This is a long story, but not entirely a sad one and it does go beyond the series of unfortunate events which developed at Abercrombie, close by New Glasgow. My first exposure to the the descriptive "light & shadows" was in the the deservedly forgotten autobiography of Joshua N. Barnes, a Freewill Baptist minister, who was given bed and board by a Guptill relative of my mum, on Grand Manan Island in times long past.  While he saw himself as a hero in the fight to establish his brand of true Christianity, he was not universally appreciated. At a meeting house session, a detractor declared, "I'd like to see this here place going out through The Thoroughfare on a flood tide." This reference is to a narrow passage connecting Grand Harbour with the Bay of Fundy.

For me there are lights and shadows galore, centering on this tight little island, where Barnes railed against the salvage of a ship whose cargo of liquor ended cast up on beaches.  The full text of Lights And Shadows of Eighty Years can be read free on line. Published in 1911, it cost $1.35. "My life has been one of alternate cloud and
sunshine — there have been valley experiences, but I do not forget the hours spent with God on the hill-top. I labor wholly at His command. The field is wide — the laborers are few. Because of this, I hope to continue active unto the end. In public ministration and personal appeal the message and results have always been my Master's. The Glory is the Lord's!"  Another, tale perhaps "never to be told" in full.

The comparison in question probably pre-dates Socrates who said, "The comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow." He knew the truth of this for experience. The Allegory of  Plato's Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic. It mused on "the effect of education  and the lack of it on our nature". Plato had Socrates described humans (all male in the above painting) chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watched shadows projected on a wall from unseen objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and these were the prisoners' reality. These prisoners once managed to free themselves and were surprised to find that they had been trapped in a virtual reality, and found the new world incomprehensible.  The lesson? Humans are bound by their senses.

Benjamin West PRA was an Anglo-American history painter around and after the time of the American War of Independence and the Seven Years' War. He was the second president of the Royal Academy in London, serving from 1792 to 1805 and 1806 to 1820. - Wikipedia. He may have been referring to the quandary faced by landscape painters or meant this as a metaphor for the human condition. As for Ruth, the "flying state is in here genes! Her dad used to take this stance in times of light or shadow. At this time neither R nor R was sorry to have cast off from Lunenburg County. We had not counted on having to tie up two hours or three every fourth day in the interest of having clean clothes and linen. Soon found that meant appearing at 7 am to beat the crowd, this being the only laundromat in town.

Modern versions of Plato's Cave are not that different in kind.  As for "middle ground" not much has been seen of that over the centuries, and these days "alternate truths" sometimes have proponents claiming that both sides have scientific veracity if not supernatural backing.

In this essay, photographs are by Rod unless otherwise indicated. This was the splash page for an earlier essay which you will find on the home page or by clicking "Back" at the bottom of this page. Unfortunate events on this planet almost always have a human components. These lads were at Annapolis Royal representing unfortunate colonials caught up in wars of the British and the nascent American governments. In this reenactment,  a "British" drummer boy was shot down by a "rebel." A shadowy moment from our shared Canadian/American past.

Some of these images are fuzzy because they date back to ancient times in the chronology of the World Wide Web. This is a view of Alma from Fundy National Park taken using a non-digital Minolta SR-1, the first single lens reflex camera generally available.  As for the quote it is arguable unless you happen to have a Rebeca of Sunnybrook Farm disposition.  It is estimated tat 10-15% of the world's population is sociopathic, and they darken the world making even a intermediate position between light and darkness difficult if not impossible.

Little things do mean a lot, as we shall attempt to show.  This can be a change of work, a change of place, a change of position, a change of mind, or a gift in kind or reality.  That's the short list. Of course shadows always return,  except in Alex Colville paintings. These are unsettling precisely because they cause his paintings to lack psychic balance. Just an opinion!

In the crucifixion scene from the movie The Life of Brian, one of the thieves declares that "Life's a piece of shit, When you look at it... So always look on the sunny side of life..." which can be ironic and funny in a dark way. Anyway this announcement in MoneySense magazine was the best news New Glasgow had in 2017. It had moved to #399 of 413 of the best places to live in Canada in 2017.

