Local tunes: Colette Deveaux

For a sweet, low-key Friday, please do enjoy this sweet, low-key music video by Sydney singer-songwriter Colette Deveaux. Videography by the incomparable, imaginative and clever Jenni Welsh. Colette’s voice is haunting, yet sweet, and soothing. Don’t you find?

Colette is playing Gobblefest this year, which is an annual music festival in Sydney on the Thanksgiving long weekend. Check out the Facebook event page for more info about Gobblefest.

It’s going to be a very creative weekend around these parts! The Cabot Trail Writers Festival, Lumiere, and no doubt many other small, individual-sized creative moments happening all over the island, just because that’s how life goes… what are you getting up to?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

fall pictures (courtesy of Morwenna)

Remember Morwenna Hancock? I interviewed her at the very start of this project, or thereabouts.

She happens to be an amateur photographer, and the other day on Facebook I caught a glimpse of some thumbnails of her work. They’re so lovely. So clear and precise. She captures the particular kind of light in the fall, and the simple beauty to be had by looking around.

She was kind enough to let me share some of the pictures with you.


And oh my my, Fall is a busy time. New schedules, new living arrangements, gardens to process and then put to bed, money to be made, saved, or spent. All of this while the light is waning in the evenings and all we really want to do is nap on the couch while someone else makes dinner. Right?

Leave a comment. Hearing from readers is just as lovely as a chai latte on a sweet autumn day.


Posted in Women + kids | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabot Trail Writers Festival is this weekend!

I am so frigging excited for this weekend, you guys.

The Cabot Trail Writers Festival – get your tickets here! – is something I’ve been working on, along with Gary, Jeannette, Mary Ann and Loreto, all year. And this weekend it all comes together!

Remember when I went to Banff? I was representing the festival in a meeting of festival directors from across Canada. Remember when I interviewed Kate Beaton? Well, she’s going to be there!

I first attended the festival in its second year, as a participant. I LOVED IT. It’s a weekend getaway in North River – where I used to work for Shape Shift Pottery – spent entirely in the company of other writers. Aspiring, published – doesn’t matter. Everyone is kin there. There were workshops, and meals, and music. I took a few walks down dirt roads, either in the rain or in the cool aftermath of a rain shower. (Hey, it’s fall. Rain happens.) It was bliss.

In the festival’s third year, which was last year, I volunteered to organize the workshop for high school students that takes place the day before the festival itself starts. As a result, I got to sit in a small rural hall while Shauntay Grant led twenty teens though exercises in poetry and finding your own voice. It was incredible. Then I helped out for the rest of the festival, again enjoying the company of other writers, the food, and the weekend getaway.

The other organizers asked me to join the board. So, I did. And this year might just top all the years before – we’ve got Wayne Johnston, Kate Beaton and Stephen Kimber as our featured authors. We’ve got six local authors reading short stories from a collection called “The Men’s Breakfast”. And we’ve got some incredible musicians performing as well – Kim Dunn, Leon Dubinsky, and Alec Frith and Becky Siamon Band.

Not to mention, local chef Yvonne Leblanc is our caterer. If you’ve been to other festivals, you’ll know that what she does with simple food like quiche, salad and lasagna is mind-blowing. You see? Even the food at this festival is memorable.

Unfortunately (or fortunately? because that means there is lots of local art going on?) the nocturnal art festival Lumiere is also taking place this weekend, which means both (A) that I can’t attend it too, even though it sounds awesome and I’d like to, and (B) that those who would like to come to both, but are closer to Sydney, will likely attend Lumiere, and not the Writers Festival. Ah well – c’est la vie.

But I’ll just note, for those of you more likely to attend Lumiere, that the Festival gala on Friday night is only $25, and you get to see all three featured authors reading, as well as Kim Dunn performing his spellbinding jazz. As well, Saturday’s workshops take place well before sundown! So I urge you Sydney-siders to come on over the mountain and check us out.

All festival details to be found on the website: www.cabottrailwritersfestival.com

Posted in Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hannah Goes West: …And There Goes Ontario!

I’m so happy to have Hannah MacDonald here on the blog as a guest writer. This is the second in a series she’s writing about her move “Out West”. The first piece is here.

Although I am almost settled here into Edmonton life, there’s one aspect of my move that deserves attention: the train!

Whenever I would tell someone, “I can’t believe I’m leaving so soon. I’m taking the train out on the 11th!”, the reaction would be either, “You’re taking the train? How nice!” or “You’re taking the train? WHY!?”. Both are very fair commentary as the train is often seen as that quaint but generally ineffective mode of transportation in our expansive country.

Passing through Sackville, where I lived while in university.

Having taken the train 4,464 kilometres over 89 hours from Truro, Nova Scotia to Edmonton, Alberta, I would recommend it to anyone. Really. There’s something for everyone. And it wouldn’t hurt if everyone took some time to just. slow. down.

