Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Seventeen

DAY SEVENTEEN

            A day out and about today---traveling to what they call the South Shore in Nova Scotia.  That is the shore opposite the one where we are staying so we drove east on the main highway to the town of Middleton and then went south toward Bridgewater.  The road that bisects this portion of the Province between the two towns is wooded and it is becoming clearer daily that an early autumn is beginning here.  Hints of red and yellow are appearing in trees and we could see color in leaves of trees here and there as we drove along. 
            It was a pleasant drive south to Bridgewater.  We passed through many small communities, most of them with no businesses at all in them, only a sign to indicate that one was entering the community and then some houses and then on to the next one.  We drove to the community of New Germany, which is almost to Bridgewater, and found it interesting because it was in this area that 300 German immigrants came to Nova Scotia in 1750.  They actually landed in Lunenburg which is on the coast of the South Shore but they made their way inland and settled in the forest area where they could make their living in ways other than fishing.  Today, New Germany is a small community but there is one of the few Lutheran Churches outside of Halifax there with a cemetery containing the graves of German pioneers who arrived in Nova Scotia long ago. 
            There is a very nice and long lake surrounding New Germany also.  We stopped for a bit beside it as we entered the community and then rode along beside it for a good distance beyond the little town. 
            We soon entered Bridgewater, which is one of the larger towns in Nova Scotia.  It has many areas for shopping and a river running through the town that divides it into two sections.  There are two roads that run on either side of the river and one can choose one to drive beside the river.  We chose the river on the western side which runs beside the river and then the river empties into the Atlantic Ocean so one can drive beside water for many miles. 
            The road soon led us to the small community of La Have which famous for the La Have Bakery where we stopped and bought sandwiches, tea, and cookies to have for lunch.  We drove just a short distance down the road and found the Point Park Lighthouse and picnic area and enjoyed our lunch on land that had been claimed by the French in 1632 and they had established a fort there to protect their interests alongside the river that joins the ocean at that point.  We soon realized that we had been to this same place when we were in Nova Scotia in 2008.  There is a cannon by which I had my picture taken then so we took another one to compare it to when we get home. 
            Driving just down the road a bit more we found Crescent Beach and stopped off there to walk on the beach and get our feet into the Atlantic Ocean briefly.  This was the first time since we had owned Bo that he had been to a beach.  He walked down the beach with us as the waves came in getting his feet wet.  He stopped to smell various things in the sand and acted like he thoroughly enjoyed being there.  We collected some shells and driftwood and enjoyed the bright sunshine and the blue sky with white puffy clouds. 
            We continued down the road to Brooklyn and Liverpool, both quaint towns that resemble British ones in many ways, with well kept homes and decorative gardens.  Some of the streets bear British names and the Mersey River runs through them.   This same river begins north in the national park and is a slow, lazy small river but when it reaches the ocean at Liverpool it is wide and faster moving and is used by a power company to produce electricity. 
            Leaving Liverpool, we began the drive home again through largely forested areas that lead to small communities, some of which have only signs to let the visitor know it exists.  The road back to Annapolis Royal is long and not very exciting but it was a pleasant drive through the tree covered hilly landscape. 
            We always are glad to arrive back at our cottage in Parker’s Cove after exploring some of the area.  It is great to get comfortable and sit on the porch with some coffee and just stare at the bay in front of us, watching the seabirds doing their antics and the fishing boats bobbing up and down in the water at high tide. 
            I am thankful for the time to relax in such a beautiful place and reflect upon the goodness of God and the bounty of the earth displayed here.  Abundance is seen in the crops grown in the Annapolis Valley and the variety of fish and wildlife in this area, the work it provides for the local persons, and the food it supplies to those who want to enjoy it.  One can drive north and west and see farms growing crops of many kinds.  One can drive south and east and see the fishing industry at work in many ways.  Boats are constantly coming and going on the Bay of Fundy bringing in their catch to please locals and visitors and to be packaged for sale on the market. 
            The beauty of the earth is on display here and the result of human care and industry can be seen in so many ways.  It is truly a place that can soothe the soul and spirit. 
            “You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills…By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches, From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work…O Lord, how manifold are our works!  In wisdom you have made them all.”

