There are times when you know that you have tempted fate. Yesterday I sent a picture of our first crocus to some friends in New England and Canada. At that time the temperature in Roanoke was in the mid-sixties, today it is falling through the thirties headed to the low twenties. We even have snow flurries along with the howling winds up here on the mountain.
As were driving home from breakfast at our favorite Famous Anthony's this morning, we had to dodge the wheeled one arm bandit trash cans rolling down our steep hill. The winds of forty miles per hour and greater had done an outstanding job of knocking over almost every trash can. The ones that weren't rolling towards us like small tanks were already in the ditches. We were lucky since we had stuck our can in the garage before going to breakfast. Our minor mountain can rapidly make retrieving something a real chore. I guess my Canadian friends can take a little pleasure in knowing that their cold weather has penetrated this far south. Sometimes I wish there was a little more of Canada than just the weather that could get inside our borders.
It is amazing how similar parts of eastern Canada are to southwest Virginia. Surprisingly the weather here is Roanoke is not unlike the weather we often saw at our first Canadian home in St. Croix Cove, Nova Scotia. We lived on the shore of the Bay of Fundy near Bridgetown, NS. The isolation of the small shore community perhaps made the weather seem a little worse, but the southern Appalachian pattern of rain, sleet, snow, back to rain and more snow was not an unusual one for coastal Nova Scotia. Even the persistent fogs that we had on the Nova Scotia shore remind me of the ones we have up here on the mountain.
The farm country north of Fredericton, New Brunswick, where we moved after leaving Nova Scotia was very similar to some Virginia mountain farms that I have seen in travels around Floyd. The Saint John River Valley in NB was not unlike the Shenandoah Valley of today. Of course in New Brunswick, there was far more snow than here, over twenty-three feet the first year we lived there. Even with all that snow, the black and red Angus on our Tay Ridge Farm (now the Tay Ridge B&B) would not look out of place here in Virginia.
Even more so than the climate, the people of eastern Canada are the same caring, help your neighbor type of people we have found in Virginia and knew so well before we moved from our home in Mount Airy, NC (otherwise known as the inspiration for Mayberry). I went to Canada in the early seventies and my wife, Glenda, came up after our marriage a couple years later
Over the years, a number of people have asked me why I ever went to Canada. That's more a subject of a book than a blog, but I think the answer is that I wanted to be farther from government and closer to the land and the elements. Perhaps the reason was a simple as I could afford some magnificent coastal land in Canada, and I had fallen in love with the beauty of Maritime Canada.
Maybe there was also a need to do what my father's family did in the eighteen hundreds when they crossed the Atlantic to come to a different country and start out anew. In the end it could be I just wanted to build something with my hands in a new place and Canada was the nicest place I could find or afford. The American dollar and the Canadian dollar were almost on par in those days.
It's was a great opportunity to live among people with a different culture who were willing to make you part of their world. Living in the Canadian countryside gave us an appreciation of what the United States looks like from another world.
We found as many around us already knew that when the giant sneezes, the rest of the world including Canada catches cold. It is hard to have a balanced view from any one perspective since in spite of what some would have you believe, the world has lots of shades of right and wrong. What is right for Canada, might be wrong for the US. Just ask any cattleman on either side of the border, and you will get two completely different answers in these days of mad cow disease.
Living in rural Canada was a challenge just as it is in many rural areas here. We were ten miles from a tiny grocery store in our first home in Nova Scotia and more than twenty miles when we moved to the farm in New Brunswick. Of course in both places we grew much of our own food.
While we are well aware of the weather here, often in Canada, the weather is very serious business. Our youngest daughter was born one January when the temperature dropped to a bone chilling minus forty degrees with even stronger winds than we are seeing today accompanied by a few feet of snow. Even our middle child was born on a cold March night when the temperature dropped to minus twenty Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, you don't fool around with the weather or you can end up seriously injured or frozen in a snow bank.
The winds today are exactly like the ones we had on the shores of Nova Scotia except there they rarely stopped. We lived in a farm house that was two hundred years old, built of hand hand-hewn six by six beams put together with wooden pegs. Glenda, used to joke that you had to be careful which days you took a shower because the winds coming from the wrong direction could make our old bathroom a very cold breezy spot.
Going out to breakfast like we did today, just did not happen in those days. Even Fredericton, NB which was just twenty miles from our farm had only a MacDonald's and a fancy hotel or two where you get breakfast. It wasn't worth the effort since the twenty miles of the inappropriately named Royal Road were usually full of frost heaves and pot holes that challenged even the most experienced driver.
When we lived on the Nova Scotia coast, the only restaurant within ten miles was a seasonal one, Alice's Clam Shack. Of course they did have the best fried clams that I have ever eaten. Apparently Alice is retired these days, and the closest to her fried clams that I have found in my travels at those at Durgin Park in Boston.
Boston though is about as far away in spirit from Saint Croix Cove as you can get. From my college days in Boston, I know you can live next door to someone in an apartment and never even meet them much less get to know them or expect any help in times of trouble. You can't be one of few families in a small rural Canadian (or American for that matter) settlement and not know and help each other. You will also have a hard time not getting to know your neighbors in a small Virginia subdivision. Even the snow storm last week showed how willing people here in Virginia are to help their neighbors.
Though we only spent a couple of years in Saint Croix Cove, we spent nearly ten years on our farm in New Brunswick. The people we met there could easily be rural Virginians. Many had small farms and worked in the city just as people often do here in Virginia. Just as farm people here will do anything to help a neighbor so would all the people in our small community of Tay Creek, NB.
When we sold our cattle herd and I went to work for Apple Computer in Halifax, NS, we found an environment even closer to that of Roanoke. The metropolitan area of Halifax in those days was nearly identical to Roanoke's of today.
Then we lived on a steep hill overlooking the harbor not the hills of Twelve O'Clock Knob and downtown Roanoke. But in both places we found great people and a wonderful environment to raise our kids.
Our oldest daughter played soccer in Halifax and at Cave Spring. Girls soccer teams are fun to watch no matter which country. Though I will admit to wearing a down jacket one July while watching one in Halifax.I miss living in Canada as there are some advantages to not being the main actor on the world stage. Sometimes I envy the position that Canada has as supporting actor. It gives them more flexibility.
I can look longingly to the north and hope for some Canadian traits to slide down the backbone of the Appalachians.
Maybe I can wish for one of those cold Canadian winds to bring down south a little more of that wonderfully Canadian characteristic of endlessly debating something before actually doing anything. Many times they actually do nothing or very little and the situation resolves itself.
Look at the crisis with Quebec. It only took time for it to really disappear in spite of all the talks of secession. Here we would rather issue ultimatums and never give an inch than talk about something. Whe we do something the hasty actions often cause more problems than they solve.
Canada operated until recently without a formal written Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They seem to have gotten along fine considering they are a country four thousand miles long and one hundred miles wide in a pretty harsh climate. They have even figured out how to have cheaper prescriptions and universal health care.
Most days it is a little hard to find anything we can agree on here in the states except the weather. Even the hope that I expressed in my article, "Critical Thinking"that we could all at least agree that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq seems to have been something of a pipe dream.
Of course that's only my view from the mountain as the snow flurries continue to fly here in Virginia and the weather continues to punish me for my picture of a lone crocus sent to Canada.
I can dream of seeing some of Canadian style debate on the issues that have almost brought the US to a gridlock of government. Some real debate would be refreshing and I might even change my mind on a thing or two.