The mermaid stone hasn’t seen much action these days. With surfers riding the waves in recent years and more dogs running along the beaches, it’s no wonder that mermaids are going elsewhere to gather their thoughts at dawn and dusk.
I, for one, would love to catch a glimpse of a siren arranging her hair while singing a haunting melody. Even one of the mermaids’ legged cousins, the sea nymphs, would be a delight to find strolling along our shores, gathering shells.
- Sadly, rockweed is all that’s covering the mermaid stone these days.
Maybe it’s all the garbage that’s dumped near our shores that’s putting them off. Or perhaps they don’t bother visiting Cow Bay because there are fewer and fewer shells to find here. The ones that do wash up on our beaches are quickly gathered by tourists and local beachcombers like me.
Sea Nymph by William Symonds 1893
We don’t pause to consider that seashells and sea glass are the only adornments mermaids and sea nymphs have available to them when the seaside flowers aren’t in bloom.
There are probably uninhabited islands not far from here where mermaids don’t have to compete with anyone for the treasures that wash ashore. Seals are likely less intimidating than dogs from their point of view as well.
I’m going to start leaving the seashells where I find them on the shore instead of taking them home. If I take anything back from the beach, it will be the garbage I find there. It’s not much, but it’s a first step in attracting these wondrous creatures back to our shores.
I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.
― Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
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Posted in Arthropods, Fungi and Lichens, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged English, Hallowe'en, idioms, Inspiration, language, nature, Nova Scotia, photography, speech, spiders on October 25, 2011 |
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You may already be aware that nature inspires and refreshes our spirits but did you know that it also influences our speech? Here are a few idioms (words and phrases that hold a special meaning in a given language) that have their roots in the natural world:
A hornet’s nest <Potential trouble> ~ I don’t think anyone would care to poke this nest, even with a ten foot pole.
All that glitters is not gold < Attractive appearances can be deceiving> ~ In this photo of rocks found along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s pyrite aka fool’s gold.
To mushroom <To grow or develop at an exponential rate> ~ This enormous shelf fungus seems to be growing more quickly than normal on a decaying tree in my yard. It’s about a foot in width, an unusual find in my neck of the woods.
Thanks to Karma at Karma’s When I Feel Like It Blog who challenged her readers to use photographs to illustrate three idioms from the English language. A photo showing ‘Hallowe’en’ was also part of her request. To me, Hallowe’en implies something scary, and to many people, next to death and public speaking, the scariest things on the planet are spiders.
Living near boggy woods, we have a lot of spiders near our home, especially around Hallowe’en. Sometimes they cross the threshold uninvited and visit us indoors. This one is probably the biggest I’ve ever found in the house. After the photo shoot, it was promptly sent on its merry way outdoors while I cleared out the cobwebs.
If you’d like to participate in Karma’s idiom challenge, you have until October 31st 2011 to do so.
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Posted in Birds, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged autumn, Birds, canada geese, communication, fall, geese, migration, nature, Nova Scotia, september, talk, wildlife on September 30, 2011 |
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Canada geese may be just barely visible beneath a cover of marsh mist but their morning talk is unmistakable. Their communication is not just limited to their signature honk but to a medley of sounds as they wake to another day in another marsh.
According to Ducks Unlimited, Canada geese may be only next to humans in their talkativeness. Greetings, warnings and contentment are all communicated from the time a gosling is still in its shell.
However, as there are some humans who like to talk more than others, there are probably some geese who are also more talkative than the rest. I wonder if some geese put their heads underwater to get away from the
nagging chatter under the pretext of finding food.
Don't even think of flying next to her today!
Considering the amount of effort that goes into planning a trip abroad for a large group, it’s probably the communication skills of geese that allow them to be so successful in their migrations year after year.
Geese are known to share the responsibilities of leadership, especially in flight. Also, if a member of the flock is injured, two will stay behind to nurse it back to health, rejoining the larger flock together after it recovers. Any of these actions would require a great deal of planning and discussion. No wonder they’re so talkative!
Once the geese have breakfast, make their flight plans and leave, quiet returns to the marsh until the next flock arrives to spend the evening.
For more information about these beautiful and talkative birds, see Facts on Canada Geese at Ducks Unlimited.
