Oh, Canada!

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Thank you to the readers who have asked to see more photos from my recent cruise. In my previous post (immediately below this one), I shared my pictures from our day in Old Quebec City.

Now we sail on to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. And while we do, this is a typical view from our ship, Holland America’s Veendam.

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Our first stop is Prince Edward Island, which is the smallest of the provinces in both area and population. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in charm. Our port was Charlottetown. For me, the highlight of our visit was a tour of the city via horse-drawn trolley. It was a great overview and helped us choose places to walk to afterward for a longer, closer look. Here are a few of the sights.

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The next day we sailed on to Nova Scotia, with stops in Sydney and, the following day, in Halifax. Unfortunately, the weather in Halifax could best be described as a cold monsoon, so I have no photos. But we had a wonderful day sightseeing in Sydney, which is located on Cape Breton Island.

 

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While we were in the church above, St. George’s Anglican Church, a fellow tourist asked permission to play its vintage pipe organ. From the moment he settled on the bench and took out his phone to call up sheet music, it was obvious he was an accomplished organist. We visitors settled into the ancient wooden pews and were treated to an impromptu concert. The video below captures a bit of it.

 

I loved the days we spent in Canada. The country is similar enough to the U.S. that I feel comfortable, yet different enough that I know I’m in a foreign place. I hope to return soon for a longer visit.

 

Where They Don’t Talk in English

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As I took my first few steps on the narrow cobblestone streets of Old Quebec City, fragments of a quote popped into my head. I wanted to share it with my traveling companions, but I couldn’t retrieve the exact sentence of dialogue from Our Town. It had been too long since I had taught or seen the play. As soon as I reboarded our cruise ship, I looked up Thornton Wilder’s words:

Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to.

The quote didn’t fit my situation as neatly as I had hoped. In the play, Mrs. Gibbs yearned to visit France, not Quebec. And this would be my second time in a French-speaking city, not my only. Yet the character and I shared much the same emotion.

Months earlier, when researching itineraries for a cruise, I had been drawn to Quebec, a place with a language, culture, and history very different from my usual surroundings. A place not terribly far from home, a place that was foreign yet not threatening. A place where I had some familiarity with the language, thanks to a long-ago French minor in college.

I could not have been happier with my choice of Quebec. What I found was a joyful experience that I will long remember. Here are a random few of my favorite sights.

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And it was not just the sights. They were enhanced by the sounds of the city. (You may want to turn up the volume on your device here.)

 

Have you ever touched stones that have been in place since the 1600s? I can now say that I have.

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Of course, the people are a crucial part of the travel experience. If I would nearly bump into someone on the street, I would wonder if I should say I’m sorry or Pardonez-moi. Can you guess someone’s language by his or her appearance? Is there a clue in how she wears a scarf, the tilt of a head, or his stride?

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After Quebec, we visited several other ports in Canada, which is officially a dual-language country. Most communication—from road signs to historic plaques to announcements made by flights attendants—is made in both English and French. Quebec was our only city where the French version came first. I was désappointé when we switched back to English as the primary language.

Heavy Lifting

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Construction

I woke up this morning and, as usual, looked out a window. It was a good start to the day because I didn’t see any snow. Given our recent weather, that cannot be taken for granted. But I did notice something unusual.

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Do you recognize the object in the circle? If not, you may not live in a community under construction. It’s the top of a crane, a sign of an interesting building day.

Though I have lived here more than seven years, I still find the construction process interesting. And there is no more dramatic step in building a home than an enormous crane lifting trusses into place for the roof.

So I had to go take a look. On my way out to phase 4, I realized this wasn’t just any new home going up. It was Barb and Paul’s Promenade. I was lucky enough to have spent some time with Barb while they were deciding on the model and lot they wanted. I was glad I had grabbed my camera to get a few shots to share with her.

I want to note here that I was careful to follow the rules. We are not allowed to get too close to active construction, for our own safety. So I stayed on the sidewalk and, therefore, did not have a particularly good angle. But this short video will give you an idea of the process.

 

Then, still obeying the rules, I cautiously made my way to another vantage point to show you what happens after the pieces have been lifted into place. I was not as close as this looks, thanks to zooming.

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I have watched enough construction to know that the exterior of a home goes up relatively quickly. Once this is finished, work will move inside, away from prying eyes and cameras such as mine.

Barb and Paul will close on their home during the summer. And once they get settled, I’m almost sure I’ll be invited over for a glass of wine. Maybe we’ll sit in their court yard, with its lovely nature views. I can’t wait!

 

April 4, 2018

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Holidays / Mostly Musings

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It has been widely publicized that today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is indeed a day to celebrate his heritage. His life and work have inspired countless people of all races, beliefs, and nationalities.

 

 

 

 

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Today is also the birth date of another influential Civil Rights activist who knew and worked with Dr. King. Dr. Maya Angelou, who also championed women’s rights, was born 90 years ago today.

 

 

 

 

In addition, April is National Poetry Month. I would like to observe all three occasions by sharing a selection from each of these immensely talented writers. First, from Dr. King, who, as far as I know, never claimed to be a poet. But he employed many poetic devices in his speeches. This is an excerpt from I Have a Dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

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This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

And here is Dr. Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

If you are like me… If you do not have to share the struggles of these two American leaders… Please join me in gratitude for the freedom and privilege that I was given at birth.

Easter Nostalgia

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Holidays / Mostly Musings

Dear readers: I wrote and published this post four years ago. I am sharing it again as holiday nostalgia sweeps over me on this Easter weekend. My feelings and memories have not changed. Only one thing has; I lost Mom a year and a half ago.

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Do you feel it too? For me, holidays always bring back memories of the celebrations of my childhood.

I can close my eyes today and see us so clearly. It is Easter. There is my family—Mom, Dad, Craig, Aunt Clara, Uncle Jack, and me—all in our farm house, sitting around the dining room table. It is set with Mom’s best china and the silverware that she kept in a velvet-lined wooden box except for special occasions.

We are all smiling as we pass the platter of ham, the sweet potatoes, and the creamed peas around the table. We are all incredibly, painfully young in my memory. It never occurred to us children that we would age and life would change.

We children are in our 60s now. We have gray hair and live a thousand miles apart. The older generation is gone, except for Mom, who is partially gone with dementia.

But the memories are not sad. Not at all. In them, Craig and I are hunting for the Easter eggs that Mom and Dad hid the night before. If Easter came early and it was still cold, the eggs would be hidden in the house. When it was jacket weather, like it is this year, we would have an outdoor hunt, our favorite kind.

I remember the year Mom hid a dozen hard-boiled, dyed eggs around the farmyard. Craig and I searched long and hard but could only find eleven eggs. Months later we found the crushed colored shell where, we assumed, a squirrel dropped it after eating the missing egg.

Easter of 1956 was warm enough to be outside. Here is a picture that Dad took of us with his beloved Argus slide camera.

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Easter 1956

In my Easter memories, we were always dressed up. Mom sewed nearly all of my clothing at that time. She outdid herself with this dress for Easter of 1955.

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Easter 1955

I wish I had smiled for the camera. I don’t recall why I didn’t. It’s funny because in my memories, I was always happy. We all were.

Happy Easter to everyone from Home Sweet Abbey!