nova scotia, part two: two hammocks

 

Hammock #1

Found on the Bay of Fundy shore beside an off-the-grid cottage in a tiny Annapolis Valley fishing village where we spend a week in the woods without running water, indoor plumbing, a flush toilet, electricity and other what-you-think-of-as-essentials-but-really-aren’t.

Though I can tell you I missed a flush toilet.

But let’s not dwell on that.

Let’s cut straight to the hammock, where I spend several happy minutes despite a chilly drizzle. (It’s amazing how not having a flush toilet will automatically lower the luxury bar. Cold, damp hammock lolling felt downright hedonistic.)

Note: this hammock break is taken while fetching logs for the wood stove, which has to be kept running around the clock as it’s the only source of heat. It’s also where we warm water (from huge jugs that are brought in) to wash our faces and/or have a sponge bath. No shower facilities inside. Although there IS a shower outside. And by outside I mean a sort of lean-to at the edge of the forest, with a hook from which you hang a ‘bladder’ (a large bag of water that has either been left in the sun to warm, or filled with water warmed in a pot on the wood stove). It’s about 7 degrees most days. I have one shower while there. And, surprisingly, it turns out to be quite brilliant, staring out at the tides as I soap up and rinse off, albeit, quickly.

**

Hammock #2

Halifax Boardwalk.

Glorious.

A few days later the wind picks up.

Do we care? No we do not. This town has heat AND indoor plumbing.

 

 

Nova Scotia, Part One: One Perfect Pot of Tea

 

nova scotia, part one: one perfect pot of tea

 
My favourite kind of travel is the kind that meanders me down side streets where there are no attractions, where the door of a tea shop invites me to sit at a sunny window and read the local paper while enjoying the perfect blend of leaves and ambience and ambient conversation.

Where there’s a table of older people and two tables of younger people and every single one of them strikes me as someone worth talking to. A woman comes in and gets a cup of tea to go, a few minutes later, a man arrives to pick up a large paper sack containing an order of various teas, his personal stock is running low he says. He chats with the owner, who explains that he’s leaving for India soon (I don’t catch the name of the place) to visit his tea farmers and attend the wedding of a farmer’s son.

Later, when I’ve finished reading and eavesdropping and sipping, I get up to pay and I ask the owner, Philip, about his upcoming Indian tea farm travels and… well… the conversation goes on for some exceedingly happy time about ethical practices and the choice to support small growers rather than large companies, the difference in quality, the science and pleasure of blending leaves, the art of using natural flavours rather than synthetics.

Philip tells me that last time he was in India he helped with the planting of tea bushes, that the farmer whose son is getting married is his mentor, that he’s learning everything he can and that he hopes one day he’ll be able to plant tea in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

He doesn’t have to tell me this is a lifestyle, that he doesn’t sell tea to get rich. In fact he nearly went bankrupt when the city closed his street for construction one summer.

By the time I leave I’ve had a fabulous mini tea course. (I thought I knew tea. Turns out I know next to nuthin’.)

As with everything, what I learn most is how much there is to learn.

At home a week later I brew a pot of the same blend and the smell of it, the taste, is as gorgeous as I remember and… presto!… just like that I’m right back in that sunny window on a side street in Halifax.

Which is my second favourite kind of travel.

 

 

 

decency and indecency

 

One is fueled by love,

which,

among other things,

includes altruism and respect…

the other is fueled
by fear,

which includes anger and greed.

In everything we do
every choice we make
we’re moving toward
either love

or
fear…

Love or fear.

There is no other direction.

 

*
With thanks to Elizabeth Kubler Ross… and John Lennon, whose wisdom I paraphrase.

 

this is not a review: ‘everybody’s different on everybody street’, written by sheree fitch; illust. by emma fitzgerald

 
This morning I made a pot of lemon verbena/peppermint/orange mint tea with leaves from my garden and read Sheree Fitch and Emma Fitzgerald’s extraordinary Everybody’s Different on Everybody Street.

Is there a better way to start the day than tea and a (picture) book?

Answer: hardly.

And so I sipped. And marvelled over the brilliantly colourful, completely delicious illustrations… (birdcages on head, balloons up one’s skirt, laundry and tomatoes on the roof, street meditation in the presence of turtles [personal favourite], an empty fridge, a command to dance, someone in a wheelchair, others kissing in a tree, a homeless man, an angry woman, images of loneliness and images of joy, all woven against a background of a father reading a story to a young child who imagines this ‘Everybody Street’ as crowded with so many ‘others’ and who comes to realize all of those people are actually one…that we are all of those people and all of those people are us… “Yes… EVERYONE is travelling on EveryBody Street and EveryOne IS EveryOne and AnyOne you meet…”

And as I read I could feel emotions rising as the everbodyness  contained in Fitch’s buoyant poetry practically floated off the pages.

This book is a testament to community, and to joy. It’s also about mental health/illness in its many forms. And to be honest, the power of it kind of takes you by surprise.

Oh but we are in such good hands here because, as only Fitch can do, we are gently (playfully!) shown that all those people who look and act ‘differently’, who for whatever reason fall outside the punishing parameters of what society calls ‘normal’… are simply displaying aspects of being human that we all share.

The very young will only see peacocks and happy chaos… in the way of the very young, who don’t judge. But the message of inclusivity is there, the subliminal suggestion of non-judgement and, for those old enough to understand or who, in the company of a reader sensitive enough to explain, it becomes a thing to celebrate, to embrace, the beginning of meaningful conversation.

I look forward to sharing this with my eight year old niece. We will eat french fries at the beach while we read and we will talk about how we feel some of these feelings some of the time and we’ll notice people around us and make up lives for them… and remind ourselves that they have feelings too.

(The Afterword, written by Fitch, explaining the motivation behind the story, and the difficulty of taking on this subject, is an equally powerful read, in which Fitch says “I don’t like poems that tell me how to think; I like poems that make me think.”)

What a bold book.

And what an important one.

 

I got my copy at Blue Heron Books, and you can too!

Support indies!