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A Course in Miracles

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The Winking Paddleworm

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonOn perfect summer days, of which there are many, we take our supper to the shore, sit on flat picnic rocks and eat uncomplicated meals made delicious by sun and surf. A towel must be spread to protect one’s bottom from barnacles that, on this rock, come in two sizes and colors: small white (about 2 mm diameter) and large amber (12 mm). The two groups keep strictly to themselves, and some of the little fellows must die out because they snuggle into one another as closely as only barnacles can snuggle, so what happens when they grow into adulthood? 

After our beach supper I am peering into a rocky tidal pool when I notice a long flat reddish-striped worm grazing on some filmy strands of rockweed (possibly soft sourweed). As soon as it spots me, the worm looks up and winks before quickly retreating tail-first into a hole at the base of the seaweed.—Well, it doesn’t actually wink (does it even have eyes?) but it does seem determined to dine in privacy. At home I check my trusty Peterson Guide: it’s a paddleworm. Paddleworms are carnivores, so this fellow must be snacking on some miniscule fleshy creatures that inhabit the seaweed.

Further down the shore on a sandbar, hundreds of tiny tubes stick out of the sand: the burrows of trumpet worms. Rachel Carson in The Edge of the Sea (p. 143) describes these tubes as “natural mosaics of sand, one grain thick, the building stones fitted together with meticulous care.” Here I am casually trampling on a microscopic architectural wonder. 

And this red sand I’m trampling on: why is it red? I recently learned that Island sandstone—and hence its sand—is composed mainly of quartz grains coated with a fine dust of hematite or iron oxide, also known as rust. On the North Shore the waves rolling in from the Gulf of St. Lawrence are so powerful they knock this rusty coating from the sand grains. Along the South Shore the waves of the Northumberland Strait “lap” rather than “pound” so the hematite stays on and the sand remains red. The white sand at Basin Head is an exception: it is composed of silica grains that squeak when they rub against each other, earning this beach the name of Singing Sands. (Thanks to geologist John DeGrace in The Island Magazine, No. 46.)

There is no end to the mysteries one may ponder whilst lingering at the seashore. Astronomer Carl Sagan writes that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth. Obviously we know very little about what is going on over our heads, but we are equally ignorant about what goes on under our feet.

Enough mysteries for one day. The tide is coming in and the evening beckons. We walk back across the Cove as sandbars shrink and tidal pools swell, and a whole new cycle of shore life begins.

If These Shores Could Talk

Review by JoDee Samuelson

In one of Georgetown’s many cemeteries is a tall gray headstone with the following inscription: MEYRICK LALLY. DIED DECEMBER 15, 1847, AGED 5 YEARS 5 MONTHS. A CHILD OF SINGULAR AMIABILITY AND INTELLIGENCE.

The citizens of Georgetown have always had a healthy respect for intelligence and good humor. In 1887 they built a beautiful theatre and named it the King’s Playhouse. In 1983, after providing a venue for cultural activities for almost a hundred years, the theatre burned down; but the next year the community upped and built an even bigger one. That Georgetown spirit is noteworthy and continues to this day.

At opening night of If These Shores Could Talk lovely executive-director Hayley Zavo in her eye-catching black and white polka dot dress greets us at the front door, and front of house crew Sammy D, Samantha, Randall and Phil give us a warm welcome. Inside, photos of famous visiting artists (Buffy St-Marie, Jimmy Rankin, George Canyon) hang straight and true; the bathrooms are squeaky clean; the popcorn (you can bring it into the theatre) is hot and buttery.

A good-sized crowd of young and old soon fills half of the 300-seat theatre, eagerly awaiting what is advertised as “a lively musical revue featuring the music and poetry of the east coast.” Lights dim, fiddler Allison Ling Giggey enters silhouetted against a tranquil seascape, and seasoned stage veteran Kevin Ryan opens with a monologue about displaced Islanders working in Alberta (a recurring theme), before launching into the song “Lighthouse Keepers Dream” by Jim Moffatt: “Old sailors will tell you the sea’s no easy life, and if you don’t believe them then go and ask their wife.”

