nova scotia, part three: how to visit three gardens

 
Find yourself driving from the Halifax airport to the Annapolis Valley when you see a sign for Coffee. Decide to stop, stretch your legs. It doesn’t matter that you don’t drink coffee, maybe they have something else, which they do… because you are at The Tangled Garden, which has not only beautifully out of season, unruly paths (devoid of other humans) that lead to a labyrinth, but also jams and spicy jellies and chairs made specifically for fairies.

Spend a good half hour walking the labyrinth.

And be so happy it’s October when there’s less to see so you can see it all.    **

A few days later in Annapolis Royal find yourself at the Historic Gardens where once again you are the only souls wandering this 17 acre space that abuts a wetland complete with dykes.

Enjoy an impromptu starling ballet.

**

A few days later still, in Halifax, spend the better part of a grey morning at the Public Gardens and marvel at this splendid bit of greenery in the heart of downtown.

Notice the extraordinary number of garbage cans in almost every conceivable space. (Regret not counting them.) And the corresponding lack of litter. Realize that you have never seen such generosity displayed (of the waste receptacle variety). There is even an off-stage area for garbage-cans-in-waiting, presumably in case any of the regulars get injured in some way.

Stop for tea at an oasis staffed by delightful young people. Be reminded of what a joy it is to come across people of any age who enjoy their work.

Take your rooibos chai outside to the deck where no one else dares to venture in October and watch those who wander the garden paths and wonder how it is that so many people are able to drink tea/coffee while walking. You have never mastered this skill nor do you want to as it seems to deny maximum pleasure of both activities.

Notice a man in a trench coat, a fedora and a bow tie.

Notice him stopping and looking at you from the path just beyond the deck.

When he says “Are you with the cruise?”, answer that no you are most definitely not nor would you ever be. Offer that there are a number of people inside the tea house and perhaps they are with the cruise if he’s looking for people from the cruise. He says he is not, he was just curious.

Realize that you are now engaged in conversation and that it’s only a matter of time before he walks up onto the deck and sits down at your little table and proceeds to talk for at least forty minutes, most likely longer, during which time you learn a multitude of things about him, not the least of which is that he is 83 years old and was once Harbour Master at the Port of Halifax and that under his trench coat he is wearing a leather blazer that he bought at a thrift shop for $2.00. He tells you that he often comes to the gardens to dance with his wife on a summer night when a band is playing and that they’re even on YouTube he says. (You will google this later and find that it’s true and then you will never be able to find the video again., which will be annoying as you write this post. Nuts, you will say.)

The best you have to offer is a furtive snap of him walking away after exiting the gardens together and agreeing it was lovely to meet.

**

Nova Scotia, Part Two: Two Hammocks

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

trees R us

 

We had a couple of pear trees in the backyard when I was a kid.

And my dad had a movie camera. Super 8, I think. A big deal at the time. Fancied himself the Spielberg of home movies.

But the Spielberg of home movies he was not.

The pear tree and the Super 8 spent a lot of time together. My dad behind the lens and me up in the branches. Him on the lawn, red light flashing, yelling at me to go higher. This was before sound, so the footage more or less shows me shaking my head, mouthing noooo… looking terrified, then climbing an inch higher. And so on. For several minutes. (A kind of psychedelic bonus was the wobbling of camera due to his waving arms while yelling instructions.) (The fact that a pear tree is not very tall is insignificant to this story. Or is it?)

He had a thing for capturing the tree in different seasons. Blossom time, fruiting, fall colours. And what’s a tree without a kid in it? Climb high as you can. You call that high?? Higher!! Don’t be such a baby. HIGHER!! 

noooooo….

He grew up in the mountains, in a world of trees and, I think, felt most at home around them, so he planted a front yard full of evergreens and a backyard full of plum and apple, apricot and cherry. The pear trees came with the house, which was built on the site of a former orchard, the remains of which orchard was vast and right across the road, and probably the reason they chose that site.

He was in no way a slow moving person except when he went for a walk, then he’d ramble, take things in. My mother, the opposite, a snail in most things, but a fast walker. What’s the hurry? he’d yell from several feet behind.

I preferred his pace. It allowed looking and talking, imagining and what-if-ing. He was a magnificent what-if-er. The details of those conversations are gone but the essence of them linger and sometimes a bizarre what-if kind of question pops into my mind and it’s then I miss being able to say hey, dad… imagine this…

Occasionally he’d bring the Super 8, go all Spielberg and yell for us to stand here or there, to smile, pretend you’re having fun for god’s sake!

Not the best part of the rambles.

I often think of him now as I traipse about at my own between-fast-and-slow pace. Like him I usually have a camera in hand. Unlike him I don’t yell at people. Much.

I see things he would have loved, or things we might have wondered about. He was a great wonder-er. I imagine how I might tell him I’d still like to live in a tent, or a cabin, in the woods, and how he’d say who wouldn’t?

I’ve forgiven the film shoots.

And, remarkably, I have a great fondness for pear trees.

The best part though, the gift of his tree-loving nature, unintended as it surely was, is that reminders of him are forever everywhere…

 

Adding this, which I stumbled upon today and which so wonderfully fits.

“Hence in solitude, or that deserted state when we are surrounded by human beings and yet they sympathize not with us, we love the flowers, the grass, the waters, and the sky. In the motion of the very leaves of spring, in the blue air, there is then found a secret correspondence with our heart.”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, “On Love”

 

wordless wednesday (not always wordless)

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

And instead of chocolate, here’s one of my favourite posts…

https://matildamagtree.com/2014/02/14/todays-shape-3/

… proving #lovesweetlove is everywhere.
(If you find any pics to add to it… send them my way!)