(Psalm 104:10, 12-13, 24a)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Sixteen

DAY SIXTEEN

            Not every day at Parker’s Cove can begin with the sun shining bright.  Sometimes it has to be a cloudy beginning to the day, and that is what we had this morning.  Instead of seeing the bright sun shining across Parker Mountain we woke up to clouds covering the horizon and the tide fully in with water everywhere.  Late yesterday evening we had a big rain event with rain falling heavily for a couple hours.  The water runs off into the bay, of course, so flooding does not happen but this was the kind of rain we wish for in Texas, a hard steady rain for a long period of time.  I think it was raining when we went to bed last night but I drifted off so quickly I do not know what the weather was doing when I went to bed. 
            I have been sleeping very well here.  The cool air agrees with me.  There is no air conditioning in most buildings here.  Our cottage has none and it is not necessary as each morning we awake to temperatures in the 60s and the high is rarely above the high 70s.  It is a mild climate, a bit on the cool side for some but I find it very nice. 
            We brought light jackets and we wear them occasionally when we sit on the porch both in the mornings and in the evenings.  If the sun is shining brightly, then the midday is warm and the jackets are not needed. 
            Today has started out as a lazy day, with plans to be around our cottage most of the day.  I have been reading my next book I brought with me and I have been working on sermon planning again.  I have them planned through June, 2015 now.  I am thinking about texts that I have not preached in many years or that I have never preached.  I have one sermon series planned for the Easter Season from the book of I John. 
            It seems a bit odd to be thinking about Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter in the summer but thinking ahead helps me to begin thinking about sermons for the future rather than just trying to figure out what I think will work as the time gets closer.  Both special seasons require some advanced planning as they involve special events that happen only yearly.  I would like those to be more creative in nature than in past years. 
            I am finding places to incorporate part of what I have been reading during my time away.  I brought the books I did mainly because they were new and I wondered if they could be used as study books for small groups.  I am finding some of what I am reading to be inspirational as well as possibilities for use in the parish. 

            The sun came out for a bit and then ducked behind the clouds again.  We rarely hear a weather forecast as we have no television here and trying to hear it on the radio is a bit sketchy as one never knows when it will be given and one has to be listening to a station in English at that time.  In the past, news and weather were given on radio stations on the hour and perhaps the half hour but now it can happen at any time.  So, we just take the weather as it comes to us and try to enjoy the various aspects of what happens. 
            I guess that is a little like life.  It is hard to predict what will come along in life.  Most of the time we will experience a lot of sunshine in our lives and then suddenly a storm pops up, unexpectedly, out of the blue, for us to deal with.  The storms challenge us because we have to decide what to do in response to them.  We can become angry, sad, confused, or a range of other emotions.  We can also try to listen for God’s voice speaking in the storm to us and see what we think God may be saying through it. 
            I reported one day on the book I read recently, Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.  She talks about all the dark places in life and how we often try to shut them out of our lives.  She ends the book by talking about her plans to plant a “moon garden” in her yard.  She says there are plants that thrive with moonlight and there are people who plant those specific plants in places where they can feel the moonlight when the moon is full.  Most of the plants are white or light in color.  Some are very delicate or fragile in texture.  The point she was trying to make in giving this example is that even in the darkest of places, there can be truth and beauty and meaning that may emerge. 
            We have all experienced times of darkness in our lives.  Sometimes they happen because of our own decisions we made.  Sometimes they happen because of the actions of others.  At times there is no reason for them to happen.  They happen just because we live on this planet and are subject to the forces that rule our planet.  How we respond to those times in life help to indicate how we will live our lives following them.  If we continue to have hope and faith, then the future will be clear regardless of the outcome of the experiences. 
            I happened to have liked Ann Richards when she was our governor.  I actually met her one time when she was on a campaign stop in Athens, Texas.  She was a delightful person to meet and talk with.  When she lost her election as governor the second time around, I wrote a letter to her telling her how sorry I was that she did not win.  She wrote me a nice note back and thanked me for writing but concluded, “It’s not the end of the world.  It is just the end of an election.” 
            To many of us, life’s experiences may seem like the “end of the world” to us.  Sometimes our very lives are threatened by ill health, financial disaster, or job loss.  We may think we cannot go on in life but we must remember that what happens in this life is not the end.  God is ultimately in control of our lives as well as our world. 
            St. Paul said it well in the book of Romans when he wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, not life, nor angels, not rules, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, not anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

            The sun may not shine every day but it is behind the clouds waiting for them to move so that it can be seen once more.  The clouds will eventually move and the sun’s rays will shine brightly to warm the earth once more.  That experience is something we have witnessed again and again.  Life’s clouds will not stand in the way of God’s rays of sunshine in our lives either.  We will see them once again if we wait patiently for the new day to come.   