For five years, New Glasgow was in dead last position but now looks better as a nice place to live according to MoneySense. When it comes to social pronouncements this magazine should be labeled NonSense. Still, it is funny to see Old Town Lunennburg and Chester given a rousing kick in their complacency. Affordable housing has forced people of modest means to retreat to the periphery of both places or opt for sub-standard housing, if they can find it. However, the magazine needs to send a reporter to live in New Glasgow, Lunenburg and Chester for a year before daring to judge. Their number one pick? Ottawa, Ontario. Personally we would not relocate to any of these communities.

That is my late father-in-law, Harold Burton Torey's former workplace at right in the stone building.  He would be appalled to note that the main drag, called Provost Street, is almost completely devoid of retail stores, replaced by service businesses. In his day, logging trucks on this street would be unimaginable, as would the lack of any pedestrian traffic even on weekends. A lack of parking killed this street and that immediately to the left, Archimedes Street, a block east.

In a previous essay we have mentioned crows are a harbinger of good or bad news. When you see "A tree, a tree, standing in the light" these days. it means that it is a useless deciduous species which will soon be consigned to a mechanical wood-chopper and trashed. The surrounding spruce trees have been clear-cut. Above, two old crows pay attention to the process, while most of the general public is insulated from unpleasant truths and unfortunate events by its urban location. Two crows joy? Hardly! When it comes to profit and loss ecologists and businessmen cannot see middle ground. Even these two terms are differently defined by these antagonists.

This is not surprising since so many words have drifted back-and-forth in meaning, a process known amongst wordsmiths as cathachresis:  On one hand "brave once implied cowardice, as bravado still does.  Crafty, now a disparaging term, originally was a word of praise, while enthusiasm, now a word of praise was once a term of mild abuse. Zeal has lost its original pejorative sense, while zealot has not. Garble once meant to sort out, not to mix up. A harlot was once a boy, and a girl in Chaucer's day was any young person..." See Bill Bryson's book, The Mother Tongue And How It Got that Way, starting at page 77. All things considered it is little wonder we are adrift in attempting to communicate. These are of course changes over a length time, but alternate word use persists since may are misconceived or little understood by anyone as this same book makes clear. No wonder WeeDonnie gets so confused?

So-called "tree huggers" have as much regard for deciduous trees as they do for cold-loving evergreens.  With global warming, the latter species are starting to migrate northward and their replacement will be softwood trees. For professional ecologists and amateur naturalists, full-leafed trees are becoming a memory, while spruce trees are being turned into a pulp, the toxic effluent of which comes to reside briefly in "holding ponds" before being dumped into the land-embracing oceans of the world. This singular crow is sorrowful.

The "tree pirates" promise to "do their best, to to their duty, to God and the Queen" and STOCKHOLDERS.  They see spruce trees as the wellspring of wealth for the few, with trickle-down benefits for many, and insist that applied science will find a way to bypass problems created by clear cutting and environmental pollution. Because they are harassed by "misinformed" individuals and groups there chief CEOs are often singular crows,  who are also sorrowful.

Andrew Wyeth painting of one poor crow. Each side wishes the other would magically vanish, and sorrowfully some eco-crows do, from time-to-time. ceo-crows, like old soldiers "never die, they just fade away" as profits plunge.

It is sometimes said that the old Nursery rhyme, which commences "One crow sorrow..." originally had reference to the magpie, (seen on the roof the the stable in this painting). Like the hooded crow they are not entirely black but they are Corvidiae.  Magpies of the genus Pica are generally found in temperate regions of Europe, Asia and western North America, with populations also present in Tibet and high elevation areas of India. They were considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures, and in Britain, that ill-omen folklore extends back to the early sixteenth century. The rhyme was first recorded around 1780 in a note in John Brand's Observations on Popular Antiquities on Lincolnshire with the lyrics: "One for sorrow, Two for mirth, Three for a funeral And four for birth." The wise men seem a bit perturbed?

