My Heart Beckons Me Back to Halifax

Or a wedding does, more specifically (congrats, Christy and Kris!).  But it was a glorious excuse to visit one of my favourite cities in the Maritimes, Halifax.  Halifax was my home for 7 years when I was a student studying my undergrad at Dalhousie University and then at the School of Health Sciences.  When driving over the bridge (either of them) into Halifax, it feels simultaneously like coming home and a new adventure.  I always want to know: what has changed since I’ve been gone?  What’s new?

Halifax has a youthful spirit and energy unlike any other city in the Maritimes.  This is no doubt thanks to the large population of college students that flood the city every year between September to April to attend one of three universities and numerous colleges in the HRM area.  It also might have something to do with its reputation as a party town.  It’s been said many times but Halifax really does have one of the highest bars per capita ratios in Canada.

Not much time for that on this visit though.  We were on a tight schedule of visiting and sightseeing.  After a lovely evening’s drive from Saint John to Halifax, we stopped for a quick drink at one of our favourite watering holes near our friend’s place in Dartmouth, Finbar’s Irish Pub.


The next day, after a quick breakfast with more friends at Nena’s Breakfast House, Joel and I set off to make Joel’s first trek to Peggy’s Cove.  It was foggy and misty when we arrived but that didn’t at all damper the charm of this iconic Maritime landmark.  Somehow, the essence and spirit of the Maritimes is captured in this one spot, where land and sea meet with steadfast ferocity. I could have stayed and taken pictures for hours.

     

Our next stop along “the loop” was my friend Michelle’s hammock shop in Seabright, called The Bay Hammock Company.  I had been anxious to visit the shop and see how she’d been doing.  I was enchanted by the charm of the shop and all the colourful handmade hammocks.  It is so wonderful to see an old friend using her considerable artistic talents in such a creative and productive way.  The rope for the hammocks is made onsite using century-old machinery and that rope is weaved by hand into a variety of wonderfully shaped and sized hammocks.  Please visit their website if you would like to learn more (www.bayhammocks.ca).  The shop also features the work of local artists and has plenty of nautical themed gifts to bring home.  Plus they’ve made the largest hammock in Canada, which sits in their yard and makes you feel really small when you climb up on it.

Our last stop of the weekend was the Best Western Plus at Chocolate Lake where we celebrated with the happy couple in a beautiful spot overlooking the lake.  Congrats again, guys!

I’ll leave you with a song that we used to sing in school and that never fails to remind me of the rocky shores around Halifax.  Farewell, Nova Scotia, my love.  Until we meet again!

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Ode to the Rural Schoolhouse

I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia.  In a tiny village you’d be hard pressed to find on any map.  I went to one of those rural schoolhouses, the kind from a Lucy Maud Montgomery novel.  The same one that both my maternal grandparents were taught in.  The same one that some of their parents were taught in.  Originally a one-room schoolhouse, a second room was later built, stacked on top of the first.  Grades primary, 1, 2 and 3 were taught downstairs; grades 4, 5 and 6 were taught upstairs.  We had two teachers for all seven grades and a music teacher who drove in from the next town a couple times a week to teach music class.  There was a little playground outside, with two swing sets, monkey bars, a slide and a couple of teeter-totters.  We had gym class outside when we could and when the weather was poor, we moved our desks to the side of the room so we could have gym inside.

The school was pretty busy at one time, but in my time there weren’t as many kids around.  Enrollment was down.  People weren’t having as many kids anymore and a lot of people were moving to larger towns and cities to find work.  Until grade 3, I was the only member of my class (I won all the year-end awards!).  After I graduated grade 4, they shut the school down to save money and bused us an hour into the next town to go to school.  It was hard for me to adjust to such a “big” school and a new curriculum with so many kids I didn’t know.  I struggled to find my place that school year.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are from my time at that little schoolhouse: epic King of the Mountain contests, making a lifelong friend with one trip around the schoolyard, reading challenges where each book represented a paper scoop on a paper cone on the wall, biking to and from school in the warm spring sun.  There is something so pure and idyllic about being taught within your community, with other kids from that same community, by members of the community.  I think it really fosters community spirit and pride, something that seems to be missing from the mega-schools so many of our kids are being educated in today.

It feels special to be a part of something that no longer exists.  People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I was taught in a two-room schoolhouse.  As if I also used to ride unicorns across rainbows.  Our school is now used to train local firefighters but I know so many stand unused, doting the countryside like abandoned sentinels of our youth.  Someday ours may be gone, torn down because no one wants to pay for the upkeep of the building.  I hope to never see that day.

If you have a story about a rural schoolhouse you attended, I’d love to hear about it!