A Day of Wildflowers

G and I woke up early on the foggy morning on June 5th. We cooked oatmeal, lay our tent to dry in the sun, and admired the wild bleeding hearts growing in next to the picnic table.
DSC_0097DSC_0096DSC_0095These bright pink beauties hearts were just the start of the day’s wildflowers. The route from Louis Head, West Sable Road, was lined with lady slippers, mayflower, and starflower. We even found blooming blue-bead lilies and bluets along the fringe of route 103.DSC_0100DSC_0104

Lunch was a fried food feast at Seaside Seafood in Liverpool. After we indulged, G took a power nap right in his seat.
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Late in the afternoon, we came to Petite Riviere and the town’s well-stocked general store. It was here that we each bought a delicious beverage for the evening and were even ID’d, though neither of us have looked 18 in some time.

From there it was a short ride to our home for the night, Rissers Provincial Park. The wind was blowing off the ocean and there were few other campers around. We set up our tent in view of the water and then made our way across the beach to the Rissers Beach Boardwalk. The sand was soft and appealing, but it was far too cold for a swim. Beautiful seaweeds were scattered across the shore and I thought about “color stories” and stranded colorwork as we strolled.

 

The Rissers Beach Boardwalk fits in the landscape as though it grew there. It runs along one side of the Petite Riviere estuary with its calm salt marsh. Lichen-covered spruce grow on the upland side of the boardwalk and shelter visitors from the open ocean winds. We lingered for the golden hour before twilight and then made our way slowly back to dinner, drinks, and a campfire.DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0150DSC_0141

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South Shore

The second day of our bicycle tour around Nova Scotia started with strong black tea brewed in a Royal Albert china teapot graced with white trillium flowers, homemade strawberry jam on toast, and well wishes from our host. An auspicious start.

We rode from Tusket to Barrington along the Yarmouth County Rail Trail. The trail in this section is well maintained and lined with vistas.
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Our ride went a little less smoothly when we turned onto Oak Park Road. Our map called this out as suitable for cars with 2-wheel drive, and this was true at the start.
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This became decidedly Not True as we progressed.20170604_130855Deep puddles with soft sediment proved challenging. We even took our first, and so far only, tandem tumble, and then were forced us to walk Leonid for a few short stretches.

All our struggles were worthwhile because the municipality of Barrington hosts a must-see for the knitter-tourist: The Barrington Woolen Mill Museum.DSC_0054

Thanks to the knowledgeable and skilled staff, this small museum was a treat. It is full of the original equipment and even displays wool in multiple stages of processing from when the mill was operation, though this all looked more than a bit dusty.

The museum also houses a beautiful tapestry and embroidery made by the women of the area. The entire piece is made of hand-spun and hand-dyed wool.

The tapestry was meant to show Nova Scotia first three groups of settlers: the Acadians, the Loyalists, and the Scottish. We appreciated this, but also couldn’t help but think, “And where are the M’kmaw?”


Leaving Barrington, we met another bicycle tourist. Our new pal told us that he was headed to the Boxing Rock brewery in Shelburne. This sounded too good to pass by, and we worked our little legs non-stop until we reached the beer. There is simply nothing as satisfying as a good beer and a nice meal after riding all day.

Acadian

After driving from Buffalo, New York to Portland, Maine and then taking the ferry from Portland, G and I arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia just as the sun was setting. There was a chill in the air, but we were warm with excitement. Our destination for the night was a bed in the neighboring town of Tusket.

Our route followed the Yarmouth County Rail Trail for 15 km/9 mi to the center of town. The trail was soft with loose gravel and we were still unaccustomed to our tandem, so we rode slowly. To our either side, the silhouettes of spruce and fir were dark against the sun’s twilight glow and we could just make out the bright white blooms of apple trees. Spring peepers were singing.

Passing by the oldest standing court house in Canada, we arrived tired but energized.

We took no photos during our ride, but here is our view from the ferry.

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I have already knit a memory piece for this night – a tribute to the Acadian Forest, my favorite ecoregion. It is now carefully blocking.

Mental Maps

DSC00301.JPGI am interesting in how people come to know a place. This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time, but has been on the forefront of my mind since reading Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams (1986) at the turn of the year. Arctic Dreams is a cross-genre work centered on exploration of the Arctic landscape. In the seventh chapter, The Country of the Mind, Lopez talks about the cartography and the affect of maps on people’s perceptions of a place. He convincingly argues that geography is a subjective science, influenced by preconceived notions and personal interpretations and defines mental maps as “…landscapes that exist in the human mind.” Lopez says that mental maps are personal. “The mental maps of urban dwellers and Eskimo may correspond poorly in spatial terms with maps of the same areas prepared with survey tools and cartographic instruments. But they are proven, accurate guides of the landscape. They are living conceptions, idiosyncratically created, stripped of the superfluous, instantly adaptable. Their validity is not susceptible of contradiction.”

G and I have very different mental maps of the same places. I navigate by overall view, by feeling, by general sense of where I am in relation to where I need to go. In my own neighborhood, I still get confused about the which street name belongs to which street, but I know the color the each house and the types of trees in each yard and I don’t get lost. If I have been somewhere before, I often trust that I will be able to find my way again. G’s mental maps seem to be very quantitative. He focuses on street names and compass directions. He finds my sense of direction confusing and sometimes infuriating.

Over the past month, I am have spent a lot of time looking at Google map’s images of Nova Scotia. The peninsula and Cape Breton Island are situated at a specific angle, and I see Nova Scotia in this position in my mind. When we are riding, I will picture our location as a moving dot on this specific map even though I have also looked at others where Nova Scotia sits at different angle on my screen. As G will also be studying Google maps and Map My Ride, I hope that our mental maps will align. But before our ride begins, I am also trying to fill my mind with other landscape stories. How is the bedrock laid down, what is the range of red spruce, which directions do the winds blow, where are the Mi’kmaw canoe routes, what are the colors of each region?

As I consider how to map a landscape in my mind, I continually return to posts by Lori Graham (@loritimesfive), who shares her place-specific journals. I am also grateful for this specific post by Kate Davies.

 

The photo above was taken on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks in 2015. A place I never tire of exploring. 

The Edge of the Sea

As part of my preparations for our trip around the edge of Nova Scotia, I have been learning about intertidal zones. Growing up on the “Mid-west Coast”, my experiences in intertidal zones are few, but they are memorable. In 2007, I spent two weeks at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology taking a course in Coastal Biology.

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On our day off, one of the professors let me join him for a poke around a rocky shore near Coos Bay. This professor is a specialist in nudibranchs, which are mollusks without shells, sometimes called “sea slugs”. Nudibranchs are often very small but beautifully colored. I recall him scooping a small orange blob from the salty water and placing it in my hand. And then there was this gumboot chiton with its little white wormy buddy (look near my left thumb):

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My next memorable visit to an intertidal zone was in 2013. I traveled to Cape Cod for a company meeting, and had the opportunity to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore with a friend. Walking the beach, we came across mysterious clear capsules strewn about the sand like marbles. They were translucent with bright blue pigment in the digestive system.

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In the Visitors Center, we learned that they were sea salps – a type of zooplankton. (Check out this National Geographic article to learn more.) How many other lifeforms exist in the ocean that I have never even imagined?


The shoreline of Nova Scotia is very different from that of Oregon or of Cape Cod and has its own wonders. Nova Scotia’s rocky coast is bordered to the north by the Bay of Fundy. Rachel Carson wrote about the bay in the Edge of the Sea. She said, “…the physical forces of the American Atlantic coast are such that the observer of its life has spread before him almost with the clarity of a well-conceived scientific experiment, a demonstration of the modifying effect of tides, surf, and currents. It happens that the northern rocks, where life is lived openly, lie in the region of some of the strongest tides, of the world, those within the area of the Bay of Fundy. Here the zones of life created by the tides have the simple graphic force of a diagram.”

This “graphic force of a diagram” appeals to me, and I have already spent hours with my graph-paper, sketching knitting motifs inspired by intertidal zonation.

Canada Warbler

G and I are preparing for a trip to Nova Scotia. We are planning to ride The Leonid Meteor Shower (aka our tandem bicycle), the length of the Nova Scotia peninsula and the rough circumference of Cape Breton Island. We have been looking at maps, making lists of potential destinations, locating knitting shops (me), and gathering essential components for Leonid (G).

Our upcoming travels are already influencing my knitting, and last week I knitted a hat inspired by the plumage of the Canada Warbler. This little bird will soon be arriving in Nova Scotia to breed in the moist deciduous-coniferous forests. This hat, however, is staying here in Buffalo with a friend.

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On Ravelry here.

Snow Geese

Each March, our families and a few good friends make a pilgrimage to the Adirondacks. Last Friday, G and I got on the I-90 in the late afternoon. The wind was blowing fiercely across the open landscape, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

After two hours, we were north of New York’s Finger Lakes. G was asleep in the passenger seat and I was in a typical highway trance when a small flock of high flying birds caught my eye. Something subtly different in the shape of their silhouettes made me pay attention. As my eyes shifted across the sky, I spotted more birds until suddenly there were hundreds, moving swiftly west and north in loose Vs.

“Wake up! Snow Geese!”

There are few things that lift my heart like seeing snow geese flying overhead on a clear winter day. It feels like something magical and timeless is occurring. How fortunate we were to be in just the right place at just the right time to see their migration.


The rest of the weekend was spent on cold mountains and by warm fireplaces. Of course, knitting was present at all time, and near the summit of Mount Baker, my sister posed for a few project photos. These hat and mittens are for a generous family friend.

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On Ravelry here.