Two old crows in consort for a long time is not a bad arrangement for those involved. These days, the rhyme goes, "Two crows joy..." R&R would probably not have noticed  certain Pictou County shortcomings had they not become economically bound their after being evicted from their old diggs in Mahone Bay.  It was expensive to cut off the usual arrangements of lifestyle, go into self-storage, relocate to the family cottage at some distance, and travel between New Glasgow and "Dear Old Mahone." while awaiting resettlement.

That plan seemed feasible since Eastlink had sworn that there was a land link and that Ruth could continue to work in Pictou County. After seven days, it became obvious that there was not!  Previously planned travel to Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton on longs weekends and I was reduced to taking photographs while Ruth worked on her IT project.

Of course one can only do so much housekeeping, walking and travelling for supplies in a neighbourhood, which seemed familiar but foreign after a hiatus of more than a decade. The local convenience store was essentially now a liquor outlet and groceries were limited to expensive convenience foods. They did not sell the larger sizes of bottled water, and next door neighbours suggested that that commodity was a necessity. The fight with household problems and mosquitoes might have been easily dismissed in better circumstances. More about "sixes and sevens" will follow.

We had inadvertently brought too much heavy clothing to the cottage and left behind vital kitchen tools in storage at Chester.  In addition bills were accumulating at the post office in Mahone Bay and we thought a change of place might be a respite from troubles. We booked in to a very nice B&B next door to our former home on Maine Street. The host neglected to tell us was that the town had issued a notice that they would be working on Main Street throughout that entire night. The noise was incessant and when it stopped, the "marina" next door began breaking boulders. That was usual, so we were prepared for that. Guests from the United States slept as poorly as we did.

No coffee maker in the room, so we were off to Tim Hortons on Edgewater Street at 5 am. The locals across the road started dropping rocks at 6 pm, but we were expecting that.

Ruth managed a shower and I had promised myself a bath in a full-sized tub, but was turned off by what poured out of the tap.  That infrastructure work aimed at separating waste water pipes from storm drainage pipes. How this created problems with the so-called potable water supply is another tale never to be completely told.  The group of American guests, up early to catch the Yarmouth ferry home, had slept no better than us. Breakfast was the highlight of that trip. One nearby vacation rental closed earlier this year and this one is currently on the market.

Briefly we saw ourselves as impotent mice suffering under the rule of a bureaucratic crow-god.  We managed an exchange of goods at the Chester self-storage and a quick journey back to Pictou County in advance of the heat of the day, which had plagued us on the trip to the south shore.

No internet and no phone since we were now waiting for Mother Bell, the alternative to Eastlink, to make a promised connection. At mid-month we waited around all day for an appointment which did not happen. Not knowing what expenses might lay ahead, we were looking after nickels and dimes, pennies having been declared redundant in recent years. We had unfortunately bought into a overnight stay in Tatamagouche before realizing that Ruth would go for more than a month without a paycheck.

That finally happened on this date but only with prompting from our daughter Allison, who had initiated the first missed appointment on our behalf. In the midst of all this, a government pension was suddenly cut off without explanation, and Ottawa decided that they had made a mistake and overpaid last year's income tax refund by several hundred dollars. No phone and no e-mail to iron that out!  At least, she was back at work as a transcriptionist? Sort of... The technician noted that their underground cable was "very old."

This had been an exceptionally, clear, dry, warm summer, but when it rained it came in torrents. Ruth had worked for a week when showers interrupted her connection with the remote work computer. On August 5, R&R squeezed out gas money for a day trip to nearby Tatamagouche but the next  day internet and phone connections both failed completely.

Ruth had been corresponding with our daughters Allison and Cathy by travelling to free wireless stations at the library or the Highland Mall.  Allison's firm is an important commercial user of Bell-Aliant services so she badgered them into making a second get together, no ands, no buts! This problem was overcome within four days by stringing overhead lines. It was decided that ground water had short-circuited the underground wires. Again, much time was wasted and income lost. We might have been happier campers had we been able to afford beer.  The Little Harbour general store which used to be a five-minute stop for fresh meats and produce has been renamed and has changed its focus. There is no beach close at hand.

August 12. Another fearful torrential rain while we were in town getting food and water at Superstore and mosquito screening at the Dollar Store. When we arrived home the internet was and phone were still operational but we were both beat. Every trip of this sort required an hour of time aside from that spent shopping. Box stores have everything if you have the patience and time to find what you are looking for. Additionally, New Glasgow traffic moves very quickly and assertively and signage might as well be in Gaelic it is so uninformative and misleading. By this time, the closing date on a condo at The Meadows, in Mahone Bay was looming and we felt certain that nothing more could go so completely wrong.

Minor irritations yes.  This picture taken by way of a rear view mirror found Ruth trying to get use of an ATM machine on the morning of August 16 when were scheduled to get a key to our new home in Mahone Bay. The bank was having a new sign installed and she had to argue with these workmen to gain access, wasting a half-hour in the process. The bank was itself closed from doing business for an hour. What is wrong with this scenario? Could this business not afford after-hours installation? It was rather like Mahone Bay's sacrificing the sleep of citizens on two occasions in order to convenience tourist traffic.

Away, away to Mahone Bay! This time, once again we packed a lunch to cut costs.

The only photo taken that day in the new residence.  We had to pick up papers at a lawyer's office in Bridgewater.In this instance we did not make the mistake of staying in Mahone Bay, but enjoyed the seclusion of an inn within New Town Lunenburg.  Here too, there was a glitch which accounted for the low price of accommodation. The new owner had experienced a delay in getting credit and banking card machines and Ruth hand to drive into Old Town for $100.

Back at the cottage on August 17, we recalled that there had been magic moments. We were tempted to stay on, now that the internet seemed more solid and money was beginning to flow again. We were solidly against using extending our line of credit and make misuse of credit cards, even when times were very tight.

Look for a sign? That was the pole bearing internet wiring. Guess it still does. Three days later, the water supply started acting in an irregular manner. On  August 20, the flow of water into the cottage stopped completely. No one can adequately cook food, wash dishes or bathe without water.

We had a collection of garbage and recyclables in bags which we could not place at roadside for a few days and did not want to take home. In the interest of keeping cooking dishes clean, Ruth baked food in throw-away foil. At first, we cleaned up and made full use of the Superstore washrooms very early in the day. To save on travel we eventually bought into large quantities of distilled water, which by chance, was on sale at a very low price. Once they were empty in the service of bathing, washing dishes and flushing the toilet, we used water taken from the beach at nearby Powells Provincial Park for the last mentioned process. 

On the morning of August 24, the water again flowed very briefly and then stopped.  In a very tired state, we packed the car and set out for the southwest, knowing that it would take several trips to transport all the gear we had gradually transported there. WE left Pictou County at 12:15 pm.

This is a businessman's inn and completely exhausted we settled here for the night at on the outskirts of Halifax.  Here the low price included a continental breakfast. The following day we took off early since Ruth had a lot of longhand demands for action in her little notebook.

August 25: Technology can be great as long as it works in a congenial manner.  Most of the furniture remained in storage and we needed a mattress in order to sleep in the condo overnight. Our daughters needed to be informed of our precipitous move. Money needed to be moved about electronically, etc., etc. Knowing that tourist information bureaus usually off a wireless internet connection, we stopped at Blockhouse, where one is situated directly across the road from the Eastlink internet towers and dishes. There was a connection in the parking lot, which was quiet at this hour, but that secure line would not allow for moving cash.  That mean, Ruth had to travel fifteen minutes west to a mall in Bridgewater to get everything in order.

Early on, after unpacking everything at the condo, it became obvious that we lacked some of the necessities, buried at the back of the pile in storage; food, pillows, plates, knives and forks and a drying rack. We picked these up at the Bridgewater Mall in the Old Town area. That afternoon Ruth could not resist making some effort to tame the front garden. A mattress was delivered shortly afternoon from a furniture store in the next block. The matching box spring was purchased later. The washing machine was put to work immediately as we had arrived at the New Glasgow laundromat too late to find an unused machine. For a few days we ate off a small computer stand seated in plastic outdoor chairs left by the last resident.

In the following week, we removed items from self storage by car, making no more than trips per day. By mid-month we had transferred all but five pieces of heavy furniture, drastically cutting the moving bill. In general, the weather was fine and this made this activity less onerous than we had supposed.

This building at the edge of town had been sold by the  used furniture dealer, who was offering a 40% discount. This was the first turn in our luck.  We purchased an Art Deco, wooden bedstead for $42 and four authentic klismos chairs at $100. We had priced new furniture, and these items were as new.

We thought that another two trips to New Glasgow would be needed to bring back food and other items left behind.  With no water in the cottage Ruth could only vacuum and tidy up in a superficial way.  Somehow, we crowded almost all remaining possessions into the car and on the night of August 30, took shelter in the Scotsman Inn, in Pictou.  It was not fully booked as were other places to stay, but at that we had a top floor location. We navigated a lot of steep steps but the price was right and breakfast a delight.  The night had been wet and blustery and at our leave-taking it was no better. However the rains stopped just as we hit the Trans Canada Highway for Mahone Bay.

There was another short break in land line service, but this time the technician arrived as promised and Ruth actually was in business on her machines before we unloaded this mess in the living room.  It was following this that we made a concentrated effort to get rid of unused items on Kiji.  Some were free others brought a few dollars. E.G. This place has climate control built in so that tall white humidifier was of no use, especially since this seaside community has way too much moisture in the air.  Virtually new at $100, it brought $20. However, we did just as well obtaining things we actually did need, eg a second nearly new office chair for one-quarter the cost of the one Ruth was using.  An exact match.

Pick up was fairly well in hand by Hallowe'en, although detail work continues as this is written on Sunday, November 5.  As you will have observed there were lights and shadows falling on us during July and August, but we tend to remember some good times at the cottage and in New Glasgow, Stellarton, Antigonish, Tatamagouche, and Trenton, the latter being the closest community. A bit of the good news is that we did not hear anything having to do with U.S. politics, and give this kind report less attention these days.  There is enough bad joss on our doorsteps here in Nova Scotia.

Before looking at  that: Thanks to our children for so much attention and help in those difficult times. Summer-like weather persists as is the case over most of Maritime Canada. The grass continues to be green, and rains have come overnight, It is once again a good life, although Ruth continues to be undervalued for the work she does.

Here we have a hoodie and companion. Clan Keith once did battle  with the Mackays conscripting a battle-crow with devastating result. Okay, in the oldest version, it was then as now, "One for sorrow", but not "Two crows joy."

Painting by Jamie Wyeth. "mirth" and "joy" are synonymous but do not have exactly the same meaning. Joy is "a feeling of great pleasure" which may or may not be reflected in any vocal, visual or auditory way. By contrast, mirth is 
"amusement, often expressed in laughter. It springs from the Old English myrgth, of Germanic origin and was seen as gaiety characterizing people who are enjoying the companionship of others. Mirth suggests spontaneous amusement or gaiety, manifested briefly in laughter. In some instances it is a reaction to ironic or satirical events, or perceived stupidity. Belly laughs can be a form of whistling in the dark.

For example this sign in the New Glasgow Mall owned by the Sobeys, was the cause of brief amusement, although neither of us is sure why.

This did not incite robust Falstaffian mirth. but the motto was amusing, especially given the dark character attributed to crows. Although the Mackays had Old Norse connections they supported this Scottish king and that is what tat name has come to be preferred even unto the present day.

Initial cleanup at the cottage was taken in good humour by Ruth, who ended up having to take a bath and rinse off her plastic sandals.

This was before we realized that Eastlink was abut to refuse to service the cottage with an internet connection of any sort.

July 8. Photographs are arranged chronologically.  Taking snapshots of wildlife is always a pleasure when they turn out.

Our weekend day tip to the Town of Antigonish was followed by a tour out the precipitous winding road to this lighthouse. A great memory!

Ruth finally discovered why she needed a non-stick frying pan and we both had a good laugh when she bought her own at the local flea market. She still uses cast iron for everything except pancakes.

Yes kids, foxes still live nearby but not under the cottage.

Juy 15. An interesting combo? We were pleasantly surprised to find John Marshall still engaged in selling antiques.

Here is John attempting to sell an antique map of the New Glasgow area.

Two days later I rediscovered Powell Park off the Little Harbour Road and we had a pleasant walk coupled with some laughter.

Also on July 17, Ruth gets a back deck clothes line and is able to leave off paying for a dryer at the laundromat. Real cause for mirth?


Next day, Ruth goes on her annual search for bulrushes, which are the plant familiar of Clan Mackay. Of course, she brings home a smaller cousin.

There are the rushes in the corner near our work stations.

We moved the bed to the enclosed porch because of mosquitoes and claustrophobia, It eased the last!

The table and chairs were move closer the kitchen.

July 20. This was done because deer were seen eating berries a la carte. Some of you probably know why having deer this close is a bad idea?

That bush ended up on the back lawn, where deer continued to feed.

Now we had to remember not to go near that pile of brush.

July 21. With all that heat, Ruth was, at last, able to produce fully developed home-made bread.

With a limited budget, materials needed to discourage mosquitoes and make for a better life style had to come from the cheapest new and used sources.

July 23. Fortunately, we managed to hit markets when the items we wanted, including food and produce, were discounted. That's magical and I have always found Ruth's seeming supernatural ability to get what she wants at a low price, a call for mirth.

Same day. A hot afternoon at Melmerby Beach but no crowd?

We did not go for a swim, but were amused by those brave seagulls, who were not moving for any reason.

July 24. The technician was a very agreeable fellow. His next stop was Pictou Island.

July 29 in Downtown, New Glasgow under an outdoor shelter. This strangeness promoted laughter.

Our first walk on the beach was a downer and we never went back. We did, however, have a few laughs at the pretensions of wealthy neighbours. Sadly, George and Elizabeth Mackenzie were not home on this occasion.

A certain amount of graveyard humour came into our lives when we met strange birds in this coop.

We were not sleeping in belove we discovered shadow-curtains and interior bug screens for some of these windows.

Here was one big resource centre in that Sobey mall.

This former chain-store building now houses the largest indoor flea-market I've seen. Of course there are also dollar stores in New Glasgow and in Pictou.

August 13. Sad but sweet. The former Torey residence at 208 Brookside Avenue, looking a little less middle class in many ways.

Real clothespins for $1. In July our bank balance was at $9 one weekend and zero the next. In August we were still being very conservative when buying.

Stickies would get lost in this environment, so Ruth consulted this todo booklet every day.

Believe it or not watching thunderclouds gather over Prince Edward Island was a mirthful experience, worthy of a bit of banter.

It was a thrill to see a locomotive and train cruising through town, although no longer carrying passengers.

So what else is good about New Glasgow. Musical entertainment if you can afford it. We could not. The fee for a concert was not $20 per performance.

The DeCosta Centre at Pictou is a better value at the same price and is not air conditioned because it is an outdoor venue.

I guess this might be considered a step forward, but there are problems with liquid and solid drugs in this county.

This is decidedly a good thing, but where have the Sobeyetski's been on this issue in the past?

All that said in favour of the mirthful aspects of Pictou County: Memory still favours that grand looking land, but Thought tells me there is no place like home, even when most of your possessions are in storage.  Need storage, this is the best place of them all!

It is a presumption that missing the list means you're not in the running as a community. That said New Glasgow surpasses a majority of places in Canada. True they sid rank at the bottom of the list for five years running, but that was then MoneySense only considered 209 places as against 417 at present. You can do anything with statistics including selecting a median of the best and considering any town or city above that to rank progressively through good beeter and best, and the reverse.  In this case New Glasgow still does not shine! There are reasons to go back there and we will, but the cottage is too pollution prone and the neighbourhood too socially stratified for us to visit again for any extended period. This library was useful as a wireless internet hub,  but there is trouble brewing in surrounding blocks. More about that and the kraft paper plague next time.

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