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Start with a Seedling

Start with a Seedling is a unique intergenerational program that brings together community volunteer [ ... ]

Confederation Centre Choirs

Both the Confederation Centre Youth Chorus and the Confederation Singers (the adult choir at the Cen [ ... ]

Hello winter

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonWell, hello winter! One day we were blithely raking leaves in t-shirts and shorts, and the next day we were bundling up against a fierce north wind and brushing snow from our doorsteps. It would be nice to blame Daylight Savings Time for all this, but of course that can’t be true. Fortunately our stunningly beautiful fall weather gave everyone, from farmers and gardeners to road crews and roofers, plenty of time to “finish the job properly.” And I must say the Island looks very smart and trim as we head into December.

I can finally tolerate hearing Christmas music in stores. In fact, I find myself humming along with everything. Christmas is the one time of year when we all know the first verse of dozens of songs, and even adults who protest “But I can’t sing” can sometimes be persuaded to open their mouths and make a joyful noise.

The Cove is bursting with seasonal activities including, for one last time, a drive-through Living Nativity at the Jenkins’ farm. Chrys, Gordon and Jamie are hanging lights and stars, building a shelter for the choir, lining up guest livestock, and generally preparing a one-of-a-kind nativity show. Who would put all that effort into such a big funky unlikely light-up-the-sky event? Well, Chrys and Doreen and all their friends in the Cove, that’s who. It’s the most cheerful way ever invented to raise money for Santa’s Angels.

When the Living Nativity is over there’ll be the Christmas Concert at the old school featuring local talent young and old, a homemade play, a visit from Santa, and lunch of course. (Can you have an event in the country without lunch?) Tucked in here and there are a half-dozen Open Houses when neighbors gather at various homes to discuss the events of the day and have a bite to eat. Do we get tired of seeing each other so often? Not at all. We’re filling up with warmth and happiness to tide us through the long cold months ahead.

While we humans snack on fruitcake and chocolate, our local wildlife is also enjoying the bounty of the season. Two flying squirrels have taken up residence in our woodpile, conveniently close to everything they like to eat: butternuts, chestnuts, spruce cones, lichen. Northern flying squirrels are as cute as rodents can get, with their shiny round eyes (for nocturnal vision), fluffy flat tails and little round ears. We’re going to let them live out the winter just where they are. It’s amazing to see them soaring from tree to tree, flat as frisbees: they can glide up to 300 feet! 

Along the capes, bayberry shrubs proudly display their waxy grey-blue fruits. Scarlet winterberries glow in the afternoon sun. Down at the shore, periwinkles snuggle into sandstone cracks, prepared to sit out the vagaries of winter weather. The final season of the year is here and we’re ready.

Little Drummer Boy, Il est né le divin enfant, O tannenbaum: Welcome December!

Clear skies

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonIt was one of those clear calm evenings when you could feel the temperature dropping as the sun sank below the tree line. We picked all the cucumbers and squash, wrapped a blanket snugly around the climbing tomatoes, and reluctantly went indoors. Time to face the music and start a fire in the woodstove.

Sitting by the stove with a glass of wine felt just right; but a long dark night—one of many to come—was staring us in the face. So we decided to walk up the hill and pay a visit to our hilltop neighbors. They’re the kind of people who love to have friends drop in unannounced, and no matter if it’s day or night you’re always assured of a cup of tea and a freshly baked biscuit or piece of pie, or in our case a slice of gumdrop cake. Hospitality like that is a real gift.

We had a lovely time eating cake, discussing our respective Thanksgiving celebrations, and making plans to start a jigsaw puzzle in the near future. Then we said our good-byes and headed into the night. The moonless sky was filled with stars that clearly spelled out, “There will be a frost tonight.” No matter: we’re used to the changing seasons. We have all the clothes we need to keep warm, we have boxes of our own potatoes in the cellar, and our freezer is full of delicious things to eat. So with flashlight in hand we marched cheerfully down the hill.

But then a coyote howled nearby—although you can’t really call it a howl for it’s more like other-worldly speech. Then other coyotes joined in. Yap yap yap! It sounded like a lot of them. Our pace picked up.

