By the time I arrived in Kingston, I was more than ready for a little down time around my old haunts. Mind you, I had enjoyed every minute of my visit to Canada thus far. Now, with few obligations, I simply wished to relax and take it easy before heading back to Dominica.
My first home in Canada never disappoints: the Limestone City was in the midst of a Buskers Festival.
Although I was tired from a day of travel from Halifax, I quickly perked up when I watched some of the entertaining acts on the streets. I was staying overnight just off of the Queen’s University Campus so I spent a little time wandering around the student ghetto, revisiting some of my old digs. It was fun to see that they still looked the same, although I am certain in 30+ years, much had changed!
Next morning, my brother Edwin and his wife Beth came to meet me in town before we headed north to the cottage where I would be staying for the next week. We did spend a little time walking around the Saturday Farmers’ Market, and also enjoyed part of the trail along the Kingston waterfront in MacDonald Park (named after Canada’s first prime minister who lived here).
After I picked up my rental car, we drove in a northerly direction, bought groceries in our long-time local grocery store in Glenburnie (where we grew up), visited our parents’ graves at the Latimer Cemetery and then headed further northeast to the village of Battersea. There we took a side road to Dog Lake, where I would be staying at one of the Three Little Cottages, owned by family friends Sharon and Will Freeman. Another longtime neighbour from our childhood days, Jean (Sharon’s mother) lives
close-by and I felt as if I were really coming home. They also run the Freedom Farm,an organic operation offering Community Supported Agriculture, wherein clients buy shares in the weekly harvest.
I settled in easily with help from Edwin and Beth. It was a lovely day and we took a walk around a pretty point of land with a little community-supported beach, a few minutes walk away. It felt a bit cool to me so I was not inclined to take a dip!
Later that evening, the American fishermen in the adjacent two cottages returned with their catch. We watched them come in and then noticed that one who had already disembarked from the boat had returned with a machine that at first we thought produced smoke to keep away bugs. Almost instantly, I felt it was something more harmful. In half a minute, without my bidding, my brother went outside and politely asked: “Is that smoke?” “No, it’s insecticide,” came the reply. “Turn it off please! That will make my sister very sick!” shouted Edwin. They quickly complied but even though the fogging machine was only on for a couple of minutes, I could smell it in the air and had to leave the windows closed all night. I did attempt to contact Sharon and Will, but they were out. However, early next morning, Sharon came down from the farmhouse to tell the fishermen that insecticides were not permitted on the property, as an organic farm is in operation and there are also bee hives on site. This was a most unusual occurrence and we were all very surprised by this freak incident. I think the fishermen felt very badly and had not thought about consequences of chemical use in this extremely pristine area. I am sure they will think twice before they ever do that again!
Later that evening, Edwin and Beth returned to their hotel in Kingston and came back early next morning for a big breakfast. It was a rainy day, only the second one in my five-week Canadian stay and I could not complain about the weather despite ‘Hurricane’ Arthur’s unforgettable appearance in Nova Scotia. Our meal was a team effort, and we did certainly overindulge as torrents of rain pounded on the roof for a couple of hours.
It cleared up somewhat just as we started out on a little trip to Jones Falls, a scenic and historic site half an hour further north. It forms part of the Lock System for boaters on the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The locks have been operational since the early 1800’s! The walk-about in the fresh damp air was most reviving and we even worked up an appetite for ice cream, which we purchased at a little café near the parking lot.
We returned to the cottage for a quick lunch, and then Edwin and Beth departed in the early afternoon so that they would stay ahead of heavy Sunday afternoon traffic returning to the Greater Toronto Area from points north, commonly called “cottage country.”
I was then left to my own devices: naps; books; walks; visits with my friends on the farm; and occasional half-day trips to Kingston. It was a little cool the week I was there, but I bundled up and warmed up with plentiful cups of coffee and tea. One evening, the plaintiff yips of nearby coyotes reminded me that I was on the edge of the wilderness – and it was wonderful!
While I did have a few moments of guilt about not helping out on the Freedom Farm, I recognized that my abilities in that specialty are limited and my allergies to grasses and bugs would not have made any task easy. Therefore, I sometimes walked around the organic farm while staff and WWOOF volunteers toiled away to raise the finest organic produce one could ever consume. The air was sweet and pure. I took pleasure in
my little chats with the workers and partook of the demolition of a delectable organic raspberry pie, baked by Jean’s almost 90-year-old brother, Bill.
Here are some scenes from Freedom Farm in production:
Whenever I ventured in to the lovely Limestone City, I was aware that I did not feel as well as I did in the great outdoors north of Kingston. I would be very tired and feel nauseated after a few hours in the urban centre, but that would gradually clear once I was back at Dog Lake. Such is the life of a person with environmental health challenges! I have no regrets, however, about time spent in my hometown, as there were some people to see and things to do, such as a long-awaited tour of Queen’s University, my alma mater.
I had been in touch with Faye Ransom, from the Arts and Science Advancement Team with respect to my small bequest to the Queen’s School of Music. We had corresponded for a couple of years and it was she who offered to show me around the campus next time I was in town.
We met at a predesignated street corner on the edge of campus. I was dressed like a tourist, but that didn’t fool Faye. She greeted me with a huge smile and a warm hug, as if she had finally found a long-lost friend! I couldn’t help but feel welcome with her cheeriness, enthusiasm and easy-going demeanor. She didn’t mind all of my questions either! There were a few unfamiliar buildings on campus. I was particularly interested in the new library, as that is one of my areas of interest and training. We went inside the massive complex, and while it is certainly technologically current, I was relieved to see that books still exist!
I did wonder about the music library collection, as it is no longer housed in School of Music. No more said, and Faye took me to Special Collections, found within the old Douglas Library (from my time). She introduced me to the new librarian, and he took us into the stacks where I observed ‘classical’ LP’s that I know I had listened to during my studies. How did I know for sure? As a librarian, I recognized the accession numbers on the jackets, which dated back to the 70’s and ’80’s! There were even a few turntables in the listening room. I am glad that not all is obsolete!
The highlight of this foray was of course, a visit to the Music School.
They were in the midst of some renovations, but the workers pointed to a stack of composite photos on a table and I quickly came upon my dearest Class of 1981. Ever-efficient Faye also introduced me to Administrative Officer Shirley Roth, who updated me on many of the latest in-house developments. I was also honoured to meet Dr. Margaret Walker, current Director of the School of Music.
I briefly updated them on my music endeavors on Dominica and told them I was very touched to revisit this special building where I spent untold hours and made lasting friendships between 1977 and 1981. I didn’t have time to see the new world-class Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts, which is opening in September 2014, but I will certainly check it out next visit.
After 1 1/2 hours, I felt very satisfied with the overview of my beloved Queen’s, and I thanked Faye profusely for showing me around, bringing back some sweet memories and wowing me with what
My remaining days at the Three Little Cottages passed quickly. I was fortunate to see both brothers one more time before I left, thanks to tremendous efforts on their parts. I went back to Dominica with a firm desire to spend quality time with my Canadian family again very soon!