By the time I got to my cousins’ place in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, my nose was running like a faucet. Since Quebec City, I had been plagued by
sneezing, wheezing, coughing, swelling around eyes and face, bloated abdomen and urinary frequency with burning, but no infection. In Halifax, I walked with a large box of tissues and went through about one a day! I guess I was being reminded that eastern Canada was not an ideal environment for my health challenges. However, the upside this time was that I did not feel too sick, nor did I feel as tired as I had during other visits. I credit the treatments I receive from my Canadian naturopath, Dr. Shawna Clark in Orillia Ontario and ongoing support from Dr. J. Fox, M.D. at the Integrated Chronic Care Centre (Environmental Health Specialty) in Fall River Nova Scotia for enabling me to manage my quality of life much better. Ultimately, that is why I live in Dominica!
It was great to see everyone, and ‘cousin’ Patricia had made a delicious fish chowder to suit everyone’s preferences and health issues. I did make one amazing discovery that first dinner: I was ‘allergic’ to strawberries! They were just in season, at their peak and so I indulged. (I was previously around my Nova Scotian relatives in blueberry season, which is later in August). As soon as I ate them, I sneezed repeatedly, tissues placed in front of my face, garbage bag close-by, with a beet red face and stomach cramps. Well, now I knew…for sure!
I didn’t let that annoyance get in the way of my excitement about being here for Aunt Vivian’s 90th – I had thought about it for three years – since the last time I saw her! I was only a little
concerned about singing at the party, but if I squawked or squeaked, at least I was among family! What we didn’t fully expect a day and a half before the big event was that Arthur was determined to make his presence known! But what that huge tempest did not realize is that Maritimers have no fear!! That was proven to me in part by about 100 attendees who did not allow a storm to keep them away from this memorable occasion! I did mention to my cousins that if we were in Dominica, we would not even stick our noses out the door and any event would have been postponed. I’ll remember this special day the next time a hurricane visits Dominica, but I still won’t be inclined to venture outside – unless my cousins are here!
Suffice to say that despite the inclement weather, Vivian’s 90th birthday party was a big success. We were all delighted to gather together to honour this retired teacher, who has taught hundreds of students in the area where she has lived for most of her life. While the birthday was only publicized in the local church bulletin, it was felt that had a notice been placed in the newspaper, the turn-out would have been completely astounding! This nonagenarian is a very active church member, “never say [s] no to an invitation,” and “doesn’t think of [her] age.” Many family members live close-by and there always seems to be a function or activity to attend or take part in. She is proud, and rightly so, of her dedication and ability to walk 2.5 miles 5 days a week. I envy her skills as an avid card-player and crossword puzzle aficionado and scrabble expert. And of course, she thanks God for the gift of her life. Wise counsel, to those of us who are paying attention to the actions and words of wisdom from this long-lived woman.
As it turns out, this party was the first of a number of celebrations that took place over the course of the week that I was in “The Valley” and I was so thrilled to be part of it all. “I don’t think of you as a cousin, you’re more like a sister,’ professed Donna, wife of my cousin Raymond. I was very touched by her comment, which made me feel even closer to my extended family!
Apart from the festivities, I was having a lot of fun going on long walks with cousin Dwight and his wife Patricia, who were my gracious hosts in Wolfville during my visit. They took me out on forays of several kilometres each day, and with the weather being somewhat tropical, thanks to Arthur, I
enjoyed a good sweat and free-flowing sinuses!
One of the biggest highlights of this unforgettable week was a picnic that the cousins organized near the site of the old homestead on ‘Blue Mountain’. While a structure no longer exists, we brought goodies to munch on, told stories of days-gone-by when our grandparents (Vivian’s parents) ran a farm there and we would visit them , my family less often as we lived in eastern Ontario, a thousand plus kilometers away! I actually attempted to sing a song that my grandmother (Vivian’s mother) had composed and written in the 1960’s. It was an awesome experience to
perform it for her daughter, Vivian right on the spot where it had been created!
A little later, there were a few scary moments (hours) when some of the gang discovered that ticks had attached to us during our forest picnic. Fortunately, those of us who were so afflicted quickly discovered the little critters and removed them post-haste. Lyme Disease is carried by some species, but as far as I know, we are all in the clear. Interestingly, those nasty bugs did not touch Aunt Vivian – at all!
We certainly spent considerable amounts of time feasting and I devoured fresh fish at every opportunity. Good thing Dwight and Patricia were taking me on all those long walks! On my last day in the area, we gathered at Hall’s Harbour for another big meal of seafood. This tiny hamlet is renowned for its fresh fish and its picturesque setting. Along the way, Cousin Gregory took me and Vivian on a circuitous route, where we visited some old haunts that were once loved by my parents too.
We also stopped at the secluded grave site of renowned Nova Scotian artist, Alex Colville, who was world-famous for his unique style of
painting. He died in July 2013. When we arrived at Kingsport, a pretty seaside village with a smattering of summer cottages along a long beach, Greg and I got out and took a walk, while Vivian remained in the vehicle. I recalled earlier days, when my family would spend a day at the beach here. It was fun to watch the dramatic turns of the tide on this part of the Minas Basin in the Bay of Fundy.
After we had driven around this historic farming area, still confined within Acadian and New England Planter constructed dikes that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, we headed over the North Mountain to another famous spot: Hall’s Harbour. I took another walk down memory lane as I remembered how much my parents liked to come here in search of mackerel, a very strong-smelling/tasting fish and dried dulse, a seaweed snack!
A group of the cousins, my aunt and I, the one niece present (of two others) gathered at the busy restaurant overlooking the harbour. After we had placed our orders (I chose scallops this time), Cousin Raymond noticed a man sitting behind me who was wearing what he thought was a Dominica cap. “Gwen, turn around,” he said, ‘Doesn’t that man’s cap with the Dominica flag on it?’ I took a look and sure enough, it was the real thing! I boldly walked over to the man’s table with a big smile on my face and asked if he had been to Dominica. He replied in the affirmative and went on about how
much he enjoyed his recent visit to the Nature
Island. I urged him to speak to my cousins about his visit, and sure enough, he came over to our table a little later and did just that! Now, that I’ve had some reinforcement, I expect to see a cousin or two down here very soon!
It was a wonderful way to end my visit to the ‘The Valley’ and I felt truly refreshed by the fresh stiff breezes coming from the Bay of Fundy. While I was a little sad to say good-bye to everyone after such a memorable week, I was consoled by the fact that I would see everyone soon – next summer, I hope!
Early next morning, I bid farewell to Patricia and Dwight and headed down the highway again. My last task was a long-awaited appointment with my environmental physician, Dr. Jonathan Fox, M.D. at the Integrated Chronic Care Centre in Fall River, a short distance from the airport. From there, I would take a plane to Dorval Quebec (near Montreal), pick up another Via Rail train to take me west to lovely Kingston Ontario. There, I would spend some time around my first hometown, see my brothers again, stay at a lake-side cottage on an organic farm, tour Queen’s University, my alma mater and more before returning to the Nature Island!