10 Beaches/2012: Gabarus and Fourchu

It’s getting to be kind of funny, that every time I have a day off and have time to get to a beach, it’s overcast or raining.

Funny, or annoying, depending on whether I feel lighthearted or not.

Anyway, it feels pretty silly to be driving around in a bathing suit and beach dress on a rainy day, for sure. Kind of the definition of “false hope”.

So last week I decided I was going to check out Gabarus. I’ve never been there, so I was excited – a new part of the island to check out! There is something about travel that really gets my creative juices flowing, and travelling somewhere new especially. And checking out a new place on Cape Breton? The best!!

I had to head into downtown Sydney first, and as I was leaving the raindrops started. Bah! There went my hope that it might clear.

Out on the highway, the clouds still looked pretty ominous.

Stopped at the Alexandra Street roundabout for construction. I do love cranes. And construction – there’s something amazing to me about how we humans can actually organize ourselves to get this kind of thing DONE. Buildings on a big scale. Highway projects. Kinda neat.

So I drove through Marion Bridge and to the turnoff to Gabarus, and then decided to keep going, to check out Fourchu. I’ve been to St. Peter’s and Point Michaud a bunch, but never to that section of coast between Point Michaud and Louisbourg. Someday I’ll do the rest of it, and check out Framboise too.

It was really quiet here. No-one around. Some birds hanging out and flitting by the roadside. The air was still.

Bemused-face. Like, “what the heck am I doing here, hanging out on a rainy day in Fourchu near some fishing boats, in a bathing suit? I really am quite a dork.”

I went a little further towards Framboise, thinking there might be a beach to be found, but ended up stopping at a one-lane bridge to eat my lunch and turn around. Turned out it was right next to a seabird nesting area, so that was neat.

The ditches are so full of life this time of year! Greens, and other colours, and textures. Lovely.

The irony of eating this sushi, fished lord knows where, by the Cape Breton seacoast wasn’t lost on me. But it was pretty tasty. (The sushi, not the irony.)

That was enough of Fourchu. I wanted to start heading back and check out Gabarus. Someone had mentioned Belfry Beach at one point, so I went there first.

Belfry Beach isn’t sandy, at least not the part where I was. It is covered in tiny pebbles. This was a little painful on my feet at times, depending on thes size of them. Nice and small= didn’t hurt. Kinda bigger= ouch!

This is probably my favorite shot of the whole day. The colours! The textures!The blue and yellow together!

Irish Moss. You can make gelatin out of this stuff! Mum swears by a drink made with it, if she’s sick, because it’s got all kinds of minerals and things in it. I think it tastes like and has the consistency of snot, but… whatevs. To each their own!

Beach succulents.

I sat in my car for a while, writing in my notebook. So relaxing. I could hear (but not see) the ocean. Just time all by myself to write, and think, and stare off into space. The best.

My touring-around necessities – The Nova Scotia Atlas. My cassette tapes (and the radio). My deodorant, I guess? (Well, it’s in the picture.) I took my book along but didn’t read it (that happens a lot). And my writing notebook (a Hilroy from the Drug Store).

Then I went on to Gabarus, the community itself.

Up and over the seawall.

I just really love being by the ocean. The sound it makes, the constancy of it, the rhythm of the waves going in-and-out, the power, and how ancient the whole thing feels. My own day-to-day worries and the headaches of a little human life feel pretty small next to the ocean.

Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

This is the Post Office in Gabarus. Adorable! A car is bigger than it!

To take this shot I totally pulled a “tourist” move, one that drives me nuts here at home: I STOPPED THE CAR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, y’all. But, there wasn’t anyone behind me. So it was OK. Right?

This just cracked me up. The sign says “No Camping Permitted.” And they camped right next to it.

Here are a couple of interesting, Gabarus-related things I found:

To get there: Gabarus’s Belfry Beach is down the Belfry Road, which is off the Fourchu Road. To get to the seawall in Gabarus town, take Route 327 from Sydney to Gabarus and just drive to the end of ‘er. You will end at the seawall.

