Give Me One Reason to Stay Here…and I’ll turn right back around

I wrote this post 5 years ago. We’re very happy with our place in the universe – Bear River. – Flora

Bear River at low tide.

I’m sitting on the couch beside one of our kitties, with one eye on the coals in the fireplace and another on the live stream of CBC reporting from the NDP (Canada’s social democratic party) leadership convention in Toronto.

Larry has made us some melted cheese on home-made bread along with a cup of tea and we are waiting for the fourth-round election results. I’ve enjoyed the interviews with the eliminated candidates because outside of the formality of the debate, they are better able to show their humanity.

The defeated contenders are all asked who they will ask their followers to vote for. They all decline to say because “all the candidates are good people.” and “I want people to feel free to make their own decision.” and “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

I really get it because I often feel the same way when people write to me to ask about moving to Bear River.  They are looking for an endorsation and in a way they are seeking affirmation that they should take this bold step.

And I know this so well, because I also had mixed and confusing feelings about whether leaving Toronto to move to an unknown tiny village was the right step for us. I too connected with some of the artists via email before we came here. My idea was that “if I like this person and they love their life in Bear River, then I will probably like it too.”

Unfortunately,  it’s much more complicated than that. We are all such complex individuals, not 2 of us among 7 billion the same, that it is impossible for anyone to know the answer to that question of: “Should I ditch my job, and my city life and move to a tiny village in Nova Scotia?”

In the 4 1/2 years since we’ve moved here to this village of 800 we’ve seen people move here from other parts of Canada and some from the UK and at least 50% have left within this same period.

It’s all here. Or is it?

I don’t know why they all came or why they all left, but I do know why we stayed.

So, over the next week or two, I’m going to tell you what our reasons are; what we like and maybe what we don’t like. It’s a good exercise for me because it’s about gratitude. And hopefully, it will help me to post more often too! And maybe it will help to answer some of the questions you’ve had.

Spoiler: It’s not only about landscape, environment, solitude and community.

Warm Red Cabbage, Red Onion and Apple Slaw

I can’t resist picking up a purple cabbage at the grocery store. Oh the colour is so rich and the slicing reveals the most intricate patterns. I noticed that the line from the middle spiral outwards. Is everything in creation a series of spirals?cabbage3

I came across this totally easy and VERY TASTY recipe called Warm Red Cabbage, Red Onion and Apple Slaw. Even the title is visually appealing.

I use apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic, but I’m sure both are delicious. I also add a handful of walnuts. AND, I keep it on the stove until the cabbage is soft. That means putting a lid on it at the end.


The book Vegetarian by Joanne Weir is out of print, but here’s a link to it.

It’s snowing outside, the washing machine is washing,  and the kitchen is filled with a sweet and sour fragrance. The cat is curled up by the fire. Larry is upstairs creating an ad for this season’s Bear River Artworks Gallery.
Reminder to self:  the studio calls.



Snow Storm Latte, Art, Tides and Bear River Hills

Bear River snow.

Snow storms are very OK if you don’t have to drive anywhere. But even better is having a walking destination that leads to:

  • a delicious Sissiboo Coffee latte that I could never emulate at home
  • a place with wonderful art
  • somewhere with just the right music
  • friendly folks

So Larry and I bundle up and slip and slide down the hill.

Bear River snow.
Sliding down the hill to the village.

Then over the little bridge from the Digby County to Annapolis County side.

Then into Sissiboo Coffee Bar and Gallery for a treat and to enjoy the art.

See more of Penny’s stitching, dyeing and fibre story-telling at her blog 

I’ve left out the conversations about the recent local Herring Deaths, the Trump stories, the agony of aging parents, the state of the world, heating systems, fostering creativity, music concerts and lost cats.

I’ve left out the Bob Dylan, John Prine and similar sounds in the cafe.

I’ve left out the stop at the post office.

An advantage of living in a small town

And finally, the walk home……

And then a peek into the studio at my newest creation. A need to add some colour to this beautiful, monochromatic world.

And finally for you, dear reader, a little puzzle.

Can you spot and count the crows at the compost?


Garden, Painting and Summer in Full Swing Flashback

This post from Aug 9, 2013 is about a lush, rain filled summer. This 2016 summer is not. Drought and heat sum it up. What is the same is the insect explosion. 😉

—————————-What crazy weather this summer. We had record breaking rainfall in June and July and hot, hot, sticky days alternating with cold. These conditions have  played havoc with the garden and the insect populations have exploded. This is good news for black flies, earwigs, cucumber beetles, potato bugs and snails. Sigh. It is also good news for birds and their numbers seem up.

I’ve painted more flowers than ever before and haven’t even scratched the surface of what I would like to achieve in that theme.

Flowers to paint
Flowers to paint

This week the weather has shifted.  The nights are suddenly chilly and the warm daytime sun has allowed full outdoor activity again. Suddenly the vegetable garden is looking lush and strong. I see my favorite pumpkins starting to form – winter luxury pumpkins  that taste out of this world as pies or as vegetables.

The vegetable garden at the beginning of August
The vegetable garden at the beginning of August

The green beans are flowering and the tomatoes are green and growing.  Larry staked them this afternoon as you can see from the photo in the header. The potato plants are like bushes, in spite of those striped potato bugs that I flick into soapy water when I remember to!
The weather is still always the wild card and teaches both flexibility and acceptance to this gardener.

The rain has accelerated the growth and height of all the perennial flowers. Those tiny plants I put in 4 years ago are crowded now and exploded into bloom.

This is an exciting time for me to paint.