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Fifteen

DAY FIFTEEN

            A cloudy beginning to the day, but coffee and breakfast made it better and then we were off to church.  Today we decided to go to St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Annapolis Royal.  The Anglican Church in Canada is the same as the Episcopal Church  in the USA.  We arrived early and were welcomed warmly by two greeters in the entrance.  They asked where we were from and when we told them we were from Texas they were very interested in knowing why we were here and we chatted a bit before entering the sanctuary. 
            The church is very historic, dating back to the 1600s when Annapolis Royal was founded.   The present building dates only to 1922 but there have been earlier buildings on the site or in other places in the general vicinity since the early 1600s because this church was the Garrison Church connected with the Anglican Church so that the soldiers assigned to Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal would attend church at St. Luke’s.  There are many colorful and beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ as well as plaques set in the walls in memory of persons who have been members of priests of this church over the years. 
            The service was very liturgical and traditional as Anglican or Episcopal services tend to be, with the priest chanting some of the parts of the liturgy including those connected with the serving of Holy Communion.  We were welcomed to receive Communion, of course, because they believe in Open Communion, as we do, and that all Christians can share in it.  Persons walked forward to the altar and could choose to stand or kneel to receive the bread and wine.  Doris and I knelt and the priest gave us a wafer and you could either dip it in the wine or drink out of the cup.  Doris dipped and I drank from the cup (they use sherry with a higher alcohol content to help kill any germs in the common cup).  I enjoyed receiving communion here and enjoyed the liturgy. 
            The hymns that were sung were mostly unfamiliar.  One had familiar lyrics but the tune they used was not familiar so I tried to sing along as best I could.  The tunes to the responses that were sung during the Communion liturgy were not familiar but were easy enough to sing with. 
            The sermon preached by the priest was based on the lectionary readings that we were also reading in worship at Weimar.  I had read them in advance before going to church and was familiar with them.  The sermon was based on the story of the woman who wanted Jesus to heal her daughter although she was a Gentile.  When Jesus told her that he could not give the children’s bread to the dogs, she said that the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table.  Jesus saw her great faith and answered her request.  The sermon was about not seeing others as “them” and ourselves as “us” but striving to see all as part of “us”.  It was very insightful and interesting.  The examples he gave during his sermon were from Canadian experience but were common to ours in the US as well. 
            The priest greeted us after worship outside and was warm and welcoming.  We enjoyed the service, although the customs were a bit different than our own.  It is helpful to be part of a service now and then that is different from our own to help us relate to how it feels to be a visitor in a worship service.  The instructions given during the service helped us to find our places in the hymnal and worship book even though we did not always know exactly what to do during the parts of the service that were chanted. 
            We enjoy visiting worship that is different when we are in places that offer such worship opportunities.  We will most likely visit a different style next week to gain a greater understanding of the span of worship in this area. 

            I continue to read books that I brought to read during my time here.  I just finished another one, this time If Grace is True, Why God Will Save Every Person by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland.  I decided to read it because I read in the newsletters and postings of two of our UCC churches in the Brazos Association that they had been studying this book in study groups at their churches.  So, I thought I may want to read it and find out what they are studying and if we may want to study it together also. 
            It is a very interesting and intriguing book and a very easy book to read.  I think I finished it in about 3 days, devoting 1-2 hours daily to reading it.  The authors declare the idea that they believe that God will save every person on earth.  Then, they explain in great detail why they think that.  I am not saying that I agree with everything they say in the book but I think it would be a good book for discussion sake.  I think that it would be a good book to help us clarify why we think what we think about God, about humankind, and about Scripture and the role that it plays in the formulation of what we think about eternal destiny. 
            The basic premise to the book is that if God’s grace truly accepts all humans and brings them to an understanding of God, since grace is unmerited favor (meaning it cannot be earned but is given freely) then all human beings are recipients of God’s grace and are being drawn to God through that grace.  The authors argue that if that is true, then God will bring all human beings to God at some time in their lives or in the world to come. 
            The authors declare at the beginning of the book that they do not consider all of scripture to hold equal value (and neither do most of us or we would be following all of those dietary laws in the Old Testament and we would not allow women to speak in church, both of which are given as commandments in the Bible) and that the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor supersedes all else in scripture.  Through careful examination of many scripture passages they present their conclusion that God will save all persons. 
            As I said I am not saying I agree with everything they present in their book but I would enjoy a discussion around the book if others in our church would like to read and study it together.  The great thing about belonging to a United Church of Christ church is that we agree to disagree and to do it agreeably.  We promise to love one another and not to let our differences of opinion strife among us. 
            I can tell you that even the closest of family members do not always agree on everything that is discussed.  There are differences and that is healthy but we can love one another because love is bounded in our source of love, God our Father and his son Jesus Christ, who loves us despite our failures. 
            “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.”  (I John 4:7-8)



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Fourteen

DAY FOURTEEN

            What a relaxing, enjoyable day it has been today!  We began, as usual, with having coffee on the porch looking out over the Bay of Fundy and the wharf at Parker’s Cove.  We had just settled in looking at the beauty of the scene before us when suddenly we spotted something in the water beyond the rocks that separate the land from the sea.  It was not a seabird.  It was something much larger, something that lurched and splashed in the water, causing slight waves of its own.  Looking carefully through the binoculars each time it surfaced, we finally could make out that it was a seal or sea lion or some sort.  It did not stay visible long each time, on a few seconds, and then was back under for ten seconds or more, popping up a bit farther away from the place where it had submerged earlier. 
            We were very intrigued and excited by this new discovery and tried to keep an eye on this sea creature as it came nearer to the shore for a while and then began to go farther out until we could no longer find him.  We got very excited at one time, thinking we were seeing more of it when we discovered that it was only a group of rocks being uncovered by the low tide moving out to sea.  The sea visitor disappeared from view and we did not see him again but it was an exciting discovery while it lasted. 
            After breakfast, we went into Annapolis Royal for the Saturday Market Day as we did last Saturday.  The town was even more crowded than last week because it was also the weekend for an art festival called “Arts Unleashed”.  This weekend begins a weeklong series of events centered on the arts and artists were stationed around the town painting or sketching so that people could come up and watch them and visit with them.  Our neighbor next to us is an artist and she was participating in this event so we wanted to see if we could locate her and see what she was painting.  Sadly, we could not find her and no one seemed to know where she would be. 
            The market was crowded with many people looking at the booths set up to display fruit and vegetables grown in this area and crafts that are made locally that were for sale.  Many people bring their dogs and walk around so we fit right in with Bo.  Bo was very good, mostly looking at everyone and only barking occasionally at dogs that he thought were menacing.  There are also booths that sell prepared foods so we decided to eat breakfast there and before long had a potato pancake to enjoy, sitting on a bench.  Then, we found an apricot Danish, spinach turnovers filled with feta cheese and spinach, and fresh coffee.  We only bought some tomatoes but enjoyed walking and looking and being out in the community.
            We returned to Parker’s Cove after that and had some lunch and then enjoyed a quiet afternoon that involved reading and nap taking.  Soon, we set out again to drive down the coast road that runs just in front of our cottage and the wharf.  It is called Shore Road and runs along the coast between Annapolis Royal and Bridgetown, which is just to the north of here.  Small communities line the coast with names that usually match the roads that go across the mountains.  Parker’s Cove, for example, has Parker Mountain Road going out of it across the mountain to the main highway that takes us to Annapolis Royal.  We decided to drive down the road that connects the various Coves that are at the edge of the Bay of Fundy. 
            It was a wonderful drive on a lovely day that we thought was very much like an autumn day in Texas.  The temperature was about 66 degrees and the sun was shining brightly.  Puffy cumulus clouds were in the sky here and there and the sky was a dark blue.  The hills are very green because of all the rain this region receives and the contrast between the color of the hills and the sky was stunning.  We drove along and stopped at little trails that run down to rocky beaches, first Young’s Cove Trail and then Hampden Cove Trail, each revealing a beach with waves splashing and smashing on the shore due to high tide.  We gathered rocks at one of them and talked with a woman whose family was walking along the beach also.  Her young daughter had seen Bo and wanted to pet him so we lowered him down for her to see.  Bo is always gentle with children and the little girl gently and carefully petted Bo on his head and back. 
            The woman told us that we could find small shells called Periwinkles on the beach at low tide.  She showed us one that she had in her pocket and it looked like a snail shell of sorts, very small and fragile.  She also told us that they collect “sea glass” which she described as pieces of glass that the waves and sand has polished so that they are not sharp.  We said we would return at low tide one day to look for these things. 
            We rode on down the Shore Road, which goes from being a very well maintained road to one with many pot holes and bumps in it.  We drove slower because of that problem, wanting to avoid all of the pot holes we can because when you hit one it feels like your car is coming apart.  The area is largely wooded but here and there would be openings where we could see the ocean in the distance and again the colors were astounding. 
            The road soon led us across the mountain and into farm country, with farms here and there that produce a variety of products and cattle on many dairy farms.  This area was beautiful with lush green grass and tree lined fields.  It was very relaxing just driving through the countryside and looking at these pleasant scenes. 
            Soon, we were at the small town of Laurencetown.  It is not as large as Annapolis Royal but the county fair was being held there today and there were automobiles parked everywhere.  We drove by the fairgrounds which is on the main highway and could see the rides from the small midway and the buildings that housed exhibits.  People were walking everywhere from their cars to go the fair.  It looked like they were excited to have a lot of fun there. 
            The road led us back to the main highway and back to our cottage.  This was one of those days that was lazy and unplanned mostly.  It was very enjoyable just to experience whatever came along as we went here and there and enjoyed the beauty and friendliness of the local communities. 
            “O Lord, Our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens….When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?  Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowed them with glory and honor.  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;…O Lord, Our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”  (Psalm 8:1, 3-5, 9)


            

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Thirteen

DAY THIRTEEN

            We have been doing some bird watching, more of it actually than we ever do since we are in a place that has a large number or birds.  We are writing down the kinds of birds we spot and luckily we have a book that describes birds and gives pictures to help us identify them.  It is amazing that there can be several kinds of seagulls.  I always thought that if you had seen one seagull you had seen them all, but we have spotted regular ones that we see in Galveston when we visit there and also others, some kind of rugged and mottled looking and some huge in size and distinctive in shape and color, much different than the run of the mill seagull we are accustomed to seeing. 
            There are crows and pigeons that look much like the Texan kind but yesterday and this morning we spotted a duck like bird that we have never seen before.  According to the bird book, they could be murres which are a part of the auk family.  They look a lot like ducks but they are divers who go down and stay for as long as ten seconds at a time (I timed them using the slow counting method) and then spread their wings and push out their chest after they emerge from the water.  The book says that they can swim under the water much like another bird flying so I figure they are down there swimming near the ocean floor looking for food.  We have seen five of them so far, one who looks like a male with a white chest to go along with his black back and the rest most likely females, lacking the white chest.  One may be a young one who is smaller in size and also lacks the white chest.  They are fun to watch because they suddenly duck under the water and stay and then pop up a short distance from where they submerged.  This little flock may be part of a larger group but so far only these five have stayed around our area. 
            Luckily we remembered to bring our binoculars on this trip.  They have been a great use in spotting birds and in answering questions about what is going on around the wharf when suddenly people begin doing things that we wonder about.  The tide’s motion seems to bring people out to look over the pier into the water or lack of it to see what is there.  The birds seem to pay them little mind but fly back and forth seeking anything that looks like food to them.    


            We drove down the Acadian Coast again today.  That begins just south of Digby and continues down to Yarmouth and then goes eastward again toward Halifax.  The Acadians moved into the area on both sides of Yarmouth in the hundred years after the Great Expulsion of 1755 when they were able to return to Nova Scotia.  They could not go back to the Grand Pre area from where they were expelled because the British had given their land to British citizens, primarily planters who were living in the Colonies who wanted to move northward, but they could go to other places in Nova Scotia without fear of being sent away again so some went on down the coast beyond Annapolis Royal which had been settled originally by the French in 1605. 
            The land in this region bounced back and forth between the French and the British for two hundred years but finally after the Colonies became independent of England through the American Revolution, the British had to decide in which parts of Canada they really wanted and which parts they would allow French influence to remain.  The Acadians who moved into the coast regions of Nova Scotia settled in much different land than they had previously had around Grand Pre.  Now, they had to be fishermen rather than farmers because the rich farmland they had possessed was owned by British citizens.  So, they adapted and changed the way they would make their living but they did not give up the culture they had cherished before the Great Expulsion. 
            Today the Acadians live and thrive with fishing and tourism their main ways of making their living.  They promote their culture through festivals and music and the Acadian flag with red, white, and blue and a yellow star flies everywhere up and down the coasts.  There are pockets of Acadians living on every coast in Nova Scotia.  The one just south of Digby is called Clare and we drove down Route 1 that hugs the coast and passed through all the fishing villages between Digby and Yarmouth.  The nearer to Yarmouth one gets, the more English one sees on signs; otherwise, everything is bilingual on everything or strictly French where it can be displayed with little problem. 
            It was a beautiful day for a drive with the sun shining brightly but now and then we could see a patch of fog in the distance as the wind blew the fog from the ocean over the highway.  That would be only for a mile or two and then the sky would be clear again.  That happened repeatedly as we drove the coast highway. 
            Soon we were at Yarmouth on the south tip of Nova Scotia.  That is the jumping off place where cruise ships take passengers to Portland, Maine.  It is an 8 hour ferry ride and passengers either go by day and pass the time eating, drinking, seeing movies, and even going to a casino or they go at night and can sleep on board in rooms they can reserve in advance.  We are not returning that way because they do not allow dogs on the main deck and they have to spend the 8 hours in a cage down below.  We do want Bo down there so we will take the much shorter ferry between Digby and St. John, NB when we leave. 
            We had lunch in a neat little diner near Yarmouth and the continued driving the Acadian Coast that extends beyond Yarmouth toward Halifax.  I had seen a description of an old general store we wanted to explore and decided to try to find it.  It turned out to be a regular store that had simply been in that spot since the late 1800s but now modernized fairly well, a bit disappointing but the drive was nice and the countryside was beautiful. 
            We returned to Parker’s Cove via the road that Nova Scotians consider a “freeway”.  I put that in quotes because it is only a two lane highway with few places to pass other cars so if you get stuck behind slow traffic (the speed limit is 60 mph on it) you will be there a while.  This Texan did not observe the speed limit---70 seems to be as slow as I can drive on there---but I was passed by some Nova Scotians as well so I was safe. 
            It was a very nice day overall.  We enjoyed being out in nature and seeing the coast even though we had seen it a couple times before in the past.  There is pleasure in the simple things, even if it is just driving along talking and looking at the passing scenery, stopping for a simple lunch in a quaint little café, and stopping off here and there just to look at what is there. 



