Growing Up Baseball

The sting of the Toronto Blue Jays elimination loss in the ALCS is still fresh in the minds and hearts of Canadians.  In order to take the series with the Kansas City Royals, both talent and luck were going to be required and the only thing lacking was the luck.

The Blue Jays’ incredible season and playoff run united the country as is only possible on a few occasions outside of the Olympics.  I can’t imagine what it was like to have both the support and the weight of expectation of an entire country on your back.  The Jays carried their burden admirably and they did Canada proud.

Their playoff run brought back memories of a childhood spent at softball games and my grandparent’s living room, where my Grampy Rushton could always be found in his chair in front of the TV, hollering at a Blue Jays game.  I was 13 yrs old when the Jays won their first World Series.  I don’t remember many of the details but I do remember the feelings associated with it: the anticipation, the excitement and the elation.  It felt like something special had happened.  And it had.  An entire country rallied behind a team in blue and white, as they captured something that no American probably ever thought they would.  And then we did it again the next year.  It was an embarrassment of Canadian baseball riches.  And then there was not much excitement for many years. Until this Cinderella season.

The Jays’ tremendous run reminded me of just how much baseball/softball was a part of my growing up in rural Nova Scotia.  An assuming sports broadcaster commented during the Jays series with Texas, that Canadians don’t grow up playing baseball.  But they do, Harold Reynolds, they most certainly do.  I didn’t belong to a team but I played tee ball when I was small, my parents and most of my Aunts and Uncles were on local fastpitch softball teams and we always played at school on warm spring afternoons. Baseball was a larger part of my childhood than any other organized sport, including hockey.  We didn’t have a town rink or soccer field growing up.  But we did have a diamond.  That fact would probably shock Harold Reynolds.

Even in our tiny village, we had our own baseball field, with bleachers and dugouts and the whole bit.  So many of my childhood afternoons and muggy summer evenings were spent at that field.  I can still smell the dusty earth and fresh cut grass, and see the backs of legs from my hiding spot under the bleachers.

The baseball field also served another purpose: that of community gathering place and celebratory space.  We had events called Field Days, with parades (in which the softball teams would feature prominently), carnivals with dunk tanks and fake jail and fireworks after dark.  They were the kind of celebrations that a kid lives for.  And they all revolved around that baseball field.  I can imagine it was much the same for small towns across the country.

As our town shrunk, so did our ability to maintain the field.  It’s a little sad to drive by the field  and see it completely overgrown with maples. There are no more bleachers and dugouts and diamonds.  No more carnivals or parades or fireworks.  There are only our memories.  And the Toronto Blue Jays.  At least we still have the Jays.  And there’s always next year.

The following are a few snapshots of our local teams and Field Day events.  Thanks to Marsha and Wendy for allowing me use them on the blog!

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Another kind of Blue Jays. The team walked 20+kms to raise funds for their snazzy uniforms.
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1985 North Shore League Champions, the Westchester Wolvies on their float on Field Day.
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Webb’s vs Westchester Fire Dept tournament, 1982.
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My grandfather Orland Webb sits on the field bleachers with his trophy. Apparently he always pitched in his plaid slippers.
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1985 Field Days championship trophy for the Blue Jays! This was the Blue Jays first tournament win.
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And the tradition goes wayyy back. The 1931 Westchester Ball team.

Do you have a story of growing up baseball?  I’d love to hear it!

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Canada Votes 2015: The Most Important Thing You’ll Do Today

It’s finally here: Election Day 2015.  The moment that everyone has been waiting for for 78 long days.  And I, for one, am very happy to see the end of the longest election race in this country’s history.  I bet the federal party leaders are happy too.  I’m sure that if they had had to hold one more baby or take one more selfie, there was going to be a major incident.

I’m ready to vote.  I’ve got mine and my husband’s voter cards in my handbag so that we can swing by the polling station right after work.  I know who I’m voting for and have for quite some time, making the length of this election particularly tedious for me.

I hope everyone is prepared to vote.  It’s the most important thing you’ll do today.  And frankly, it’s a Monday, so it’s probably the most productive thing you’ll do today as well. The huge turnout numbers from the advance polls are promising for a large voter turnout.  I’m hoping that more people than ever are engaged in the political process and are excited to have their say.  In the 2011 election, only 61% of eligible Canadians voted. We can do better than that, Canada. There is really no excuse for not voting, unless you are in a coma or something.  Elections Canada does their very best to make it possible for people to vote.  If you are still not sure how and where to vote, please visit their website.

This election is by no means a forgone conclusion.  This means that your vote really will matter.  And if you are still not sure who to vote for, my advice is to look at the vision each party leader has for this country and see which one most closely matches your own.  This does require that you take some time and think about what is most important to you and what you wish for the future of this country.  If you haven’t done this yet, go ahead, take a few minutes before casting your vote.  It could make a difference in your decision.

On the East Coast, we have the privilege of having the first say in this election.  And this time around, people on the west side of the country will be able to see how we have voted before casting their own.  This could be a real game-changer.  Or perhaps they’ll just ignore us and do their own thing.  I can’t wait to find out.

Regardless of what happens and who is elected, the most important thing is that you have had your say.  That you have contributed to the political future of this country.  It really is the most important thing you’ll do today.

I’ll leave you with Rick Mercer’s brilliant rant on the election and why it’s so important to vote.  Remember: “This is not their election, it is ours”.  Happy voting, Canada!

Saturday Morning Adventures: Bald Mountain Adventure Trail

The morning broke clear and cool, with rain on the way this afternoon.  So up and out the door we hurried to find some adventure and do some leaf chasing.  Our plan was to drive out to Clarendon and hike the Bald Mountain Adventure Trail.

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It was a beautiful drive, as the fall colours were reaching their peak this weekend.

The hike itself is a short 2.2km loop that ranges from easy to difficult.  The lead-in trail from the parking area and the upper part of the loop is easy to moderate.  The lower trail is difficult, with quite a few steep areas and boulders to climb over.  It’s well worth the effort however, as you come to a huge rock face that is apparantly very popular with local rock climbers.  No one there today though, just us.

Abandoned bird’s nest along the trail
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That’s a big rock

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A little farther up the loop you come to another rock face, this one with a large chunk of rock cut out of it and a nice little seat to have a break and check out the view.  This one is aptly called Nature’s Boardroom.

Joel checking out the view from Nature’s Boardroom

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From there it’s just a short hike to the summit where you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding area, made especially beautiful with the colourful fall foliage.  The summit is covered with snowy lichen mixed with raspberry-coloured blueberry plants.

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View from the summit

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Lichen and blueberry plants

The hike back down and drive home was equally pretty, with several photo op stops along the way.

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A golden wonderland

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Just as we were getting back in the city, the rain was starting to fall.  I’m so glad we got up early and took advantage of the nice weather while we had it.  As I’m writing this, we’re getting a thunderstorm and there are hail stones covering my back deck.  That’s the thing about weather in the Maritimes, you never know what you’re going to get, from minute-to-minute.  Happy Saturday!

Thanksgiving Weekend Fall Foliage Tour

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

It’s that wonderful time of year when friends and family gather to stuff themselves silly on turkey and pumpkin pie and oh yeah, pay thanks for all the wonderful gifts we usually take for granted.

This year, my husband ventured across the border into Maine to attempt his first hike of Mount Katahdin.

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Spoiler Alert: He made it to the summit! Photo credit: Ryan Orser

I traveled home to spend some time with my family in Nova Scotia.  I love driving this time of year because it’s a great way to see the fall foliage in all it’s glory.  It sort of turned into a fall foliage tour of upper Nova Scotia for me. Saturday was clear and cool but great for capturing all those glorious fall hues.  I ended up driving around Cumberland County, stopping the car for a photo op every few minutes.  And while the trees certainly are brilliant, it’s always the blueberry fields that really knock my socks off this time of year.  If you have never seen a blueberry field in it’s fall coat, you’ve really been missing out, fall foliage-wise.  They turn a shade of red so brilliant that they almost look like they’re on fire.  I took a shot from the same position as one I took when we were harvesting the blueberries to show you the dramatic transformation:

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Soft greens turn to brilliant reds

If I live to see 110 fall seasons, I will never tire of seeing these brilliant colours.

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Fields of fire
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This section had a more orange/red fire effect
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Magic hour in the country
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My childhood schoolhouse
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Love the way the sun highlights these trees

The combination of soft evening light on pretty country roads and time spent laughing with loved ones soothed my soul this weekend.  And even though my mother is currently fighting her second battle with ovarian cancer, we feel very lucky to have all that we do. Many warm memories were shared and made this weekend.  It’s important to remember that the only moment we are promised is this one and it’s the only one that counts.

I hope that you had time to spend with loved ones this weekend and also that you took a moment to look around at the beautiful show that Mother Nature graces us with every year around this time.  Gobble, gobble.

Stepping Up For My City

“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.

That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.

This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:

“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance.  Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it.  If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.

Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city.  I don’t give a shit about all that.  To me, it’s just semantics.  What truly matters is: how do we make our community better?  How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business.  I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.

I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it!  I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me, woman!”

And I think the answer to the question is no.  No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important!  But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I could do more, I know that I could.  But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.

There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more.  These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city.  I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed.  And if you don’t, then why not be that person?  Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work?  We would see a very different Maritimes.

So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city.  I hope you will too.  And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.