It’s strange how sometimes distances seem so much greater than at other times. We passed Susan’s where here was a light on in the kitchen: that was comforting. But how distant the next house seemed! Still, with every step the coyote chorus receded, and then we were at our neighbor’s barn with its welcoming yard light, and finally we were home. What had we been worried about anyway?

When the sun rose the next morning it was evident that indeed there had been a heavy frost, for every blade of grass was encrusted with a shimmering white coat. Down at the Cove everything was hushed and still. The tide had crept in and out overnight with scarcely a ripple, leaving the sandbars perfectly smooth and pristine. Gulls and crows were carefully examining glistening clumps of rockweeds and kelp fronds scattered on the beach. Some plovers or sandpipers scooted along the tidal pools enjoying the breakfast buffet, and perhaps admiring their own feathery reflection in the tranquil waters.

It had been a clear night and now it was a clear day. The sun’s warmth melted the frost and warmed our hearts, and wild creatures of the darkness seemed very far away.

Painted Ladies

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonOur cat Huckleberry didn’t come home the other night. We called and called but no gray cat with handsome striped tail showed up, so the lights were turned out and we went to bed. The next morning he still wasn’t around. Our various neighbors hadn’t seen him and it was suggested we go along the road looking in the ditch. No cat in ditches, fortunately, or in culverts.

In the late afternoon we walked to the meadow across the way. Pushing aside sun-warmed pockets of cottony fireweed and goldenrod blossoms nodding benevolently in the breeze, we moved into a clearing when suddenly hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies burst into the air, flitting hither and yon as only butterflies can. Everywhere we looked we saw more of these lovely creatures clinging to goldenrod petals or balancing delicately on silvery fireweed leaves, their wings pulsing gently.

Why hadn’t we noticed them before? I guess we’d been worrying about our cat Huckleberry and feeling generally down, what with the news about hurricanes and earthquakes and other global malaise; but when we looked up, our Island world was full of Painted Ladies. Back home we watched butterflies swooping over the treetops from the northeast and dipping through the yard before heading purposefully south. What would happen when they got to the shore? We went down to the Cove to watch, and it was amazing: hundreds—thousands—of butterflies zooming over our heads in some sort of mass migration and heading out to sea as if to say, “Amherst, here we come!”

How little we know about the life around us. We humans think we’re busy right now with our harvesting and preserving and getting ready for winter, but Painted Ladies live perhaps two weeks in the butterfly stage, during which time they have to flutter around and look beautiful, mate, lay eggs, and have some sort of meaningful experiences (one hopes). Butterflies and all the other creatures great and small must not like hurricanes any more than we do, and one wonders why Painted Ladies showed up in such numbers just now.

But back to Huckleberry. Hours passed and still no cat. The only place we hadn’t looked was the freshly harrowed seagull-filled field behind our house. Kitty kitty!…What was that? A tiny meow? Kitty kitty! Sure enough, a gray cat was wa-a-ay up in a tree, looking and sounding mighty pitiful.

So the cat came back, and we can relax.

Geese are passing noisily overhead. Mountain ashes are drooping with bouquets of waxy orange-red berries, and spruce trees are absolutely laden with cones: our neighbor said that she heard spruce cones popping open! That seems impossible, but I looked closely at a sappy spruce cone and sure enough, it has to pop open. Check for yourself.

A few Painted Lady butterflies linger among the golden fall flowers, reluctant to leave this beautiful Island; and who can blame them?

The Other Side

The Cove
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonLocal folklore has it that when you can see The Other Side clearly, it’s going to rain, which must be because the air pressure is falling and there are fewer molecules of dust and moisture over the water to impede your view. At those times Nova Scotia looks close enough to reach out and touch, and it’s easy to imagine our earliest people making the trip across the Strait in their delicate crafts, no problem.