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Posted in Birds, Humor, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged dawn, marsh, morning, nature, Nova Scotia, salt marsh, seagulls, whining on September 26, 2011 |
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The sun may be lighting up the sky in a spectacular display of color, but there’s another reason why nobody’s sleeping in this morning. Some mother’s child is upsetting the peace and quiet of the marsh with incessant whining. Good grief!
Despite its camouflage plumage and the low light, it’s easy to see from where the annoying whining is originating. I’ve caught this act before. It’s not unusual to see immature seagulls pestering adults for food. It’s an odd sight as some of these juveniles appear just as large as the parent.
The whiner’s mother is of course ignoring it and pretending it’s someone else’s offspring that’s waking up the entire neighborhood.
What’s a parent to do, especially with a child that should be old enough to fend for itself?
‘Feed the brat!!’ the cormorant suggests. But is that really the best solution?
Don’t give in to whining. Giving in teaches a child that whining is the sort of behaviour and tone of voice that will generate a result.
~ Jo Frost aka Supernanny
Okay, so you don’t give in. But surely there has to be a way to make it stop. Late last week I came across the carcass of a juvenile gull along the trail. Did the eagles take matters into their own
hands talons that day?
Who knows? Unfortunately, what goes on in the marsh stays in the marsh. The cormorants certainly weren’t disclosing anything on that story.
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Posted in Birds, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged Birds, herons, marsh, nature, Nova Scotia, plovers, salt marsh, sandpipers, sea stars, starfish, wetlands, wildlife on September 8, 2011 |
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‘We’ve been expecting you,’ the salt marsh sentinel announces from his roost at the top of the spruce. It’s the first time I’ve seen great blue herons perched high on the treetops. Though it all looks like business-as-usual in the marsh, there are always wonders waiting to be discovered. It’s good to be back.
‘We heard you’d been combing the beaches looking for us,’ the sea stars say collectively. ‘We thought if we gathered together in one spot, you’d know how much we missed you and you missed us. Why did it take so long for you to seek us here?’
‘It’s a long story,’ I tell them, ‘one with lots of drama that didn’t involve me but nevertheless took a toll on my days. Children suddenly needed me and caring for them took all of my energy.’
’Tell me about it,’ another heron adds. ‘We know what it takes to rear the next generation in an environment that seems more and more out of our control.’
‘I knew you’d understand,’ I tell them.
A kingfisher ‘s compact body finds a stable position at the end of a dried twig. I marvel at how expertly birds keep their bodies and lives in balance.
In spring and summer their focus is on ensuring that the young ones survive to maturity. No hardship or sacrifice seems too great as they provide sustenance and safety to the next generation. But then, after giving their all for a season, they quietly revert back to concerns for their own well-being. Could it be because they carry no burdens in their hearts that they are light enough to fly such long distances to warmer climes?
Thank you to all who sent emails or left kind comments asking where I was over the past few months. It is good to be back
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Posted in Bogs, Trees, tagged bogs, canada, ecology, forests, Joni Mitchell, nature, Nova Scotia, Trees, wildlife, William Blake on May 6, 2011 |
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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.
~ William Blake
It may be the way of humans to want development to cease once their home is built on the edge of the wilderness but I still shudder every time I see tracts of land cleared. I realize that before my home was built on this spot, many wild creatures made this acreage their home. Trees once stood where my driveway now covers the ground with gravel.
Yesterday I went looking for amphibian eggs in a spot where I had seen them in a waterway near the bog years before. Chainsaws tore through trees in the vicinity throughout the afternoon.
I also looked for Boreal Felt Lichen, an endangered species that seems like it would thrive in this neck of the woods. Though none was found yesterday, I did find a cluster of foliate lichen that I had seen earlier this year. Unfortunately, this time, the tree was on the ground, freshly sawed into pieces, a casualty of the surveyor’s line.
These lands are likely slated to be developed soon. yet, fresh evidence of porcupine, hare and deer activity was everywhere to be found. It’s a shame that so many animals will be displaced and that all these lichen-covered trees will eventually be covered with weedless green lawns and paved driveways.
Bogs are often considered wastelands by developers who want to fill them up. That saddens me just as much as the demise of the trees. New trees can be planted on cleared land but a bog can’t resurface once it’s been filled with rubble.
Throughout the walk, my friend Sybil who accompanied me kept repeating lines from Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi…
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone.
Her singing was barely audible over the roar of the chainsaws.
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Posted in Bogs, tagged bogs, curses, ecology, environment, flooding, lichens, nature, Nova Scotia, urban planning, wastelands on February 28, 2011 |
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The ancient Celts believed that barren wastelands existed because their leader and people were cursed. Surely whether or not a space is a wasteland has more to do with one’s point of view than a curse. A few days ago I visited a bog that I hadn’t seen since Hurricane Juan hit in 2003, destroying the old logging trails I used to follow to reach it. Due to the slow tree growth typical in bogs, it had changed very little.
For over a decade I walked through this bog daily with my dog, careful to place my feet on higher ground so that I wouldn’t sink into the bottomless black mud. Though the bog looked especially pretty in spring with its bright pink orchids and rhododendrons, in winter it could be equally wonderful. One cold day I suddenly heard wings flying above me and was surprised to see two bald eagles hunting for hares or other bog-dwelling prey just a few feet overhead.
Snowshoe hare tracks in the bog
Body preserved in bog for over 2,000 years
Bogs were once considered magical places, probably owing to their reputation as cursed wastelands. Some Northern European cultures sometimes buried their dead in bogs and it’s suspected that human sacrifices were made there during the Iron Age.
Bogs were also places where treasures were hidden from invaders. In 2006 the Irish found a thousand year old illuminated psalter manuscript in one of their bogs. Could treasures still be waiting to be discovered here in Nova Scotia?
Today bogs are just beginning to be valued for their role in absorbing extra precipitation and acting as filters for air and water borne pollutants. Sphagnum moss which is abundant here is also being studied for its role in absorbing oil from disaster spills.
Many of the lichens that hang from the trees in bogs also absorb moisture from the atmosphere. The most marvelous of these can convert nitrogen in the air to a form usable by plants and animals.
Unfortunately, in Nova Scotia, bogs are still considered wastelands and cheap real estate. Locally, they continue to be filled with rubble and developed into subdivisions. If the original evergreens left standing at the edge of new streets appear stunted, chances are that the homes nearby were built in a bog. Sadly, once bogs are filled, they cannot go back to their original form. If urban planners refuse to consider the role bogs can play in alleviating flooding and cleaning the atmosphere, perhaps we really are a people cursed.
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Posted in Climate Change, Cow Bay, Natural Phenomena, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged canada, climate change, erosion, halifax, nature, Nova Scotia, ocean, salt marsh, sand, Seashore, shoreline on February 5, 2011 |
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And part of the soil is called to wash away
In storms and streams shave close and gnaw the rocks.
Besides, whatever the earth feeds and grows
Is restored to earth. And since she surely is
The womb of all things and their common grave,
Earth must dwindle, you see and take on growth again.
~ Titus Lucretius – On the Nature of Things (1st century BC)
When Captain James Cook charted Cole Harbour on a map of Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s, it was wide and deep enough for tall ships to sail in and out. Though not as large as Halifax Harbour, it still saw its share of commercial vessels and privateers.
But over the centuries, shifting sands have narrowed the entrance to Cole Harbour. The harbour seems more like a marsh these days, leaving many residents to wonder about the exact whereabouts of Cole Harbour. Passage through the entrance is seldom undertaken by vessels of any size due to the strong currents. Though we might bemoan the recent evidence of erosion along Rainbow Haven Beach, in Cook’s time, this spit of land didn’t even exist.
Part of a Nova Scotia map by James Cook showing Cole Harbour at far right
In A Tale Of Two Dykes – the Story of Cole Harbour (1979), Margaret Kuhn Campbell explained:
A coast line so irregular seems to fling a challenge to the great energy of the ocean. It hurls itself at the indentations to remove them – tearing down headlands, filling in bays. Hartlen Point west of Cow Bay and Osborne Head on its east are two drumlins presently being eroded by the sea. At the mouth of a bay, it seeks to build a fishhook shaped spit anchored on the curved shore with its point reaching toward the other, constantly growing, until in time it may close the gap. Then the bay becomes a protected lagoon which catches silt from streams, grows grasses, and thus traps more silt to eventually become marshy to dry land. Through centuries of toil, the powerful waves compounded such a barrier part way across the mouth of Cole Harbour.
Erosion at Rainbow Haven Beach
The increased frequency of severe storms in our area means we will see more rapid changes to our shorelines in the years ahead. While some beaches will suffer erosion, others will widen. The extent to which man can halt or alter these transformations is questionable. What is inevitable is that these changes will surely affect wildlife as well as residential, recreational and business developments along our coast.
On February 17th, HRM will be hosting a Climate Change Workshop for Eastern Passage and Cow Bay residents. Details of the event can be found at Eastern Passage Online.
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Posted in Seashore, tagged Carl Sandburg, journeys, nature, Nova Scotia, ocean, reflections, sea, Seashore, thoughts, voyages, waves, William Wordsworth, wonder on January 19, 2011 |
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Waves can pull you in without getting you wet. One moment you’re looking at them from your vantage point on the shore and the next you’re tangled in their frothy curls.
With mist on your face and the roar of the sea numbing your ear drums, you’re soon set adrift. As each wave rolls forward, you’re taken under into the mysterious deep. Long forgotten memories are churned up and float on the surface like sea foam.
Let your heart look on white sea spray
And be lonely…
~ Carl Sandburg
It’s a wonder how some of Nature’s most sensory experiences can take you so far away from the present moment. You might recall long forgotten days at the beach, swimming or surfing. Or your thoughts might drift farther away from the shore, re-examining what was and what might have been at any point along life’s journey. You might even surprise yourself by applying new solutions to old problems.
… a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.
~ William Wordsworth
You needn’t go far or stay away long. And herein lies the greatest gift the sea can offer. Wherever you go when you look at the sea, as with all the best voyages, you’re always more in tune with yourself upon your return.
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Posted in Rainbow Haven Beach, tagged canada, nature, Nova Scotia, rainbow haven, Seashore, storms, surfing, waves, wind on December 14, 2010 |
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It’s been warm today. Balmy to say the least. Thirteen degrees Celsius is not at all typical for December in Nova Scotia. Odd weather occurences are becoming more frequent than usual this year, already predicted to be the warmest in Canadian history.
But this afternoon, even news of surfers in Fisherman’s Cove came as a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t able to get out to see the action in Eastern Passage, but I did get a few images of the waves in the Cow Bay area towards Rainbow Haven beach.
The whole sea appeared to be in the process of being stirred up by an invisible hand. Both the number and size of the waves were remarkable.
What was even odder was the number of flies hovering in the air. (You might be able to spot some in the photos). Though I didn’t walk down to the shore, I imagine they would have been swarming in even greater numbers near the seaweed that’s been churned up over the past day.
I hope all the surfers had a great time trying to catch the Big One.
Sybil at Eastern Passage Passage managed to capture surfers in the images she took of today’s waves at Fisherman’s Cove. You can visit her post at Surf’s Up.
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A light dusting of snow sparkles on the boardwalk leading to the seashore. There are no tracks yet. It’s still early.
But despite clear blue skies, it’s no day to be at the beach. A cold December wind has blown in. Is winter finally here? Christmas is just around the corner. Perhaps the beach walkers are shopping in the malls these days instead of strolling along the shoreline.
Spray is blowing from the crests of waves at sea. These spindrifts are considered by mariners to be indicators of gale force winds. Just looking at them is enough to make you shiver.
Later in the season, spindrifts of sand and snow will blow from the crests of dunes on the beach. We’ll slowly drift into winter one snowflake at a time until our snowshovels runneth over.
If only we could approach the holidays as we approach the seasons: slowly, one sparkle at a time… with no rushing and no deadlines, enjoying each moment and peacefully trusting that everything will come together eventually.
I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays–let them overtake me unexpectedly–waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!’
~ Ray Stannard Baker
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Posted in Birds, The Salt Marsh Trail, tagged awakening, dawn, eagle, geese, Inspiration, nature, Nova Scotia, sunrise on December 8, 2010 |
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Yesterday’s spectacular sunrise was a welcome sight after the storm experienced on Monday. But today’s seemed at least as awesome. The accompanying chatter of Canada geese made both displays especially memorable.
I wonder if geese and other wild creatures take note of the beauty around them. When migrating geese wake up to rainy skies do they feel the same as they do when they awaken to a beautiful sunrise?
One thing’s for sure: clearer skies do improve visibility. But even if the eagle’s eyes have difficulty seeing in the rain or fog, I doubt if there are any complaints about it. Though the storms of life may slow them down, eagles still hunt and geese still migrate, regardless of the weather. Like the wild birds, our ability to wake up and get to the work set before us should not depend so much on external factors.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.
However, there’s nothing like a beautiful sunrise to breathe new hope into the day that lies ahead.
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