When Nova Scotia was Twinned with Africa

Blue Beach, Nova Scotia

A few years ago I turned 60. When I look at that number on the page it looks big but when I listen to my thoughts or look into my heart or look around me I feel much, much younger. But even if I were turning 100 it would still feel insignificant after our journey in 2011 to a magical place in Nova Scotia that is 350 million years old.

Slate cliffs are partly buried.

I’m talking here about a little-known place called Blue Beach near Hantsport Nova Scotia.

Originally I wanted to go to New York for my birthday but as it turned out it was way more affordable to jump in the car with a very tasty picnic lunch that Larry had prepared and drive two hours up the valley past Wolfville, to visit the fossil beach that our visitors last month had told us about.

Fossil hunting.

Years ago Chris Mansky and Sonja Wood bought 20 acres of woods with a shale cliff overlooking the Avon River that empties into the Minas Basin and then to the Bay of Fundy.

Larry searches the beach.

Their beachfront was loaded with fossils–and I mean loaded; almost every stone you pickup has something embedded in it. They created a museum for the collection called the Blue Beach Fossil Museum.

Low tide reveals treasures.

Over the years they’ve learned a lot about paleontology and they’ve developed a museum to display some of their more spectacular finds. Chris spends his days cataloging the discoveries and documenting them and is in contact with paleontologists and scientists around the world who recognize what a significant and unusual beach it is.

They formed a non-profit society in 2011 to protect and promote Blue Beach and to apply for funding to help in its future research.

On our way down to the beach we chatted with a couple in their 80s who were just leaving. I mentioned that it was my birthday and the woman broke into song serenading me with the happy birthday song! It was very touching and very Nova Scotia.

Typical of sightseeing in this province in off-season, we would only run into one other couple during our 3 hour visit.

Larry and I spent three hours alone on the beach studying the fossils and watching the tide recede to reveal ever more pieces. The fossils are in the shale deposits that are in a constant state of erosion. The strong tides reveal new treasures all the time but they also take away the 350 million-year-old evidence of the rich life that happened on this beach when it was still part of–get this–Morocco. Yes, that would be Morocco, Africa. Because at one point when all the continents were together and it was called Pangaea, most of Nova Scotia was a piece of Africa fused with some of Scotland.

An ancient ripple, frozen in stone.

So I learned a couple of things on my birthday. I learned that 60 is a teeny, tiny number and that our existence is shorter than the flicker of a firefly in the summertime; and that even our Bear River used to be part of Africa.

The churning waves turn the salt water brown with silt and slowly dissolve the fossils.

On their website Sonja and Chris list the unique qualities of Blue Beach:

A. The world’s oldest and largest collection of tetrapod bone fossils dating from the Earliest Carboniferous interval known as “Romer’s Gap” (more than 500 specimens).

B. Recognized as earth’s earliest known assemblage of terrestrial tetrapods, showing a well-established population and previously unsuspected level of diversity with at least six species.

C. The oldest and largest collection of Carboniferous Tracks on earth (with over 1,700 specimens)

D.  Soon to be the most completely known and important fossil Rhizodontid fish in the world (over 2,000 specimens)

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Here is an article about the importance of this beach:

Blue Beach fossil finds are bridging gap in evolution timeline:

Kings County finds helping to solve mysteries in fossil record from 350 to 400 million years ago

And here is another article about a primary student who found the only fossil in the world of a horseshoe crab.

Blue Beach fossil first of specific horseshoe crab

One of a kind find has captured the interest of scientists from around the world

PS: the museum is looking for a benefactor or new owner to take it to the next step.

Painting the Diamond in the Bay of Fundy

I’m excited to be heading back to this painter’s paradise tomorrow. It is an artist retreat on an island in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. You know. The place with the highest tides in the world.
The following post is from 2012 on my first trip to the island with a group of artists.

When we arrived at Long Island in the Bay of Fundy for our Artist Retreat,  it was an overcast and showery afternoon. The mist and fog shrouded this huge rock of an island that we could see from our cabin. It looked ancient and mysterious as it disappeared and reappeared in the mist and I was anxious to see it at sea level when the low tide allowed it.

Diamond Island, Five Islands, NS.