Song follows song, interspersed with jokes (which unfortunately fall flat), poems, more monologues, and the occasional step dance by Jennifer Carson. We would like to see and hear more from Jennifer who, with her natural voice and delivery, single-handedly provides a kitchen party energy to the show.

Younger cast members Garrett O’Brien and Dakota Lee Darrach come into their own in the second half when Garrett belts out a Canadian Idols-type rendition of some pop song – which has nothing to do with the show’s theme but gives him a moment in the sun; and Dakota sings a sweet ballad that concludes with a waltz around the stage partnered with her mother, Sherri-Lee Darrach. The sparkling Sherri-Lee provides a stabilizing force to the production with her strong voice and calm delivery, while Ben Aitken on the keyboard and guitar adds a professional touch to the whole event.

At the end of the show first-time director Justin Simard takes a bow with the cast, no doubt relieved that everything has gone off more or less as planned. In his next foray into writing he might try to provide more storyline; avoid clichés about beer-drinking and baseball caps; dress the actors in something colorful; rehearse the jokes; and throw in a few sing-alongs, for audiences like ours are dying to sing. Also, provide us with a list of songs and composers: I’ve never heard many of these songs and might like to locate the original recordings.

All in all, a good time is to be had at the King’s Playhouse. So I say, lovers of local culture, hie thee to Georgetown. It’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from Charlottetown. Enjoy its restaurants, funky art store, historic churches, Mair Museum (featuring Bea Mair’s collection of fossils and miscellany galore), extraordinary public gardens with giant ship’s wheel, and boardwalk alongside the iconic sea.

Now what doth hinder thee from partaking of such history, beauty and joy?

Frogs crossing

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonIt was a wet black night in West Prince with the rain pounding relentlessly on roofs and sodden ground. We were reluctant to say good-bye to our friends in their cozy house on the Harper Road, but after many hugs and fond farewells we all took a deep breath and ran out to the car. Then with a toot of the horn and “them windshield wipers slappin’ time” we drove away…into a great dark void. We might have been driving over the edge of the earth for all we could see. The road markings had faded into oblivion, just as they have in our part of the Island, and the wet road absorbed every speck of light.

“Where the heck is the white line?” I asked rhetorically as I eased the car down what seemed to be the middle of the road. 

“Wouldn’t hurt to paint the stripes once in a while,” observed my friend.

“What are all those lumps?” asked my other friend. “Chunks of pavement? Good grief, this road is in bad shape…Wait a minute—those lumps are frogs! It must be the Night of Frogs Crossing the Road!”

It was true: the road was alive with hopping frogs, common everyday Pseudacris crucifer (spring peepers) that somehow all had the same idea: We must cross the road tonight. Did it have something to do with love? Food? Recreation? Who knows. Fortunately there wasn’t much traffic at that time of night, so we only squashed a few dozen frogs. Sorry about that.

It seems that there is a healthy population of amphibians in West Prince. We have peepers in the Cove too. If you walk by the pond across the field in late spring, you’ll hear thousand of peepers in full chorus: an exhilarating, deafening, humbling experience. All that life going on alongside humanity without us having to do a single thing.

Life is doing its own thing everywhere. The other day I was driving on a back road and came across five young foxes playing in the middle of the highway. They saw me coming and showed no fear; but a parent in the wings must have signaled them because all at once they scampered/tumbled/rolled into the ditch. Watching them disappear into the undergrowth was like watching a kindergarten class leave the stage.

Speaking of foxes, our friends on the Harper Road recently chased a fox out of their yard—a fox with one of their plump brown laying hens in its mouth! Fortunately the fox dropped the hen and she is reportedly as good as new.

Foxes have to feed themselves and their young ones too. Apparently they will eat almost anything, including frogs. So I suggest they leave the chickens alone, and go out a-hunting on a stormy night, on a Night when the Frogs are Crossing the Road.