Friday, September 26, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Twelve

DAY TWELVE

            No sunrise today….we woke up with clouds and a gentle rain falling.  Now the gentle rain has developed into a steady one.  The day has turned lazy for now, not wanting to go anywhere but just staying at the cottage to read and write and talk and enjoy the quietness of the moment.  We do have the radio playing, set on a station from St. John, New Brunswick which is just across the Bay of Fundy from here.  The station is a French station with the words spoken by the announcer in French but the music can be in French or English or just instrumental.  It is actually a good station to listen to if all you are interested in is hearing music and you do not care to understand all the words being sung or spoken.  They play a very good eclectic mix of music from classical to popular to oldies to jazz and even some French rap which is not bad since I cannot understand the words but just know from the cadence of the words being sung or said that it must be some form of rap.  The background music that goes with it is pretty good so I can listen to it and appreciate it. 
            Life in Nova Scotia is a bit like that, not everything matches here.  It certainly does not match what life in the US is like, but even here there are official ways of life and ones that are lived out by its people that may or may not fit what the official status is.  For example, Canada is fully on the metric system.  Weights and measures are done in metric with persons buying a kilogram of something rather than a pound but if you go to the grocery store to buy produce the price is often given for a pound of something.  Then, you may go to the meat department and find out that meat is sold by the kilo, meaning that in order to compare prices you have to look at the grams rather than the pounds of something.  Buying meat at the deli means you buy 100 grams of meat or cheese rather than ¼ of a pound although that is a close measure for the same thing. 
            Driving on the highway means that you drive in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.  The sign says you can drive 100 but that is not fast; that is only about 60 mph.  In towns the sign may say 50 and that is only 35 mph.  So, when you drive an American car you have to look at the second set of numbers on your speedometer in order to know how fast you are going or you will be driving 70 mph when you should be only going 40. 
            The Nova Scotians themselves do not always abide by their metric standards.  They sell their produce at the markets by the pound and they drive faster than the speed limit says (the same as we do in Texas).  So, each day you discover similarities and differences with life in the United States as you go here and there. 
            Canadians themselves are folks who typically get along with each other.  Violence is not rampant as it is in the US.  When we listen to the news on the radio in English, the lead story is not usually one about who was murdered overnight, as it is on our Houston, Austin, or San Antonio stations.  It is about rather mundane things, such as government programs to control the deer population or to monitor the sand pipers that migrate from here to South America each year.  Today the story that got closest to something sinister was one about a man who was electrocuted as he attempted to steel wire at an abandoned factory so he could sell it.  The Police were looking into it but since the man was in the hospital recovering they had not been able to talk to him yet. 
            I have been able to have a few conversations with Canadians about their view toward guns and violence and the ones I have talked with have no need for more guns.  They have firearms for hunting and use them for that purpose.  They see no need for handguns or military rifles and do not want them used in their country. 
            Canadians are not as religious in belief or practice as Americans say they are but their national anthem mentions God and asked God to bless their land.  (“God bless our land, so noble and free, Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee…”)  I thought about our two countries and how much we have in common but our common view toward life in general is so vastly different.  How can two countries with common origins be so different in the way we view life in general? 
            Perhaps as Americans we need to re-examine why we hold certain truths to be self-evident, especially when it comes to what we value and why.  We do sing a song that asks God to bless America (two of them in fact) but our national anthem is a song about a war in which our flag can be seen through the smoke and haze resulting from the battles in the war.  Do we see ourselves as violent people because we have always been a warring people founded during a revolution and consider violence to be part of the American way of life? 
            Canada has had their share of wars over their history including the early atrocities of the British sending the French Acadians away to be wanderers or worst to their death on boats as they made their way to France in 1755.  When they decided to become a country, however, they had a meeting in Charlottetown, PEI and discussed confederation and merged the provinces into one country by signing a piece of paper.  Maybe that early beginning of accord and concord set the pattern for resolving differences in a peaceful manner rather than with violence. 
            “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!  It is like precious oil on the head, running down on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life evermore.”  (Psalm 133)

            We went into town this morning to use the internet at the public library.  Annapolis Royal has a very nice little library.  For a town of less than 500 residents it has most conveniences one needs to be comfortable.  We used the free internet there for about a half hour and then walked up and down the main street looking in a few shops.  Some of them are very old fashioned and some are a bit more modern. 
            We had lunch at the Port Anne Café which was like stepping back in time.  The décor looks as if it is out of the 1960s with little wooden booths along the walls and tables for four in the center.  One very hard working waitress was serving all the tables and doing a very good job of it.  She greeted us and took our order.  The special today was a lobster burger with French fries and cole slaw.  We both had the special and I ordered iced tea which was tea in a bottle.  That is the standard here.  There does not seem to be a place that has actual brewed tea that comes in a glass with ice.  Most places give you a bottle with Nestea iced tea in it. 
            The place was filled with many local people, many of them elderly.  Most were ordering the special as we did.  Some were also having a local delicacy called poutine.  Poutine is French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds.  We have not tried it yet but plan to before going home just to say we did. 
            Our food came and it turned out it was a lobster roll rather than a lobster burger.  The difference is that a lobster roll is simply a salad much like tuna salad except made with lobster instead of tuna.  I was thinking that a lobster burger would be a hot sandwich with hot lobster pieces and lettuce and tomato.  We ate it and it was good even if it was not what we thought we were getting.  The cole slaw was passable and the fries were excellent.  They know how to make good fries in this province, crispy and brown. 
            As we were finishing up our meal, a nice local woman, most likely in her 80s, passed by our table and looked at us and said, “We love eating here.  They make food like we like, don’t they?” I wondered if she was inviting us to comment on her remark but obviously not since she just went her way with no further conversation.  She did love eating there.  We liked eating there today but probably will not return on this trip.  There are a lot of other places to try in town. 

            I just finished reading my third book during my sabbatical—Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.  She is an Episcopal priest who now teaches at a college in Georgia.  She teaches world religions to undergraduate students.  This is her third book, and now I have read all three of them. 
            This book is about learning to learn from the darkness in life.  It has a lot to say about accepting the fact that darkness exists, both physically and spiritually, and that we can learn about ourselves and our path to God by examining what we think about the darkness we have experienced in life.  Some darkness has happened because of other human beings and our lives have been affected or even changed because of the acts of others.  Some darkness is ever present in our unconscious selves because of early life experiences that we may not even consider regularly but they are always just below the surface level.  Some darkness is blessed by God because it is in the unknowing of God that we find the truth that exists only in God, even as we search and do not always find God present. 
            Rev. Taylor gives many good examples about examining darkness by being plunged into it.  The kind of darkness she examines is actual physical darkness.  She ate at a restaurant where people eat in the dark.  She went to an exhibit called “Dialogue in the Dark” where people can get a sense of what it is like to live as a blind person.  She went with others to a cave in West Virginia where she experienced total darkness in a natural setting.  She spent the night in a house in the woods with no modern sources of light in order to see the day change to night and back again. 
            The reason for all of her experimentation and exploration was to be able to more fully understand the purpose of darkness in the world.  She quotes from Genesis 1 where the Creation story explains that darkness existed at the first in Creation and that God created light to separate the two.  God did not say that darkness was bad; God created light in order to bring about clarity to what was present in the Creation.  The night is as important as the day to us as human beings.  We need the night to provide the rest that allows our bodies to heal and to recover from life’s weariness.  We need darkness so that our bodies know that the time has come for restoration and wholeness. 
            The Creation story teaches that God used six days to bring about what needed to be created.  The days began at sunset and continued until the next sunset, as does the Sabbath in Jewish teaching.  The work of creation began in the darkness and extended into the light.  Today, the Jewish Sabbath begins each Friday night at the time that three stars can be seen in the sky.  When the same thing happens on Saturday night, the Sabbath has ended.  Candles are lit and God is praised for the Sabbath, as the holy night begins and rest is given to the weary. 
            Life is lived both in darkness and in light, in night and in day.  One is not more valuable than the other.  Each has its purpose.  Perhaps the dark experiences are like that also.  Perhaps they teach us things that we could never learn by always walking in the light.  We need the light because we are children of light but if we have never experienced any darkness in life how will we know what the light truly is?  God’s light shines in the darkness and illuminates it so that truth and strength and rest can be grasped. 
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Eleven

