Friday, April 29, 2011

Small Town Charms All Around Today

It turned out to be a great afternoon and I had to get out of the office for a while and enjoy it.  I had some banking and payments to mail out so I headed to the uptown area.  I parked my car at a central location along Broad Street in Sussex and walked around to complete my errands.  My first stop was at the post office where they know me when I come in and I often engage in small talk.   Today the conversation was very humorous and enjoyable.  This was due in large part because of the great sunshine coming in through the glass front building I'm sure.  The next stop was Sully's Ice Cream for a lunchtime treat.  It was great..thanks for the ice cream Ryan.  The staff there are always friendly and cheerful and that is part of the reason why it has turned into such a successful business.  I sat on a chair under the eave of the Historic Train Station and enjoyed my "Death by Chocolate" and watched as many people walked by enjoying the day.

Next up was the Bayview Credit Union.  I know banks are not usually a place where one would enjoy going but the staff at the Bayview try their best to make your visit pleasant.  It is great to walk into a bank and have them know your name and chat with you before taking or handing you money.  The day was topped off with a chat on the sidewalk with my Aunt Sue who is visiting from Calgary and my Grandmother.  It was a great chat filled with laughter and hugs.  Love you both and you made my day and inspired me to write today.

There is a lot to be said about the charms of a small town and I experienced most of it this afternoon over my lunch hour.  Living in this part of New Brunswick is incredible and we don't necessarily need an economic boost...I believe we are making out just fine.  If further mining and natural gas is brought to the area then I think we should quickly plan how to develop this area and maintain the small town feel that so many of us love and enjoy.  We can grow best if we grow cooperatively.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thunderstuck in a Theater

NOTE:  This is a column I had published in the April 26, 2011 edition of the Kings County Record.

This story starts over a year ago when I gave my wife a gift certificate to the Imperial Theater as a Christmas present.  The deal was that we would go see a show of her choice.  The kicker was, I had to enjoy it and if I didn't I would have dish duty for a while.  I have to be honest I am not the most cultured individual around so I was a bit worried I might not enjoy the show, especially if she chose a dance show.

I expected her to pick a play or something of that nature and was surprised when she decided that she wanted tickets to see Classic Rock perform.  Classic Rock is a tribute band that covers some classic rock bands from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  At present they are covering AC/DC's Back in Black album.  I should tell you that another difference between my wife and me is our taste in music.  She loves the harder rock and roll and my preference is geared more towards country music.  Its not that I don't like rock, I just don't care for the same bands that she does.  Lucky for me, I do like AC/DC, as it brings back memories of high school hockey games.  When the day of the show arrived I was actually looking forward to it though I never admitted that to her.

The day started with my Mother-in-Laws 60th birthday celebration and it was a great time with family and friends.  Shortly after that we left our kids with a sitter and headed for dinner in Saint John.  We enjoyed the time together and laughed lightly over dinner in anticipation of the show.

When we walked into the Imperial Theater in Saint John, I immediately notice the diversity in the crowd.  Good music spans generations and AC/DC is one of those bands that can make that happen and the crowd here was proof of that.  There were grey haired men in suits and young kids with torn jeans.  There were older women looking like they were still living in the 70s while other ladies were wearing the latest fashion, not that I know anything about fashion.  It felt like a great bunch of people to party with though and the close quarters of the Imperial Theater had a way of making you feel like it was actually a party.

The theater smelled lightly of alcohol and cigarette smoke.  It was like the staff at the theater plugged in Beer and Smoke scented air fresheners just to add to the mood.  If that is the case it truly worked.  When the music started I immediately started tapping my feet and a big smile kept twitching my cheeks.  As the band played loud through the evening I couldn't help but look around and watch people's heads bobbing back and forth.  Some people were pumping their fist and screaming and I couldn't help but to continue to tap my feet.  It was great to enjoy an evening out with my wife and she bobbed her head, hollered, and pumped her fist to some of her favorite music.

When the band came out and played Thunderstruck for their ovation we danced like we were in high school and I was singing the song for the next couple of days.  The Theater and the band played an equally important role in providing us with a great date night but if you're not into rock I would suggest simply picking a show and visit the Imperial Theater.  The old style architecture, the coziness of the stage, the sounds, and maybe even the well placed odors make it a great place to enjoy your choice of cultural art.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thanks to God and Family on Good Friday

It is Good Friday and it has been better than Good it has been GREAT.  I woke up this morning and had breakfast with my kids and as I was doing the breakfast dishes I was cheered on by a warbler singing cheerfully in the globe cedar out in our front yard.  After completing some of the indoor chores I took my son downtown to do some errands, one of which was to get my fishing licence.  This would turn out to be $26 that I would quickly earn back.  He and I returned home and did some yard work...well I did the yard work while he impressed me with his artistry skills by drawing with chalk on all the rocks in the garden.

Earlier in the week my parents had invited our family up for an Easter lunch and so we loaded the kids into the car while the sun warmed us and continued to lift our spirits.  It was truly a day blessed by God.  We made the short drive and my son was out of the car before it stopped I think.  All he had been talking about was going fishing for the last month and a half and today I told him we would....after lunch.  He was very patient and managed to eat some lunch and waited longer still as I ate mine.  It was a great meal with our entire family gathered to enjoy the day God had made.

The kids went outside to play as the adults cleaned up the kitchen and after I was done I went outside to see if Seth still wanted to go fishing.  Silly question.  He came running the minute he saw me and hollered "Can we go fishing now?!"  We grabbed our fishing gear out of the trunk of the car and away we went.  Of course all the boys joined me, 5 in total, and we hit the first deep pool just below my parents place on this small 3rd order stream.  The water was running fast but clear and right away my son brought a fish to the surface, and shortly after that landed one before I had all the poles ready to go.  First fish of the season and he was happy to let it go. 

Shortly after that there was a double hit and 2 10"+ trout were landed.  This time I wasn't able to convince any of the boys to let them go.  I gave them all a quick lesson on why it is important to let most fish go but told them that as long as they were going to eat the fish they could keep 2 or 3 (the limit here is 5 but don't tell them.)  Fishing kept the interest of most of the kids for about 15minutes but Seth and his cousin Kyle kept with it and wanted to continue to explore some of the brook.  After trying the holes directly behind my parents house I asked the boys if they wanted to continue up the brook and they were eager to see what was around the next bend everytime.

It wasn't about the fishing, it wasn't even so much about family; though they were a very important part, it was more about the great spring weather and being on this small brook that I knew so well.  The temperature was perfect with no flies, the sun warmed the body and the soul, the sound of the water cascading over the bedrock was  comforting, the light breeze through the tops of the spruce, pines, cedars was calming, and the smell of those same trees was mesmerizing.  It was a great day to enjoy and our family truly enjoyed the day. 

Thanks to my family.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Pleasant Geocache

My sister and I were looking for a way to entertain her two boys and my son this afternoon.  It was much to nice to have them simply hanging out and playing the Wii today.  So after I took care of some needed work on my car, we loaded the boys up and went searching for treasure.  I had noticed a geocache near a local, Sussex Corner playground and decided to make a game out of it for the boys.  Before going out I showed the boys where the cache was located using the Geocaching website and had them memerize the clues.  There were some pictures to view as well so we looked at them so they knew where to go and look.

Once we got to the park though the boys had other ideas.  They simply wanted to go and play on the playground.  It took a bit of convincing to get them to go search out the cache.  I played a little bit of hot and cold with them and before long they spotted the hanging film cannister.  They were a little dissappointed that it was only a log style cache but that was quickly forgotten when I told them the treasure was the playground.

It was a great day to get out and have fun and geocaching is an awesome way to add to the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stanley Cup Dreams

Note: This is a version of a column that I had published in the April 12, 2011 edition of the Kings County Record.  
It is that great time of year when the Leaf fans are spending their evenings raking the yard and prepping their gardens while the Canadiens fans are glued to their televisions hollering loudly as Carey Price makes a remarkable save on a blast from Zdeno Chara.  My hockey season, much like the Leaf's is over.  I wrote last fall that I was coaching an Initiation hockey program.  That team just finished up their season.  There is no Stanley Cup, no big contracts, or promotion deals but to me it was hockey at its best.

To watch kids step on the ice for the first time is very entertaining.  Some were fearful, some clumsy, and some were just naturals.  No matter how good they were, when they took that first full stride, their face would light up with such pride and joy I couldn't help but feel their excitement.  They overcame the first challenge with ease.  From that first stride the kids made huge improvements throughout the season.  Unlike the pros, the kids don't suffer slumps or ups and downs during the season.  Every game they show improvement and win the personal battles while honing their game skills.

Another aspect I noticed was how many of them responded to competition.  I have always been a believer in healthy competition and its ability to bring out the best in people.  Watching how much more effort some kids put out to win a relay race and to watch them improve over the span of that short race has further affirmed that belief.  A child who can't focus their attention long enough to listen to an explanation on how to complete a drill, suddenly watches and cheers on his teammates as they run through a grueling relay.  If they lose they are more than eager to try it again in hopes that they can improve and win.  This illustrates how the competitive drive pushes people to improve.

Sport at this level is much more pure than at the pro level in my mind.  The kids at this level usually aren't even sure what the score is so they are simply playing to play.  The score only matters at the end of game and then, only if you can get their attention long enough to let them know that it was "a tie game."  Once off the ice the kids immediately start to focus on what kind of donut they want at Tim Horton's after the game.  They talk loudly about who has the biggest "Bakugan" collection or asking their parents if their newly formed friend can come over and hang out.  They aren't dwelling on the missed shot or the botched call by the referee.  It was always up beat in the room after the ice time which made it very enjoyable.

It is a great reward to watch a young kid improve throughout the season.  As a reward for the kids this year we took them to a Saint John Seadogs game.  I was amazed to see in my own son how much his understanding of the game has advanced.  This was something I did not focus on as a coach so he simply picked up this aspect of the game himself.  It is likely that all the kids were growing in this manner and so next year I better adapt my coaching approach.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Patience for Fly Fishing

The deer are herding up in the fields behind the house, the sap is running at the sugar camps, and the ice is off the rivers.  Time to get the rod and reel out.  This summer I have made a pact to get fly fishing at least once.  I have long been an avid angler using the bait and tackle methods but I have long wanted to try fly fishing.  There is something artistic about the casting of a fly over open waters to entice that big brookie to rise to the surface.  It takes a great deal more patience than what I have had in the past but as I am growing older my patience has matured and my appreciation for simply fishing for sport is much deeper.

That being said....I can't wait for fishing season to get here to NB.

See you on the water.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Inside Out Covered Bridges

This bridge near Damascus is dated 1914 and has stood prominently over time and sets a tone for its surroundings.

Kings County is known as the covered bridge capital of Canada and most of those bridges are within the Kennebecasis watershed.  Lucky for me I work for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee and I get to see these bridges on a regular basis.  To be honest I have probably come to take them for granted.  Recently though I have been looking at them from a different angle, from inside to out.

Over the last month and a half I have been monitoring ice and water conditions in the local rivers.  This often results in stops at the various river crossings, including many of the long standing covered bridges.  As I approach the covered bridges I still acknowledge their strong rural flavor and appreciate how they influence the mood of everything around them.  They have a way of making all the surroundings look like a scene from rural 1920s. 
This bridge sits in the heart of Waterford, NB and provides this area with a perfect rural character that makes the whole place more attractive.

The days I am out it is usually windy and cold so before I get out of my car I zip my coat up and then hustle to the windbreak and shelter offered by the covered bridge.  Once out of the wind I can take some time to observe all that is around me.  Of course the first thing I take in are the ice conditions on the river, after all that is what I'm there for, but part of the job is also photographing the ice.  Usually I will stand at the end of the bridge and snap a picture but if the angle isn't right then I have to find a hole in the sidewall of the bridge and this has led me to appreciate the new angle I have taken on covered bridges.

To look down the river from the inside of a covered bridge is not mind blowing until you really look at how sinewy the whole scene is.  When you are outside the bridge looking at the scene you notice the straight lines of the bridge.  From under the pitched roof of the bridge looking out, you notice how everything flows into the river with graceful curves and rolling lines.  Even the parallel lines formed by the skidoo trail down the middle of the river are curved with the snow covered riverbank. 
This bridge in Bloomfield, NB completes the country setting here and provides a welcome feeling to the landscape.

I set my camera so that the lens peeks out through a small knot hole and it captured the scene below.  I then started looking through the various cracks and holes in the side wall of the bridge.  I had visions of artistic style pictures from here but I'm not talented enough as a photographer to get the image that I wanted.  I had a blast attempting to capture my award winning photo at a number of covered bridges.  If someone were to ask me which bridge is my favorite I would have to say the Hammond River #3 – Smithtown, which is dated 1914.  I also have an affinity for the Trout Creek #5 – Moores Mill dated 1923.  This bridge is pure Canadiana as right at the bridge is an outdoor skating rink in the warm heart of the small hamlet of Waterford.

Rediscovering these standing monuments of history has rekindled my fondness for them and I hope to continue to explore them through my work.  Forgetting them is impossible because they have etched their curves into my mind.  
  NOTE:  This is a copy of the column I had published in the March 29 edition of the Kings County Record.