Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Silent Cove. Chance Harbour NB - My back yard.

Monday, November 22, 2010


(Names of people and places have been changed due to the sensitive nature of the article.)

    So I've been away from the writing table for a bit due to other obligations.  The reason being is that from time to time I do a little part-time work where the hours are long and very tiring. The work is for a security company that for the purpose of this writing, I'll call Jackson's Security.

When I do get called in to work it is always outdoor work. I detest being cooped up inside for hours on end and unable to leave. So for me, this  keeps things fresh and doesn't get too boring. The work I get called in for is done under the cloak of darkness while trying to remain inconspicuous and do my best not to attract attention. This is way easier said then done let me tell you! Add to it that there is always some element of danger and for this reason it's all taken very seriously.

Now, one of Charlie's Angels I'm not, in any way, shape or form! I don't carry a sidearm or even any kind of weapon. My secret weapon is my husband who works right along side of me. HE wears the uniform while I dress civilian. He drives the truck. I run the laptop and the camera and the cell phone. Between the two of us there are 4 eyes to do the rest. I have to mention that we also work hard at keeping each other awake! This is a true challenge and not easy to live up to. Although I will state that it only takes one false alarm, or one good scare to set your nerves on edge, get your heart pumping and your blood rushing and staying awake is no longer an issue. When the spidey senses start to tingle and every nerve, suddenly, without warning are jumping to life...sleep is the last thing on your mind. It's a rush that reminds you how alive you really are!

Our very first assignment was at a lime quarry.We were called in to replace the regular security officer who was off for two weeks sailing in Alaska or something. It was a very large quarry that ran about 130 acres. If it wasn't for the fact that most of the area is forest, I would of sworn we were on the Moon.

The inside of a lime quarry is grey. I mean everything is grey. There are endless mountains of grey, endless pits of grey. There are different grades of lime and the one that makes the most mess and covers everything is like a talcum powder. This is the stuff that is very easy to inhale. It's everywhere, including the air. It's caustic. And you know if you've inhaled any because your throat and chest burn a bit...like when you have a cold. It's almost impossible not to inhale when you are surrounded by it and are driving around in your vehicle kicking up even more clouds of it. I have to say though that inhaling lime dust is the least hazardous thing about that job. There were other things more frightening to me. Like the size of some of the pits. They were so wide and so deep that monster dump trucks and tractors and backhoes looked like tiny little dinky toys that had been placed on what looked like ledges that ran the circumference of the pits. The ledges ran in a spiral formation all the way to the bottom of the pits. These pits were so huge that to say you could build a small village inside of them wouldn't be an understatement.

The thing I didn't like the most about those pits were that if one didn't know the area well it would of been all too easy to drive right off the edge of one of them, be airborne and drop into a black void before you could realize what was happening. Some of the pits had huge boulders to prevent anything like that happening but,  not all. Some of them looked like a side dirt road that led to nowhere. I know this because one night, just at dusk, when you could still see, while beginning our rounds we stopped when we came across one of those roads. We got out and walked the 30 or so feet into the road when it ended abruptly and just dropped off into one of those grey pits. It was more than several hundred  feet down. If we had decided to just drive onto that road.....oh I can't even get my head to go there. The very idea makes me shiver and stops my heart! Add to that there were no road lights, none. The only lights you had at night were from some of the buildings.Once away from the buildings the only lights you see are your own headlights. It's just plain dangerous.

Our job was that once an hour or so we were to drive around the quarry to nine different check points. We would go to designated areas to do checks with a metal wand and touch the wand against a metal button and the wand would record the time and date of the check and this would show you had done your job.

We were given access to the main building where the offices and weigh station were located. We'd sit in the conference room and watch television and come meal times we had use of the kitchen to cook or warm up some lunch or just make coffee. Then every 40 minutes of so we'd lock up the place and climb into the truck and drive from building to building and complete the check points. The strangest part of the job...and the most important part of all the check points were there were 3 hidden dynamite shacks hidden deeper in the woods away from the quarry. That was what we were really there for. To make sure they were kept secure and that no unauthorized vehicles or people were anywhere near them. THIS made me nervous!

Dynamite....I don't care how it is being kept. I don't care how safe the storage is. If it is there, then the potential is there for something to happen. Everything is up to code and regulation but, there is still that 'what if' factor that didn't sit well with me. It's the same as having a gun in the house.

To add to all of that was we had to keep our wits about us whenever we were outside of the vehicle as for wildlife. The quarry is surrounded by a residential neighbourhood and someone had left garbage out and attracted a black bear into the area. We'd seen the little guy in our headlights one night as he was digging through some garbage. He wasn't very big, not much bigger than a cub. I was on the outlook for a mama bear but I was less nervous about that bear than I was those deep dark pits and dynamite shacks.

One night, we were at home getting packed up for another night at the quarry when the phone rang. It was the boss telling us we were being reassigned effective immediately.

We were re-routed to another part of town. One of the wealthier neighbourhoods in the city. Our assignment...covert surveillance. Our subject was a female of some importance who had a death threat layed against her. Her employer had hired Jackson's Security to keep an eye on her. She on the other hand had no idea her employer had done this. She had no inkling that we were there or that she was being watched.

There were moments during this gig that now seem almost comedic. If you can picture a very wealthy neighbourhood where everything is immaculate. Manicured lawns where one was a carbon copy of the next one and so on. Beautiful gardens surrounding every home. Perfect streets with perfect sidewalks, and perfect houses. A neighbourhood where no one ever parks on the street. They park inside their huge garages or in their perfect driveways. Then in we drive in our white 98 Dodge Ram 1500 with dual exhausts which blat a sound that is just plain rude in such a neighbourhood. Our pet name for the truck is ....Snoop Dodgey Dodge, what else? It's very hard to do any kind of snooping in such a vehicle as it makes a grand entrance and exit. You can't do anything inconspicuous with dual exhausts!  And to add to that we were told by the boss to park 3 houses up from our subject...on the street...and don't bring any attention to yourselves! This was almost funny! We were about as inconspicuous as a bull in a china shop. And the neighbours let us know it too.

So our first night there we are parked 3 houses up from our subject but, we were parked in front of two homes as well. One man after watching us through his curtains came out, approached the truck, and asked very politely what we were doing. We told him the truth. That we were working and that if he had questions  to call the city police and ask them as they were aware of our presence. The man politely backed away and said he was sorry to have bothered us and retreated inside his house.

I certainly didn't mind that man asking questions as he had every right to know why there was truck parked in front of his house late at night. What I didn't like were his neighbours next door to him. They were going to be trouble. They had arrived home late in the evening and it was the first sign of life from this house. As they pulled into their driveway the wife was staring hard at us and giving us very mean dirty looks. I knew right there she would be trouble.

 Once inside their home she kept peeking between the curtains at us. We weren't suppose to notice her there I guess but she wasn't very good at spying! We for the most part didn't look in the direction of her house and did our best to ignore her. Then out comes the husband. It wasn't hard to assume that he didn't want to be approaching us as he had a air of nervousness about him. I open my door and slide out of the truck and walked towards him. He asks who we are. I introduce myself and tell him we are there on a security job and to call the city police if they want to know anything else. He literally backed away when I mentioned the police, like I was holding a gun on him. He looked downright scared which made me suspicious of HIM.

His wife in the meantime had gotten brave and was standing in the window with the curtains wide open and arms folded and a knot in her face expecting us to drive away. We didn't budge and continued to sit there. I'm very good at body language and have a strong sixth sense and I can tell you that the woman was emanating pure anger. That was the first night on that job. Other than the trouble with the neighbours it was a uneventful night.

The second night there our boss shows up and tells us that the 'angry woman' had called the police and had gotten nowhere with them at all. So that really made her mad. So she called head office for Jackson's Security to file a complaint. She told them it was a private neighbourhood and we had no right to be parked on the front street. She also complained about the noise whenever we started the truck claiming the sound was petrifying to her and it was making her sick and she was pregnant. The term control freak came to mind. Spoiled and use to getting her own way. Using her pregnancy to have her demands met. This woman was anything but fragile and was used to getting her own way. We stood our ground and never budged.

On our second night there we had one vehicle that repeatedly kept driving around the block. Each time we seen it come from around the corner at the end of the street it would slow down in front of our subjects house. It did this 5 times and on the 6th round I had my camera ready and snapped a picture and made sure the driver seen me taking his picture. I wanted to scare him off and it worked because he didn't come back, until much later that night.

In this neighbourhood it seemed that most of the houses would go into total darkness after 9:00pm. There was virtually no traffic either. So to see an approaching vehicle would make us sit up and pay attention. Around 11:30 that night that same car slowly came around the bend at the end of the street. It slowed and paused in front of our subjects house for maybe 4-5 seconds. Then suddenly, he spotted us still there, watching him, he tore up the street and went past us in a blur. He never came back after that. The whole thing made my heart rush.

The imagination can be very quick to play tricks in a situation like that too. Around 4:00am that same night a van came slowly creeping around the bend at the end of the street. It was driving painfully slow, it's headlights softly, soundlessly bouncing their reflection off the road before it. It was stopping every now and again, would pass another couple of houses and stop again. We were alert and watching. I was getting a feeling of dread in my stomach. Then he stopped in front of the subjects driveway. We seen the side door open on the van and they threw something into the air. It landed on the upper end of the driveway with a 'plat' sound. My heart began slamming inside my chest and my ears started to ring. I suddenly had a taste of  metal in my mouth. This is what they call adrenaline. This is also what they call fight or flight syndrome. Well there would be nobody flying anywhere. This is what we were paid to do. Now we had been told to watch for just this kind of  thing with someone approaching and leaving suspicious packages and the like so we were ready. I grabbed the cell phone ready to call for the police. The van door slid closed and they continued their slow crawl up the street towards us. They were getting closer. With shaking hands I quickly flipped the cell phone open. Suddenly they stopped two houses away and again the side door of the van opened and again something was tossed onto the driveway. It was the Saturday morning newspaper. Like I said...the imagination.

Come daylight the next morning we left our post and slowly head home. The streets were empty, devoid of any early morning traffic for a Saturday. It seemed we were the only ones awake except for the birds and bees. We arrived home without incident. Had our usual morning coffee and a bite to eat and headed to bed. When we awoke about 6 hours later I checked the phone for any messages and found there was one from the boss. He said the gig was over and to head back to the quarry that night. I thought to myself. "well that was short and sweet." No heads up or warning. We were done. Period. We figured the perp must of been arrested and therefore they didn't need us anymore.

It was a few hours later, we were getting packed up to head off to the quarry when I snapped on the television to catch the news. I was half watching and half listening as I packed up my bag when the news casters voice made me stop dead in my tracks. That morning around 8:30-9:00am there had been a horrible murder of a woman. I felt my gut sinking thinking how horrible it all sounded. The man had stabbed her to death right on a sidewalk in broad daylight.

It wasn't a far stretch of my imagination before I began to wonder about our woman. I found it strange that the job only lasted 3 days and unless our perp had been arrested why would our woman be any safer than she was 3 days ago? Added to that the job ended so suddenly. Eric kept telling me to stop worrying that it was all a coincidence.

All that night at the quarry I listened to every news cast I could waiting to hear the name of the victim. By the time we headed back home in the morning a name still hadn't been released. We got home and went straight to bed. I was having a problem sleeping. I couldn't get the whole murder thing out of my mind. I was sick with worry and had a feeling of helplessness. I was silently talking to myself. My mind was racing with what ifs "what if this woman was our woman?" "she was alive when we left her, she didn't die on my watch!" "what if the perpetrator had been watching us and soon as we left our post he moved in for the kill?" I tossed and turned, turned and tossed. I got up from bed, stumbled out into the kitchen and made some tea. I quietly took my tea to the living room and snapped on a lamp. I lit a cigarette, sat at one end of the couch, curled my feet up under me and sipped my tea and lightly puffed on my cigarette. I couldn't stop my thoughts from racing with guilt, remorse and anger. Yes I felt anger. I felt great frustration at not having access to any information. All we had was our woman's name. That was it. I never got a wink of sleep..

Later on that day they finally announced the name of the victim. When hearing them announce her name I got instantly sick to my stomach. Her name had set of any and all bells to be rung in my gut. I grabbed my note book and flipped through the pages of information until I came to the page that held the information on our woman. I scanned the page for her name. When my eyes fell upon it they stopped dead and cold. It was not our woman. But something almost spooky happened. Her first AND last name were almost identical to the victim. Their physical description were identical. But the name is what got to me most of all. Almost letter for letter they were the same yet different. Even the first and last initials were identical. This almost seemed as if fate was playing some kind of sick joke on me. I wasn't laughing. What ever became of our woman I'll never know as the company doesn't do follow ups with us to the outcome of the job. All I know is that she is still alive and breathing.

After that gig I no longer wanted to do that kind of work ever again. In my opinion I didn't handle it well. I wanted nothing more to do with murder and mystery or covert assignments. Leave that to the mystery writers.

Seven months went by before we did any more work. So a month ago we get another call for another job. This time all we are required to do is sit and watch a burned out apartment complex for looters. Sounded pretty straight forward. No murder or mayhem involved.

Our instructions were pretty straightforward as well. We were not to allow ANYONE near or into the building unless they were wearing a badge. The boss put an emphasis on ANYONE. We understand. Should we see anyone breaking in or going into the building we are to call for police. We are given our hours,12 hour shifts 8:00pm-8:00am. The boss does what he does best and asks, "Can you start tonight?" We look at the clock. It's 4:00pm. This getting called out at the last minute is something we've come to expect from this job.

We start hauling out the cooler and begin to pack up food and drink. We pack up pillows and comforters. We pack up the laptop and movies. When doing night time surveillance you pack pretty much like you are packing to go camping. While insuring comfort one needs to be mindful of not getting 'too comfortable' as when one hits the 8 hour mark the fatigue is starting to slowly rear its head wanting to pull you into the soft slumber of dream land.

It's hard not to let yourself fall onto cloud number 10, sleep. We sit with our seats moved into recline position. We have our pillows behind our heads for propping purposes(don't want to get a stiff neck) and our comforters wrapped tight and snug around us to keep the chills off. It is dark, quiet and if the night becomes uneventful it is too easy to forget why you are there.

We watch movie after movie and if we are really lucky and pick up on wireless Internet we watch all kinds of great stuff from documentaries to television shows. At times like that the $10 an hour comes easy. I have to say that I have done all kinds of labour intensive work...and I mean laboured work. I have done very intensive work. I've worked jobs so intensive that people 20 years younger than me have run off the job in tears. And I have to say that surveillance work of sitting in one spot for 12 hours in the dark through all kinds of weather conditions and trying to stay awake is painful in its own right. For me when I get to that point where I'm running my hands hard over my face and cannot for the life of me sit still...this is the hard point for me because then I start to feel sick....and I still have 4 hours to go. That is when I feel I earn my money. You may be wondering why do it at all. It's simple for more reasons than one. Reason number one is I'm not rich. Any chance to make some honest extra money I'll do. All jobs are short term only, so I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn't require a lot of physical ability. The only challenge for me is not to get sick due to the fatigue. I have multiple health problems and I can crash very easily at times and getting overtired is one of my weaknesses. My husband says I hide my health problems well. I look healthy. You may see me carrying grocery bags up my stairs but you won't see me do it more than once. You may see my house is kept for the most part clean. You won't see how long it takes me to do it. You won't see how many times I have to stop due to pain. Yet I get it done. To see me doing surveillance I look normal. That's good enough for me.

So doing surveillance on a burned out building will be a cake walk. At 7:00pm we head out the door for our first night of work.  We go to the address we were given. We know the area. Everyone within the borders of the province knows of this area.

We are driving into one of the worse crime infested neighbourhoods in our province. Every kind of crime lives in this hood. From arson to break and enters, rapes, assaults, drive-by shootings and murders. It is one of the projects in the city. It is a checker board neighbourhood of blacks and whites. A mixture of low income workers and the rest on public assistance. Although it looks nothing like my old south-end neighbourhood, the atmosphere is similar.

We were expecting to arrive at our posting without incident. This was not to be.

As we drove up the street we could see a commotion ahead on the street. I remember thinking to myself,'please let that NOT be our house!' The traffic was backed up and at a standstill. People were walking and standing around in small groups. We were about 6 car lengths away from the house and although it was hard to see in the dark we could see traffic sitting still coming from the side street which faced the house. Two lineups of traffic and about 30 people milling about in front of our house.

The bosses words were ringing in my ears, "There is to be absolutely NOBODY around or in that house!" What I was looking at was a circus of people. Eric started to cut the wheel of the truck to the left and squeezed out from the vehicle in front of us and slowly passes on the left side of the traffic in front of us. He pulls up onto the sidewalk facing the house. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. The front lawn of the house had 5 SUV's parked on it. All the backs of the trucks were open and people coming in and out of the house carrying boxes and furniture to the trucks. The place was crawling with humanity. We shut the truck off. Some people stopped to look at us. Then went back to what they were doing.

I look at Eric and ask "what do we do?" "Call the police." was his response. I answered, " It's obvious these people are salvaging their belongings." Eric's says,"We don't know anything about that, we were told no one is to be inside that building." I'm having a problem with calling the police. I hold the cell phone in my hand and hesitate. "Call the boss."Says Eric. OK good, now this I can do. I call the boss at home and explain what is going on. "Call the police." he says. "Do I really have to? I really don't want to have to do that." I said. "You have to." says the boss. I hang up the phone and sit there and feel myself cringing. I didn't want that kind of excitement, really.