Free food

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThere is a patch of curly dock that comes up beside the garden year after year. A proud member of the buckwheat family, curly dock is a cousin to rhubarb and burdock, and although it will never turn into a delicious pie, nor produce burrs, it will grow into a rather coarse overbearing perennial of little interest to gardeners. During the Depression, dock was an important vegetable because it was free and readily available. These days it has become popular with natural food buffs who are eager to share their dock recipes on the Internet: Stir-fried dock with bacon and onions; potato, dock and tahini soup; dock cream cheese spread. Any of this sound good to you?

As a natural food aficionado myself, I’ve been thinking that it’s my duty to at least try eating dock, so last night I bit the bullet and ate some. Dug up a dozen plants, disposed of the roots, washed the leaves thoroughly and chopped ‘em up. Steamed them for five minutes, splashed the whole works with a little lemon juice and butter, and to my surprise, curly dock turned out to taste almost the same as spinach. Did I feel healthier or stronger afterwards? Not necessarily, but that’s not the point of food, is it? It’s supposed to keep you alive. Judging by the healthy crop of curly dock in our yard we won’t starve for a few weeks. But dock and I have not yet become friends; I’d call us acquaintances.

I should mention that dock root has been used to treat skin infections and athlete’s foot, so perhaps I should be saving the roots too…but the line must be drawn somewhere.

Meanwhile we’re busy eating dandelion greens (bitter but yummy), fireweed shoots (somewhat like asparagus), watercress (spicy and tender), and fiddleheads (fiddleheady). In the coming months I have big plans to try out other free food. Next on the menu: spruce buds—apparently good with roasts. (Like cooking with Buckley’s cough syrup?) Then it’ll be on to lamb’s quarters (tender deliciousness), sheep sorrel (lemony), and chickweed and purslane if I don’t toss them away automatically. In due course we will snack on wild strawberries, add daylily flowers and nasturtium blossoms to our salads, make lemonade from sumac flower clusters, put snippets of various seaweeds in our soup, and keep our eyes open for meadow mushrooms and chanterelles.

In the fall I plan to harvest acorns, peel them and boil them several times to remove tannic acid, then grind them into flour. Raspberry leaf tea, rose hip jam, blackberry wine—I’m going to do it all! So much good stuff around just begging to be eaten.

No dock where you live, you say? Try walking along Confederation Trail. If you can’t find any, then come out to the Cove and help yourself to all you want from our yard. Bon appetit.

Sunshine season

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonWe had a big discussion at our community meeting this month about when to hold the Perennial Sale. Our Cove beekeeper insists that spring (i.e. warm weather) will arrive three weeks earlier this year than last, and we’re all willing to fall in line with this idea. Accordingly, the Perennial Sale will be held the third week in May instead of early June.

Now the planning group must spring into action. Things to consider: Are there enough heavy bags for the manure? Can we get manure from the same farmer this year? Where can we get mushroom compost? (Freetown?) Can we use Steve’s half-ton truck to fetch the compost? Will Bill bring his two excellent camping shelters? How about the canteen, the raffle, the plants?

As we dig up and separate our perennials we realize that we are truly bidding farewell to winter. We shall meet again, but not for at least five months…let’s not think about it. We have now officially entered the Season of Sunshine. To put things into a pleasant perspective here are some statistics from

May 1 sunrise: 5:58 am. Sunset: 8:22 pm. (14.5 hours of sunlight). 

June 1 sunrise: 5:25 am. Sunset: 8:56 pm. (15.5 hours of sunlight—which will continue for the whole month of June.)

This should be enough sunshine for everybody. Nature is certainly getting excited just thinking about it. Fat houseflies are banging into windows; sleepy ants are climbing out of the wet earth and rubbing sand out of their eyes; skunks are roaming the countryside with tails dragging in the grass; and one lonely ring-necked pheasant is sending his imperious “come hither” call resonating across the fields.

In our backyard, grackles (a group of them is called “a plague of grackles”) have set up shop, and as long as they don’t poop on the clothesline they’re welcome to build nests and squawk away. Grackles are large blackbirds with blue-black iridescent feathers and yellow eyes, who hold their tails in a “keeled” (vertical) shape when resting—something I myself have not been able to accomplish.

Across the road a hungry weasel has eaten eight of our neighbor’s plump hens plus one rooster. A beautiful black-bellied fox is on the prowl for the rest of the flock.