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Brier Island Trails

Most long weekends in August we camp on Brier Island with Bear River friends.

It’s very low key…shared food, mostly vegetarian, cooked over the campfire or propane stove, sleeping in tents, nature walks, and lots of talks and laughter and bird watching and telling stories and sharing ideas and catching up.

One of my favorite delights is to fall asleep listening to the ocean waves. Or is it waking up to the haunting calls of seals?

Come with me down the green path…..



Along the bumpy ridge…..


Past the living tidal pools……


Along the craggy shoreline…….P1420180

Past the basalt lava flow that reaches all the way to Blomidon.P1420177


Past the rising tide…….P1420120Past the ocean waves……


Follow your nose……


Past the wild and fragrant Roses…..


We might be under shelter…


…or checking out the new, lone teepee…


..or riding bikes….


…or searching…


…or watching the sun set…


…or at the campfire…


…or walking through fields of wildflowers


…or imagining a new painting….


…or waiting for a ferry to go home.



The Year Ends at the Bay of Fundy

Bear River snow.
Detail from a painting by Wayne Boucher

We had all the ingredients for a Merry Christmas this year. Food, Swiss chocolate, art, a fragrant tree, friends, our daughter Emily, and beautiful snow. Only our son Jesse was missing from the mix, which was too bad, but we did spend lots of time on the phone catching up with his city life.

Our sweet local Christmas tree. You can see we used up some Green Willow tissue paper.

It’s wonderful to have our daughter home….this time from London.  She’s been helping us get back into finishing up house tasks like painting the last few walls, hanging towel racks and putting up coat hooks; little details that we stopped working on 2 years ago. She’s very determined to have us organized before she departs on her next adventure. It’s amazing how you stop seeing the unfinished trim around the windowsill or the temporary  curtain on the bathroom window after the main renovations are over.

Fresh, fragrant boughs.

I doubt we would have even bothered with the tree and decorations if neither of the ‘kids’ had come home, but I really liked the effect and I’m so glad we were encouraged to do so. Thanks Emily!
The fresh tree came  from a neighbour who delivered in on the day he cut it. All for $15 and the fabulous fragrance was free.

The land was green up until early Christmas Eve when snow started falling and falling and falling.  It was so very pretty that I took a break from cooking and walked around the block to admire Nature’s beauty.

Our pond is starting to ice up. The dark spot is where a continuous mini-waterfall flows.
Tall and Short.

There was very little traffic and in the ditches I could hear water trickling in its eternal journey down, down, down the hills to the river.

Walking on Pleasant Street.

The snow was fluffy and light.

The Baptist Church steeple in the distance.

I wonder what story this building is telling. Who lived here? Where did the back porch go to?

An old story.

I stopped in to visit a neighbour and when I emerged to continue my walk home, it was dark. The only sound to break the silence was the wind in the tall bare branches – a sound I’ve always found very soothing. I stopped and stared up and thought about how nice it would be to see my departed parents and grandparents again. I thought about Robert Frost’s poem.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Meanwhile over the last week, soup and other food was made and shared at a few gatherings and of course, way too many sweets were eaten.


So just to ground us again and ease us back into thinking about creativity, we went with friends to visit Wayne Boucher, Nova Scotia’s celebrated painter. He treated us to a tour of his new paintings in his retrofitted studio that overlooks the Bay of Fundy.

Visiting Wayne Boucher’s studio.
On the wharf at Parker’s Cove.

By December 28th, the Christmas snows were gone and the weather was balmy.

Standing on the Wharf looking out across the Bay of Fundy was, as always, a visual treat. What inspiring shapes and blues in that water and sky. Wow! What a gift for us all.

Bay of Fundy at Parker’s Cove.

Wayne Boucher’s palette:

I think Wayne’s palette repeats the colours in the Bay of Fundy.

Ferry, cross the Bay of Fundy

The view of Nova Scotia from the Bay of Fundy was spectacular.


We were both thrilled with the trip. We could barely contain our excitement to finally be arriving at our new adventure.
Our car was stashed in the lower level of the ferry, stuffed with enough provisions and clothes until our moving truck arrives. And our bewildered cat Fluffy was in the car too.


The ferry ride from New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia: