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Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

Paving Paradise

child walking on gravel road

You can’t stop progress.  Maybe that’s true.  But what is considered progress to one person is not necessarily the same for everyone.

In a province where elected officials and bureaucrats are especially sensitive to  being called ‘backwards’ and ‘backwoodsy,’ on December 10th 2013, Halifax Regional Municipality Councillors voted unanimously to pave five gravel roads in the Flandrum Hill subdivision.  Although property owners had been formally surveyed by HRM last Spring and the majority voted against paving the roads, Council decided they knew what was best for  HRM. Since HRM’s own policy recommends that a minimum of 50% of the residents must be in favor unless it is in the best interest of HRM, one wonders what interests would be so great as to override the wishes of the majority?

view from the top of flandrum hill road

View from the top of Flandrum Hill Road

Of course such decisions are easier to make when you’re not a homeowner looking at a $6,500.00 bill (calculated at $35 per linear foot of frontage).  It’s also easier when you don’t have to consider environmental impact.  An environmental study was not undertaken.  However, that doesn’t mean the environment won’t be affected.

snake-crossing-cow-bay-road

Maritime Garter Snake crossing Cow Bay Road in summer

When warmed by the sun or tire friction, asphalt releases harmful greenhouse gases. During the paving process, fumes from the oil used to bind the aggregate are known to cause sickness in humans.  Might be a good idea to keep children indoors when the roads are paved later this summer.  Somebody ought to give the wildlife a heads-up too.

ditch along flandrum hill roadDrainage considerations have to also be addressed with paved roads due to potential problems with run-off. Unlike a gravel road, pavement does not absorb precipitation. Though this isn’t as much of a concern for folks who live at the top of a hill, paved roads can potentially contribute to flooding in low-lying areas.

Drivers are known to speed more on paved roads than gravel ones. With its steep incline, Flandrum Hill Road will most likely see an increase in speeding.  Woe to the children who get in their way!

The cost of neglecting asphalt can be scary. Repeated freezing and thawing over the winter months takes a regular toll on all our Nova Scotia roads.   It’s one thing for homeowners to share in the cost of paving roads initially, but what happens when a municipality has to bear the burden of increased maintenance costs without raising taxes? In recent years, some counties in the U.S. have converted their paved roads to gravel once again.  See:  Roads to Ruin:  Towns Rip Up the Pavement

Many of us moved here because we liked the idea of living closer to nature.  We have no bus service and we’re still on well water and septic.  Gravel roads just seem to be another part of a lifestyle that the majority of us consider simply part of rural living.

Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
~ C.S. Lewis

All photographs and text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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dawn july 9 2013

Summer seems to take forever to arrive to this part of the world.  Sometimes love can feel like that too.  Despite the long anticipation, we often feel unprepared for its arrival.

This past week’s heat wave was overwhelming but it’s hard to complain after such a long wait.   The best we can do is embrace its offerings and enjoy each caress of summer warmth on our limbs.

The earth has received the embrace of the sun and we shall see the results of that love.
~ Sitting Bull

pink peony

Peonies in the garden open their inner hearts gladly.  How many of us dare to open our hearts so courageously to love?  The combination of warm rains and sparkling sunshine has increased the size and number of their blooms.  For some the abundance is a burden that can only be carried so long.  How easily we too can flounder under the weight of  all the responsibilities that accompany love.

peonies falling over

Wild Ragged Robin flowers seem to have a more modest response.  Their delicate petals stretch out in the sun as if to say ‘Here I am World.  Take me as I am.’  Perhaps the happiest souls among us are those who simply feel loved for themselves, just as they are.

pink ragged robin

On the seashore, wet purplish-pink Irish Moss sparkles in the sunshine.  If we are loved consistently and unconditionally, do we not begin to reflect love in the same way?

pink irish moss on shore

Love has its own time, its own season, and its own reasons for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it or reason it into staying. You can only embrace it when it arrives and give it away when it comes to you.
~ Kent Nerburn

new growth on partridgeberry bush

In the back woods, new pink growth emerges from a partridgeberry bush, ravaged by hungry wildlife earlier this spring.  Where there’s sunshine and warm rain, there’s the promise of an abundant harvest once the summer’s past.  Perhaps the greatest comfort of love’s embrace is hope for the future.

Text and photographs Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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soft morning light on seagrass

Behind the shore, where the dune grass grows, that’s where we’re walking today.  The sun is burning off the rest of the morning’s fog and the grass sparkles where its rays manage to shine through holes in the mist.  The golden grass is dried and brittle in springtime.  I can’t believe it’s been a quarter century since I first felt it beneath my feet.

sand dune haven

We’ve come to this place so many times, you and I, looking for fox paths and ant hills in the sand. We sit in the same spot and together we look out to the ocean.  I dream of African shores with hot sparkling sand across the Atlantic while you ask one more time if it’s still too cold to go in the water.  What three year old doesn’t come to the beach with a plan to enjoy at least one quick splash in the waves?

The golden grass and the color of your hair remind me how much you’ve tamed me these past few years.  All these twenty five years, the dune grass has been of no use to me.  Until now.

hair the color of dried grass

Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold.  Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me!  The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.  And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .
~ The Fox to The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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tree shadows on snow

Even in Canada where winter is so much a part of our lives, it seems like we seldom have anything good to say about our cold climate.  Everyone was complaining of record-breaking cold this week, the harshest in recent memory.  Even the squirrel in the yard seemed to be jumping farther and faster than usual in an attempt to spend as little time as possible out on the snow.

red squirrel jumping across snow

Surprisingly, there are actually some benefits to living in a cold climate.  Our air is fresh, and long cold spells prevent too many insects from surviving through to the next summer, benefits we usually don’t consider until our kitchens are bombarded with ants in the middle of a sticky summer heat wave.  Snow’s insulating properties also keep small rodents dreaming beneath the drifts at this time of year, instead of trying to find shelter in our homes.

A cold climate also has a positive impact on our intelligence, especially our ability to delay gratification. The mental functions required to store food, dress warmly and create adequate shelter are crucial to survival in harsh environments.

mint in winter

Inedible, dried brown mint in winter

It’s no wonder the Vikings were the first Europeans to make a settlement on this side of the Atlantic.  Habitually doing hard things in a harsh environment gave these cold climate dwellers an edge over other cultures.  Their ability to shrug off the cold and wholeheartedly embrace winter survives to this day.  Though polar dipping may not be to everyone’s liking, at the very least, cold winters incite us to practice hope and patience as we wait for the warmer days ahead.

Last year's pussywillows

Last year’s pussy willows

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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How does such a delicate flower as the Queen Anne’s Lace manage to continue looking so fresh so late in the season?  Though it’s a favorite of many, few have looked deeply enough into the heart of the flower to see its deep red center.  Could the secret of its youthful bloom be found here at its heart?

What makes one flower stay fresh well past summer while others close their hearts to the cold winds and rains that are so much a part of the autumn of life?  Why do some choose to retreat into themselves while others practice a hospitality of the heart that judges not visitors and welcomes all?

These are just a few of the questions worth asking on a quiet and sunny Sunday in October.  Canadian Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner.  May you all find lots of things to be thankful for and questions worth asking.

The questions worth asking, in other words, come not from other people but from nature, and are for the most part delicate things easily drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
~ Robert B. Laughlin

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Living in the woods means I have to walk towards the horizon in order to get a clear view of the dawn.  Layers of clouds made this morning’s walk especially worthwhile.  Clear skies seldom give sunrises as spectacular as this one.  Who knew there could be so many varieties of pink?

Though many find it difficult to wake before dawn, I’ve always found it easy.  Even as a child I felt that sleeping past sunrise meant I was missing out on something.  Perhaps it’s because that quiet time of day allowed me to spend some time alone with my grandfather or my dad, a precious commodity when you’re one of five children.  Years later, I realized they probably woke up early in the hope of spending some quiet moments by themselves.

Besides silence and solitude, every dawn offers endless possibilities for the day ahead.  What will happen today?  A new challenge or the completion of an old one?  Even a change of heart is possible.  Nothing seems too difficult now before the hours begin to wear us down.

Returning home, the glow from the rising sun is barely visible behind the trees.  I wonder at all I would have missed had I not ventured out.

Did you catch the rosy glow of the rising sun this morning?  No worries if you missed it.  Nature has a back-up plan for all who needed that extra bit of rest and stayed in bed past dawn.

Some of the flowers captured the dawn’s pink light at sunrise and promise to hold it for you until sunset.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The dark silhouettes of trees stand in stark contrast to the awakening sky. Dawn is on its way.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
~ Anne Lamott

‘Good morning,’ the sun whispers to the earth. ‘It’s time to wake up.’

‘There’s a long, full day ahead, so I thought I’d make the transition smoother with a soft blush of pink.’

The beauty of light is reflected all around us…  if we’re willing to open our eyes to see it.

Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety.
~ Rene Daumal

For the mind disturbed, the still beauty of dawn is nature’s finest balm.
~ Edwin Way Teale

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The salt marsh may look calm and peaceful in the pre-dawn light, but there’s always some nasty business afoot that we humans aren’t privy to.  These are good hunting grounds for coyotes, bobcats, weasels and bald eagles.

If the herons saw something last night, they’re keeping it to themselves.

The kingfisher is also mum.  Or is he just more interested in this morning’s breakfast menu?

Surely the crows will talk.  Whether in the woods or the marsh, they can always be depended on to spread the word if there’s a predator lurking in the vicinity.  You can always get the latest buzz from crows.

But not this morning.  If the crows are talking at all, it’s in a whisper for their ears only.  It’s all hush-hush as the sun clears the horizon to announce the new day.  What goes on at night in the marsh stays in the marsh.