The pace

First off, the best and worst part of the train is certainly the pace. Taking the train takes time. You need to allot an amount of time that most people are not willing ro able to do. However, on the eve of my transition, this pace was just what I needed.

I met a few folks who considered it “the first part of my vacation.” Travel wasn’t a slog to get home; it was a way of relaxing and getting refreshed to meet friends and family. Other folks wrapped up loose ends for work while still being able to walk and think so they were ready to hit the ground running when returning to work.

I was making a move across the country. Instead of arriving on a plane ten hours after leaving home to a new province, a different ecosystem and a strange city, I wanted to experience my move. The real geographical and emotional move.

A clever friend of mine told me before leaving that “you’ll never have that moment. You’re always expecting it, but it never comes”. That major-life-decision moment of realization “oh, yes, I’m moving to a new city across the country. I feel differently now!” I’ve made a few major moves in my young life. This one was perhaps the more daring I’ve made and I wanted to fully experience and examine it. My friend was right. There is no moment. But that’s where the train helped slowly settle into the idea.

Civilized omelette breakfast in the dining car.

As the train pulled out of Union Station in Toronto, a kindly university professor asked me, “So, where are you heading”. I suppose when a young woman coming from the east answers this question with “Edmonton, Alberta”, people assume one of two things: work or love. Fair enough, I was going for the latter. It was a lovely chat, but I explained my story awkwardly – providing too few and too many details in the wrong order. I was trying to justify my move, as though I was talking to someone from home, but now… to a stranger? I slowly condensed my story to the important details. I created the tale I wanted to tell, justified by me. My little love story was refined after a few tellings, with a certainty arriving in the repetition. (Don’t worry; these were real conversations not blubbering monologues.) By explaining to strangers, who knew me as well as the conductor, it allowed me to distill my story to the barebones, the simple truth. And it really is quite simple.

Yes, the train has just the right pace. To see the country move by. To settle into a new story.

Checking out our “wheels” in Foleyet, ON.

A more human way to travel

Many people were like myself, trying out the train for its novelty and discovering how it really is a ‘more human way to travel.’ Via Rail makes that claim and it certainly is true. Even traveling in coach, I arrived feeling much more human than any other mode I’ve tried. I was well-stretched, mostly well-rested, and ready to take on Edmonton. Beyond feeling human, the cross-country train encourages and refines human interaction. For one, the staff is wonderful. With everything from seat changes to beer selections, the staff answered my questions in a helpful, kind and honest way. You know, the way you would like them to be answered. And yes, it is nice for a change.

Manitoba from the Sky Car.

The people

When traveling by plane, I am a fan of the short-polite-introduction-conversation followed by the shh-I’m-watching-a-movie kind of trip. On the train, there’s time for quiet and there’s time to chat.

I most fully realized this as I went for breakfast my first morning on The Canadian, somewhere between Felix and Foleyet, ON. As I arrive at the dining car, the hostess greeted me and seated me at a white-linen draped table. A young advertising agent already seated, and I was followed by an Australian backpacker and a retired teacher. The meal experience was intended to be shared and we all engaged in conversation with a politeness and new interest that seemed almost lost in today’s travels. It felt civilized, if I’m not too young to use that turn of phrase. To top it all off, the breakfast, hot and tasty with a reasonable price tag, was served with the staff prowess of pouring coffee effortlessly with the train’s unpredictable turns.

A brief stopover in Toronto.

The view

I boarded ready to be bored. And productive! Instead, I was engaged and read only one-half book. Eventful as the trip was, there are certainly moments of daydreaming and the train offers a wonderful, innately on-board feature – the landscape. It’s impressive. From the bustling St. Lawrence Seaway to dusty downtown Toronto to the golden Canola fields of Manitoba, the train’s windows provide stunning vistas. Canada from east to west. Canada from the pioneer point of view. As one landscape fades into another, for days in a row, I was left in awe of the gigantic country we live in. And I didn’t even get to theRockies (but I will!).

My temporary “apartment”.

The snoozing

Slowly, the views got darker and for four nights, I curled up in my train abode. I asked about seating, hoping I could take two seats to myself and the attendant noted, “You go right ahead, you’re in the long-haul train, here”. My, didn’t I feel that much tougher – going the long haul. Surprisingly, sleeping wasn’t too tough. This may because I’m a good sleeper, am travel-sized or because I took heed of the great advice “bring a sleep mask, it’s essential!” There was something comforting, and almost ferry-like, in the rumble and movement of the train. That said, the all-night safety lights and morning kiddo screeches lent to an imperfect sleep. But hey, that’s coach in the long-haul, right?

Looking east.