Happy seeing-with-heart  day…

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

how to: birthday lunch (thirteenth year), in four parts

 

Part one, the appetizer:

Begin at the fish and chips place you hear is all the rage though oddly it’s entirely empty at 12:30 p.m. on a Friday. (That’s fish day, no?)

Consider leaving until the oh-so-lovely server tells you that Fridays are funny, sometimes busy, sometimes not, that dinner is when things really get hopping and that, “believe me”,  she should know because she has worked there for “twenty five long years”…

Order a plate of fries and enjoy the art.

Get lost in the beauty of entire walls covered in scenes of nautical joy.

Dig into the fries as you draw up plans for the invention of an electric toothbrush you call The Squiggly  (instead of vibrating it squiggles, obvs) (possibly cat shaped) and discuss A Wrinkle in Time, which the thirteen year old tells you is the first book written in third person that she has liked.

Be a little stunned that she knows about third person.

Part two, the main course:

Head to the Mexican place for tacos.

Try all the hot sauces offered.

Notice the table behind you is is talking about Vancouver at precisely the same time you are talking about Vancouver. Talk about Calgary instead.

Part three,  le dessert:

Hint…. DQ is right next door.

Discuss what sports you are bad at and how you don’t care.

Discuss your dislike of certain kinds of shellfish. And liver.

Discuss how you are both practically vegetarian but not quite.

Discuss how one of you is considering becoming an actual vegetarian.

Discuss how only just this xmas one of you gave an actual vegetarian
a lucky fish.

Discuss the word serendipity.

Part four, the libation:

Decide that The L’il Organic Kitchen is possibly your new book club meeting space (except in summer when you will meet at the beach and eat fries from Jenny’s chip truck.).

And that the first book will be Maud, by Melanie Fishbane.

For the thirteen year old… orange, lime, pineapple and strawberry power juice.

For you, warm coconut milk with turmeric, cinnamon and ginger.

Chat includes things you regret having done.

You— among other things, stealing wax lips when you were nine.*

Thirteen year old— accidentally eating her birthday candle.**

The end.

  *   Lips remained stolen for exactly nine seconds. Turns out you weren’t made for a life of crime… (you left them on top of the mailbox outside the store and ran all the way home).

**  The candle remains eaten.

 

thanks for (the) nothing

 

How little do I need in order to have everything? ~ Alix Kates Shulman

The truth is this —  on any given day, even when it seems otherwise, even when the fridge and the cupboards look a little bare, I have enough food in my house that I really don’t have to add a thing. Nobody here is anywhere even close to going hungry. We live in a culture of needing more than we need.

The truth is also that I love farmers’ markets and good bread, an olive bar, fish mongers, cheese shops and the Bulk Barn, but I don’t like a house full of food. What I love more is a house with some food, enough that I can forage, but not so much that I always know ahead of time what I’m going to be eating.

I rarely cook for a crowd anymore so I have this luxury.

Sometimes I don’t shop for weeks, I challenge myself instead to figure out what can be made with whatever’s on hand… a decreasing amount of rice, chickpeas, flour, raisins, walnuts. Right now there’s goat cheese and Coronation grapes, apples, leeks, only one egg but a jar full of pickles. (I love how those tomatoes that need to be eaten turn into the manna of roasted tomato and oh-look-a-few-jalapenos! over a cup-of-cooked-quinoa-I’d-almost-forgotten-about.) And that egg. There are two of us. Will it be shared, scrambled with a bit of recently made pesto, a scraping of cheddar (because, look!! we have just enough)… or deviled and divided in two? Or will we flip a coin to see who gets to have it all to themselves?

I know. It’s a wild ride in my world.

But, honestly, some of my best meals have come from cupboard/fridge foraging. And some seriously cherished memories come from a time when this was a lifestyle not a choice, when I had very little and valued every tea bag, when something like mild euphoria would occur at the discovery there were still two  Digestives left in the packet, when I’d thought there was only one. But we’ve all been some version of there, yes?

Part of me still taps into that lack-inspired euphoria, maybe it’s why I’ve never really embraced shopping in any regular kind of way and why I’m so comfortable with my occasional (and relatively speaking) empty cupboards.

Or maybe I just embrace a certain kind of culinary laziness.

Oh, I’ll buy food this weekend, but not for me and mine. **

I know this is a privilege, this choice to celebrate the abundance by embracing the absence. Not everyone has that choice and so there’s gratitude in equal measure for both the shortage of eggs and that full jar of pickles.

Wherever your own wild ride takes you… happy Thanksgiving.

** (Update: I’ve been told that an exception must be made for mushrooms. Mushrooms MUST be included in the stuffing. Fortunately the other stuffing ingredients and the chicken were acquired last week.)

things i learned in a few patio hours with my favourite eccentric

A teaspoon of red wine vinegar tossed into a bowl of lentil soup just before serving apparently turns lentil soup into nectar.

Shivasana is THE most important yoga move. Ten minutes is good.

Persimmons for arthritis.

Raccoon poop is best disposed of with a) gloves, b) crumpled newspaper. Forget the trowel or shovel because then  how do you clean off the toxic??

Margaret Carney, nature writer and birder extraordinaire, once upon a time worked as an editor at Harlequin.

Lima beans, aka butter beans, will last — tops — three days in the fridge once the tin is opened so after you use half a tin for making a butter bean flan, use the other half — straightaway! — in a butter bean salad (red onion, celery, dressing of choice).

A lavender farm has opened not a million miles away from my front door.

And if that isn’t enough there’s ANOTHER lavender place even closer.

Ways of peeling garlic. (The knife crush is but one.)

Levine Flexhaug.  (1918 – 1974)  Famous for more or less painting the same cheesy landscape scene over and over in audacious colours and with various ‘differences’. So bad it’s brilliant.

The word minim.