Along the roadways pussy willows are bursting from the tips of glistening yellow-green twigs, while scarlet-stemmed dogwoods decorate the ditches. In our garden, dressed in their finest spring greenery are shoots of daylilies and daffodils, columbine and chamomile, parsley and pulmonaria, irises, mojito mint, Johnny jump ups, bee balm, oregano, and rhubarb of course—all of which, thanks to the generosity of Nature, will make their way into the Perennial Sale.

In the spruce trees the grackles squawk, “No time to lose! No time to lose!” The sun peeps through the window and taps me on the shoulder, murmuring, “You were waiting for me, and here I am.”

Undaunted spring

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonOn April 18, 1801 in Hallowell, Maine, a midwife named Martha Ballard planted 165 “cabbage stumps” in her garden. (These “stumps” were cabbage roots over-wintered in the cellar.) In her diary she records that two weeks after planting, she was serving young cabbage shoots for dinner, which would be the family’s first green vegetable of the year. And those cabbages would go on giving: Allowed to mature they would provide seeds for sowing the following summer. [p. 323, A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Vintage Books, 1990]

Imagine planting and caring for 165 heads of cabbage, all for one family. We consider ourselves lucky if cabbage butterflies do not totally destroy our cabbages and broccoli while our backs are turned. Up until now it never occurred to us to save cabbage roots, but it’s never too late to change old habits. I fully intend to be reporting on the progress of my cabbage sprouts this time next year.

Spring in these northern climes has traditionally been a hard time of the year, as supplies in house and barn begin to run out. These days most of us put on weight in winter (how wrong is that?) thanks to Netflix, jigsaw puzzles and Happy Hour, and to the excellent—albeit fragile—food supply system that faithfully brings ice cream and snack food to our doors. I don’t want this system to go away, but I want be more self-sufficient, and I’m kind of excited about the idea of cabbage sprouts.

Speaking of fragile: Our walking group has been taking coffee to the shore more often than usual recently because the mornings have been so darn beautiful. Sitting on flat sandstone boulders, we ponder the large and small questions of life (which you can do so much better while sipping hot coffee and eating cranberry muffins). The crumbling red capes with their thin floating layer of topsoil remind us that we are here for a good time, not a long time.

One morning last month a Search and Rescue helicopter flew low overhead on its way to the Bonshaw Hills. The whole Island was holding its breath waiting for the dear doctor to be found; then things turned out the way they did. What are we to make of our short time on earth? Cliffs disintegrate, rising seas crash over our breakwaters, political storm clouds glower south of the border, and yet … here come the Canada geese, here come the blue herons. Grackles are building nests, robins are pulling worms out of the ground. Clamworms and periwinkles and barnacles will soon be mating (however they do it) and tiny cellular life will be swimming around the ocean looking for a place to call home. Clearly nature is undaunted by the things that daunt the rest of us.

Oh, I just remembered it’s time to pull up those parsnips that we left in the ground last fall. Yum. And look: the parsley is still healthy and green. Martha Ballard would approve.

Thin ice

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThe ice is setting in around the Island and it finally feels like winter. But what is an average winter here? We’re always setting records of some kind. In the delightful Letters from the Manse, author Joan Colborne writes (March 3, 1949): “Even the people who have lived round [O’Leary] all their life have been impressed with this series of blizzards.”

I remember the winter of 1991, skating on sheet glass ice from West Street in Charlottetown across to Rocky Point, and returning via York Point. Has there been ice like that since then? I don’t think so.

At one time, the Island’s frozen rivers became its highways. In the Cove, a farmer with horse and sleigh and a load of potatoes or firewood to sell would head east across the fields and down onto the ice at Long Creek. From there it was a simple glide into Charlottetown—avoiding, of course, the thin ice.

Many of us rely on books and photos to inform us of by-gone days. If we’re fortunate, we have friends who were around in those times who can tell us how to avoid the weak ice. How we hate to lose these friends! In the past few weeks, two elderly mothers of people in the Cove have passed on, carrying their memories with them. Last year we lost our beautiful and generous local historian, Florence MacCannell.