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.

Posted in 10 Beaches/2012, Active living | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

speaking of roads…

Not much to say today. For once! Or more like, not a lot of time to say much. Work and life has been busy this past week or two. So today, please enjoy these photos. 🙂

These are photos taken with my iPhone at various points in the last couple of weeks. All within 6 km of Baddeck.

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So a while back I did an interview on CBC Cape Breton’s Information Morning. You might have heard it. And in it, I mentioned that the reason I moved home to Cape Breton from university was that I had had depression and had to leave school.

The very next day I had an email in my inbox from the folks at the Crossroads Clubhouse in Sydney, which is a non-profit mental health organization. “We checked out your blog and we like it. We’d love to meet you,” they said.

So we scheduled a meeting for the next month, which was July. They came up and treated me to a fine meal at Wongs in Baddeck. (That picture above is the table before everyone arrived.) I got to meet some of the clubhouse members and staff, and we had a wonderful meal together, talking about what the clubhouse is all about (it seems they do everything, from work experience to group camp trips, community gardening and meals), and shared experiences about dealing with mental illness.

I encourage you to check out their Facebook page and click the “Like” button to show your support for this fine organization.

Inspired by our meeting, I’ll be doing more posts about mental health in the coming months. Talking about medication, counselling, doctors, diagnoses, and most importantly, our own stories.

Basically, I believe that we are all affected by mental health, because we are all mental beings. We are all emotional beings. Therefore, we are all capable of suffering from mental illness. I didn’t think I ever would, until I did. And when I did, I felt firsthand the fear and stigma that surrounds mental illness, still, in our society. There is still a lot of judgement out there. It is still really hard to talk about these things.

I also experienced how difficult it is to get lasting, timely help in the public medical system, in a rural area.

And I also experienced the truth that is at the root of the Crossroads Clubhouse – that recovery and healing comes through human relationships. No matter who you are. It’s the other people around me who ultimately helped me recover.

Thinking about the strength, resilience and beauty of those relationships that we form with each other, as humans, honestly makes me want to cry with gratitude!

And that’s OK, too.

Have a great Tuesday.

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Why should we care if rural communities live or die?

“Why should we care if rural communities live or die?” Kate Oland asked recently.

I do care about what happens to rural communities, but I find that when I think about the life and death cycles of these human settlements nestled between mountains or in valleys, or speckled on the side of the ocean, out in the rural landscape, I think of those time-lapse videos of clouds you see sometimes, where the clouds gather, recede, tumble and spin in sped-up motion. Come, and go.

In my imagination, it’s like I can see us from above – groups of humans gathering, perhaps like ants, in one place, building houses and creating a town or a farm and going about our business, then quickly, one by one, leaving, and gathering elsewhere. This pattern repeats itself over and over, across continents. There is a rhythm to it.

From this view, a small town or a rural community’s changes over time feel natural to me, they feel OK. They feel part of a greater whole, an organic whole. This or that small town might be shrinking, but all things come to an end. This is normal. This is natural. Just like a garden in the fall succumbs to frost.

BUT. I slow the video down, back to normal. I bring the perspective in close, no longer looking down from above. I remember that I am here. I live here, spend my breaths here, wake up in the morning here, go to sleep with my lover here, listen to the wind here. I know this landscape and I love it. I want to continue to live here.

And I am a citizen of a country, of a province, and of a county, and my life and my voice are just as valuable as those who live in the cities within these same jurisdictions. Right? I mean, why would one human being’s needs be more important than another’s?

But, not really, because although there are many rural dwellers still, the rural communities are hurting. Resources are cut. Policies are made to reflect other realities, not this one. People leave. They feel alone, they feel the pinch of gas prices, the loss of their friends to other places, and they leave.

Part of the beauty of rural is the quiet, the lack of humans. This is a big part of why I love it, certainly. But humans need each other, and if too many leave, the rest will too.

Today’s blog post is part of a project called the “Atlantic Regional Panel,” which is part of the national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s project Imagining Canada’s Future.

What is it? It’s a national effort by academics and the rest of us, which is “focused on identifying the social science and humanities knowledge and capacity needs for addressing emerging and complex challenges facing Canada in the coming 20 years.”

In other words, the social science academic community wants to know what the issues are going to be in the next twenty years, and what they can to do help, what research they can do. So they approached me as part of eight bloggers across the Maritimes to contribute posts, to help reach people beyond the academic community. That means you – as a reader of this blog – are now part of this project, and you can contribute ideas by filling out a questionnaire. The topic they assigned me to write about was “rurality”.

When I stop and think about “rurality”, and start to prepare thoughts, my instinct is to start by identifying the issues. You know, draw up a list of the usual suspects, like long distances between services, and depopulation.

But, I would humbly suggest that we move beyond identifying the issues – having group talks, workshops, think tanks. We KNOW the issues. We could sit, and talk about them, from now to eternity.

It is time to do something about them. And the doing has to come from all levels. From me personally, and you personally, to families, then to businesses, to community groups, to governments (if they can).

The problem facing us is twofold:

1. those in power don’t (seem to) care all that much about the rural areas, not the way we who live here do. They simply don’t know. It’s not on their priority list, they have other priorities. This may always be the case.

2. those in power only have a certain, relatively small, amount of power, and no-one actually has power over things like oil, history, and the movement of people to where the resources are. These things are beyond human control. (but, we individually have some control over how we react to them.)

I think people in our rural communities can easily get overwhelmed by the question “So what do we DO about this?” We want a solution. We want to know what the plan of action is. But there isn’t a simple plan of action to be had.

Back to Kate: “We need the wisdom of those who live cheek by jowl with the land and who have learned humility in the process. We need the monk agriculturalists and other small farmers whose daily toil is a testament to innovation and creative thinking. We need a backup plan in case the technocrats fail us, and in case alternatives to cheap energy are slow in coming. The surest route to survival in an ecosystem is via biodiversity.”

In other words, don’t just try one solution. Try all the ones you can.

And if you were keeping your voice quiet, maybe now is the time to raise it.

I for one am waiting to hear from you. And so is the Atlantic Regional Panel.

Offer your thoughts on rurality and other important challenges and opportunities facing Atlantic Canada at : http://atlanticregionalpanel.wordpress.com/questionnaire/

Posted in Leah's thoughts, Sustainability, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

For Carol: Garden in Black and White

As you may or may not know, Carol Kennedy passed away this week.

I’ve known Carol since I was a little girl, but it really only hit me this week just how much she had inspired me. I hadn’t really ever thought about it before. Through her photographs, through her community work, through her whole demeanor and way of being, she showed me the way to be a woman who is many things: strong, compassionate, artistic and community-minded.

I was lucky enough to be part of “The little school”, a Waldorf school on the Meadow Road near St. Ann’s, in the mid-nineties. Her sons went there. All the kids who went – all, what, eight of us? – were a tight-knit group, almost like family. I was there for the five or so years the school existed, and it’s a huge part of my childhood memories.

The parents of all the other kids were a loose kind of aunts and uncles to me. They are all part of my firmament, the cast and characters of my life. Just there – being who they are.

So I guess you could say I’ve kind of taken knowing Carol Kennedy for granted. Until this week, at least.

And that’s when I stopped and realized just how amazing her artwork was and still is. (It’s really amazing.) And just how brave and determined and yet fun her whole spirit was. How she hosted parties. How she said hello. How she ventured forth and took things on.

Carol was showing me, ever since I was a little girl, exactly what was possible, for an artist and a woman: anything she dares to try.

I wish I could have told her that.

Two weeks ago, before Carol died, and entirely unrelated to her, I went for a walk around my mother’s garden, just to enjoy the evening and take some shots for the blog. But then for some reason I decided to switch over to black and white. I wanted to mix it up a little, and see what textures and patterns I might see in the otherwise all-green garden.