The motivator

Now, having visited the great Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff and witnessed the striking but disappearing glaciers, I more appreciate the smaller footprint of my train travel. Though still fossil fuel-powered, the train produces less emissions than the equivalent flight. It’s hard to find good numbers for Canadian travel, but this IPCC report and graph provides a nice comparison of passenger travel impact:


All in all, if you’re looking to travel in a more relaxing, low-impact and highly enjoyable way, try the train. You might just like it.

For me, I arrived in Edmonton, safe and sound with my life and bike in tow. I had had 89 hours to mull over and mentally settle into this new adventure. In a time of real transition, I needed this uninterrupted train of thought.

To read the first instalment of “Hannah Goes West”, click here for “Train 5703 from Truro”.

Posted in Out West, Women + kids | Tagged , | 1 Comment

10 Beaches/2012: Cheticamp

Well, here we are. The tenth beach.

Squeaking in just under deadline – it will no longer be summer after this weekend! I honestly didn’t think I’d actually make it to ten beaches, especially with being busy in school now. But, my friend Denise was having a baby shower in Cheticamp last Sunday, so I decided to go over there a bit early and check out the beach in the area.

After a week of being in school and in North Sydney, it was really nice to take off by myself for an afternoon. Just me, the car, and my iTunes. (Yes, now I’m rocking the iPhone attachment for a car, as one reader suggested. But I do still have the tapes for when I want to feel ‘old-school’.)

I love signs. And especially now that I am in the Graphic Design course, and studying these sorts of things all the time now, and paying particular attention to their details.

This scene struck as me as so ridiculously “scenic”. The little houses, the lobster traps in a pile, the bay, the mountains… I thought perhaps I had stumbled into a “Doers and Dreamers” photo shoot!

This is the view from La Pointe:

I lay down on the pebbles and sand to get this shot above, of the driftwood log with the water unfocussed behind it.

Then I went on to Denise’s baby shower, and while I won’t post photos of the people there, because of privacy and all that (didn’t get anyone’s permission), here are a couple of some of the things I saw while there.

Overall I felt that Cheticamp was more wild than other places on the island. I don’t know if it’s the moody Highlands in the distance, or the sense of being on the edge of the world, or the French heritage, or what. But it feels different to anywhere else on Cape Breton.

One of my great photographic inspirations is a young woman named Shannon Leith, who lives in California. She was on a blog break for a while but I just noticed that she’s been posting a bit lately, which makes me really happy. Her images are spare, detailed, quiet and imperfect. Like some of the best moments in life.

It’s only hit me recently that I’m not just a writer, I’m a photographer too. The pictures aren’t just image-y tidbits that support the writing on the blog, they’re really important to me, they mean a lot to me. I may not be a professional photographer, and I may only shoot with an iPhone and a Canon point-and-shoot, but I love photography, it hits me in that place.

When I transferred all my photo files from my old computer to my new one, just a couple of weeks ago, I had over 20 000 files, from 2008 to now.

Anyway. Thanks for following along the beaches adventure! I am definitely going to do it again next year.

Curious about my 10 Beaches/2012 project? Basically, this summer, I challenged myself to make it to ten separate beaches on Cape Breton Island. They ended up being: Point Aconi, Chimney Corner & Inverness, Gabarus, Kennington Cove, Florence, Dominion, Point Michaud, Glace Bay and Cheticamp.

Posted in 10 Beaches/2012 | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Lately: September 2012

Busy with school even though it’s not even that busy yet.

Keeping track of classes and assignments in notebooks, lists, and in my ever-loving brain.

Waking up at 6 am, making lunches for Adam and I, then getting to work.

Calling people and writing emails about the Cabot Trail Writers Festival, which is in two short weeks! (I’m one of five directors/organizers.)

Cutting out letters, tracing letters, glueing letters (in school).

Buying school supplies in dribs and drabs. An X-Acto knife here, a sheaf of printer paper there.

Making notes, listening to lectures, looking at overheads.

Eating the delicious food that my honey cooks. (I don’t mind doing the dishes when he cooks so much better than I do! He pays attention to all the little details – what size things are chopped at, the flavours that will result – that I’m far too impatient to care about, when I’m cooking.)

Plucking cherry tomatoes from their messy vines and popping them in my mouth. Sweet yum!

Doing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning every so often too. The joys of living as part of a grown-up household of two.

Driving from North Sydney to Sydney and then out the Glace Bay Highway to school. Driving back again. Driving around Sydney. Driving a classmate home to Whitney Pier at least once a week. Driving to Baddeck on weekends to pick up more stuff. (Gathering thoughts about an upcoming post about driving, too.)

Worrying a bit about money because I was honest with the government.

Trying not to worry about money because our basics are covered and you never know what’s around the corner. Life is good. “You can always live on rice and potatoes,” like Old Man Luedecke says.

Painting the walls of the living room a colour that sometimes looks brown, sometimes looks gold. Learning to be patient with myself and the roller. (I’m not an overly patient person. You might have heard me say that before.)