And recently our neighbour Steven MacKinnon died. Steven was not an old man, but he was an old soul, and a storyteller. Last fall he came to our house with ten pounds of hamburger from a steer he’d had killed. He stood in the doorway talking for a good half hour before placing the hamburger in my hands. I learned all abut how he had fed his animals, how they came when he called, how he grew his grain, how he never sprayed chemicals on any of his fields. “When I go home,” he said, “I’m going to take a handful of this hamburger and fry it up just as is. That’s going to be my supper. I can’t wait!”

When he left, I said, “Let’s fry up some of this.” Without any question, that was the most delicious hamburger I ever ate.

We won’t be getting any more of Steven’s hamburger, or his stories. One day as we were walking down to the Cove, two bald eagles flew overhead, and it seemed like Steven might be one of those eagles. He liked big things and big ideas, and when he got going his ideas seemed to soar just like those eagles.

There is a wind turbine in Steven’s farmyard—a serious machine atop a hundred foot tower. Every day when I look up the hill I can see that turbine with its white blades flashing, and I wonder how can it keep going without Steven?

Things do keep going though. Winter turns into spring, and if we’re lucky we don’t fall through the ice.


The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThis morning we decided to walk to the school to change the notice on the marquee. Crossing the bridge we all stopped at the same time and exclaimed, “How lovely!” for the tide was coming in, the marsh was blanketed with snow and the whole scene was harmonious and perfect.

The bridge we were standing on crosses a modest waterway called MacEachern Creek that served historically as an aboriginal portage route: Travelers from the mainland arriving at the Cove would canoe upstream, dodging branches and toppled trees, then carry packs and canoes the remaining few kilometers through the woods to the West River, one of the Island’s great waterways. Today MacEachern Creek is used by ducks, blue herons, kingfishers, the occasional muskrat and a few trout, but has become so silted-in that no one can canoe even as far as the bridge. Bullrushes love it, however.

Our creek runs all year. Over time it has carved out its own little valley, and in the middle of the valley you’d think that the water should head straight to the sea, but no, it meanders happily as all waterways do, even the Mississippi. Say there’s a heavy rain: silt run-off makes a little mound in the stream, the water hits the silt and changes direction; or a boulder rolls into the stream causing the current to move around it. Flowing water hits the bank straight ahead and turns, but not before eroding it a little, then this silt moves along and settles a little further on, and so on, something like our own lives…

At one time there was a dam in the creek with a road that went across the dam, and there was a sawmill that operated in spring when there was plenty of water. It’s fun to poke around in these places and look for artifacts, but the water laughs and burbles and keeps its secrets to itself.

MacEachern Creek is one of two waterways that feed into the Cove. Together over thousands of years these streams have made their way down to the sea—water of the land joining water of the oceans—wearing away the soft sandstone edge of the Island grain by grain until a lovely cove has formed. And what is a cove? A cove is a small bay or inlet along the coast where waves attack and break down weak rocks to form inlets. (Bays are larger, gulfs are larger still.) Streams like MacEachern Creek do their part to enlarge the inlet and make it less salty.

We love our creek, and we love our Cove. The Cove is a place of protection and introspection, a state of mind as much as a physical entity. Plus it is a fascinating destination. The other day the water was starting to freeze, and great slushy breakers were swelling in slow motion like moving sand dunes. Meanwhile, taking no note of any of this, MacEachern Creek in its chosen channel flowed unobtrusively into the sea.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

Culture days

Free activities on September 29 at the Confederation Centre Culture Days is a three-day nation-wide [ ... ]

Support the Girls

Until September 22
City Cinema 14A, coarse language, nudity
Dir: Andrew Bujalski, US, 90 min. Regina  [ ... ]

Projections on the Plaza

Until September 29
Confederation Centre Plaza The public is invited to enjoy two outdoor film screen [ ... ]

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Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Filmworks Summerside

Film series is back for 7th season Filmworks Summerside opens for their 7th season on September 12  [ ... ]

An Island wish

On August 23, 4 year old Cooper Coughlin will arrive on Prince Edward Island soil for a once in a li [ ... ]