I punch in the numbers for the police dispatch. A female answers and I identify myself and why I'm calling. She knows who I am as they were notified earlier that night of our presence at the house. "I'll have a car come by right away." she says. It wasn't 10 minutes later that not one but, two cruisers appear what seemed to be out of nowhere. One parks in the middle of the street, another one pulls up behind us. An officer climbs out of the car parked in the middle of the street. All activity from the people on the street and the house stops and they stand quietly watching the police cars. The cop approaches our truck coming up along side the drivers side. Eric explains to him that no one is suppose to be near that building. The officer becomes agitated and defensive and says with his voice rising, " Well I can't just throw these people out of their homes!" He's mad...at us! I lean forward and don't hesitate to show MY irritation and say to him "Look we certainly don't want that either, I think these people have been through enough but, there is not suppose to be anyone in that building so YOU will have to go talk to them!" "OK, I'll go talk to them but, can you get hold of your boss or someone I can talk to?" "Sure thing." I say.

The officer approaches the house and the people and I dial the boss once again. I explain what is going on and that they want to talk to him. The officer is still inside the house dealing with the people so I slide out of the truck and batter the wind and rain and make my way back to the officer still inside the cruiser parked behind us. I explain what is going on and hand my cell phone to him. After a lot of 'I see, uh huh...OK, OK, righttt...ok' he hands the phone back to me and says thank you. HE was nice. He climbs out of the car and heads up to the house and disappears inside. I climb back inside the truck. A few minutes later the police emerge from the house and approach the truck and explain that they checked their identifications and told the people to finish up quickly and leave. We thanked them and waited for everyone to vacate.

20 minutes later the last of the SUV's drive off the lawn with a truck load of household goods and before we know it we are sitting there alone in the dark and quiet. After a while we realize there is a back yard to this house where you can drive around back and come out the other end. So we figured on the best place to park would be in the back. If anyone was going to break in they wouldn't be doing it from the front street but from the back of the building. Neither of us got any naps in that night as there were a lot of curious spectators wanting a glimpse of the burned out structure. Every now and again we'd see a set of headlights come around the end of the building driving slowly and craning their necks to see what there was to see. That was the first night.

The second night was pretty much uneventful except when we took a bathroom break around 5:30am and went to the nearest Tim Horton's to use the facilities and get coffees. When we arrived at the coffee shop we pulled in and parked beside 3 police cruisers. We entered the shop to see 3 officers having coffee. Two of them were the same officers from the night before. They called us over and asked us if there had been a very loud black truck driving around and around in a repeated fashion around the house. Eric and I looked at each other, then the officers and said "No." "Strange." one cop says. "We just got a call about a truck driving around that building." "Well we didn't see anything. We just left there to come straight here for a bathroom break." They left to answer that call, we headed back and seen no signs of them or any black truck.

Our third night there was a Saturday night. It was day three of a rain storm that was hitting the area. We again were parked in back of the building trying very hard not to fall asleep. It was hard with the rain beating on the hood of the truck and the wind rocking us back and forth. Talk about being lulled to sleep!
We had our seats reclined, our pillows behind our heads and our comforters tucked in around us to keep the dampness out and were watching a movie on the laptop which we had propped on the console between us. We were very comfortable. Too comfortable. We'd let our guard down.

It was 3:52am and we were very much involved in a movie when suddenly we can hear a loud rumble in the air. From down at the end of the building we see headlights come around the building followed by that loud rumbling. It had to definitely be the black truck from the night before. The truck sounded louder than a army tank. In comparison our truck sounded like one of those little squeaky party favors. It hit the gas and appeared to be coming straight at us with it's headlights blaring rudely in our eyes. It was trying to intimidate us. When it lined up with our truck it slammed the breaks on. It's windows were tinted black. We couldn't make out anyone in the truck. It just sat there revving its' motor for maybe 5 seconds. Then it slowly rolled forward and away from our truck. My head slowly turned watching it move away. When I was almost completely turned in my seat I was looking through the back window.

I was straining my neck and my eyes trying to see through the steamed up rained soaked window to see why the truck had stopped. Then I seen the reason why. Suddenly the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I swear my blood ran cold. I remember making a fist and jabbing Eric in the arm and between clenched teeth said, "Look!!" Eric followed my gaze to see two large dark figures standing behind our truck. They        approached the black truck. They were dressed in dark clothing. They were wearing hoodies with the hoods pulled up covering their faces.

It scared the hell out of me to be blunt as we didn't see nor hear those individuals approaching from behind our truck. They spoke to the person in the truck then stepped back from the vehicle. The black truck revved its motor, squealed its tires and drove off and disappeared around the end of the building. The two large dark forms slowly turned in the direction of the truck and slowly walked away until they disappeared into the darker shadows of the yard.

It was very apparent that these individuals were planning on breaking into the house until the the people or person inside that truck warned them that there was someone in our truck or the place was being watched. A break and enter had been averted. They never returned as we were there for over a week and they never came back. It had scared the begeesus out of me to see that truck charging at us.through the wind and rain. It made every hair on my body stand on end to see those two dark forms standing behind our truck. And it saddened me to think that there are people out there that would stoop so low as to take and steal from people who had just lost everything they owned in the world. The little these victims had left these creeps were going to steal. What's even sadder is that these creeps were probably from the same neighbourhood. They'd steal from their own people. This was hard for me to swallow and accept because where I came from the south-end, the people there would never steal from their own. They would protect their own community, not pillage it.

That was our last job posting, until the next one. You learn something of human nature in the strangest of ways. I've learned that human behavior and intelligence, thought and reason can easily score less on the IQ scale than some animals. Some humans level of intelligence isn't much higher than that of a wild coyote. A scavenging opportunist that will move in and take the last bite of food you may have left. It seems that when the poor are at a disadvantage that there is always someone lurking in the shadows waiting to kick them while they are down. I'd like to think that this is not what God intended for us to be. Bad as some humans can be, God claims to love them too. They don't know how lucky they are.

I have a new found respect for Security Officers. I, like many people, have in the past found them to be annoying at best. I would say, like a lot of people that those who choose to work security work, were just cop wanna-bees. I would be wrong. These hard working men and women put themselves in potentially dangerous positions and work long hours for very little pay. It's an honest living and for that they should be respected. Who knows how easily they could go the other way and become the very people they stand against.

The rest of that assignment went smoothly and without incident. The last morning there was the longest as I couldn't wait to leave the sadness, poverty and crime behind me. My financial status probably isn't much different than those living in the projects but, I get to leave, they don't.

We point Snoop Dodgy Dodge in the direction of the highway and head home in the pre-dawn light. I rest my head against the back of my seat and take a deep breath, I let it out slowly. I was releasing the bad karma. It felt that even the air you breathe in the projects is bad and I wanted to leave that behind me.

I needed to get back home. I needed to stand on my deck that faced the Bay of Fundy and breathe in the tang of the salt air. I needed to feel enveloped and cleansed in the salty vapor carried in on the wind. My tired, tainted eyes needed the soothing view of the bay to heal them. To soften the strain from darkness to light. I was yearning to see the incoming tide with its blue-green swells rolling and filling in the land that lay before it, its edges laced in snow white sea foam. I feel so humbled that I get to witness such pure natural beauty in action. For this I am rich and wealthy and want for nothing else. I've been  blessed...............

Until the next high tide.........


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Secret

In my very first posting, Push of the Tide, I explained that I currently live in beautiful Chance Harbour New Brunswick. What I didn't explain is how I came to live here. The story is unique as where I didn't find this house exactly, rather it found me.

It all started about 2 years ago when I picked up a last minute item while doing my groceries. It was my husband Eric's birthday and normally we don't do the traditional gift giving because we are on a budget.  When it is our birthdays, if we do anything to celebrate at all it is usually something we can both benefit from, usually something 'needed' or 'practical'. While it is rare we indulge in 'fluff stuff', being the practical people we are, Eric's birthday this time around would be an indulgence. He had expressed an interest in a certain book and to be honest I was kind of curious myself so that made it kind of OK to purchase this book as we would both be reading it.

I stood in the long lineup at the grocery store and debated on going back in search of the book. Abandoning my spot in the line I grabbed the handle of my grocery cart and swung it around and headed toward the book isle. It wasn't hard to find the book despite it's small size. It seemed to jump off the shelf speaking to me "here I am!".  As I pushed the cart in front of me and approached the book I had a sense of deep interest and amusement. I reached out and picked up the book and held it in my hands. It was a very handsome book with its burnt gold jacket and scrolled writing and the large raised red seal in the upper left hand corner.

The jacket felt so smooth, the pages were edged in gold. It was a very well made book. I was almost afraid to turn it over to see the price. $28.00. I remember groaning and thinking it was awfully expensive for such a small book. It was going to jack up the grocery bill by over $30. I had to talk myself into it and rationalize to justify the purchase. I went with the old 'you only live once' and placed it in the front basket of the cart taking care not to place it against anything wet.