DAY ELEVEN

            I will never tire of seeing the sunrises here.  Each morning when I wake up around 6 a.m. the sun is just beginning to come up over the mountains to the east.  The sky is just beginning to turn shades of pink and purple.  Then, as the coffee is brewing, the sky begins its first hints that the day is breaking and the big orange ball of light will break over the horizon.  Suddenly, there it is…so bright you cannot look at it, with an intensity that is overpowering, overwhelming.  Some days, when it is warm enough to sit on the porch that faces east, we sit and talk and have our coffee but have to look away, because the sun’s brightness cannot be tolerated by our eyes.  The beauty of the sea is enough to concentrate on if one cannot look in the direction of the mountains.  The ever changing tidal flow brings a constant parade of birds, visiting the rocks where the tide has deposited their breakfast, as they hunt each crack and crevice to see what may be revealed to them.  They circle the area, choosing the place to land that may bring them what they need at the moment, some morsel of seafood that will satisfy them for a while. 
            The work in the harbor goes on.  The big digging machine has returned to do its work once more, dredging up big portions of mud and silt to deposit in the dump trucks that come and go on a regular basis.  They work against the tide that is out for the moment but will return in the next few hours.  They take mud and silt that has formed over months and years and take it to some place that only they know about and then return to take another load.  Who knows where the mud and silt will spend the future?  It is not needed here because the sea will bring more to take its place.  The work begins early, despite its location being close to the campers who are vacationing just up the hill overlooking the harbor.  The rush to shore up the harbor before the sea returns takes precedence over the needs of vacationers who only want to fish and relax by the shore. 
            The noise of the machines does not bother us.  We are up early each morning to greet the day and the sunrise, as if my internal alarm clock is telling me that something special is on the horizon and I need to be up to see what it is.  I have rarely had a need for an alarm clock to help me get up.  I can tell myself the time I need to get up and it usually happens right on schedule. 
            Joy can be found in the daily routine if we just take the time to notice it around us in our lives.  Certainly being away in a place of beauty of rest assists our emotional awareness to come alive but the same can be practiced even at home in our normal routine when we take the time to truly notice what is around us. 
                We are eating seafood nearly every day.  Today we ate fish twice, once as fish and chips for lunch when we ate in a nice park and then again this evening as we cooked fish at our cottage along with a few scallops, some eggplant, and a rice pilaf I made.  Seafood is plentiful here and relatively cheap when compared to our prices in Texas.  A pound of scallops costs 14 dollars but if you buy them in Austin or even Bastrop they cost almost twice that amount.  Even the cheapest frozen ones you can find in Austin cost 18 dollars.  So, we have been eating them a couple times a week at least.            
            There is a seafood company right here in Parker’s Cove.  It is called Nautical Seafood and they have a processing plant/warehouse facility just up the hill from our cottage.  They buy seafood from the boats that use the wharf and do a lot to take care of the harbor.  They have a small restaurant that sells chowder and lobster rolls too.  We intend to try both of those items before we leave here. 
            Everyone we have met so far here is very friendly.  People love to talk to us and when they find out we are from Texas they ask questions about Texas just like we ask questions about where they are from.  One woman who has never been to Texas told us that she thought Texas was one big flat prairie.  She was surprised to learn that Texas has a variety of landscapes including mountains and coastal areas. 
            Many people here have never been to Texas.  If they have been to the United States they have gone to Florida or New York or Massachusetts.  Few have traveled to the western United States.  When they learn that we drove all the way from Texas here they cannot believe it.  One woman said she could never ride that far. 
            Part of the joy and pleasure of travel is learning from other that you meet wherever you go.  Today we met a woman who told us about a place where you can hear Irish singers.  She is of Irish background and told us about a group who sings on Cape Breton Island and about the Irish lullabies and ballads they sing.  She asked us if we knew a certain song and when we said we did not she began singing it for us.  We were standing on the street and she began to sing, not caring about who may be listening.   She had a beautiful voice and when she stopped singing and I told her how beautiful her voice was, she laughed and told me that it was not and began to kid about singing on the street.  She told us the name of a place called Red Shoe Pub on Cape Breton where we could go to hear such songs being sung.  We enjoyed visiting with her very much and wanted it to go on. 

            We often learn from others about what they enjoy and share with them about what we enjoy doing.  We often find that we have a lot more in common than we realized.