From the edge of the Cove, the other side is a strip of soft blue that beckons enticingly. Funny thing: when you go across the bridge and look back at the Island, our own strip of land is bathed in the same gentle light. It seems that the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side of the fence (or in this case the Strait): it’s merely remote. That tantalizing remoteness is so powerful that once again we make our way over to the campground at Amherst Shore.

The first night a quiet duo from Québec is nestled down in the next campsite. In the morning they pack up their little orange tent and head on their way. A few hours later an SUV pulling a utility trailer rolls in, and a mom and dad and three children proceed to colonize the area. Cheerfully but noisily. Two enormous tents (one for sleeping and one for the table) are laboriously set up, and a huge tarp is strung up over the space between the two tents. I never thought I would see anyone bring an extension ladder to a campground, but that tarp needs a long rope tied up high in a tree so along comes Dad with his ladder. “No help needed, just leave me alone.” Impressive by any standards.

A campground is an intimate window into life. People party enthusiastically into the night. Voices carry. Tempers boil over. Children scream, laugh, run, tumble, and are encouraged or reprimanded as the case may be. Small children share their parent’s toilet stall and discuss every detail of the proceedings. A campground is not for everyone and sometimes a little goes a long ways.

The next morning it’s raining so we throw everything in the car and head home. Has the Island ever had so many summer visitors? The traffic on the bridge is non-stop both ways. Some guests of ours insisted we go to Cavendish last month and I must say the North Shore is a world away from our own Cove reality. Where are all these people coming from?

It’s good to be back. Our roadsides overflow with Queen Anne’s lace and Black-eyed Susans, and the potatoes march in straight lines to the horizon. Being away for even two days makes me appreciate the beauty of this place. Now that all our guests have departed, there is the garden to rediscover, the grass to mow and the friends to visit.

But that strip of soft blue on the horizon still beckons, and we’re already talking about another trip to The Other Side.

Summer lunch

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThe crows wake me before the sun comes up. Are there more crows this year or are they just noisier? Might as well accept the fact that I won’t go back to sleep; and that’s a good thing, for today our friend Marjorie is coming to lunch.

I told Marjorie that I would make a quiche: so simple, no trouble. Actually quiche is a fair bit of trouble, but it doesn’t matter because Marjorie is worth it. So at 6 am I am rolling out piecrust, and thumbing through the Moosewood Cookbook to find the no-fail quiche recipe that calls for a bottom layer of the gruyère cheese that we just happen to have on hand. We also have beautiful fresh brown eggs, sweet Island whole milk, and new onions from the garden. Bonus: a handful of chanterelles that were growing alongside the park road.

By ten o’clock the veggies are fried, the eggs are beaten, and the quiche is ready to pop in the oven. I also whip up a batch of corn sticks made in an old-fashioned corn mold. (Lodge Ironworks still makes them.) This is going to be good.

Promptly at noon Marjorie and her cousin/chauffeur-for-the-day Valerie drive up the lane, all smiles and hugs. I should mention that Marjorie is a wisp of a woman in her 90s, who has finally accepted the idea that a walker is a wonderful invention. Well! That walker takes her all around the yard—and she knows more about peonies, chickadees, and potato bugs than I’ll ever know.

Eventually we gather in the front porch, out of the sun and away from mosquitoes. For our summer luncheon the table is set with a colorful cotton tablecloth, crocheted placemats, my mother’s good silverware, glass plates, and a vase of frilly bachelor buttons. I think even the Queen would approve. The quiche is a big hit, as is the garden salad of tender new greens, and the cornbread is crunchy and golden. But maybe the best part of the whole event is the conversation. Is there anything better than sitting around the table after a delicious meal, exchanging stories?

We “younger” folks talk about hippie days and the houses we lived in; we discuss bird populations, and touch on American politics—but quickly veer away; then settle into a favorite topic: the Olden Days. Marjorie tells of eating shorts porridge (like semolina) for breakfast every day. Walking to the one-room schoolhouse. Cleaning wool in the carding mill with her mother. Sitting through long revival services of the Macdonaldites. Life was no simpler a few generations back: it was just different.

The sun starts peering through the west windows and the porch gets hot. Time for a change of venue. Shall we do this again? Of course. Good-bye friends! See you soon!

It’s quiet in the yard now. The crows are somewhere else, probably down at the shore. The tide’s coming in: why don’t we go for a swim? And we don’t need to cook supper. I’m happy to eat quiche again.

Small things

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThe news is full of big things going on in the world. Elections, hurricanes, tornadoes. Flooding in Quebec. Fissures in Antarctic ice shelves.

All these big things began with tiny events. Even that iceberg floating down from Greenland past Newfoundland must have been the result of a “final straw”: one last ice crystal melted and boom! the glacier started to crack.

Perhaps the fluttering wings of the ruby-throated hummingbird at our feeder started the hurricane in the Atlantic, for its wings beat more than fifty times a second. Surely that’s enough to create a small storm somewhere. Maybe individual actions do have consequences. 

Our woodman, who takes great interest in small things, tells of seeing a hummingbird pluck two fluffy dandelion seeds and fly off with them in her beak to use in lining her walnut-sized nest. A hummingbird nest is constructed from such things as moss, lichens, feathers, hair, cotton threads, leaf fuzz—and dandelion fluff—all bound together with super strong elastic spider silk that allows the nest to stretch as the hatchlings grow. (By the way, hummingbird nests are built entirely by the female, and Dad doesn’t help raise the chicks either.)

Hummingbird legs are so short that scientists classify them as Apodiformes, which means “without feet.” I don’t know how hummingbirds feel about this. They get back at us by having great vision and being able to see into the ultraviolet spectrum, which is something that we humans can’t do.

Here in the Cove we focus on small events like hummingbirds and dandelion seeds, apple blossoms and fresh lettuce, and even some insects—honeybees, for example. (We’re not so crazy about ants and mosquitoes. The good news is that bats have been sighted again and I do hope that some will move into our yard soon.)

This month we’ll be serving fresh strawberries at our Strawberry Social. Each berry started out as a five-petaled white flower that was visited by some small insect, and after a few weeks of glorious sunlight and gentle rain, it was totally transformed. For our social we’ll mash thousands of plump red strawberries, add a little sugar, and serve this delicious mixture in pretty bowls with biscuits underneath and ice cream on top. And the ice cream started out as a drop of milk, and so on.

Dreamily meandering out in the lush green meadows, the cows pluck a flower here, nibble a blade of grass there, and turn it into milk for our ice cream. The hummingbird returns to the feeder for another drop of nectar. Down at the shore the snails make their way across the tidal flats one sand particle at a time. From a distance, life in the Cove looks small and simple. Up close it’s complicated and intricate—it’s plenty big! 

So we keep an eye on the news, but mostly we concentrate on the small manageable wonderful things happening right under our noses.

BREATHE!

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonSome of us have been attending an exercise class at the local hall, and as we bend and stretch and shake our booty, the instructor calls, “Don’t forget to breathe!”

Ah yes, breathe. We get ahead of ourselves and forget to stop and smell the—well, the Mayflowers. With summer coming things are only going to ramp up. I guess I’ll get on that treadmill with everyone else and hope for the best; but right now I’m trying to slow down and do one thing at a time.

Recently I took part in an event celebrating the Hillsborough River, which got me thinking about our rivers and how they all begin with springs. Clear pure precious water bubbling out of the ground: springs were such an important resource that their locations were noted on early maps. So, as we had plans to attend a theatrical event in Montague I suggested that while we were out that way we visit the spring at the head of the Hillsborough River.

Do you ever get lost on our backroads? I still get disoriented whenever I cross the Hillsborough Bridge. Eventually we did find our way to a certain woods road in a remote (to us) part of the Island, where we parked the car and headed down a sandy path. Fox sparrows rustled confidently in the dry leaves of the undergrowth—busy as only little birds can be when they have two months to build a home and raise a family. A fat flying insect flew into my face and bounced off my glasses. Mayflowers invited us to stoop down and lift the fragrant tiny white blossoms to our noses. It was perfect. But where was the spring? After a half hour of steady hiking we were starting to feel a little uncertain. But then we turned a corner and there it was: a shallow dark pool with water gushing out of a PVC pipe onto a mossy green hillside. Water came and came and is coming still, tumbling icy cold, delicious, sweetly filtered through the good earth.

