Family Lines

stories for you

Month: July 2013

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May


Dyke along Port Williams, N.S.

“You can’t change the weather,” says one of my aunts, “so why bother complaining about it?”

Yet I really feel like raging about all the thunder and lightning and rain that Calgary’s been treated to this spring and summer. I usually enjoy storms. Being cozy and safe inside while the elements boom, thrash and splash outside. But enough is enough. I want sunshine.

It’s been officially summer for a while and with this season usually comes warmth and freckles and leaving windows wide open. Before I was old enough to get a job, summer for me meant swimming outdoors, camping trips and bug repellent. All great things.

Then, when I was older and had to take more responsibility for myself, summer meant a summer job. From strawberry picking, to instructing swimming, to being a lifeguard, to picking rocks, to making tires, work filled my Nova Scotia summer days with learning about accountability and making a buck. Summer nights, however, (when I wasn’t on a midnight shift at the Michelin plant) were filled with other things. Things that meant being young and free and not having any concerns except who was going to bring snacks to the fire.

Dyke near Port Williams looking towards Wolfville.

Dyke near Port Williams looking towards Wolfville.

My friends and I had bonfires on the dykes near Wolfville. The dykes were built by the Acadian people hundreds of years ago to keep the waters of the Bay of Fundy at bay. The barriers still exist and work today and make a nice place for a sea of flames and a gathering of friends.

We played word games and sang songs. None that the Acadian ghosts would know. At the fires crushes among my male and female friends were lit. Some burned out over a week and some blazed until school started again. None went further than September.

During our summer fires we watched satellites in the sky. Counted the stars and talked about our futures. What would we be doing? Who would we turn out to be? Who would we be with?

After the evening we would go home, smelling of smoke and dreaming of what’s ahead. It was always good stuff. Because when you’re young it’s important to think the sun is going to shine forever. That it’ll always be summer.

When you’re older, 20 years older, you know that rain falls and thunder crackles when you least expect it. But there needs to be some time for summer. For those days when you kick off your work shoes and go barefoot in the grass. Or ignore that last office e-mail because your bike is calling. So when the sun starts to shine over Calgary, do yourself a favour and enjoy a moment or two in it. You’re always young at heart.

Missing Silver Lake

Achorage House.

Me in front of Anchorage House on the Mount Allison University campus. I used to work in the historical home in Sackville, N.B.

There’s not much heat to escape in Calgary this summer…unlike the rest of Canada. It seems as if Alberta is stuck in a hole of terrible weather with a few nice days thrown into the pit now and again. Today I’m yearning for the warm summers of Sackville, N.B.

I worked at Mount Allison University for a few years starting in 2003. Mount A is located in beautiful Sackville, a town made up of quaint gardens and pretty homes. On campus there are many historical buildings and my office was in one such place, Anchorage House. It was a lovely old house to work in with original fixtures and high ceilings and a grand wooden staircase going up three floors.

There is one down side to working in the magnificent home where a shipping magnate once lived. Because of the property’s age it didn’t have air conditioning. When summer struck, the building would heat up quickly and no matter how wide the windows were thrown open, the legendary mighty Sackville winds never cooled off the rooms one bit. As well, because the town is surrounded by the Tantramar Marsh, the humidity rises along with the temperatures.

I did find a way around the swelter: a noon-hour swim in Silver Lake, a sandy pond not far away from the middle of town. Every work day I changed into my bathing suit and hopped on my bike to make the 10-minute pedal to the water. Making sure not to get my hair wet (I still had to look professional when I went back to work), I would paddle about for a bit until I felt I was OK to cycle back. Returning to the office I could get through the rest of the sticky afternoon feeling refreshed.

One day I got to the beach and there were two boys probably around the ages of 12, standing on the beach.

Silver Lake Beach.

Silver Lake beach and Lillas Fawcett Park in Sackville, N.B. A great place to swim – when there’s no poop.

“Are you the lifeguard, miss?” they asked.

“No, sorry,” I replied.

“There’s poop in the water,” they said and pointed in the piece of crap’s direction.

“Oh, gross,” I said. “I’m not the lifeguard.”

“Well you should see it. It’s a big log floating around. Are you sure you’re not the lifeguard?”

“Pretty sure. But thanks for telling me about the, um, excrement. Hope the lifeguard shows up soon.”

I did not go look at the turd sailing on the lake. Nor did I go for a swim that day. But at least the boys called me miss and not ma’am.

Memoir as poem

Mount Begbie.

Mount Begbie in Revelstoke, B.C. on a rainy day.

Memoirs aren’t strictly a written record of events. You can use poetry instead of prose. Both are expressions of creativity but poetry gives the writer, and reader, licence to use words in different ways.

Robert Frost, a renowned U.S. poet, used verse to remember certain moments in his life. His work, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, is one such example.

I am certainly not in any league with Frost but I do like to create rhythmic literary memoirs. One day while living in Revelstoke in 2009, I was waiting for a summer storm to crash into the afternoon. Here is how I captured the moment.


Mountain rain storm

No thunder

Or lightening

Just the resonance of drops hitting the



A natural on unnatural sound

I want something amazing to


To see electricity reach out from the sky

to strike out from the


To collide with the green peaks

A fragment of magic in the

Midst of ordinary

There it is


A crack, a peal, a shard of a noise through noise


So deafening it splits the clouds

They break

and I can see a perfect hole of


Burned into the dark sky.

Summer, summertime


Bonfire in August: Pictou, Nova Scotia, August 5, 2012.

It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!
~Kenny Chesney

Memoirs don’t always have to be short stories or masterpieces. They can be a simple list of things you jot down in a notebook or compile on a blog.  Here are my top 10 memories of summer. What are yours?

1. Butterflies in the woods

2. Strawberry shortcake for breakfast

3. Swimming in the lake

4. Thunder storms over the ocean

6. Strong sunshine on the side deck

7. Gardens in bloom

8. Fires on the beach with friends

9. Taking all day to mow the lawn

10. The smell of our family’s canvas tent

Happy Canada Day

Calgary Tower.

Calgary Tower

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all humankind.
~John G. Diefenbaker

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