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The water’s edge revisited

You can’t step in the same river twice–but reconnecting can be sweet

Janet on the beach.My sister Janet and I took a trip down the South Shore of Nova Scotia the other day, visiting spots we had known well growing up. We started at a remote beach–one of the few where the water warms up in summer and fall.

 You can never step in the same river twice, goes the old saw, or the same ocean. The water was probably swimmable, but there was a cool breeze. A couple of young biologists were taking out a motorized canoe, but they quickly came back. Janet and I walked along the beach, then I forded a creek to a large beach beyond. My senses were flooded with the sensations that come where land and sea meet the sky. I jogged to the end and met a father and his girls; they had bought a cottage there three years ago and didnt know the people I listed off in the neighbourhood.

Back near the car, it had become sunnier and warmer and I did some yoga on the beach. The we headed off for fish/clams and chips at Hunt’s Point–a little indulgence every now and then. And after all, we were revisiting the past.

Then we stopped in and visited my old friend Chris Jones and his mother Helen. We caught up on a lot of news. Chris showed me a huge wasps’ nest, but we only saw one of the creatures. Chris is extremely perceptive; one of those people who makes connections others don’t. Helen had had a fall a few years ago, and had recovered well; she was agile and enthusiastic. She showed me a beautiful manuscript, a historical novel by Anne Thompson  based on her own forbears, with references to many historial figures down through the ages, including Henry the XVIII, Erasmus, and Jesus Christ. Even the list of characters and sources at the end was a treat. Anne had died a year ago–and I had a sudden urge to speak to her about this brilliant work. What a lot of research and insight had gone into it!

Then Janet and I drove out to the village on the Medway River where our grandparents had lived. We walked in the woods, and reminisced out our father Leif, a forester who had died in 2008, aged 89. He had grown up in rural Russia and Norway, and London, England. He was one of those rare people who could be truly at home wherever he was, from the heart of the city to deep in the woods. He loved to plant trees from all over the world to see if they would grow. A supreme logician who loved all games (chess, bridge, poker, tiddly winks with the little girl next door), he put more stock in observation than theory. Once I asked him, “Do you believe in luck?” I thought he would say “no,” in deference to logic, but he rubbed his hands together and said, “Oh, yes!”

Then Janet and I drove down along the river to the highway. It was a perfect late afternoon in mid-September; with that deep sense of calm that comes at that time of year. “God has given us the trees, and the animals, and the rivers, and ocean,” Janet said. “It is all so beautiful. Why do people find so much to complain about?”

We passed the salmon pool where my father had bought land and kept a boat. There are hardly any salmon in many of these rivers now; biologists debate the causes, but certainly overfishing at sea is one. 

At the end of the road we stopped in at Evans’ general store in Mill Village, which had been in operation since 1832. Modern jazz/funk came out of the speakers, but otherwise you could imagine yourself in any decade going back to the day. That sense of timelessness again. So glad we came.

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Uploaded by David Holt