I edited the photos and drafted a blog post, then scheduled it for today. Then Carol passed away. And I realized I would use the black and white pictures as an homage to her.

Another strong woman who has been inspiring me all her life is my mother, whose garden this is. From one of my favorite books, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” a collection of essays by Alice Walker:

“Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and a respect for strength – in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”

Posted in Art, Food + agriculture | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

10 Beaches/2012: Chimney Corner and Inverness

So after Point Aconi was rained out, I was really looking forward to my day off last week. I even got friends in on it – “Come to the beach with me!”

When the day arrived it was sunny in Baddeck. Beautiful, a little breeze, but sunny, even though it called for rain.

We set out: my friend, her dog, and me. Halfway over Hunter’s Mountain it started to rain. Not just drizzle either but serious RAIN.

We stopped at the Dancing Goat. I mean, you have to. When you’re me, that is. And you love food.

The Dancing Goat is so interesting to me because they’ve grown entirely (so I hear anyway) through word of mouth. That blows me away, and it shows me that a good product is worth more than anything else, advertising included. People talk. And people listen. That’s it.

(And yes, I’m hoping to do more of a feature on the Dancing Goat in the future.)

Gotta love those awkward “Hey-I’m-taking-my-own-picture!” faces. I’m getting pretty good at them. Except for here.

“Hang on a sec, I just need to write something in the sand.”

We stopped at Chimney Corner. That’s my favorite beach in the entire world (except maybe some of Australia’s beaches – sorry, but there really is no beating Australia for beaches).

But, it was really windy and the odd shower kept happening. So we walked around, took some photos, stood in the waves. Then we went on to Inverness. “It’s always sunny in Inverness,” Tanya said.

All my map shots, by the way, are from my copy of the Nova Scotia Atlas. My dad has one and my copy is starting to look like his – stained and wrinkled from living in the car of a back-road explorer. It’s way better than any other back-road atlas I’ve seen and used.

This one above, by the way, was taken by mistake, one of those “as I’m putting my phone back in my pocket” accidental shots. But I like it – the dog’s paw leaving the shot, my foot entering it.

I had not yet seen the new golf course in Inverness. What a beautiful spot! I don’t golf but this course might make me want to take up the sport.

Wandering along Inverness Beach made me want to book a week off work, rent a cabin, and have leisurely awesome days with various visiting friends, drinking wine out of juice glasses and rubbing the sand off our toes, talking about nothing and playing cards. Right??

Then on the way home we had ice cream. Even though it was raining again.

Fingers crossed my day off THIS week is sunny!

To Get There: Chimney Corner: Take route 19, the section between Dunvegan and Margaree Harbour. The dirt road that leads to Chimney Corner is unmarked. I always find it by looking for the sign for Glenora Distillery (when I’m coming from the Margaree end), and it’s in the little dip in the road right after, on the left. That’s about as good as I give you, for directions.

Inverness: Pretty much the entire coastline along the town of Inverness is an amazing beach, but the section that is supervised by lifeguards is down the Beach No.1 Road, off of Central Ave.

This summer, I’m challenging myself to make it to ten separate beaches on Cape Breton Island. They can be beaches I’ve been to before. So far: Point Aconi, Chimney Corner & Inverness.

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“every little bit” begins

I had an idea a few weeks ago. The idea: Take a mason jar, and put pennies in it. Watch as, over time, the jar fills. Take pictures of it as it fills. Use it as a metaphor for “every little bit counts.” (As in, even a seemingly insurmountable goal can be accomplished step by little step, and every little action we take DOES add up.)

So I started doing that.

Then I thought: why not donate the pennies? (Whenever I’m done.)

The cause I chose: Baddeck Community Market. Reason: It’s run by volunteers who spend their own free time organizing this truly vibrant and important marketplace for local products, that has become really important in our local food economy.

If you have pennies you want to donate, let me know. I’ve got lots of mason jars.

Posted in Art, Food + agriculture | Tagged , , | 2 Comments