Monday, April 25, 2011

You Ought To Be In Pictures

I am a snap happy photo fanatic. There. The first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. I don’t know if I fear I will lose my memory or if it’s that I think my subjects are just so great that they deserve to be immortalized in pictures. Whatever the case, I cannot seem to stop flashing…my camera.
When I was a girl of twelve, I got my first camera. It was a small, cheap, rectangular type that needed a flash bulb and tower. (yes, I am THAT old) My cousin and I took a few black and white photos (yes...I am that old, as well) at her place and I thought it was the greatest thing. The next step was colour film. 
Unfortunately, that camera was not like the digital cameras of today where you can take as many pictures as you like and delete whichever ones are not up to par. Back then you had to be sure of which picture you wanted to take before you took it, because you didn’t want to waste the film. All cameras were film back in the day, and when you were twelve, it wasn’t cheap. I would save up my allowance just to buy film and then go out into the neighbourhood to see if there was anything interesting happening. I accumulated quite a few films before seeing how skilled a photographer I was...or was not, as it cost more money to get it developed. And there was no one hour waiting either, it took a week or more before you got the pictures. We definitely had more patience back then. Eventually, when I started making money babysitting, I upgraded to disposable cameras which, although more expensive, had built-in film and flash to make things much easier.
It was always a fun, exciting day when I picked up my developed pictures. You never knew what you were going to get. Some would turn out, some would be black and some you couldn’t remember where they were taken or what they were supposed to be. The odd time you would even get a roll that was double exposed, something you never get with digital cameras. Since most of my pictures were of family and neighbourhood kids, when I had extra money, I would get “double prints” to share.  They were usually just pictures of kids hanging out or playing football or baseball in my aunt and uncle's back field, but to me, they were…connection.
Looking back, I can see that my camera was a liaison between me and the others around me. I was shy and, as such, not a big talker, so taking photos and talking about the resulting pics was one way for me to stay involved. A couple of years back I posted a few of said photos on my Facebook  page, much to the delight and feigned chagrin of my old friends, creating connections once again.
These days my digital camera is my constant companion, as I carry it in my purse everywhere. Although some people may get exasperated by my incessant snapping and never-ending on-line album uploads, my addiction is, for the most part, harmless. No intervention needed. Besides, connecting with friends… old or new is not a bad thing. Just ask Mark Zuckerburg.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

God's Country

I took an unexpected trip to the Annapolis Valley Sunday afternoon. The rain was blowing in sideways and it was trying to convince the car to follow suit. Thankfully, it was unsuccessful in its attempt.  Although a wet, blustery day, I could not help but think how fortunate I was to live in such a beautiful place.
The closer I got to The Valley, the more certain I became that we were sliding down the backside of winter, (giving it a good swift kick on its way out) toward the warming embrace of summer.  I headed downhill along the drizzly highway 101, past the panorama of Blomidon, with its seemingly purple painted cliffs and turned off at exit 10 toward my final destination. This time of year, green is my favorite colour and there was plenty to be found just off the Harvest Highway. I have to say, I have a soft spot for Wolfville , as it is a beautiful little town, and in spring, when the tulips have forced themselves up through the fertile earth and the grass refuses to wait to show its true colours, raining or not, I can’t help but smile.  

I’m not saying that Wolfville is the single most beautiful place in Nova Scotia, far from it. I have travelled from one end of this province to the other, and have often said, “I could live here.” Since most of my travelling has been during the warmer months, with winter and its harsh climate nothing more than a repressed memory, I can only attest to their summertime appeal.
As far as cities go, to me, Halifax is the perfect size and provides many great amenities.  Museums, shopping, cruising on the harbour, walking along the waterfront or through Point Pleasant Park, an evening of fine dining and live theatre, whatever your fancy, you can find it in Halifax. But as much as I enjoy visiting the city, my heart belongs to the rural shoreline.
The Bay of Fundy is fabulous and unique. Twice a day its powerful tidal waters slowly blanket its bare mud-flat bottom and climb the rugged fossil cliffs, only to descend back down the escarpment to expose its secret past.  One of my favorite places is Five Islands Provincial Park. The drive just to get there is beautiful, and my anticipation escalates until those mountain cliffs come into sight. It never fails to bring an awe-inspired smile to my face. Once out on the mud-flats It’s almost a reversion to childhood as you feel the mud squish up between your toes while walking along the ocean bottom, and squealing with delight as the water squirts up into your face as you step next to a clam hole or sink past your ankle in the mud.  And after the bay fills, another completely new vista presents itself for your awe and admiration. (As a side note, tidal river rafting is something not to be missed.)
But with all that the Bay has to offer, nothing draws me in like a swimming beach. I could never understand how anyone could sit on a beach all day and never set foot in the water.  It’s not a day at the beach unless you have “pruned” up. My goal is to eventually stick my feet into the surf of every beach on this little peninsula.  I’ve made quite a dent in the list to date, but I still have plenty to go.
 Melmerby Beach, just outside of New Glasgow is my closest beach of choice. If you get to “The Merb” at just the right time, the waves are perfect for body surfing. However, If you have small children Caribou/ Monroes Island outside of Pictou, or Rushtons down the road from Tatamagouche  might be more suitable. There have been moments swimming at Caribou when the water has been so calm that it seemed as though I was gliding through glass, and the marshlands around Rushtons are great for birdwatching. The Amherst shore is also close enough for a wonderful day trip.
Travelling a little farther from home, the South shore has many beautiful, sandy swimming spots. Martinique Beach near Musquodobit Harbour and Bayswater Beach in Blandford are two beaches that I frequent often. Rissers Beach near Bridgewater is also a gorgeous area. Keep in mind that I rate swimming beaches according to surf and sand quality.
Due to the restriction of time, most other spots that I have visited have been a onetime deal, but if I have to pick a favorite beach from each end of the province, the two that immediately come to mind are Port Maitland Beach outside of Yarmouth and Black Brook Beach on the Cabot Trail. Although Port Maitland is a bit on the chilly side, it is one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen and Black Brook’s great waves are fun for boogie boarding or body surfing.
As the warm weather draws ever closer, and the trees start budding, I find my beach bag has begun beckoning to me. It will soon be time to stow it in the trunk – you never know when a swimming opportunity may present itself. I wonder what new cove or harbour awaits me this summer….

Monday, April 11, 2011

Knocking On Heaven's Door

"Out, out brief candle…” ~ William Shakespeare
Funerals are interesting experiences. If it’s for a loved one it is an emotionally draining time. If it’s for someone you haven’t seen in a while, you feel sad and may wish that you had kept in touch. If it’s for a friend’s loved one, you feel bad for your friend and hope that they get through the ordeal of the day without completely falling apart. And when you see people at possibly the worst time of their lives, what do you say?  “I’m so sorry for your loss.”, although true, sounds so trite. It may seem morbid to talk about death, but it is going to happen sooner or later to all of us. It’s not my intent to upset anyone; I’m just stating a fact.
The reasons for attending a funeral can vary. You may go to honour the life of the deceased, to say your good-bye to a loved one, to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while or to support the bereaved during their time of grief. Whatever the reason for attending, it is usually a very somber affair. But there are exceptions.   
Is it a bad thing to smile at a funeral? I think not. I recently attended a funeral where family members recounted memories of the deceased that brought smiles to the mourner’s faces (including mine) and even evoked a few chuckles, and displayed pictures of happier times with loved ones. I think it was a beautiful tribute.
As I leave a funeral, I always find myself thinking of the others who have gone forth to that “undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns”.  The difference with this funeral is that afterward I found myself smiling and feeling grateful for those people who had been in my life.
As I think about my own mortality, it bothers me to think of my loved ones sorrowfully shuffling past my empty shell. I have decided that a “viewing” is not something that I would appreciate, once I “shuffle off this mortal coil”. Instead, I would much rather have every useable part of my remains donated to science and anything left over cremated and sprinkled over a cliff into the crashing surf.(I would love to spend eternity in the sea.) I realize that my loved ones may feel the need for a memorial service, and that would please me, but for God’s sake, none of that “Ashes to ashes ...” He has heard all of that before. Instead, just say “Here she comes, God!” That’s all that’s really needed; He already knows what’s in my soul.
I have no problem with spending a few minutes of quiet reflection or prayer, but I sincerely hope that instead of dwelling on my death, that my mourners spend some time celebrating my life and if anyone would like to get up to say good-bye, that would be fine as well, but instead of “Amazing Grace”, how about “For She WAS A Jolly Good Fellow” as a send off?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ouch! I Bit My Mother Tongue!

OMG! Have you heard? FYI, the Oxford English Dictionary has a few new entries and, LOL, three of them are the previously mentioned internet acronyms!  You may want to tell your BFF, but, IMHO, it may be TMI.
What is happening to the art of communication? Formality in the English language seems to be becoming a thing of the past.
Linguistic expression, as the world, is in a constant state of transformation. Many who read Shakespeare do not understand, or appreciate, the vernacular of that day, and you will find few who take the time to embrace the fluidity of a Jane Austin novel. Two centuries ago letters home took on the importance of a memoir, as time and distance deemed it necessary to pour your whole life and sentiment into each dispatch. The flowery language penned by a loved one was inhaled as deeply as any fragrant blossom.
Even television journalism has lost some of its magic as cookie-cutter newscasters spew the same, overused catch-phrases with smiles on their beautiful faces. Where are all of the broadcasters with clever, engaging style, like that of the late Edward R. Murrow whose words flowed as beautifully and as passionately as the brush strokes of Monet?
I don't know if it's lack of time or interest, but in this brave new world of text messaging and carbon copy newscasting, to me, communication has become more graffiti than an art form. Although some might argue that graffiti is an art form, literarily speaking, I am referring to the classics as opposed to, "There once was a girl from Nantucket..."
 It is a grievous thought that the English language, as we know it, will soon pass into the afterlife and the reincarnation will bare only a slight resemblance to our mother tongue, as a series of letters and unintelligible computer symbols fill the illuminated screen. Optimistically, this will not take place until long after my demise. Realistically, the transformation has already begun, as curt, abbreviated text messages staring back from our cell phones replace the human connection of the personal call. And as the word 'you' has replaced 'thou', the inevitable next step on the linguistic evolutionary ladder will be 'yo'.
Perhaps, instead of lamenting the failing health of a beloved language, I should embrace the new 'accepted' slang of the younger generation; after all, I am nothing if not open-minded.  So, instead of bidding you a fond ado, my friend, I will simply state "TTYL...homey."