furnished room, the huge breakfasts, and the peaceful garden for relaxing after a busy day of driving and sightseeing.

Children’s art in the towns Park

After I had settled in, I decided to take a quick tour of the town before dinner. What really caught my attention was the bits of artwork scattered everywhere: in the Service Park with its gazebo and notice board for the town’s activities, on gates connecting some of the old buildings, on the telephone poles, on fences, some houses, and even their recycling bins all lending an atmosphere of quaint and thoughtful creativity.

However, one noticeable thing lacking was places to eat right in town. Two I knew of were outside the town so you would have to take a car. If you didn’t want to do that there were three places you could walk to: a brewery with an outdoor patio which had the most action, the Black Rock Bistro where I ate which was okay, and, if you wanted coffee and a donut, there was a Tim Horton’s constructed in a house making it look like all the neighboring houses.

I have been referring to Parrsboro as a town but it’s now become a village which isn’t surprising. Its heyday as a major shipping centre in this part of the province is long gone, leaving it with little industry other than tourism and a population of a little over 1,000. Nevertheless, there is still much to attract tourists despite its size and being a little off the beaten track.

The Ship’s Company Theatre

There is the Ship’s Company Theatre drawing patrons from all parts of the province with a cast of talented locals, the ever popular Fundy Geological Museum, the Ottawa House Museum, once the summer home of Sir Charles Tupper one of Canada’s prime ministers, a golf course, and Partridge Island which really isn’t an island as it’s connected by a causeway to the town/village. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are hiking trails, a beach for fossil hunting , and guided tours either by foot or by boat.

The following day which would be my last, dawned as a perfect summer day. I had so much more to see so got off to an early start beginning with the Geological Museum on the edge of town just before the causeway linking it to Partridge Island. I wanted to find out what Nova Scotia looked like millions of years ago, more about the colliding continents, and the prehistoric creatures and dinosaurs who roamed our earth.

A prehistoric dinosaur

It’s mind boggling that we can trace the beginning of life on earth to more than 45 million years ago. Scientists figure our earth has gone through five extinctions and I wasn’t surprised to find out that we are now in our sixth. A perfect museum for all ages, you can learn more by clicking on the following link http://www.novascotia.com

Which ones would you choose?

Having enough information crammed into my brain and seeing that the tide was on its way out, I decided to do a bit of beach combing. What an opportunity to look for some fossils! Minerals, stones, agates, some gems, such as agates and amethysts, or you might even be lucky enough to find a fossil hidden somewhere on this beach. I had read that we were only allowed to take a few as souvenirs. Such a difficult choice as I was tempted to take all of them.

Cape Blomidon from top of the trail

Feeling the need for some more strenuous exercise after my hearty breakfast, I took the 1.5km trail over the mountain….more like a steep hill actually but in Nova Scotia we like to call them mountains….to get a good view of Cape Blomidon…remember, Gloosecap’s birth place… which looked so close to where I was just across the Basin. Benches strategically placed to capture incredible views are available for resting, as well as a lookout tower at the top of the trail, makes this a perfect walk.

The Ottawa Museum

Time now for another change of pace so I decided to pay a quick visit to the Ottawa House one of the province’s oldest Georgian houses which for over a century served as a country inn and general store under the ownership of the Ratchford family. Sir Charles Tupper, a well known physician, Premier of Nova Scotia, a Father of Confederation, and for a short time, Prime Minister of Canada bought this house as a summer residence.Today as a museum, it gives us a peek into Tupper’s life as well as the seafaring, lumbering, and cultural history of Partridge Island and the entire Parrsboro Shore.

After a quick snack on the veranda of this gracious old home with the fantastic view, I needed to get back on the Glooscap Trail or I would never have time to see all that I had planned. My next stop was Advocate Harbour where you can access the Cape Chignecto Park.

Basically a huge wilderness park, this is a hiker’s haven for those who are fit and have at least three days to complete the 53 km loop trail which from all reports may be too rigorous for some but definitely rewarding for its natural environment. Here you will encounter steep cliffs, deep valleys, sheltered coves, fossil remains, rare plants, and old growth forest. It can easily rival many of the trails in Cape Breton.

On the Fault with red rocks behind me.

I had just enough time before the tide came in to walk down to the beach for a view of the red rocks and the Cobequid Fault, a remnant of the Pangea era when our continents were colliding with one another. For some time we have known that we were once joined to North Africa. Now are emerging into the Age of Pangea Ultima where the continents will again come together to form a larger land mass. All of this is explained in the museum I had visited in the morning.

With the end of the day and closing time for some places fast approaching, I had to make another decision. Would it be to continue on to Eatonville to a lookoff point where you can witness another iconic rock formation called the Three Sisters or turn back and make a quick detour on a gravel road leading to the Cap d’Or Coastal Park?

Captivating view of Cap d’Or

After descending a steep hill, I am greeted by another of the Bay of Fundy’s fantastic views. Here your breath might be taken away by the rugged cliffs on both sides and down below a narrow spit of land projecting out into the Bay giving you an idea of the force of the high tides that the Bay is famous for.

Cap d’Or’s iconic lighthouse and restaurant.

The only sign of civilization is the lighthouse and two other buildings. I found out that one of those buildings is the original home of the lighthouse keeper now operating as a rustic restaurant with 15 windows which give diners one fantastic view. According to the few people I spoke to who had all been there before, the food is freshly made from local produce with chowder and fresh fish as their specialty. However, reservations have to be made ahead of time.

Although my visit to the Parrsboro Shore was short and at times hectic trying to see everything, I came away learning so much more about my province. Here you truly get a sense of its ancient history well before the arrival of our first inhabitants… the Mi’Kmaq. I was also impressed with how well our tourism department has promoted it. Much thanks should go to the dedicated group of people who cared enough to keep pursuing for many years their UNESCO designation. They have definitely put this part of our province on the map as one more of Nova Scotia’s prime tourist attractions. Finally, let’s extend our thoughts of gratitude to Mother Earth who has gifted this entire region with so many of her wonders. There is a definite sense of peace and serenity prevailing over this land once ruled by Glooscap, the Chief of the Mi’kmaq. To my mind, it was well worth a visit for those who care about our history and our future.

Let Nature Be Our Teacher

Do you get as tired and depressed as I can after listening to the latest news reports which seem to to be getting worse with each passing day? Having heard enough about the unthinkable catastrophe quickly unfolding in the Ukraine, I was about to turn off my radio when I heard Matt Galloway, on CBC’s The Current, suggest we stay tuned for his next interview about a rare kind of whale recently sighted in the St. Lawrence River.

Since COVID arrived with its challenges two years ago and our changing climate has so far tested us with a winter like no other that we have ever seen, I have developed the ‘not so great’ habit of listening to the morning news over a larger than usual cup of coffee. I rationalise this by telling myself it’s better to hear about the catastrophe taking place in the Ukraine in the morning rather than seeing it on the late night news before going to bed.

Returning now to the narwhal sighting, for some inexplicable reason this was a story I felt I needed to hear more about. It’s not surprising that whales, birds and other wildlife are being seen outside their natural habitats these days as our climate changes. So what is so unusual about one baby narwhal sighting so far south when normally he hangs out in the far north of the Arctic? Hoping it might possibly be a good news story which could help shake off my doldrums, I grabbed a pen to make some notes because down deep I could finally feel a topic to write about for my next blog post.

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How to Find Happiness

Finding happiness is going to be a huge challenge for me and so many others in 2022 but we can do it if we want to. After three years of a myriad of changes in my life, such as leaving a marriage of 25 years, two moves, buying a house, and learning to adapt to living on my own, I am finally in a good place where I know that I must get back to my writing. I have promised myself, let’s call it a New Year’s resolution, that there will be no more excuses for procrastinating. After considering a number of ideas for writing about my travels “within” rather than “without” since COVID isn’t allowing me to travel very far these days, I chose to tackle a topic of interest to me for a very long time…happiness! Why have we human beings been pursuing happiness, this elusive state of mind, ever since we came to this earth, and why have we failed so miserably at achieving it?

When I stop to reflect on this topic, I realise that my interest in what happiness is began more than 20 years ago. Up to that point, it really was just a word with no significant meaning attached to it. In fact, I had never even stopped to consider whether I was a happy person or not. I was too busy working and getting on with my busy life.

Then one day out of the blue, I overheard a conversation between two people where one of them remarked that in his experience, he had discovered that many people were unable to share in the happiness of another. He concluded that it was almost as if they were jealous of anyone who was always happy. On the other hand, he wondered if it was a case of that old saying “Misery loves company.” It’s true that we all want to be happy, yet we can’t seem to achieve it for some reason. Oh yes, some of us can put on a happy face when underneath we are not. It could be a mask covering up latent anger, sadness, or anxiety which we don’t want others to see. So I began to think about why we would rather talk about our misery instead of doing something about it. Are we afraid to seek our own happiness because it might seem selfish, or is it because we have the wrong idea about what could bring it to us causing us to search in all the wrong places?

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