Green Willow Studio
Works in progress at Green Willow Studio
The Newest Painting
A hot July painting in the studio.

The summer has been filled with other important cultural details 😉 such as:

Visiting Susan Geddes' studio in Annapolis Royal.
Visiting painter Susan Geddes’ studio in Annapolis Royal.
Listening to Caleb Miles after hours in Bear River.
Listening to Caleb Miles after hours in Bear River.
Swimming in Bear River.
Swimming in Bear River.
Watching fireworks at Cherry Carnival.
Watching fireworks at Cherry Carnival.
Harvesting a year's worth of garlic to eat and to plant for next year.
Harvesting a year’s worth of garlic to eat and to plant for next year.

This summer I’ve worked hard at painting and I’ve been blogging that experience. My writing energy is there now…I guess because I am so involved with the act of painting. If you paint too or are interested in the process, please join me at

And thanks for reading!

The Secret Garden and the Willow Trees

There is a very special place that I go to when I need to be in nature, or when I need a quiet moment. Behind the vegetable garden we have about 1/2 an acre that we let grow wild and that contains our pond.


This piece of land has a few intentional plants like lilies, iris and about 7 willow trees. But the rest of it is a chaotic riot of tangled wild flowers (weeds really) that grow about 4 feet high.pond09 pond08

We have a couple of paths cut through it and walking them is like being a child again in my grandmother’s garden. Hidden from view and right in the middle of the natural world. Frogs croak, seagulls and crows soar above. Bees buzz all over the flowers.



The pond itself has 8 large goldfish that wintered over. Animals wander through and drink from the pond. There are dragonflies, butterflies, birds and a host of insects.  It’s a nice place to decompress and to marvel at the complex beauty of the natural world.


pond12I planted the willows 4 years ago and they are already taller than me. In a few more years there will be a willow grove at the end of the pond providing magic for us and no doubt for the next caretakers of this land.


First Day in Bear River

This was our first day in our new, temporary home in Nova Scotia and the day was full.

We waited from 8 am for the phone and internet to get hooked up, by 2 separate companies. We delayed eating and finally sat down for lunch at 2:30 and they arrived within 20 minutes of each other.

The fellow hooking up the phone was a staunch union supporter. (As am I.) He told us that his union local was decimated when “Ma Bell” took over all the services. He’s felt bitter since the last strike; feels disconnected from the new union. “The union bosses came to talk to us from Toronto and they looked and sounded no different from management. They were all wearing suits….imagine that, suits! We were used to guys who bang their fists on the table and give you the straight goods”.

This is what they have to do to hook up your telephone in Bear River.
This is what they have to do to hook up your high-speed internet in Bear River.

We called our moving company and our stuff will be delayed a few days. Seems there were some boxes for customs on the truck and everything is locked up while that part of the shipment gets checked?

The movers are Nova Scotians and were very accommodating.

If this was the 70’s, my marxist father would have thought this was a rouse for the RCMP to go through my entire life and my mom and dad’s and my/their boxes of letters, photos, diaries etc. And perhaps it was!

After some home-made soup for supper we went to see the newly formed youth centre. It was delightful….youth shooting pool and loud music and crawling babies and puppies on the wide, plank, wooden floors. The newly hired supervisor and a parent sat around a battered table and talked about how to raise funds to meet the wish list of stuff for the centre.

After that we wandered over to the Oakdene Centre, the former elementary school to sit in on the Bear River Music Society meeting. This group is trying to get a ‘coffee house’ live music thing going in town as a way of supporting local musicians and enhancing the quality of cultural life. Several artist friends were there and we are invited to drop in sometime. Bear River is such a welcoming community and Larry and I are amazed and happy about this.

As excited as I feel about our big change, I feel a bit like the cat. Where are my things? Where the hell am I? Where did my house go? Where is my routine? Where are all my friends? Why does everything smell different? Where is all my stuff? It reminds me of how I felt homesick at summer camp and missed my mother fiercely and would talk her into letting me come home early only to regret it 2 days after I returned because I really wanted to be at camp hiking through the creek, laughing with friends, and being in the countryside.

Last night, for the first time in years, I had 2 dreams, one about my dad and one about my mom. How special is that? I only remember a little about the dream with my dad. We were working on creating an archive about him and his life and I was going to record him. I realised I was moving to NS and wondered where I would find time to pack and to interview him. Then I remembered, practically, that he wasn’t alive anymore so my departure wouldn’t interfere with the interview. I guess they both made the trip! He was very glad that I was going to do something with his ‘papers’. I would like to create a multi-media online space that uses some of the letters and photos that I have of him and other family members. I really have enough materials (and now so does the RCMP) to mine for many years. That is very exciting.

Another source of excitement is that everywhere you look here, there is a potential painting. I am so excited and can’t wait to pull out my watercolours (in the RCMP truck) and to get going!

The hardest part of this trip has definitely been Fluffy!  She was quite distressed in the car and spent hours meowing, coughing up, and cowering in her cage.

Both Larry and I feel like we were ‘getting away with’ something by sneaking out-of-town to chase our dream.

Larry and I will have the chance to work creatively 24/7, for the first time in our lives. What an extraordinary gift we are about to receive. We will be doing this in one of the most beautiful spots in Canada. We have already met with and connected to some wonderful, funny, creative and generous artists and others in Bear River which is also amazing. And it looks like we’re going to get away with it too!

Will we adjust to life without an imposed 9-5 regime? Will we adjust to life in a small community?

Well, it’s late and I must try to get some sleep before the cat wakes me at 3 am.