It’s just as well.  Today is enough of itself.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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When you walk in the woods, do you see the forest or the trees?  Do your eyes come to rest on the bark of the closest  trunk or is your vision focused on the woods behind it?

Similarly, when you’re walking on the beach, are your eyes scanning the shore for a special shell,  a heart shaped stone or a bottle with a message in it, or are you gazing at the horizon line?

It’s easier to focus on the trees nearby if the path ahead is tangled with vegetation.  The possibility of ticks in the grass or mosquitoes lurking in the deeper woods may prompt you to take a closer look at the soft new growth on the branches  within your grasp.

If the path ahead appears clear and bright, you may be more inclined to venture into the forest.

At home or at work, I often find myself caught up in the details in my surroundings.  My eyes dart quickly back and forth looking to re-arrange or make right whatever seems out of place.  However, when daily life sometimes becomes cluttered, as the beach is with seaweed after a storm…

I lift up my eyes to focus on what’s ahead.  (One of these days I’m sure I’m going to see a mermaid sitting on top of that big stone).

Our ability to shift our focus is a gift that allows us to be happy in any circumstance.  All that’s required from us is a willingness to refocus our attention, perhaps for just a moment, before getting back to the task at hand.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Whether you’re six or sixty, if you don’t already have a secret place where you can be uninterrupted by yourself, perhaps it’s time you found one.  Either in nature or near it, such a place offers you the opportunity to escape from the world for a few minutes and just… enjoy the view.

Your secret window on the natural world allows you to be refreshed and restored with a minimum investment of time.  You needn’t engage with anything except your imagination.

X marks the spot of this secret place in the woods.

Your secret place need not be large or spacious.  You only need room enough to hunker down for a short while to take a moment from the demands of the world.  A woodland setting is ideal, but  less remote places offer good possibilities too:  a spot beneath a special tree or the quiet corner of a deck, balcony, rooftop or beach.

A secret place beyond the sand dunes

Even a secluded park bench or stone can work.  The key ingredient is that it is available to you when the stresses of the day call you to it.

The view from here is especially magical on a foggy day.

As children, many of us had a secret place.  Perhaps we knew something back then about the need for balance that we forgot along the way…

I have a house where I go
When there’s too many people,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody ever says “No”;
Where no one says anything –so
There is no one but me.

~ A.A. Milne  ~ Solitude

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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stone beach

Finding the ideal love is like trying to find a perfectly symmetrical stone on the beach.  It’s not easy.  Even with so many possibilities, the task is more difficult than one would imagine.  And the longer you look, the slimmer the odds of finding that perfect specimen may seem.  Though some might appear somewhat perfect at a distance, upon closer inspection, it soon becomes apparent that they are not quite so.

That’s not to say that it’s downright impossible to find perfect specimens. They are indeed out there, but be forewarned that many years may pass between one discovery and the next.

circular stones

Whether or not we realize it, we also search for physical symmetry in other human beings. Characteristic of good genes and general good health in nature, perfect symmetry in a mate would likely increase one’s chances of creating healthy offspring.  No wonder we’re so drawn to people with beautifully symmetrical faces.

And yet, there is a certain charm and character attributable to the not-so-symmetrical. With perhaps an even stronger  magnetism, especially where romantic love is concerned, we are drawn towards the imperfect.  Why? One theory suggests that while our minds are pleasantly calmed by symmetry, they also quickly become bored with it.  Intrigued by complexity, when faced with marginally flawed symmetry, our minds are perked and subconsciously go to work to try and figure out what’s causing the disparity.

Although the human body is symmetrical in so many ways, the shape of the human heart is not.   Could that be a clue that perfection in matters of the heart was created to be elusive?   If we are to achieve any semblance of perfection in love, like the rare round stones found sometimes on the beach, it’s only due to years of surviving the pounding waves and stormy seas.  Now there’s something to ponder as we approach Valentine’s Day.

Text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The seasons wait for no one.  In Nova Scotia, this is especially true with our springs and summers, which always seem too short. 

Looking back on a summer that flew by more quickly than most, I notice myself scrambling to find a few small things to take with me into the cooler seasons ahead.   There may not have been any long hot days at the beach to look back on, but that’s ok…

Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

~  Winnie the Pooh 

Children playing in the sunshine, a warm breeze enjoyed while hanging out the laundry and flowers glimpsed coloring the wayside… these are the little things that will still provide warm memories of summer next January. 

Perhaps it’s their vulnerability that endears these small things to us.  Wild roses growing on the edge of a busy road…

Or tiny caterpillars crossing the trail…

Perhaps it’s because the blooming time for many small wild things is limited to just a couple of weeks a year.  

 Come the dark days of November, their presence will seem to have been as fleeting as that of a butterfly.

And the rising summer sun a brief kiss of light.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoyed the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved,
To have thought,
To have done?
~ Matthew Arnold

This post was inspired by Summertime written by Isabelle at Isathreadsoflife’s Blog.

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