Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, 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


            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


            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


            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


            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


            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.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Ten


            It is very refreshing to wake up to fall-like temperatures in the month of August.  It has been very pleasant being here since we arrived but this week has been even cooler than last week.  We woke up this morning with the thermometer showing 56 degrees.  Last week the morning temperatures were in the low 60s with daytime it reaching in the mid-70s but this week each day begins in the 50s and may reach 70 by the time the sun goes down.  Yesterday it was 64 degrees as the sun set and we expected it to be in the 50s this morning since that was the evening temperature. 
            Most people who know me know that I am not a hot weather person.  I prefer cooler temperatures over hotter ones, most likely because as I grew up in the Beaumont, Texas area and the weather was usually hot and humid there I always longed for cooler weather to come.  So, when I can be in a place that has cool weather I enjoy being there.
            Since we had a busy day yesterday doing chores and driving to Digby, which is about 25 miles from where we are staying, we plan to stay mostly around our cottage today.  I am reading more here than I get the opportunity to do when I am in Weimar.  So far, I have read two books—A Separate Peace by John Knowles (a book the owner of our cottage has on one of her shelves) and The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills (which is a biography of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird).  I brought that one from home.  It was just recently published and is a very good read about the life of Harper Lee.  I am currently reading Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.  I most likely will be using examples from these books in my sermons in the future. 
            I am also doing sermon planning for the next few months during some of my time here.  I have planned most of them for the fall and may continue to plan for 2015 as I have time.  I try to plan three months ahead so that I am always prepared for preaching as it happens and do not have to try to decide weekly what I will preach for that week.  Some pastors do what I call “Saturday Night Specials” where they are up late on Saturday nights trying to decide what they want to preach on the next morning.  I do not like doing things that way.  I like to read the text on Monday and let it live inside me throughout the week, discussing the texts for the next Sunday with our Bible study group and then let the text speak to me during the week in connection to what is going on in the world around us. 
            So, this day promises to be a little quieter and less active, a Sabbath for the soul as well as the body, not straying too far away but allowing the Spirit to speak to me in ways that I may not normally take the time to comprehend.  Having time away is a gift, which I truly appreciate.  It renews our spirit and recharges my emotional batteries and gives me a new perspective on ministry, life, and the task we share as coworkers together for Christ. 
            “All who are with me send greetings to you.  Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with all of you.” (Titus 3:15)

             It was a very relaxing day, first around the cottage as I planned worship and sermons into the new year.  Then, after lunch we drove into Annapolis Royal and walked down the street looking around.  First, we had coffee from a small coffee shop and drank it while sitting in a park overlooking the Annapolis River.  The air was cool and it felt nice to sit at a table under a tree and enjoy our coffee while looking out at the river below.  Then, we walked down the street looking into the shops here and there and visiting with merchants and other shoppers. 
            Our dog Bo was a hit again.  Doris began by going into a small gift shop and I stood outside with Bo and put his face up to the window so that the merchant could see him looking in.  She invited us to come in and she wanted to see Bo and play with him.  That worked again at a bookstore down the way.  Bo was invited in and the woman behind the counter came out and petted him and talked about how cute he was. 
            Bo even was invited into a store where they sell homemade chocolates, despite there supposedly being a ban on animals in stores that sell food.   A man in the entrance to the store saw Bo and told us to come inside saying that the owner loved dogs and would want to see him.  Doris visited with the man and his wife a bit and found out that they had small dogs and were part of a small dog rescue group.  We told them about our dog and how we got him and they were interested in hearing our story. 
            It is amazing how one can find common ground and connections when you begin to talk to others about your life.  In the coffee shop, the young man who made our coffee told us that his parents and brothers had attended a wedding in Weimar, Texas and he knew where Weimar was.  He said he had lived in Houston for a short time and had come through our area on his way to the hill country.  We have met several people who have Texas connections.  That helps us feel more at home.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Nine


            We have the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets here.  In addition, there has been a full moon the last two nights, the big moons that come up and seem to fill the night sky.  The moon seems to come up just as the sun is sinking into the Bay of Fundy leaving the sky with streaks of pink to paint the area above the bay.
            We were watching the sun go down into the bay last night, perched on some large rocks near the wharf when suddenly a little creature popped up between the rocks.  It ducked down just as fast as it popped up and then was up again in a different place not far from the first one.  It did this again and again, popping up and then ducking down, each time poking its head out a little more.  Soon, I could see that it was a little ferret, brown in color with a white streak on his stomach.  He was very cute and seemed to almost want to play with us as we were watching him come and go. 
            My first inclination was to go into the house and get some bread to throw to him but instead we just watched him as long as he would pop up to see us and then suddenly he was gone, hiding beneath the rocks again.  We went into the house as it was beginning to get dark and a little later I went back out to the rocks where we had seen the ferret to see if I could spot him again.  He was nowhere to be found but probably hiding below the rocks to keep safe from predators. 
            What joy is often revealed in the smallest of things, things that we often do not take notice of.  We were observing the setting of the sun, which is a big event when the sun is a big orange ball with streaks of pink and orange and purple lighting up the sky when suddenly one of the smallest of creatures popped up a few times as if he was trying to say hello to us.  His playfulness was intriguing to us and we wanted to see more of him but we experienced just enough to give us a happy ending to our day as we went inside to begin to wind down for the evening. 
            God’s love is often revealed to us in small ways.  We may search for it in the big things of life but often we find it when we take the time to notice the everyday and find something contained in it that speaks to our spirits.  God the Creator is at work in the world at all times and we are not always aware of what is in store for us as we simply learn to enjoy what is around us and who we are with.  It may be something that just pops up to make us happy when we least expect it or to remind us of the presence of God in our lives when we do not think about it. 

            Today was a busy day, beginning with a drive over to Digby to take care of the mundane things in life that must be done to continue living…doing laundry, buying groceries, but we still took time to drive through the community of Bear River where we had visited three years ago.  It looked much different from what it did when we were there before.  It seems like some businesses have closed.  Things did not seem very active and we simply drove through and back out again to go to Digby to do our chores.  We bought lobster sandwiches and ate them at the pretty park near the harbor where we have had several picnics before.  It is always clean and well cared for.  You can see the fishing boats coming and going as they take part in the busy scallop industry of the area. 
            We drove back to Parker’s Cove by way of a two lane road that hugs the shores of the Bay of Fundy.  It is a little slower than the main highway but it provides beautiful views of the water and the houses lining the shore.  That is always such a nice road to travel and takes longer but it is usually worth it, especially if you are not in a hurry as we were not today. 
            We reached our cottage and put away the groceries and had some coffee on the porch, watching the view before us that is always fascinating although it is basically the same as the tide comes and goes and the boats rise and fall with it.  There is a campground in the distance and vacationers also come and go and some of them walk over to the pier to fish or to look around, bringing their dogs and kids along to survey the view.  Perhaps some of them come to this area each week for a week to relax and fish and camp as they enjoy the slower pace of life they can find here rather than the cities where they live and work.  Their campers provide most of what they need but they also help the economy as we do purchasing food and supplies.
            The harbor got busy this evening with dump trucks coming and going constantly and a large crane digging in the mud below the wharf while the tide was out.  We sat on the porch watching the constant parade of trucks coming and going, each one taking a load of mud or silt or whatever that crane was digging and dumping in their beds so that they could take it away up the hill to be deposited elsewhere.  This went on for a couple hours as the tide began to come in view again and soon the driver of the crane had to begin his ascent up the hill and out onto the road before he was overtaken by the rising tide. 
            A sleepy fishing village can come alive, such as it did today and for a number of hours it is a busy place as is the rest of the world, and then, just as quickly as it became alive with activity, it can go back to sleep again as all those involved leave to resume their lives elsewhere.  Now, as the sun begins to go down once again, quiet is returning to Parker’s Cove and soon darkness will overtake us until the sun rises again tomorrow. 

            “The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises.  The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north, round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.  All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. “(Ecclesiastes 1:5-7)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Eight


            Sunday---a gorgeous sunrise, with the sun illuminating low clouds as it rose in the sky above the horizon.  The tide was out, with the fishing boats sitting on the rocks.  Seagulls were flying here and there.  It was a very peaceful scene. 
            Morning coffee, a new kind we bought at the farmer’s market yesterday, tasted so good, as it does most mornings, bringing me to new life after a good and sound sleep.  We had coffee quietly looking out at that beautiful scene before us. 
            We plan to attend worship service at the United Church of Canada in Annapolis Royal this morning.  We feel at home in Canada’s UCC even as we do in our own UCC in America.  The United Church of Canada was formed by a series of mergers, the same as our denomination, back in the early part of the 20th century.  The Methodists, Presbyterians, and others joined to form it because they felt like they had much in common and could do more joined than separately.  That is the story of the United Church of Christ also, as it gathered one group after another to form the church we know today as the United Church of Christ. 
            Both UCC groups today feel they have a lot in common and are in conversation even now to have full communion with one another.  That means that each will recognize the ordination of the other so that pastors can move between the two groups more easily.  We will recognize each other’s baptisms and share Holy Communion and the pastors of each church can officiate at the sacraments of the other. 
            We have not been to worship in two weeks and I miss it.  I enjoy attending worship when I am away on vacation or sabbatical and if we have the opportunity to go then I enjoy being a worshiper in a congregation rather than the one leading worship.  I like to listen to the preaching of others too, although it is rather hard to turn off the natural inclination to compare what they are doing with a biblical text to what I think I would do with it if I were preaching it. 
            I love singing with others in their church, also, even if they sometimes use an unfamiliar tune with familiar words, as is sometimes the case when we worship in another country.  It is often the music in a worship service that connects with me even if the sermon does not. 
            We were not able to attend worship the past two Sundays as we were traveling on those days making it difficult to stop at a church and worship while we are driving.  We have tried to do that and have missed church services because we did not know the time of the worship service and found out it had passed or it was too far in the day to wait for it.  Also, traveling with a dog makes it hard to go to a church service because the dog has to have somewhere to be during the service. 

            We did attend church at the St. George and St. Andrew United Church of
Canada in Annapolis Royal.  The pastor is a tall woman who is German but who has immigrated to Canada.  She has a definite accent such as Germans who have learned to speak English have.  She was greeting people as they entered the church but did not greet us.  We chose a pew almost halfway to the front and soon a petite woman came to sit on the pew in front of us.  She started a conversation and we learned about each other.  She is a church organist who served churches through the years in the US and in Canada.  She is retired now and chose to live in Annapolis Royal.  The pastor stopped to talk to her and did greet us after that, learning where we are from so she could share that with the congregation during the service. 
            The order of worship was much as ours is.  Most of the hymns were very familiar to us and sung to the same tunes we use.  There were two that were new to us but were easy to sing.  The congregation also sang responses using familiar tunes or easy ones that fit with the theme of the service. 
            The pastor preached on the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  The sermon was good and was very similar to sermons I have preached on this parable.  It was a little longer than I usually preach but she kept my attention through most of it.  She read from a manuscript which is not something that I do but it is what many pastors do. 
            The congregation was not overly friendly but we did have several people greet us and one woman besides the one in the pew in front of us had a short conversation with us.  Canadians, in general, are a bit more reserved than we in the southern US.  They are usually friendly but may not begin a conversation but will talk when spoken to.  Nova Scotians tend to be friendlier than other Canadians in eastern Canada.   
            Isn’t it interesting how we compare the interactions we have with others?  Depending upon where they happen, we may classify others as friendly or not friendly, stuck up or aloof, reserved or outgoing, or a host of other words.  It may be that a person is shy rather than unfriendly but we may not recognize their shyness.  There are situations where we may feel more reserved than others, also.  In large crowds we may clam up and come alive in small groups.  Or it may be the other way around. 

            Accepting others as they are is part of being inclusive, inviting others into our lives and into our social settings.  Being a visitor in a church opens our eyes into what it feels like to be a visitor.  Some of us have never belonged to another church and we do not know how it feels to be the new person in a church group.  Sometimes it is eye opening to be a visitor elsewhere so as to relate to how others feel when they come to our church.  It helps us to empathize with those who see our church in one particular way or another.  Reaching out to those who are new to our church and social groups and including them helps them to see us as we hope they will---as inclusive, caring, and loving Christians.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Seven


            We had a surprise rain last night.  It was a fairly heavy rain, not just a light summer shower.  It happened just about when darkness was setting in and when the tide was coming in too.  That made it seem like a big storm.  Waves crashing ashore filling in the harbor with heavy rain pounding the land at the same time.  The rain continued until we were ready for bed so it was hard to know how long it really lasted. 
            When we woke up this morning, there were puddles in the driveway and everything was wet.  Clouds were heavy in the sky to make it look like the rain could return.  It did not rain, however.  Instead, the sky became gradually clearer until finally the sun shone through. 
            We visited with our neighbor who is renting the house not too far from where we are.  She is a college professor from Montreal.  We had met her when we were here three years ago.  She is originally from Germany but immigrated to Canada many years ago, when she was just a girl, so she has been a Canadian citizen for over 40 years.  She remembered us from our last visit and took to our little dog, Bo, quickly.  She likes dogs and says she wants to get a little dog of her own.  Bo seemed to like her also.  She is very talkative and told us many things while we just stood there and listened.  Finally, she left to do some chores while we got ready to go to the Farmer’s Market being held in Annapolis Royal today. 
            The Farmer’s Market happens each Saturday morning and it is one of the largest ones held in this part of Nova Scotia.  You can find plenty of produce grown in the area but also art and craft items made by artisans of the Province.  We toured the many stalls to begin and then began to find items we wished to purchase.  We first bought a hand knit dog sweater made by a woman who lives not too far from here.  It was of first quality and very reasonable in cost and Bo wore it around the market grounds and stopped traffic regularly to compliment him on how cute he looked in it. 
            There were baked goods around every corner, my downfall for sure.  We saw bread, pastries, cakes, and pies and finally decided on two loaves of bread, two croissants, and a homemade apple and raspberry crisp.  Then there was kale, turnips, peaches, and tomatoes that we had to buy. 
            We even bought a book that looked like it would be easy reading only to find out that it was actually a Canadian Sunday School book used back in the 1950s-60s.  It is a hardback book called “Myrtle’s Guest” with a picture of a woman who is a maid on the cover.  It may be a collectable but it looked like something we can find nowhere else and especially for just a dollar. 
            We love exploring the local community wherever we are and this is the second market we have gone to in a week.  We met a lot of really nice people, some of whom had to look at Bo in his new sweater and ask questions about him.  There are many friendly people in the world who will share about their own lives when you are willing to tell them a bit about yours also. 

            The human family still has many honest, friendly, caring people made up of people from all races, nationalities, and ethnic groups.  It does not seem to matter where we are from or what language we speak.  All that matters is that we want to open ourselves up to knowing more about them and sharing about ourselves and soon we have new friends.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Six


            The sun shone through the clouds as we woke up this morning, not a bright sunrise but one that was filtered by high clouds against the blue sky.  It was a bit cooler than it had been, about 61 degrees, so we had morning coffee indoors rather than on the porch.  We ventured out about an hour later and the temperature had already risen to 70 degrees so we did sit on the porch for a bit and enjoy looking at the boats and birds and busy activities of those connected with the harbor. 
            After breakfast we decided to go hiking in a national park which is only about 40 miles from here.  It is called by a First Nation name, which is what they call Native Americans or Indians.  The name is almost unpronounceable—Kejimkujik.  I have tried to say it many ways and the locals say it one way but shorten it simply to “Keji.”  I think that makes it easier for all concerned. 
            Keji is a Canadian National and Historic Park and is basically a heavily wooded area with a river running through it and lakes and streams formed because of the river.  The area has many campgrounds in it and hiking trails and areas for canoeing.  It is a national park but has a feeling almost like going to camp somewhere.  People with campers and motor homes line up at the entrance gate and spend weekends there with their kids and dogs enjoying the woods and lake and river and simply relaxing.  There is a stand that sells ice cream and a baseball field and the feeling of it is not anything like national parks in the USA.  It is so much more simple in nature, not centered on a “big attraction” such as a mountain range or glacier or seashore but provides a place for families to simply relax together and enjoy each other’s company. 
            We drove up to Keji around noon and brought our picnic supplies and found a really nice picnic area by Mills Falls.  That is where the Mersey River falls over an area of rocks and runs quickly by.  We found a picnic table right by the water after passing a family having a cookout and saying hello to some hikers.  We enjoyed watching the river flow by us over the rocks while having our lunch.  The area is spotless, not a piece of trash to be found anywhere.  Nova Scotians have a high regard for nature and also a deposit/return policy on bottles and cans of all kinds so no one throws them away but returns them for a refund because they paid a deposit when they bought the items. 
            After lunch we found a hiking trail that went right along the Mersey River, advertised as being 1 kilometer but it seems at least like 1 mile or more.  It was an easy hike, through woods and along the river with places now and then to try to spot a beaver or fish in the water.  Our little dog Bo hiked with us and he walked quickly over rocks and sticks on trail. 
            Needing to find the facilities, we found a campground not too far away and discovered the baseball field and ice cream store nearby it.  Then, a bit farther away was a campground where demonstrations of First Nation teepee and campfire skills were being exhibited.  That was a bit crowded so we did not stay to enjoy them. 
            As we drove to the exit of the national park, Doris and I discussed how different this national park was from the ones we have visited in the USA.  It was she who remarked that this was nice to have a place for families to simply get away and find renewal in forest and riverside with simple pleasures such as bike riding, canoeing, and, camping.  Our national parks have campgrounds, to be sure, but it is the “big things” that attract people to the national parks and enjoying the pleasure of being in nature follows the geyser or mountain or seashore that brought them there. 

            It is nice to be reminded now and then about what is important in life, the simple pleasures of home and hearth and family.  Many times it is the “big things” that get our attention—holidays, special events, concerts or sporting events---but then we are reminded in the quiet moments following the holiday meal or on the drive home from the special event that it is being with people who are important to you and enjoying shared times that speak to our spirits.