Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Home from Nova Scotia

A container planting with a lime colored Coleus and Butterfly Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri

My Dad dressed in his maroon swimming trunks; a grey sweatshirt wrapped over his shoulders leans on a black cane with one hand and on my arm with the other. He is a small man, but his weight on my arm is considerable as we navigate the rough gravel path that leads down to the lakefront beach.

I had asked my Mom, as we made dinner together the night I arrived, what my eighty-seven year old Dad would most like to do while my sister Nancy and I were at home.

"He wants to go swimming," she told me.

Humble Lobelia in a metal bucket.

Our week-long visit has flown by and it is the final couple of days before my sister and I must fly back to our regular adult lives on different continents. The weather has turned overcast and a bit blustery, but we are both determined to honour Dad's wish to go for a summer swim.

Odd boulders and serpentine tree roots mean that every step my Dad and I take down the forested pathway to the lake is a new adventure for Dad and his cane. We pause frequently, so he can catch his breath.

When we finally reach the beach the lake is looking black and mighty cold. The two life guards in attendance are wearing jackets over their  swimsuits. Unfazed, my Dad takes my sister's arm, and with his cane in the other hand, he heads into the water. As my Mom and I watch anxiously from the shore, there are a few tense moments when he falters on the sand, but Dad recovers his balance and strides out into the dark water.

Chest deep he throws the cane back to us on shore and he and Nancy take the plunge.

Burr that's got to be cold!

But as I look at my Dad's face as it pops up out of the water, he looks only happy. While he struggles to be mobile on land, he is buoyant in the water. Jubilation is written all over his face.

That moment of sheer joy will most certainly be one of my dearest memories of my trip home to Nova Scotia.

Jacquie's Garden

There are lots of other wonderful memories too. 

Though there was little time to visit local gardens, Mom took me to visit her friend Jacquie's garden the afternoon I arrived.

Martagon lilies.

My favourite object in Jacquie's garden: a carving of a hand with long tapered fingers. The hand rests on an old wooden bench. One day I must ask her about the story behind the hand.

This is Valentine. 

As you can by her dark stare, Valentine eyed me with suspicion the whole time we were in Jacquie's garden. 

My Mom, on the other hand, she adored. Though Valentine notoriously dislikes visitors, she put her tiny paws up on my Mom's trouser legs and begged repeatedly to be petted. 

I am sure she would have nipped my hand if I had dared to do the same! So much for the notion I hold any sway with dogs!

Mahone Bay

Almost everywhere I went on my trip to Nova Scotia, there seemed to be flowers.

Liatris with pink Phlox paniculata in the background.

Blazing Star or Gayfeather, Liatris spicata: forms a low clump of grass-like foliage with flowers spikes of magenta-purple, white or flowers in late summer. Attractive to butterflies and bees. Full sun. Height: 75-90 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm. Laitris will grow in a variety of soil types and are pretty drought tolerant once established.

Honeysuckle Vine

Mahone Bay

Houses in Nova Scotia are sometimes painted the most outrageous colors.

I had to pull the car to the side of the road and take this picture.

Orange Tiger Lilies en masse.

My sisters and I (a third sister lives in Dartmouth, N.S.) did the most touristy thing we could possibly do: we went on a little mini-vacation that took us along the South Shore to Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay. We avoided the main highway and opted instead for old twisty-turny road along shores of the Atlantic ocean.

The land that hugs the St. Margaret's Bay is a lunar landscape of granite boulders and plants that manage to cling to life in thin soil, salt air and harsh winds.

When you reach Peggy's Cove, the vista becomes a mix of rolling hills of stone and little salt water ponds.

The white lighthouse at Peggy's Cove is one of Nova Scotia's most famous landmarks.

Do you see the figure on the lower right?

This lady, with her wide brimmed hat and accordion, was singing traditional ballads 
for all the visiting tourists.

My sisters and I stayed overnight in this resort hotel.

We had our evening meal on the terrace and watched the sun go down. Dinner was delicious! I had roast chicken, while both my sisters enjoyed pan-seared halibut with scollops and shrimps in a lobster-cream sauce.

I flew home on the weekend with a bit of a heavy heart. How I wish I lived closer so I could check in on my parents more often! They need help, even though they are reluctant to accept it.

When I got home this big bouquet of dahlias awaited me on the kitchen counter. It was a wonderful trip, but it is always nice to come back home.


  1. The story you told about your dad and his determination pulled strongly at my heart......what a beautiful memory for you all to see that happiness in your father's face as he was enjoying that swim! And what a glorious place all around. Glad you had a good trip with your family Jennifer....lovely shots....and a lovely week to you! Nicole xo

  2. Glad you had a blast in Nova Scotia. I'd love to visit Peggy's Cove one day. Jacquie's garden is stunning too. :)

  3. Jacquie's, garden looks fabulous, Valentine is cute, but your Dads story steals the show.

  4. Oh you had a wonderful visit, and the South Shore is in it's prime right now. Weather was good to you. As usual, your photos are magazine class Jennifer, but the story of taking your dad to the water and the joy that brought you all...priceless.

    Do you know what the white spire type of flowering plant is?

    1. Hi Brenda, The tall white spires does make this plant stand out in a crowd. I believe it is Culver’s Root, Veronicastrum virginicum. I will see if I can get hold of Jacquie to confirm that I am correct.

    2. I thought it might be Veronicastrum but had not seen it in white. I need that!! Oh, your baptisia is doing very well as is the penstemon ;-) Thanks again.

  5. This brings tears to my eyes, Jennifer. I am so glad that your dad was able to go swimming.
    And I am so glad you had a wonderful time, and will always have this most precious memory.

  6. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Nova Scotia. I hope I will someday as your pictures took my breath away...a slice of heaven there. My mom lives 3000 miles away and it is very hard to not be there as she needs help. But the best I can do for her is to talk with her daily. She looks forward to it. As do I...your memory of your dad swimming brought tears to my eyes as my dad loved to swim too...magical memory.

  7. I also admired the use of Veronicastrum. Your picture entitled Mahone Bay is beautiful - such a nice combinaison of colours in the building and the plants. It seems to have been a very good trip.

  8. Your description of your dad's determination and joy touched my heart. His pleasure was also a gift of a priceless memory to you. And thank you for a look at some of Nova Scotia's gorgeous flowers and scenery!

  9. It is always a problem when you live so far away from ageing parents - it must be a worry for you being so far away. What a lovely thing for your father to be able to fulfil his desire to go swimming whilst you were there - I can imagine the elation he felt going into the water - just a shame it wasn't a bit warmer for him to luxuriate in. I expect your parents were delighted to have all three of their girls home together.

    I love the brightly painted houses with their gardens and the area you went to visit looks absolutely beautiful- just love your stunning pictures. And how lovely to have flowers waiting for you on your return - saying nice to have you back! Did the dogs go bananas when they saw you.

    1. Dogs have a gift for making a person feel loved. When I got home form the airport, the dogs greeted me with excited, playful barking. They like love back of course and crowded around me looking to be petted.

  10. Bittersweet, heartfelt, and heart wrenching...

    But the bravery of your Dad making his way down to the beach, despite the obstacles life has thrown in his way is inspiring. Oh to be so determined that the cold black water, the cane, and age do not lurk in front, but are put behind so he can continue to live out his dreams.

    Those houses they call to my heart...Nova Scotia is on my list, not a bucket list, because I will not call it that...but a list of places to be seen when life allows. Those colors, those flowers, those rocks, so different then the West Coast, jagged, worn, and so very there.


  11. Ahhhh, what a simply lovely post. I'm so glad your dad got his swim, if only he could do it more often. What a delightful place, I love the brightly coloured houses and the lunar landscape.
    I loved your mum's friends garden and her little dog!
    How lovely it must have been for your parents to have you all there together! And it looks like you were missed....and I bet by your dogs!xxx

  12. What awesome memories of this trip you have. I so enjoyed reading about your dad and his wanting to go swimming. That was so special. Your mother's friends garden is gorgeous and even little Valentine was super sweet looking. - Loved the lighthouse shots too. It all sounds like a really wonderful time was had.

  13. Jennifer, I've only had time for a very quick peek at this post this morning. I will be back to admire these gorgeous photos, but I loved reading about your Dad's swim. What a lovely time you were able to share and a wonderful gift of a swim you gave him. Bless your hearts.

  14. What beautiful photos from your trip, I'm sure they'll bring back many happy memories. Your mum's friends garden is just stunning! I love the story of your dad enjoying his swim, how wonderful:-) .

  15. What a beautiful story. :o) Your dad must have been so happy to be surrounded by his children doing what brought him joy. It must have felt incredible to let the water carry him and not need his cane.

  16. I bet the swim will be the highlight of your Dads summer. What a great feeling to give that to him. My heart is happy reading about it. I know the feeling about living too far away. Things seemed simpler when family stayed close by....
    Your Mom's friend has a gorgeous garden. I love the pig weathervane!!! and the colorful houses seem so happy. What a beautiful place. Glad you had a good trip & welcome home.

  17. The description of your Dad going out for a swim is so touching, Jennifer--I'm sure it will be as special a memory for him as it is for you. Surrounded by his children and having such freedom of movement once again must have been a joyous experience.
    I love all the colored houses and the beautiful gardens. I've never been to Nova Scotia, but what a beautiful place!

  18. Living far away from family is not easy, my son and I live in London, my mother lives in Spain and my sister and brother with their spouses and children live in Norway. We are all too far from each other and no one wants to move :-) Glad to hear your dad got his swim, your story was beautifully written.

  19. Thanks for sharing your adventure! So many lovely pictures and well written words. (The hand is a bit beautiful and a bit creepy)

  20. I can relate having recently returned from visiting my 89yr old father across the pond. I love Nova Scotia, it reminds me of home (rural, coastal England). At least I'm living by the sea again but the Pacific smells different to the Atlantic. My theory anyway, the rest of the family think I'm making it up.

  21. Your garden photos are always so inspiring. And what a great story of your dad. I can't imagine how hard it is to be that far away from your parents AND siblings.

  22. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I recognized that scrubby hillside with the pools of water. I was mesmerized when we went through there to Peggy's Cove a couple years ago. Such a beautiful province. Amazing photos as always, you really captured the east coast colour that always makes me smile.


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