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.

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.

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: