Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The twenty-fourth luminous thing...

the long green fish swam  /  gleaming at memory's edge  /  oceans of sorrow

photo taken at Fundy Discovery Aquarium, St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, 6 June 2012 by L. Pachter

Addendum, June 7th

I think I would have to say that the twenty-fourth luminous thing was kindness. 

We didn't realize until we left, I believe, how much kindness there was in Canada—at least, how much we encountered in Nova Scotia. Kind, nice, genuine people. Good-hearted people. Smiling, friendly, well-meaning people. We ran into them everywhere. People who were happy to see us, tourists from America. People who went out of their way to be generous and do things for us. People who were genuinely interested in us and our stories, who told us their stories because they were interesting stories not because they wanted us to know how great they were, people who made us smile and laugh and feel welcome.

We expanded around all that kindness. We blossomed, opened, laid down our armor, became vulnerable. We forgot how mean the world can be. We relaxed.

It was a long, tiring day, the day we came back to the U.S. We were up at 5am to get to ferry from Digby to St. John. The ferry crossing was a bit rough and the ship was cold. We'd taken dramamine, which put mom to sleep for most of the rest of the trip. It made me groggy but not unconscious, thank goodness. Once in St. John we drove in sometimes torrential rain to St. Andrews, where we had lunch and went to the Fundy Discovery Aquarium. From there, across the border (with only mild interrogation from the guy in the bulletproof vest who asked me to please tell the government they needed more staff) and into Maine, where we fought the GPS all the way down the scenic route to Bar Harbor.

Perhaps we should have known by the approach. Fifteen miles out the screaming commercialism began—billboards, tacky gift shops, five foot high plastic lighthouses, dilapidated shacks disguised as restaurants, cheap motels and miniature golf courses every few miles. Where had clean and tidy Canada gone? The Canada of no billboards, only serene acres and acres of trees? We pressed on, still driving through cold windy rain. Mom mostly slept, and I fought exhaustion to just get to the inn.

Bar Harbor is a mess of tiny streets and we arrived in a bunch of traffic, following my scribbled directions. Finally figuring out where to park, we literally staggered out of the car and into the inn's living room. A group of three people were talking, and one man looked up and said, coldly, can I help you?

I won't go into the details, let's just say he was not the nicest person. Let's go a bit further and tell the truth: the innkeeper here is mean. I'm not sure what his name is, he didn't introduce himself. He did correct everything we said, including telling me it was NOT raining outside, criticized what I was wearing (a sweatshirt from the inn in Nova Scotia, just about the only warm shirt I had with me), went on a mini-rant about what a terrible place Washington, D.C. is when he found out we lived there, told me how awful it was I worked for the government, and said he hoped we were sharper and smarter in the morning. Yes, really. Welcome back to the land of mean.

We were stunned. And offended. And angry. We wanted to leave and go stay anywhere else but here in this man's inn. But I think most of all, looking back, we felt vulnerable and lost. We'd managed in our ten days in Nova Scotia to trust people to be kind and in return we'd put down our guard. We expected to walk into a strange inn and be welcomed, not insulted. It never crossed our minds that we would encounter anything but generosity. 

Walking around town we found meanness in other places, too many other places. There were some notable exceptions: the manager at CVS, the man on the phone running the park bus tours, the woman working in the bird store, and Rob our bus tour driver. And there was some notable meanness, too. It took us just about a day to figure out what to do, how to put the armor back on, how to batten down the hatches and put guards at the gates. 

We've figured out how to counter the innkeeper's meanness (be absent whenever he's around) and plan to enjoy a lovely breakfast tomorrow outside the inn. We won't take kindness for granted anymore, and I think we'll recognize it sooner and appreciate it more deeply when we do find it.  Perhaps it's the best thing that could have happend to us, his nasty mouthings, to help us see what gift we did get on our vacation.

View from our b&b at Smith's Cove, at 5am: rain and wind and cold, with fog on the Bay. What a lovely place that was to stay!

Ferry crossing: still rainy and windy, fairly rough weather out on the Bay!

Just leaving the Digby inlet

Mom tired in the lounge

container ship in the distance, from on the deck

St. Andrews, New Brunswick, including lunch at the Niger Reef teahouse, painted inside with murals of trees:

Teahouse by the Passamaquoddy Bay, I had scallops wrapped in smoked salmon....

Fundy Discovery Aquarium, in St. Andrews, is very small and just opened last summer. They have two harbor seals, one of whom will give kisses for fish (such a deal!), and about six or eight tanks of fish from the Bay of Fundy. The tanks are fairly murky and green, full of tiny bubbles, with light at the top that makes it look as if the sun is shining from above. The seals and fish appear suddenly out of the green gloom and glide silently by disappearing as quickly as they materialized. Most of them were enormous, sturgeon and halibut and salmon and trout.

harbor seals, above and below

The aquarium also had a touch-tank, with Bay of Fundy creatures in it—sea cucumbers, anemones, crabs, snails, rays. The water was icy cold.

Mom petting rays

Rays from beneath


Snow crab
Some of the snails in the touch tank are "intertidal," that is, they live out of the water at low tide and in the water at high tide. Because they're used to wet and dry, they constantly (we were told) try to escape the touch tank. We found one zooming across the top of the tank's wall, and moved him back into the tank:

Rescue under way!
After the aquarium, we stopped to look at the giant Monkfish sculpture and then headed for the states:

My room at the B&B in Bar Harbor:

Remember what the Dalai Lama said: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

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