Slowly but surely cleaning up and organizing the room that is now… my office! (And also the storage for refundable beer cans.)

Trying not to let my own internal critical voices get the best of me when they ask, as they always do, “Who the heck do I think I am?” “Where is a blog going to get anyone? What the heck difference are you really making?”

Worrying that with school and the writers festival being busy, I will ignore this blog and lose all my readers. Trying not to do that.

Thinking about the upcoming municipal elections and working on a blog post about them.

Watching Jeopardy! religiously. Every night at 8:30 we sit down (OK, we’re usually on the couch already, whatevs) and welcome Alex Trebek into the living room. About 1/3 of the time I have an answer to the questions. About 1/2 the time that answer is actually right.

Loving the song “Madness” by Muse. Shades of U2. So good!

Reading Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. She is becoming a huge inspiration for me. She writes with blazing honesty about herself, about life, about pain and joy and all the shit we all go through. Plus I’ve always had a thing about memoirs about really long hikes or pilgrimages.

Other “Lately” posts on the blog: July, June, May.

Posted in Leah's thoughts | Tagged | 8 Comments

10 Beaches/2012: Glace Bay

The ninth beach! Almost there!

And here is the story of how we found it.

My dear friend Mary Beth was visiting on her way home to Newfoundland.

She and I were able to spend a rainy Thursday together, as I didn’t have classes and her flight wasn’t until 4 pm.

First thing she wanted was waffles. So I asked my Facebook – “Where is a good place to get waffles in Sydney?” “Red Diner,” someone responded. (I believe it was Alicia Penney, actually.)

So we went.

And read the paper, and ate delicious waffles. Then I put it to Mary Beth to choose the beach. We had several hours and could access a number of the beaches in the CBRM.

She chose Glace Bay. There was a bird sanctuary! Despite the rain, we went.

With the help of Google Maps, we found it. (That’s the Nova Scotia Atlas on the dashboard in one of the photos up there.)

Despite the wind and the rain, we got out of the car and walked a little ways. (We’re intrepid like that.)

The first thing we found was this bag with beer bottles. Leftover from a sad drunk wandering the shores?

Then I spotted these teeth. “What are these?” I wondered. We poked at them. “I think maybe it’s a fish,” said Mary Beth.

Then we came upon another one. “Man, these are gruesome!” I said. They reminded me of the movie Alien.

Then we realized they were all over the beach. Some were whole carcasses, others just heads or spines. Does the fish plant just dump the carcasses back in the water? I’m curious to know. I imagine one of you knows? Anyway, they made the beach feel super creepy!!

After a bit of goofing around we were soaking wet and a little freaked out by all the dead fish. So we got back in the car. We still had a couple of hours to kill, and I’d never been to the Marconi Historic Site.

So we set off for that. A bit of construction seemed to thwart us at first, but we got around it and eventually found the Tablehead area, where the site is.

Before stepping through the doors, this is what I knew about Marconi: He was Italian. His first name was Guglielmo, but lord knows how to pronounce that. And, he set up some sort of wireless signal from here to England. He had something to do with Graham Bell. And for whatever reason, the campus of NSCC that I go to is named after him.

But after visiting this National Historic Site, I learned all kinds of stuff about him, including how to pronounce his name. Most importantly (at least to the existence of the national historic site) is that he sent the first wireless radio message from North America to Europe, in 1902.

This photo above is the site where Marconi set up his towers and the site where he sent the signals from.

Chillin like a wireless-telegram-inventing-villain.

This is a copy of a letter from Graham Bell to Marconi that reads: “Mr Marconi – Congratulations and best wishes. If you can make use of my estate in Cape Breton near Baddeck as a temporary station you are welcome to it and my manager Mr. MacInnis will be glad to take care of you and your party and do everything possible to facilitate your experiments. Telegraph reply [illegible]. Graham Bell.”

Aww, that Graham Bell, what a guy! (I grew up in Baddeck, so I have a special affection for ol’ Alec.)

We encountered a lovely fellow who volunteers there, named Jim. He wore this button. We chatted about pies, and relaxing, and morse code, and what a true gentleman acts like.

So overall, Glace Bay was nice. The beach was kinda creepy, but I’d give it another chance, perhaps on a sunny day. The National Historic Site was lovely! Very informative.

To get there: Take a look at the Google Maps images in this post, which should show you where the places are.

Curious about my 10 Beaches/2012 project? Basically, this summer, I’m challenging myself to make it to ten separate beaches on Cape Breton Island. So far: Initial post, Point Aconi, Chimney Corner & Inverness, Gabarus & Fourchu, Kennington Cove, Florence, Dominion, Point Michaud, and now Glace Bay.

Posted in 10 Beaches/2012, Outdoors, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments