I’ve had cause, lately, to ponder a generous gift bestowed on me approximately 9 years ago. It was the first time I had been the recipient of such a gift; after my mother had died in 1994, leaving me a modest house and some $ to get myself started in relative comfort for a 20-something-year-old, and I often found myself of the giving, rather than the receiving, end of monetary gifts. I hosted drum circles and dinner parties where the
Our final day on the Island we decided to go seal watching. The weather was somewhat mediocre, but we figured, the boat is covered, so why not? As it turned out, we chose wisely; the seals decided that this was the day they’d be out in droves!
No sooner had we passed the lighthouse enroute to Governer’s Island, a few puppy-like heads began bobbing up in the water, checking out the strange boatload of humans.
Before long, we reached the seal- and cormerant-covered island, and saw loads of seals slide off the beach and into the water, as though to greet our little boat of marine life observers!
Governor's Island is home to a colony of about 200-300 grey seals and harbour seals, according to the tour company's website.
On the way home, the captain stopped the boat near a lobster trap, and our tour guide and another passenger hauled up the trap, which had indeed caught a lobster, along with a crab, two starfish and a few other small fish! After returning these treasures to the sea, we were invited to “drive” the boat, and many guest captains lined up to avail themselves of this opportunity.
In addition to Golf, Lobster, Anne and Potatoes, Prince Edward Island is well known for its incredible beaches with waters famously “the warmest north of the Carolinas”. Getting beyond Cavendish and Brackley has its rewards: Fewer people/more space for swimming, beach-combing and just basking in the nature’s magnificent tranquility by the sea, for example.
And some (myself included) would argue that the lesser-known beaches are even better than the more commonly visited central tourist spots.
Below are a few of our family’s favourites:
St Pete’s Lighthouse Beach
A short bike ride from our place will take the reader to a little dirt road called “Lighthouse Road” and leading to – you guessed it – the lighthouse!
Thanks to shifting sands over the years, the lighthouse is now located on the land side of a beautiful, grassy dune. Cross the dune, and you find yourself at the ocean, and a georgeous, sandy, white beach. This has invariably become the beach we visit on the first night of our arrival in PEI each summer, and it is one of our favourites throughout the season as well.
The beagle and I have often walked back along the water to “our beach” from the St Pete’s lighthouse beach.
A short distance further west along the north shore is “Clarence’s Beach”, thus nick-named for Clarence McKewan, the grandfather of our next-door-neighbour, and the farmer who owns (owned) much of the land in the St Pete’s Harbour area.
Clarence’s Beach is defined by an incredibly huge sand dune, and an increasingly large smattering of cars jammed up along the sides of the red dirt path that leads off the main road to the dune/beach.
This beach, too, connects to "our" beach, though the walk is a little longer, just over an hour at a moderate pace with doggie in tow.
Greenwich Boardwalk and Beach
Nature lovers may enjoy a 15-minute drive, just around the Bay, to the Greenwich dune which we see from our house.
Greenwich actually consists of two beaches, both excellent, plus an interpretive centre, also worth checking out. I would recommend at least two days devoted to Greenwich, as it is not possible to properly inhale all that this beautiful site has to offer in just one visit.
We often start at the interpretive centre, which offers information, education and entertainment free of charge for visitors of all ages, and then head over to the beach, which is just across a short boardwalk and past a tall outlook tower. A covered picnic house also exists for those who want to make a day of it, and share a meal together, with shelter.
The other day is spent at the Boardwalk, which is actually a longer trail, through a field, then a forest, and finally across a floating boardwalk across the dunes and marshes. This trail also ends up at a beach, where we spent several hours this past week swimming in the salty ocean waves. The trail itself is lined with raspberries, and we enjoyed a refreshing, self-picked snack on the way back to the car from the beach!
The photos above were all taken at Greenwich.
