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Published: August 3rd 2017
Mary and Fred,
You really went the distance! Thanks for putting up with our quirky ways and making us feel like family. It was not just the Maritime experience; that was something we could have had for ourselves at any hotel. It was all about keeping company with you guys, and we were wowed by that.
I'll be honest: I was glad we spent only a couple of days in Halifax. Had I not come by air, I could have floated in on the tide, so strong are my memories of the downtown and the harbour. Even after living there for 22 years, I never did find out where that earthy smell comes from. Roasting spices, right? Otherwise, I knew the whole town by heart, the wispy clouds fraying the edges of the Historic Properties, the proud old homes along the Northwest Arm, the wind pleasant in July but so ferocious in February that it kept the kids inside for days on end. But all that remembering was making me weepy and, resenting the indignity of nostalgia, I was glad to hit the road.
Out in open country, Nova Scotia came back whole. It felt better to be
driving along the Heart of the Barren, over hardscrabble roads, past the bent grasses in the salt marshes, through stands of purple loosestrife. Flattening my face to the car window, I was thrilled by the sight of women working their gardens in bee-keepers hats and men sitting on stumps in their driveways, sorting out kelp. Every simple home perched on a hilltop would have me imagining an alternate existence. "Can you imagine living there?" I'd say out loud to Ron. "Or there? Or there?" Before remembering that years ago I had.
By the time we got to your house, we were starving. Mary in the kitchen is phenomenal enough, bested only by Mary in the garden or Mary at high tide. How do you find the energy to do what you do, and paint, besides? We ate too well: life-changing crackers with sharp cheddar and huckleberry jam, a hodge-podge of baby vegetables sprung from the garden, briny oysters on ice, cole slaw with purple sumac and green pistachios, chocolate buckwheat cookies that vanished the minute they hit the plate.
Thank you, Fred, for teaching us how to play Uckers, a board game with dice and coloured buttons. We
didn't mind you strategizing for us; we were too busy laughing over every lousy throw of the dice. "SO close!" you'd praise regardless, even if double ones were thrown when double sixes were needed. This phrase speaks volumes: about your enthusiasm, your big-heartedness, your sardonic sense of humour. It became a catch-phrase for our holiday. And thank you, Mary, for our morning yoga sessions, even if a neck stretch sounds way too much like hobnail boots on a gravel path. (How can this be good for you?)
Thank you for our jelly-making marathon, our failed chanterelle excursion, our bike ride beside a field of white Queen Anne's lace that complimented perfectly the navy-blue ocean. Lastly, thank you for the conversation; we inspired each other with odd topics. I'd let a lot of life go by, for instance, without learning how to witch for water. I never even knew that razor-shelled clams could spit like that.
So that's it, from me, for now. If you know what the smell is, the one by the Halifax Harbour, will you email and tell me? I need to find out what 1973 smelled like. Plus, I don't want to lose touch. I
write this from my porch overlooking the Pacific. And given the time change, Fred is either snoring or you're both watching stars shoot over the Atlantic.
Liz and Ron
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