I remember feeling a bit self conscious putting it up on the conveyor belt. I was wondering what the cashier would think when she rang it through. Was she going to think 'there's a sucker born every minute'? I thought that way because it kinda felt that way. Words like charlatan, snake oil, schemes and scams were running through my head.

Where we are not the type of people who believe everything we hear and read and it seemed unlike me to be buying such a thing but, it had been on Opra! That is what had been the final push. Opra wasn't one to be taken in by hokey wish-wash. Opra believed there was something to this theory. And because Opra believed then I had to give it a try and to keep an open mind.

Placing the book on the conveyor belt  held my head up and thought..."If Opra can get on international television then I can handle a few weird looks from a cashier!" And after applying the lessons of the book,if I was successful, then I would have the last laugh! Though I will admit I had my doubts.

The cashier never gave me a second look as she rang the book through. She never even noticed as I took the book and placed it inside a bag all by itself and held it against my chest as I waited for the remainder of my groceries to be rung through. Once outside and back at my car I started to relax that it was safe now...no one ever need know that I had just bought The Secret. Ironically,The Secret had become my secret!

Upon arriving home and presenting the book to Eric he was happy and thankful for the gift. "Hurry up and read it so I can have a look at it too!" I said. "Well,you go ahead."he said. I replied,"No it is your gift, you get to read it first!" I patiently waited for several weeks for him to pick it up and read it. "Just don't feel like it right now." was the answer I'd get when I'd question why he hadn't started to read it yet. I got tired of waiting and started to read it. I had absolutely no idea the impact that book was going have on my life.

The book in a nutshell is about personal power, positive thinking, believing in some kind of higher power and the strangest part is of giving it all up to the power of the universe. The latter part is what I would have the hardest time with. I have always believed that we are in control of our lives in the larger scheme of things. To put it to scale I'd have to say that I believe we have control over 90% of our lives and maybe 10% is left to chance, to things beyond our control.

'Ask, Believe, Receive.The Secret, in essence, is about believing that anything is possible. That you can attain anything the heart desires. You have only to ask the universe for what you want. Then believe with unfailing faith that you will receive it. Then sit back, forget about it and let it come to you. They said it was like having a catalogue of life, and that it worked just like ordering from a catalogue. You place an order for what it is you want and then wait for it to be delivered.

I'm not going to go in depth about the contents of the book. If you want to know, then get yourself a copy and read. What I am going to talk about is the results that I personally had, and believe me, I had results.

The book advised to start out small. Like finding a parking spot in heavy traffic areas where it can seem impossible at times to find a parking spot. So that was where I started. It worked, and continues to work as I still practice this and find exactly the spot I want.

One time I was picking one of my sons up at his place of work at a high end pizza restaurant. This night I was craving pizza. Now I've never bought pizza from this particular place as I think that $50 for a good pizza is over the top to say the least. My son had been working there for more than a year and had not once brought pizza home after work. He certainly couldn't afford to and they never gave food away to employees at the end of the night. So this night I thought, what the heck, I applied the Secret. I simply stated that I wanted some pizza. Not a whole one, but just a small piece or two. I didn't want to be greedy.

Sitting parked behind the restaurant , in the dark , I waited for my son to emerge from the back entrance. After waiting a half hour the door finally opened. I sat up and watched him walk across the dark parking lot toward the car. He was carrying something in his hands. Well lo and behold it was a pizza box!  He climbed into the front seat and asked me if I was hungry. He opened the box and there were two pieces of pizza inside. I was stunned. In all honesty I can't remember how he managed to get the pizza, I just remember that he did.

Over and over again whenever I would ask for something it would come to me. Small potatoes as they say, but, I was getting what I wanted just the same. I was truly beginning to believe. Would it work for larger more complicated things? Little did I know, I was about to find out.

At the time the purchase of The Secret was made we were living in a rural area on the Kennebecasis River. We lived there for 4 years. The first two years were great! It was amazing to be living on a tidal river, not to mention so beautiful! The house was a large 5 bedroom year round beach house. We had our own private beach with a cute little wharf that Eric had built. We had a small boat that we would paddle up and down the river on. I spent many mornings in my pajamas having coffee sitting down by the wharf. It was heaven.

There was one major problem with the property. It sat in a bad flood zone. In 2008 we were flooded, badly.
As much as we prepared to stay ahead of the water, we lost a lot of stuff. The house had a large above ground basement, and the house sat on top of that. The floor on top of the basement was the living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms and bathroom. The other 3 bedrooms were up on the top level.

The river wasted no time in claiming the above ground basement. It had an 8 foot ceiling and the water rushed and filled the yard and basement and left only 1-2 inches away from the ceiling..which meant it was about 4 inches from rising up through the floor into the living area. We had to park our car on the road and take a row boat from the front door to the road to get to the car. Even our poor dog Bear had to be rowed to the road to do his 'business'.

We lived like this for over a month before the water finally started to recede. After it was over then came damage cleanup. All the insulation between the ceiling of the basement and the living room floor had to be removed as it was holding all that water. Add to that the wood stove which was the main source of heat had to be removed at the same time, for other reasons. It was October and we were left with only electric heat in that big old house and no insulation. The owner of the house was so slack about doing the replacements and repairs we were forced to move.

Now here is where The Secret started to kick in...in a big way. We felt almost desperate to find a place handy as where Eric's job was in the same area we lived in. Moving to the city would of been easy to find a new home but economically it made no sense to do so. Living in a small area limits one to find other accommodations and we knew we'd have a challenge on our hands and with winter fast approaching there was almost a panic setting in.

So I did as The Secret advised and wrote down on paper what it was I wanted. The following is a short list of what my requests were....A house with a water view and access. Several bedrooms for our children should they decide they'd like to visit. A wood stove with a glass front so I could sit and watch a nice fire in the evenings. Lots of trees and birds and wildlife to enjoy. A good road to and from the house. NOT on a flood plain was a must! The style of the house...I wanted a red cedar log home and lots and lots of windows with views of the woods and the water.

OK. This is where it gets weird. I showed my list to Eric. He read it. Then he said,"Well all of this is certainly attainable except for one thing. You won't find a red cedar log home around here. Red cedar doesn't grow in this part of Canada. You'd find that in British Columbia." " It's still what I want." I replied.

So the hunt began. Now being limited to our search area we decided to let everyone we know that we were were on the hunt. Eric mentioned it to his work partner and it just happened that he knew of a place just like what we were looking for. It was a little more than 2 miles from where were currently living. He told Eric he'd heard the place was up for rent. It even had a view and access to the river. We became very excited! There was one problem that put the brakes on the excitement. It was $200 more than we could afford. The owner was advertising on Kijiji. I would log onto Kijiji everyday until one day it disappeared. Down hearted I stopped looking. A month or so went by and one day I again decided to take a look. There it was again. The same ad but, with one difference...the owner had dropped the rent by $200! I just about broke my neck to run to the phone and call Eric at work. We got in touch with the owner and made an appointment to see the house.

By December 1st we were moving in. Did the house and property have everything I'd asked for? You betcha...and then some! The house sat up on a hill overlooking the Kennebecasis River with a path down to the water. There was a guest house on the property as well. The house itself had 3 bedrooms. The front of the house faced south looking out over the river, which could be viewed from any angle as it was all glass windows. It was beautiful! It had a wood stove with a glass front. It was surrounded by trees as it was one mile in off the main road making it very secluded. As if to confirm all my requests for wildlife were met, our first morning there we watched a large Buck with a full set of antlers foraging in the back yard. We had flocks of gold finches, up to 50 at any given time, chickadees, wood peckers and blue jays. There were so many that we had a hard time keeping bird seed in stock.

Our first day there I was cleaning up the stove while Eric worked outside storing some of our stuff in the baby barn.I  feeling very happy, full of joy actually and feeling so grateful for being led to this house, now if only I had some wood for the stove so I could sit by a warm fire that evening....I had literally no sooner finished that thought when Eric came through the front door. "Look at what I found!" he said. I turned and couldn't believe my eyes. In his arms were not one but, two large unopened boxes of fire logs! I just couldn't believe it! Only it made me believe even more in this Secret business.

I have to also mention that I have several health problems one of which is DDD, degenerative disc disease in my back. The house came with a orthopedic king size bed and also a beautiful bathroom with a jacuzzi tub....like I said I got more than what I asked for. And the icing on all of this? The house was RED CEDAR LOG,  yes it was! Turns out the house had been a kit and had been ordered and delivered from....British Columbia. When hearing this from the owner I looked at Eric and said, "Well now, how do ya like THEM apples!" He just stood there looking at me, speechless and looking dumbfounded.

Sadly it wasn't to last as it was temporary because the owner wanted to rent the house out over the summer as a weekly rental. So the hunt was on again. It turned out a friend of ours had just gone through a breakup and couldn't afford to run his house on this own and asked us to move in with him. We agreed but only on a short term basis. He had a lovely 13 year old home he built himself and all in all it was OK except his lifestyle was very different from ours and started to become a problem for us. HE was happy, we were miserable. We were there 8 months when Eric found an apartment in the city. A brand new neighbourhood in a brand new home. We were there 3 months because they sold the house. So we moved again, into a old neighbourhood where coincidentally I had lived when I was just a little girl. I was NOT happy to be there. I remember looking at Eric and telling him...this isn't it, we don't belong here, this is not our forever home...one more move and we will be there.

Now you are probably asking why hadn't I used The Secret during all those moves to find another place suitable for us. To clarify that there was a reason. I had become sick for... months, I'll spare all the details except to say that one of my problems was that I found out that I was going to go blind, I was losing my sight and not much could be done about it. My heart and soul just couldn't gather up what it took to believe in anything. I became somewhat depressed and that certainly didn't help.

Then Eric said to me one day, " Why don't you try that Secret stuff again Natalie, just one more time, please? What do we have to lose? It's worked so many times before and it can work again, write it all down like you did before, put in all the details of what you want." So I did....one more time.

I had also placed an ad on kijiji that we were an older retired couple looking to rent a small home or cottage, preferably on the water and possible access to the water. We wanted privacy and quiet and so on. Two months went by and we forgot all about the ad and just kinda hung lose and kept our eyes open for something else. I didn't feel like 'hunting' as all that moving had sucked me dry. Much as I hated where we were living I hated the thought of moving again.

In the midst of all this and all my health problems it was becoming clear to Eric and I that I wouldn't be able to work outside the house again. My employable days were over. So I applied for CPPD...Canada Pension Plan Disability. To be approved for the pension was not going to be an easy feat as they don't approve many people unless you are at death's door. I was determined. I payed into this all my working life and I felt entitled to what was mine. My health was bad and I needed the money. EVERYONE including my Doctor told me "Good luck with that! They never approve anyone. I have patients a lot worse off than you are and they couldn't get approved."CPP are very, very hard to deal with. There is a 4 month waiting period to wait for an answer and during all that time I used The Secret and believed they would approve me. And I used The Secret to get the amount that I needed. I would say to myself over and over again. "Just let me receive enough to cover the rent for wherever we end up living." It seemed to me that whenever I'd repeat this to myself,the same amount of money would pop into my head, over and over. And I kept telling it to go away because it didn't seem to me to be enough to cover rent anywhere!

So 4 months go by and finally I get the call from CPPD. They were going to approve me! They were going to pay me retroactive 10 months even! Although I was disappointed on the monthly amount but, very surprised at the same time as the amount was that same number that kept popping up in my head...actually it was $17.56 more than that number. I found this very strange.

So in March of last year I received a nice fat cheque. We bought a truck and some much needed items. This picked my spirits up a bit and allowed me to concentrate again on finding 'our home'. 

It was in May when Eric and I decided we would go to the family camp in Kilmarnock NB and stay a couple of weeks. When one evening we decided to go into town, Woodstock, for an ice-cream cone at the Dari-Delight. I took my laptop with me in the truck so I could hook up to wireless long enough to check emails. Sitting in the parking lot of the Dari-Delight licking on an ice-cream cone I sat the laptop between Eric and I and waited for the emails to load up. The list of emails began to populate when suddenly I stopped licking in mid stride...my eyes locked on an unknown sender. I had no idea who this was or what they wanted. Without saying a word to Eric who was happily licking his soft serve banana flavored ice-cream and watching traffic flow by I opened the email. It was from a woman who wanted to know if we had found a house yet. I was more confused as I had no idea what this person was talking about. I had forgotten about the Kijiji ad ,it had been so long since I placed it and that was what this woman was referring to.

"We have a small year round cottage on the water in Chance Harbour that is nice and quiet if you are still looking and if you would like to see the house, just let me know." I felt a rush of thoughts and emotions and felt confused. I remained quiet without saying anything to Eric and continued to work on my ice-cream cone while warily looking down at the email. After finishing my ice-cream I lit up a cigarette and stared straight ahead out the window. I was wondering what the rent would be. I was wondering how far was Chance Harbour from the city as I couldn't remember being there before. Looking straight ahead I broke the silence. "Want to move to Chance Harbour?" I asked?   "No,why?" I showed him the email. I could see the wheels turning in his head. "No...too far out of the city and I hate the travelling back and forth...been there and done that!" he said. "OK. I guess you're right." I said

We stayed another two weeks at the camp and headed home without another word on the Chance Harbour house.  We were back home about a week and a half when I brought it up again. "What can it hurt to email them and ask a few questions? Maybe it will work out, maybe not. We've got nothing to lose by taking a look." Eventually we progressed from emails to phone calls. The last phone call the owner told me they were working on the place and it wouldn't be ready until June. They were putting a new roof on the house. The house was well insulated and it received a lot of passive solar heat  because the house faced south and was all glass windows.  That did it right there for me.I only had one more very important question to ask the owner. How much for the rent? It turned out it would take most of my cheque and leave me with $48 left over....I couldn't believe it. My little CPP Cheque would cover the rent. I was blown away.

We went to look at the house and I fell in love, head over heels in love! The list I'd made.....it had happened again. EVERYTHING I wanted was here. Pine boarding all throughout the house. Lots of windows facing the water and a view and a trail leading to the beach..the Bay of Fundy! A private beach! Even a newly paved road that snaked through the village of Chance Harbour. 25 minute drive to the city! I had again asked for red cedar and this house was a shingled with white chipped paint. I said to Eric " well...it's everything  I asked for,except the color is wrong." I said with a giggle. "Hold on, look at this." Eric said. He touched the side of the house and flicked the chipped paint with his fingers....underneath the old  paint was red stain over cedar shingles. Again I was speechless.

There is one more little strange detail I left out. When I was trying to see the house in my mind before we found it...or it found us, I kept getting a flash or picture in my mind of Eric and I standing on a deck of a house. I would try to look around but could only see what was in front of us and to the sides of us. All I could make out were lots of trees and bushes and I thought I could hear water...I could sense there was water, a lot of water,but couldn't see it. I did feel the water was straight ahead beyond the trees and I also felt there was a path leading to the water. When we first moved in,there was only one thing that bothered me. The trees in front of the deck were blocking the view of the water. No how strange is that?? It wasn't one week had gone by after moving in and Eric went and took a chainsaw to the trees blocking the view, opening it up and it was BEAUTIFUL!

I don't have dreams of grandeur but, I do have my dreams. And this little house on the Bay of Fundy has always been in my dreams since I was just a youngster. I've always wanted to live in a small warm friendly community, in the country near the ocean. I've always wanted the pine interior and windows throughout my home. When discovering and  using The Secret and all the little and big things I've managed to manifest I went all out this last time around. And it worked. Or something worked because here I am. Still sound hokey? Maybe....but then again.............

Eric says I am living the Canadian Dream. Early retirement, living in a little cottage on the ocean, my beloved Bay of Fundy, where I  lay in bed at night and listen to the surf crashing on shore. Living in a small warm, friendly community where the people here are as beautiful as the scenery.....and I feel sooooo blessed and humbled by the 'chance' I took believing that it was possible and that I was given the 'chance' to live in Chance Harbour.

It will be 6 months the 1st of November that we have lived here. I feel as though I've always been here and god help me,I hope to always live here for many, many years to come. I can't imagine having any more than I have now. All my needs are met here.

 I awake each day, rain or shine and feel full of peace, glory and joy as I stand and look out at the Bay of Fundy. I am reminded each day of the magic and mystery of life. I feel the Bay of Fundy speaks to me. She gently reminds me of how she has always been here, waiting for me the whole time. And all time I had only to open myself to her. To her beauty, to her power, to her gentleness and her promise of always being here for me. She fills me with every breath I take. She touches my skin with every breeze. She sends up the wind with every wave to caress my hair and sooth my heart and soul. With her and her Secrets I have come to believe that....anything and everything is possible. I just have to remember to believe.

Until the next high tide........



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Beneath Still Waters

Saint John, New Brunswick

This is a street at war.
The smallest children
battle with clubs
till the blood comes,
shout ‘fuck you!’
like a rallying cry ––

while mothers shriek
from doorsteps and windows
as though the very names
of their young were curses:

‘Brian! Marlene!
Damn you! God damn you!’

or waddle into the street
to beat their own with switches:
‘I’ll teach you, Brian!
I’ll teach you, God damn you!’

On this street
even the dogs
would rather fight
than eat.

I have lived here nine months
and in all that time
have never once heard
a gentle word spoken.

I like to tell myself
that is only because
gentle words are whispered
and harsh words shouted.
ALDEN NOWLAN (1933-1983)

Right off the top I want to say that if the above poem offended anyone I apologize. I do believe though that it was written to reflect what the author Alden Nowlan had experienced from his observations of the activities of the street he lived on, the street he called home for a short time in his life. When reading this poem I have a strong impression that Mr. Nowlan's bewilderment and shock is evident and wants us the readers to feel the same. It worked with me and with good reason.
In 1965 my family moved to 220 Sydney St. in the city's South-End of Saint John. The front of our house faced Sydney St., while the back faced Britain St.  We were to live there for the next 8 years, the most informative and impressionable years of my life.
The South-End in those days was seen by the rest of the city as a lower class community of the poorest of the poor families in Saint John. I'd agree on one thing, that most were very poor but, being poor and 'having class' needs to be made clear and that would be that poverty has nothing to do with having any less pride than anyone else despite their station. Let it be known that 'South-Enders' as we like to call ourselves to this very day are a very proud people.
I'm very proud to say that I was lucky enough to grow up in a salt of the earth neighbourhood. Blue collar families where most Dads worked at the docks or factories or drove trucks to make the families income. Most Mothers were stay at home Moms. A few had begun to venture outside the home to find work out of necessity as the cost of living was rising faster than they could raise their kids. This was literally when the era began of two income families.
It was an era when some of music's history was made. The Beatles had fully invaded North America. Elvis was at the height of breaking hearts around the world, The Stones were rocking it up the charts and Diana Ross and the Supremes were the roll models that every pre-teen girl wanted to emulate.
It was an era of big hair and cats eye glasses, brush cuts and t-shirts and rolled up blue jeans and high top sneakers.
It was also the time where we all sat around the television sets and watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. Star Trek was the biggest and coolest thing we'd ever seen in our lives and come Saturday afternoons at 2:00pm the streets would clear. And we all watched the Ed Sullivan show every Sunday night, that's if you were lucky enough to own a television set.

The poverty....it was like a chronic condition. It was ever present on every street and in almost every home. About 80 years prior to Nowlans arrival, around the turn of the last century, Saint John's wealthiest citizens resided in the South-End. The area was desirable to the rich because of convenience and central location.

 By the time we came to live in these houses most were barely habitable. I remember being in several homes where the walls should of been covered with ......well, with walls. They were not. The plaster and wall paper had crumbled away from years of aging and what was left exposed were the old wooden slats and long wooden beams of  what they called balloon framing. You could even see the daylight from outside peeking in between the slats. I remember playing in the bedrooms of some of these houses with my friends and the one thing that strikes my mind in memory were the beds, so neatly made, well scrubbed, worn smooth, wooden floors.  On the windows were almost always plastic drapes. That is what you would see from the outside. You couldn't see the plastic from inside the rooms as most windows were covered with heavy blankets to keep out the cold.

We were the last generation to live in those old relics and they were quietly torn down and removed after we all left.  Life was hard in the South-End and in turn it was just plain hard being a South-Ender. Nothing ever came easy.

Alden Nowlans' description of Britain St. is, in my insider point of view, fairly close to the truth. His views of Britain St. both figuratively and literally were of an outsider. And there was good reason for his witnessing what he saw and a reason for his feeling compelled to write about it.

His empathy of this poor neighbourhood was stunted I think by all the violence and anger he witnessed. I'm guessing his upbringing may of been poor but, at the same time it was sheltered as Britain St. had a profound affect on him.

What he saw was ugly, dark and desperate. Kids fighting among themselves. Some of them full of rage...they were hungry. Riots in the streets....they were oppressed. Houses catching fire and burning to the ground in the height of the Christmas Season....they were cold. Mothers coming out their front doors carrying a belt to break up a fight between 2 of her sons. Sometimes the whipping would be to teach them the very lesson that you never make a public display of yourself and to send that point home was the humiliation of having their backsides swatted all the way back into their house...in front of their friends. Enough said.

Most parents back then didn't spare anything when it came to disciplining the kids. As far as being wild on the streets when it came to those same kids, if their parents were present it was a whole different thing. You feared your parents more than fear itself. If you got out of line they were so quick to show you your place. It would make your head spin...and  it usually stung for a bit too. I'm sure the parents felt that their everyday lives were hard enough just surviving. Families were larger back then. It was normal for most families to have 5 or more children. I knew families that had 11 and more that had 8.  Feeding and  putting that many kids through school was no easy feat.

One discipline that was a common thread amongst the community children was their regard for their elders. We NEVER called any elder by their first name, not ever. Everyone was Mr. or Mrs. no matter how long you knew them. It showed respect. Even parents out for evening strolls in passing would refer to each other as Mr. or Mrs.

 We all lived in cold water flats. Most had pull out tubs where water had to be heated and hauled. There were no showers, most had no tubs. Cleanliness was important and that was also reflected throughout the  home as most were was spotless and tidy. All had bare to modest furnishings. They may not of had much but they were proud of what they had. They took care of what they owned.

 The parents were all very hard working people. Mothers who stayed home to raise the children and run the household worked their fingers to the bone. They were up before first light and the last to go down at night. She worked straight through each day, seven days a week.

Back then we payed for health care. So if you got sick home remedies were always tried before making an appointment at the family Doctor.  No one ever went to the Doctor over a cold.  If you had a toothache....you suffered until you couldn't stand the pain anymore. Depending on the family's income would either place you in the local health clinic where there was always a waiting list and you suffered until your time came or the family would have to save the money for an extraction. Getting fillings was unheard of. That was something only the wealthy could afford. Needless to say that regular tooth brushing was a strict rule whether there was toothpaste or not because there was always baking soda.

You see my point here is that Alden Nowlan didn't ask 'why' these children were so angry. He knew nothing of their needs not being met. Life was hard for these kids. For some of them they went to school hungry on a regular basis . The teachers would always pull that child aside as discretely as possible and do what they could. Many a kid was quietly ushered into the teachers lounge and fed a bowl of soup and crackers. The child's privacy was always held in the highest regard.

These very special teachers had their fingers on the pulse of the community they taught in. They gave these kids hope and showed them compassion. I wasn't ever one of those kids but I was very close to a couple of them that were. From my memory these were the angriest kids. These were the kids that were fighting in the streets. My family fared a bit better than some and a bit less than others. I never went to school hungry. I was well dressed as most of my clothes were either homemade or ordered from Eatons Catalogue or Simpsons Sears.

Another thing Alden Nowlan couldn't see were the parents that he held disdain for over their parenting skills were also the same parents that would take on extra jobs to give their children a Christmas of some kind. These hard core parents would take on the extra load and start their days before sunup and wouldn't return home until long past sundown.

We'd see little of them those weeks before the big day. In most households it was the one day of the year where the Dad's would relax and become a 'Dad'. The stern demeanor gone and the silent glare replaced with a look of satisfaction and being in the moment. Their laughter came easy, the stress gone as though it never existed. It was the one day these hard working parents would let down their guard and forget about the drudgery of every day life. Even the children lay aside the anger and became kids again. They'd run from house to house still in their pajamas to see what their friends had gotten from Santa. For the children of this community Christmas was magic. The best part was having their Mom's and Dad's for a day and getting to just be kids.

Also what Alden couldn't see were that these kids had dreams. Beneath the hard tough exteriors these kids had imaginations and were creative and they were talented. What Alden couldn't see was the loyalty these kids had to each other. You never had to worry about outsiders causing a South-End kid a hard time because if they did...they'd have a gang of kids behind them backing them up.

Of all the kids I grew up with a lot of them are still my friends, even more than 40 years later. Some have passed on. Some have moved on. Most became very respectable citizens. Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists Peace Officers, Social Workers, hairdressers, Moms and Dads and now grandparents...and even one Champion For Change, Bobby Hays who was awarded Canada's Number One Volunteer 2011. Bobby's spirit and hard work have never left the South-End. He works hard reaching out to the South-End kids of today. He works hard at quelling the anger, hunger and hopelessness that sits beneath the surface of these impoverished children. And he sees success. What he does works because he isn't just reaching out, he is reaching back, into his old neighbourhood. It's people like Bobby Hays that make us South-Enders proud.

There is a very deep, unspoken bond that to this day still exists between the South-Enders. Like survivors of a natural catastrophe we all went through the same experience and came out the other end with an understanding of human nature. We can to this day look at each other and without a word, come together in understanding where we don't have to explain ourselves. We lived and survived and we are the people we are today because of where we came from. We are proud of all that we had to endure, no one can take that away from us. We are more compassionate, more understanding, more determined, more loving, and more appreciative of the life we were given and we understand better than anyone why we are the way we are. We are unique. Our stories are unique and we have so many to tell.

It is a shame that Alden Nowlan, the Great Canadian Poet Laureate didn't take a deeper look at what he must of thought of as savage humans. I would of loved to have been the one to show him what was going on behind the closed doors in the homes of these angry children. I'd be the first to admit that a lot of what we kids had to endure wasn't proper or right by today's standards. Because we came from less we had to fight twice as hard to claw our way out of the poverty. We had to fight to become educated, we had to get there on our own.

A line out of the movie As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicolson as Mr. Udahl is talking to the movies' scene stealer, Verdel, a small dog that happened to have the unlucky fortune of being caught running around the hallways of the apartment building Mr. Udahl resided in. As he holds the small dog over the opening of the garbage chute he says to the dog. "This is New York City. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." That is the legacy the South-End instilled in me.

After surviving a childhood in the roughest part of town and being exposed to things no child should ever be subjected to we all came away with a very strong,  never say die  belief that no matter if people think they know you, they can never really know what it is that drives you. They could never understand why you are the way you are.  If they push...it is then that others may get a unexpected glance of that angry child.

On a personal note to all of this and the affect it had on me were the lessons learned from that time in my life. Lessons that at the time were going to serve me in the years to come. I had no idea that there would be times I would feel as though I had to fight the devil himself for myself, for my children, for my life. The lessons learned, the ghosts of the past would at times float into the forefront and center of my life and would remind me of worse times, of how I'd already been there and done that. I had the experience and knowledge to get through whatever life was throwing at me.

Ironically, I was born into a family of old money. I was the first grandchild on both sides of my parents family. There layed promises of a privileged life ahead for this baby. Promises that were never fulfilled because 'life' threw my Mother some unexpected curve balls. She took me and whisked us away to the other side of the country with good intentions of a better life for her and for me. Did she make a  mistake? It isn't for me to say one way or the other. I do know her choices had a impact on my life and my future. And as hard as this life has been I don't think...no, I KNOW I could never trade if off even if it were possible to do so.

Would I want to go back to that time in my childhood? No. Although there are moments I'd like to relive...in a heartbeat. To be with my friends again donning long dresses and big hats holding long sticks over our heads as we paraded down the middle of Sydney St. Singing Motown songs at the top of our lungs. We'd stop traffic by holding our hands, palms out and sing 'Stop In The Name Of Love!'.  We put on plays in our backyards and then charged the other kids 10 cents for admission...and they did indeed pay! 

We all had one thing in common. We loved music. We loved to sing and dance. My friend and I one time came to find ourselves hanging out at Tin Can Beach. It was OUR beach. It was located at the very end of Sydney St. You couldn't go any further south as it took you to the Bay of Fundy. The tide was in and high, the winds were wild and as we sat on the huge boulders facing the water we looked across the water to Partridge Island. " I think Elvis lives over there." said my friend. I thought about that for a moment. I asked her "why?". "Think about it." she said.  "He is so famous and people never leave him alone. If he needed to hide nobody would ever think to look on Partridge Island for him! I bet that right now he is looking  through a pair of binoculars right at us!" One of us got the idea that if Elvis was watching us then this would be our one and only chance to be discovered and become famous! So we stood up on the boulder, faced the Island and  proceeded to sing into the wind. We sang Petula Clark's Downtown, we sang and swayed and moved to the beat of our own music. We were the new Supremes! Our heads filled with promise of being famous, of chauffeur driven limousines, of wearing fur stoles and long sparkling gowns and being mobbed by paparatzies and adoring fans! Yes we had imaginations. We had dreams like every other child. Grand dreams! Mr. Nowlan for all his insight missed all of that somehow.

We sang that day until the sun started to set in the west. We were not allowed out after dark and where our houses were just on the next block we pushed it until we seen the light from the lighthouse spinning round. Before turning away to walk home we yelled out over the water "WE LOVE YOU ELVIS!" We were sure he heard us.

To this very day whenever I find myself near the Bay of Fundy that memory almost always comes floating back into to my mind. Whenever I see a lighthouse I think of Elvis. When the tides run high and the wind becomes wild I think of my friend, who is, to this day, 45 years later, still my friend.

Yes Mr. Nowlan, you missed a lot. If only you'd of gotten closer to those angry kids...if only you hadn't been so frightened of them...I'd like to believe that if you had that it would of changed you. That the South-End would of wrapped itself around your heart and embedded an understanding of how not understanding and remaining ignorant to the other side of life creates shortcomings and causes nearsightedness.

If you ever have the chance to encounter a South-Ender, keep one thing in mind....Still waters run deep.

Until the next high tide.....


This posting is dedicated to all the South-Enders who still walk this earth. Who still keep the memories alive and who still continue to dream.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Sense Of The Seasons

Well tonight I had the urge. The urge to write. What to write though was the problem. I have so many ideas and stories that it felt as if my ideas were all jumping beans ricocheting off the inside of my head, all very manic and all vying for first place. I was beginning to develop a headache when my husband suggested we step out onto the deck to get some air.

 The sun had long set and it was so far a moonless sky giving every shadow a life of its own. As I leaned into the deck railing I inhaled deeply the heady scent of Mother Nature. The smell of fall. The coolness of the night air seems to heighten all the smells, making them sharper and more pungent. The strongest scent is the earth, it's the first thing that hits you. It smells warm and whole. It smells of life. Then ,from the trees and the foliage a sweet scent seems to emanate the air, complimenting the scent of the earth. These scents are then crowned with the smell of the salt air. Where you can actually smell the water itself from the bay and you can actually feel the coolness of it enter you. You feel it hit the back of your throat and slide down your diaphragm and you feel it spreading through you like it has another life force all its own. The coolness revives something in you. It gives you a feeling of clarity. It gives you a renewed sense of energy that you thought was long spent hours before. And shadowing all of that is the tang from the salt and the life that the ocean harbours. The smells of seaweed and shellfish grab ones notice. You can actually smell the mussels. It is now that I think that if the soul could smile, this would be it.

Where the evening temperature has been slowly getting cooler as the days of summer are now truly leaving us, the evening sounds are quieting as well. The soft soothing song of the crickets is all but gone, the silence almost palatable by their absence, how I miss them already. One can still catch the chirping of the bats and the swooping sounds of their wings as they dive through the night air hunting for food.  Their flight seems slower, softer somehow and their feeding seems to have taken on a sense of calmness , no longer a frenzied rush. The peepers no longer sing to greet the the night, although the hooting of the owls still float through the night air, their presence holds strong and true.

Where Mother Nature forever seeks balance, just as water seeks it's own level and for all the night creatures that leave us for warmer nights elsewhere, she brings other newer choruses to fill the night, like the Loons. I listen to them calling across the cove to each other. They send out an echo which floats across the air in search of their mate. And when they come together the long mournful cry that drew them to each other is now followed by a rapid succession of shorter calls. You can hear their excitement at finding each other! If only we humans reacted in same when we find each other.

Some other not so beautiful sounds fill the night air as well. Those of the seals. While one would never describe the call of the seals anywhere near a beautiful sound, it certainly still demands just as much notice. Their grunts, growls and snorts sound almost alien but, I suppose to them it is the call of love.

Speaking of love, the cool fall nights seems to stir something deep and primal in nature. It's nature's season of love. Yes love. It is in the night air for all the moose, deer, bear, raccoons etc. They become driven to seek, catch and conquer, all in their need to reproduce. They all have their own rituals for attracting a mate. It appears to be a very visual thing. I actually had the honour of watching two moose through part of this ritual called mating. While leaning on my elbows to steady the binoculars I held up tightly against my eyes, I found I was holding my breath. These two huge, massive creatures displayed a puppy like playfulness between them. As I watched, the Sir of the two actually leaned his head down and pounced  back and forth, his huge hooves stirring up dust all around himself, turning around in circles then dropping to the ground, he rolled onto his back with all four legs straight up in the air and squiggled his back against the ground beneath him. What was she doing? Well she was just standing there looking down at him through the cloud of dust, I think she yawned then slowly turned her large frame away, his head slowly turning with her as he watched her begin to walk away. He quickly sent up another cloud of dust as he scrambled to his feet and caught up with her. He trotted along side her, his head turned , looking at her, while she seemingly appeared to be not interested. They trotted side by side up the path and disappeared into the forest.

I think he eventually won her over because about a month later around 9:55 one evening I was racing along the shoreline of the Kennebacasis River on the Kingston Peninsula in a huge hurry to catch the Ferry back to the mainland.
With no streetlights in the area it was indeed a dark night. When I noticed how dark it was,something in my gut said to slow down. My speedometer went from 90 to 25 and this is one time in my life that I'm happy to say I listened to my gut. It wasn't even 30 seconds later that off to my right some flash of movement caught my eye. My foot came down softly on the brake pedal. And there they were. Just beyond the reach of my headlights, emerging from the woods,one behind the other, two massive Moose. One male walking tall and very strong and a full set of antlers. He looked almost scraggly with signs of a new winter coat.  And she looked large and healthy. Her winter coat looked full, lush and long. I could see flashes of white from her underbelly.
I slowed the car to a stop as they approached the road. They looked in my direction. They knew I was there. Tentatively they started across the road, very slowly I might add. Watching these two large beasts  pass by the front of my car was a moment in itself. The furthest thing from my mind in those moments was catching the Ferry. I know my heart stopped and  my breathing stopped until the ringing in my ears brought me around again. I watched them as they disappeared out of my headlights then proceed to trot up someones driveway.
 I never did miss the Ferry, as it turned out it was running 5 minutes late. In truth I wouldn't of cared if I had. What I experienced, there are no words to describe. I won't ever know if this mated pair were the same two I'd seen just a short time ago frolicking in the fields or not. I'd like to think so.

Where even nature has it's time for harshness and sometimes cruelty and violence seem to prevail, all in the name of survival until a period of regeneration begins and nature starts to shift the animalistic instinct that is in all of us, animal and human alike. A transition starts where we begin to need each other. To come together in union if even only for a few short moments in some cases, and in others they mate for life.

As our fall season deepens we begin to give up the fight and submit to the shorter days and resign ourselves to the longer nights. We prepare and begin to preserve our energy for the harshness of  the winter yet to come. We take stock and work with what we have. Like the busy squirrel collecting his seeds and nuts for winter storage we too have our harvest time. We store the shorts, tees and sneakers and dust off the sweaters, hats and gloves. The pool rake is replaced with the leaf rake. The garden hoe is put to the back of the garden shed and the snow shovel is brought forward and takes it place. We turn our house lights up 3 hours earlier than we did just a few short weeks ago. Windows are tightly shut at night, storm windows firmly locked in place. Extra blankets on the beds, linen sheets replaced by the flannel ones.

We awake each morning and start our days in darkness and end them in darkness. For most people we continue to think we can still bounce through each day as if it were still summer. In our neck of the woods our daylight hours extend about 17 hours at their longest during the height of summer, and during the winter months that is reduced to 8 hours. That is a huge adjusment for us to make. Out of habit we think we can continue with our busy bee activities without skipping a beat. Eventually though, like a stubborn child wanting it's own way, Mother Nature gently pushes us indoors. She impresses us to slow down, to rest. She knows what is best for us. In the beginning we tend to try to push away from her safe and warm embrace against winter. As in the confines and comfort of our homes we become tired of the struggle to stretch out the days and begin to submit to the slower days, the longer nights. Before we know it there is a change in mindset. We look forward to being inside. We look forward to the end of the day when we can close our doors to the cold world outside and snuggle up with our families and loved ones and enjoy spending more time together. In a perfect world anyways. If you aren't crazy about being locked up indoors for six months with people you minimally get along with well, maybe take up a hobby. We are in Canada and with all the ice maybe hockey would be a good place to start, or go out into the yard and build an igloo.....or two. Hey..it gets you outside!

For myself one thing that will not change with the seasons is the Bay of Fundy. It's tides remain strong and constant. It will continue to roll in and out every 12 hours just as the sun rises and sets each day. With Mother Nature she too has her stubborn ways and refuses to budge on some things. Such as tides and sunsets, and this......is a good thing.

Until the next high tide..........


Special thanks to Mother Nature herself for todays inspiration. May she continue to guide us through all the seasons for years to come.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


                                                               CONTENT: All kinds of yucky stuff.
                                                               LANGUAGE: Frightening
                                                               CHARACTERS: All of us                                                            
I shall not be held responsible for the many sleepless nights that will follow you after you finish reading this.
I shall not be held responsible…………………………………

OK, I’m kind of pulling yourlegs here. Although I will state this with all honesty, that those of you that are weak of heart just move your cursor to the top right hand of the screen in front of you. Click on the little red and white X to make your quick exit because in fact we are going to talk about getting old, over the hill, into the autumn of your life , your rudder’s dragging or the tides of time are running out on you. And, if in fact, you feel you can’t handle it then I have only one thing to say. SUCK IT UP PRINCESS IT’S GOING TO GET US ALL IN THE END……

……and it does and it has. It’s come for me, my friends and my family. I was having a conversation with a couple of old friends from Facebook about aging. I made a comment that I was indeed getting old. A long time friend commented that I was only 51 and that he was 5 years older than I. He kind of left it hanging in mid sentence, I thought. Was he really saying he doesn’t consider himself to be old and where I was younger than him then how could I be old? Yes, I do believe that is what he meant. My thought on that is why are our views of aging are so different. Just what is it that makes our perceptions so different? I mean old is just plain old, isn’t it?
I mean if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck then, it must be a duck….right? I mean a wrinkle is a wrinkle. It is what it is!  What were once cute little crows feet around the eyes at 40 are now craters at 51. The laugh lines which would denote a person of pleasant personality are now ironically giving the illusion of a frown that frames the mouth.

The worst of all has to be gravity. We’ve all heard the old “She’s all goin south!” Or “I’m getting so old I’m tripping over my own body parts!” Where I live if you think gravity is bad, you should see what an outgoing tide can do to you.(That’s a joke)  The tide does indeed have its’ own pull, same as the moon. In actuality the moon has a push. If it actually had a pull it would have the opposite affect on us and we’d probably all be wearing smiles like Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman and wearing concrete blocks on our feet to keep us anchored to terra firma. Which leads me into wondering about water. Ever notice how buoyant certain body parts are in under water? Ahhhh now here is a concept I can entertain! We float in water. Water holds everything up! In a perfect world if we could live under water than nothing would ever sag! I wonder if the expression “Hope Floats” was built on that concept!

Then there are the vocal changes. We can’t even remember when that started. When we have to bend over to pick  something up, a  sound escapes that starts somewhere in our midriffs and works it way up through the diaphragm, hits the top of the throat and escapes as a high pitched wheeze and ends with a long held grunt until they run out of air and it sounds like their last breath every time. Then there is the getting up out of a chair, grunts followed by sighs of relief that we made it to standing position. What’s more frightening are the creaks and cracks. How does that happen?

That all these things are signs of aging and alarming enough on their own there are things more frightening and disturbing than falling and not being able to get back up. We realize that everyone and everything as we’ve known it is aging as well, our parents, our children, our bothers and sisters and cousins and even our friends. Our own parents have somehow lost the spark they once had, they no longer try to tell us how to raise our children anymore nor tell us how if we can’t pay cash then we have no business buying it. No more lectures of “When I was raising you I never did it that way! Who in the hell ever taught you that?” and “You’re too young to be that tired well, when I was your age I worked 5 jobs AND raised 6 kids and ran a household on a tight budget and still had money left over!” When living all of that, you think that you will never hear the end of it. Well, rest assured the day does come you don’t hear it anymore and you may find yourself wishing you could…just one more time. 

When we look at our friends we see the subtle changes from the softening of their features, to the light graying of their hair. The carriage that once carried them tall and strong is now turning soft and rested. You see their children growing tall and living their lives more independently, which in turn, makes you look at your own children by comparison. That is when it really hits home. And you do have that moment of sobering reality that your children are no longer ‘kids’. That they no longer need you the way they’ve needed you for every single day for the last 20 years. How is it that they don’t need you anymore but, you feel you still need them, maybe more than ever before? Where is the balance? Maybe it is what nature intended?

 We have the memories of our children’s lives. From the very moment of birth to the very young adults they’ve become today. We have their whole lives imbedded in our lives.  They in turn, are still learning of us. They are in the process of  creating their memories yet. They are still getting to know us as real people and not just their parents anymore. To say that it is a reversal of each others relation to the other would be true but, there is more going on here, something much more complex and deeper that we can only try to grasp at understanding it. Yet we know that somewhere in this reversal process that nature is once again doing a balancing act.

 Where over the years from birth to the horrible teen years there have been many moments of annoyance, of frustration, of heartbreak, of laughter, of joy, of love. Suddenly it is us that annoy them now. It is us that frustrate them to no end. And it is us that will cause them heartbreak when the time comes for us to leave them. And their memories? They’ll remember the laughter, the joy, and the warm memories of being loved, unconditionally. It will be these memories that sooth their broken hearts and will ease their grief. And when the clouds begin to clear for them once again and they walk through their lives they will realize that they are following a trail of footsteps that will take them down  the very same walk their parents made long before they were born. In the end…they will become us.  The aging process will start once again.  And eventually they become the children to their very own children, the same in turn, as we did them.

In conclusion I believe that the aging process is much more than wrinkles, bat wings and sagging knees. It’s about being old enough to have left some kind of legacy behind. To leave our imprint on every shadow that passed our way in our lifetime. And for that shadow, our shadow, to imprint itself, immortally into the future shadows yet to come. That brings us to another question. Does some part of us live on forever? Does that in essence make us immortal, even to a small degree?  I think the answer to that is in another whole subject……another time maybe.

Remember. We are all connected in some way, shape or form. Our shadows pass through each other skimming along the edges of our lives, along for the ride. Once we have looked each other in the eyes….we are never the same but….we are forever connected. Like the waves that ride along the swells of the tides, they crash on shore exploding in a spray of a powerful frenzied life force. You feel that life force. This is the very essence of Mother Nature in all her glory. And when the tide retreats, the waves are pulled back with her, unresisting. Her shadow crosses ours, and we are never the same.

Until the next high tide.......


Thank you to my husband Eric who contributed all the 'old' expressions that pertaine to age. What would I know about any of that? lol

AND a special thanks to Greg Lenihan, a very dear life long friend who was my inspiration for this piece. "See what you started?" lol Thanks Greg.