Basin Head/Singing Sands
About 20 minutes east of Souris is Basin Head Beach, which offers two particularly interesting attractions. The first is the bridge, on which is posted a large sign that reads, “Current is dangerous. NO jumping from the bridge!”, and from which children and adults alike jump like lemurs into the current that carries them out into the sand-bank-studded ocean. The second attraction at Basin Head is a large depository of “singing sands”, on the higher and drier part of the beach, which – when crunched along in bare feet -- make a unique squeaking (or “singing”) sound.
If ocean is what you’re after, you really can’t go wrong with PEI. From the red beaches of the south shore to the white sands and dunes along the north and all the combinations in between, the Island is a treasure trove for the beach-lover. So, grab your bathing suit, and head out to the ocean, quick, before it gets too cold!!
If you’re “from away”, finding a church in PEI can prove to be an interesting challenge.
Although the little white country churches are a dime a dozen, in general, the places of worship here model the considerably more conservative mindset of the Island way. That attractive, small town feel that seems “charming” in day-to-day summer living on the island, can seem at times oppressive and narrowminded from the perspective of those sitting in the church pews on a Sunday morning, especially if one is used to the more liberal approach of a pastor who examines the scriptures from the critical lens commensurate with a large and diverse urban centre like Toronto.
But towards the end of last summer, our PEI “church shopping” mission paid off, and we located a mid-sized United church in the heart of Charlottetown, with just the right blend of tradition and liberalism. The pastor (who it turns out is a contemporary of Brent Hawkes’ at MCCT) is at once a model of PEI gentleness, welcoming and kind towards children and adults alike, yet also a leader of his flock in examining the Book in a way that is strong, unapologetic, and – by PEI standards in our experience – rather openminded.
On a recent Sunday, we had the privilege of listening to him speak on the Christian perspective of a wants- vs needs-driven economy.
Not necessarily a new concept, but one which Christians in particular should examine regularly and hold themselves accountable about, he spoke of the Advertising industry's endeavour to create a need for things we never knew we "needed". (I immediately found illustrations in the supermarket when we went grocery shopping later that day, where I stumbled across ice-makers in a bag, several enticing brands of cookies, and a fancy new cutting board, all of which I was convinced we needed back at the house, until I forced myself to examine each item more closely and realise that in fact the world would not stop turning if I didn’t purchase these items!)
Sometimes our wants and needs can seem inextricably interoven. In examining what we "need", we may of course look beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter; John 6:35 speaks of the “bread of life”.
Our pastor pointed out that in making the claims that Christ does in this passage, he was confirming for his followers of the day that “to be involved with Jesus is to be involved with someone counter cultural”: Food (and often, lack thereof) played a major part in human day-to-day "business" at that time in history (Indeed, it continues to do so in many parts of the world still, and interestingly, today’s North American main-stream society continues to be consumed with the process of buying, preparing and eating food, even where it exists in abundance, and not necessarily in nutritionally valuable measure—witness the “super-size me” processed food culture in which so many of us find ourselves entrenched!)
Historically, physical bread has played a key role in religions of all kinds. (Take, for example, the illustrations of Sikh anti-caste meal sharing, Christian Communion, Muslim Halal and Jewish Kosher foods). Apart from the fact that people were just hungry and needed to eat in order to sustain themselves physically, this actual “bread” was shrouded in rules and rituals. Now along came this man, Jesus, who spoke of a spiritual bread, a “bread of life” that was somehow not the physical sustenance that played such a major role in people’s lives then as it continues to today, but rather “a food that endures to eternal life”. (v 27)
Was/is this “bread of life” something we need? Or something we want? Or both?
What Jesus was demanding of people in John 6 was in essence that they challenge themselves with the ultimate question about materialism:
Are we more than simply physical beings?
It is a question that continues to percolate in the minds of many today as they examine what it is to interact with the "bread of life", while others continue, seemingly oblivious, to consume their manna like crackers out of a box on sale at the local grocery store.
This spiritual quest to push beyond the “material” manifests itself not only inside churches, mosques and other places of worship, but in the secular world as well: I am reminded of two people I know who like to read bits and pieces on their mobile devices: One enjoys Discovery Magazine’s App, which informs the reader of recent developments in the scientific community. The other prefers to ingest snippets from websites like Facebook, enjoying such engaging tidbits as new, bacon-coloured nail enamel.
One wonders which of these two “meals” offers more spiritual sustenance, more cause for reflection, more drive to change oneself and one’s world.
Considering bacon nail polish vs the discovery of the God gene inevitably forces one to ponder that age-old question, “What is the point of all this which is ultimately lost?” (More commonly referred to as “you can't take it with you”.) Which do we “need” more, the information about how to fancify one’s fingernails, or the emerging discovieries and theories on the formation of the universe?
Jesus, in his passage pronouncing himself as “the Bread of Life”, forces us to ask ourselves this question: How will we prepare for the afterlife? How will we nourish our souls in such a way that we will not starve? As he notes in verse 27 of John 6, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures”.
Even if one doesn’t believe in life after death, surely one must agree that a life spent in thoughtful, perhaps communal, breaking of bread, both physical and spiritual, is of more intrinsic value than one spent stuffing oneself with fast food while racing from one distraction to the next. From a purely practical perspective, one set of choices leaves the world we inhabit for a short time in better stead for its next inhabitants (often our own biological children) than the other. Focussing on our needs, or "streamlining", rather than fulfilling our ever-perishable wants, seems to me the more environmentally sound choice (and one which I myself am often guilty of not making!)
It amazes me that some people seem to drift through life without ever considering the call to draw near to the Bread of Life. How can one resist Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, when the invitation is so welcoming? “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (v 40)
When Christ notes in apparently contradictory fashion later in the passage (v 44) that “no one can come to [Him] unless the Father draws them”, the temptation may arise to consider a more Calvinist approach to Christianity, as our PEI pastor pointed out in his sermon that Sunday morning. "Autonomy” vs predestination is a theme that concerns atheists and believers alike.
It seems to me, though, that this passage serves as an illustration of God’s universal love and compassion: He *does* draw all of us, but because we are imbued with the will to choose, some of us will choose not to follow. Both the bacon-themed nail polish, and the news on the discovery of the God particle compell us to take notice. But which will we choose to expend our energy? Which will we think about, forward to friends and family, discuss with others... which will change how we live our lives?
The great tragedy of life, in my opinion, is that rather than eat regular meals of the much-needed bread of life, many of us continue instead to succumb to our wants, and consume the junk food of the world.
Although the concepts of the sermon in question were not particularly new or difficult to comprehend, they challenged me to consider how I spend my time and mental energy, and I am grateful for it.
Finally found a little red bison geocache that had been troubling us for some time… My girlfriend, one of my sons and I had looked for over an hour last year, to no avail. We were convinced it had been moved or stolen.
As it turned out, we were wrong: Since we left the island, five more people found this little cache stashed at Red Head Harbour near St Pete’s Harbour, PEI.
So, we were determined to find it ourselves this year!
Trevor, Tats, the boys and I climbed on our bikes, and set out for Red Head. We decided to try and take the washed-out road that united, in swampy and sometimes impenetrable slendour, our Harbour with the small fishing inlet of Red Head. The road is no longer in general use, but when the tide is out, especially during a dry summer like this one, the muddy, marshy path becomes sufficiently negotiable for humans, and even bikes, though we did have to dismount and encourage the our two-wheeled companions along through some of the swampier parts of the road.
Once we had safely arrived on the other side, we stowed our bikes between two lobster shacks, and began snooping around.
Our geocaching experience over the past year had taught us what a “bison” looks like (indeed, we had found one at confederation bridge, on our way home, at the end of last summer, and several since that time). We had also experienced the frustration of GPS coordinates that—for whatever reason—were slightly “off”.
So we reconsulted the information and clue given on the geocaching website, and widened our search circle.
It was not long before Alex located the tiny cache, cleverly hidden I won’t say where (so that other cachers reading this blog won’t have their experience ruined by a spoiler!), and we celebrated our victorious discovery with smiles and photos before heading back – this time along the main road, and stopping to visit a friend who had just picked a bunch of wild blueberries to share (yum!) -- to Morell for icecream on our way home.
(click images to enlarge)
Miraculously, I not only passed my PPAER re-write at the Moncton Flight College, but actually did quite well! And although I will have to really focus in the fall to get my flight training done whenever I have some free time (so that I can complete my flight test before Christmas), I do feel a great sense of relief and optimism, and a need for a temporary break from "studying" -- onwards to real vacation time now!!!
Trevor, the boys and I spent the afternoon at Magic Mountain, a water fun park in town, before heading back to the Island, where a friend from Mimico had arrived with her son for a week-long stay, and Tatsy flew in the next day to join us, too, for the rest of the summer.
Lazy days around the cottage, breakfast with visiting former students and student teachers, and late night conversations with friends and neighbours in the sun porch are aggravated only by mosquitoes that sneak into the house and insist on waking the kids up just after the adults have drifted off to sleep, making for some very disturbing nights!
Happily, there is no "work" and we have very few commitments during the days, so we can recover at least some of our lost sleep via long naps in the hammock while the boys play endless games or watch a movie, and with more adults than kids in the house, there is always someone to "help" when needed.
Ahhhh, summer! How I relish your gifts of (mostly) peaceful restoration!
...and we must run back along the beach to the boardwalk, where we hope to reach the parking lot before the lights go out completely.
The incessant plague of mosquitoes along the way remind us that we are not the only sample of God’s creatures enjoying the sunset on the beach this evening!
Sat morning in PEI means breakfast at Outriders with the rest of the pilots on the island, and this week, Simon joined me at Cablehead, from whence owner Jim Whitty kindly flew us from his airpark to CYYG.
Enroute, Simon spontaneously pointed out our house (I guess he recognized the Greenwhich Dune and Redhead Harbour from overhead, and deduced the location of our road)!
At Ch’town, we got to see a big plane up close, as West Jet’s morning flight to Toronto was just taking off. We also had the opportunity to poke around in the general aviation hangars, and check out the local happenings.
Eager to explore the western part of the island, the boys and I embarked on a three-day mini-adventure through Acadian country (Crapaud, Miscouche), ending at the Mill River Resort, near O’Leary. Primarily a golf destination, the Mill River is a Rodd-run resort that also caters to families, though most of the “family” amenities are showing their age and would benefit from an update. (But, it is attractively priced accordingly.)
After enjoying an evening of swimming pool and water slide, it was off to dinner (average at best) in the resort restaurant, followed by ping-pong and billiards in the games room.
The next morning, we were delighted (and a bit puzzled) to discover that we were apparently the hotel’s “guest of the day”, whatever that meant!
The overcast skies did not dissuade us from picking up our prearranged picnic basket and family pass, and heading over to the nearby waterpark – the Mill River Fun Park – where the boys and I enjoyed several water slides and a round of mini-golf.
Cold and shivering from the water and the less-than-balmy temperatures, we decided to enjoy our picnic lunch in the car. And it was a good thing we did so, because it immediately started to rain!
(click any image below to enlarge)
Upon returning to our room, we discovered a treat-filled gift pack waiting for us on the bed, with a little “Guest of the Day” gift tag attached. Ha! So that’s what it means!
We decided to save the treats for our long drive back to St Pete’s tomorrow.
While the boys busied themselves with various sticker, colouring and activity books I had wisely prepacked for them, I did a little studying for my upcoming pilot exam re-write, and took a nap. Then it was time for a return visit to the resort’s pool and water slide before our last supper!
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera now focuses most of her written attention to prolific blogging, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and, more recently, SMARTbansho and Homeschooling 4. Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
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