Meanwhile, on the surface of the pool whirligig beetles tumbled head over heels in a merry spring frolic, and amorous male water striders tapped impatiently. We had nothing to do but breathe and relax. Was something else going on in the world? Political shenanigans? Flooded basements? Impossible. In thoughtful silence we retraced our steps through the dappled light, past sturdy fir seedlings, ancient horsetail shoots, and sun-warmed maple trees with red buds swelling.

Then it was on to Montague for a dinner theatre featuring the amazing war diaries of Angus MacLean. (And we got lost on our way there.) I highly recommend attending events outside your own community. How else would you know that you could add cinnamon and sugar to mashed turnip? Oh my, what a feast. It was just the thing to follow our magical hour at the spring.

We headed back to the Cove filled with contentment, and mashed potatoes…so full we could barely breathe.

Get going

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonIn January as our friends were leaving for Spain, they said, “Why not visit us in Valencia? We’ll have an empty bedroom.”

For two months we waffled: “It’s so complicated…what if…I don’t know.”

“Don’t Know What?” my son exclaimed. “Go!”

So we went to sunny Spain. A brief summary: Wine. Oranges. Olives. Chocolate-filled puff pastries. Café con leche. Bocadillos. That’s just the food. Then there’s the art. Standing in an enormous gallery with a marble floor and vaulted ceiling, surrounded by the output of brilliant artists, is an entirely different experience from looking at photographs in a book. When you step into the Prado Museum you enter an alternate universe. Velázquez, El Greco, Bosch, Rubens, Titian—enormous canvases in gilt frames—Dürer, Sorolla, Raphaël, Goya—the list goes on. Startling and unforgettable. No one will ever paint like this again.

Did I mention cathedrals? There are plenty of them, each one crazily fabulous with alabaster and gilt and precious gems, and frescoes of body-less baby angels with winged heads, and statues of martyred saints with arrows sticking into them. We saw the Holy Chalice! Yes it is honest and truly guaranteed the real thing direct from the Last Supper. Of course you can’t touch it or get close enough for a good picture, but there it is all lit up behind glass in the Cathedral of Valencia.

Spain has castles too. Remember the Roman general Hannibal who crossed the Alps with elephants in 200 B.C.? We visited the castle where Hannibal’s wife had a baby. Why did they care so much about this castle? Sure it’s on top of the biggest hill in the landscape, but what good would it do to be stuck up there and see your enemies approaching? What could you do? It’s all a mystery. You have a big hill and then you stack stones on top of it to get even higher. To be fair, Spaniards have been stacking stones on top of each other for thousands of years. They’re good at it, they like it and they don’t give up.

Spain was fabulous but it was good to come home to the Island. Our crocuses are opening and the garlic is up. It’s spring! This place may be a quiet backwater but we have our share of everything, including beautiful churches and amazing artists. I was sorry to hear that photographer Lionel Stevenson passed away recently. Lionel spent a lifetime looking through the lens of his camera, and in a QEH lobby there is a portrait of New Glasgow blacksmith Buck Hill that demonstrates perfectly the depth of his work.

All forms of art give meaning to life. Whether it’s photography, painting, music, dance, sculpture or literature, art nourishes the soul in inexplicable ways. So I say, go visit someplace where art (and chocolate-filled puff pastries) can be found on every street corner. In other words, when friends invite you to visit them in Spain don’t even think about it. Get going.

Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

The Bruce Guthro Songwriters Circle

November 3
Delta Prince Edward The Bruce Guthro Songwriters Circle, presenting Maritime legends and  [ ... ]

The Charlottetown Film Festival

October 12–14
City Cinema The Charlottetown Film Society, dedicated to supporting film culture on  [ ... ]

The Thank You Canada Tour

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Patrick Chan and more in Summerside November 15
Credit Union Place Canada [ ... ]

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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 [ ... ]