Photos in and around Saint John

Posts tagged “fog

a standing ovation

anniversary gift

Saint John has made a really big deal of its 225th anniversary celebrations this year. I remember the Bicentennial — that was a party! But a lot has changed in the last 25 years since that landmark event, and the city deserves to celebrate its continued survival.

It’s more than survival, it’s “thrival”. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a new sense of energy in this city. Cruise ships are visiting throughout the summer and fall, and the waterfront and Harbour Passage area have really spiffed up one of our main assets. There is a vibrant music and arts culture here, and enough business and industry to provide a sense of well-being for much of the population. The community is active with all sorts of fund-raising programs and initiatives to improve life for people in priority neighbourhoods. There is still a lot of poverty and hardship, but there is also a lot of optimism.

This year’s highlights have included a culture festival, several musical concerts, a new arts awards celebration, a special historical celebration, a speaker series, an initiative to collect local stories, a mascot, a special community gala celebration, and the commissioning of a sculpture. And to celebrate all this, they put together a pretty impressive short film. Check it out: Saint John Arts & Culture – Then and Now. Happy birthday, Saint John!

Photo taken on September 25, 2010

waiting for the fog to lift

The fog has been constant this past week. This is a stubborn fog, and nothing seems to shake it. The rain came down hard for a short time yesterday, but it was still foggy. I could hear the wind howling last night, but the fog only hugged the city tighter.

And so we are waiting. I am waiting. I am ready for change.

I have been on an extended holiday. When my contract ended at the end of June, I decided that I wouldn’t mind taking a month off. It had been a long time since I’d taken a real vacation. The month became two, then three, and now…. now it’s October. And I am ready, more than ready, for change.

I have a job interview on Monday. Wish me luck.

Taken on September 25, 2010

Saturday in the park

It was foggy yesterday. This wasn’t the vanish-with-dawn kind of fog, or even the sun-burns-through-by-noon kind of fog. This was stay-all-day fog. As I walked through the uptown streets, several times the sky seemed to brighten and I thought ‘A-ha, now the fog will lift and the sun will come out’. But it didn’t. By the time I headed home again, I think I could see a little farther down King Street, but I wouldn’t swear to it in court.

But I was born here. I grew up with fog. I like fog. And most folks here don’t seem to mind it, to judge from the number of people strolling through town and passing a pleasant afternoon in the park. If you need sunshine to enjoy your day, you’d best move to Fredericton. But if you live in Saint John, and it’s foggy, that usually means it’s not windy. It’s calm and mild and easy on the eyes. And sometimes that’s just what you need.

Taken on September 25, 2010

keep the red on your right

A navigation beacon, a single oil lamp, was first erected here at the point of the South End peninsula in 1842. Then in 1847, it was replaced with this triple gas lampstand, known as the Three Sisters. It was refurbished in 1997.

Apparently the red colour facing the sea was visible for three miles from shore — a helpful aid in fog or dark. When coming into harbour from the Bay of Fundy, sailors would chart their course from the Three Sisters. The colour red shows the starboard limit of a channel, so they would know to keep red lamps on their right. If they could see all three red lamps, sailors would know they were heading straight into the harbour, however if only one or two could be seen, sailors knew they needed to change course. The street-side is white, so it guess it doubled as a regular streetlight.

In this photo, you can barely see a cruise ship docked in the foggy harbour. I’m glad these huge boats don’t have to rely on the Three Sisters to guide them into port!

Taken on July 11, 2009


When I was in my teens, I had a great idea for a story featuring Walter Snafflegrass the pigeon. Walter, having a bird’s eye view of the city, would have had all sorts of interesting observations. Unfortunately — or fortunately — Walter’s story remains unwritten, except in my imagination (where it keeps excellent company), but the idea of Walter remains with me. And sometimes I think I can hear the pigeons talking: “Coo…coo…could you come a little closer?” “Coo…coo…cool it, Romeo.” “Coo…coo…come on over.” “Coo…coo…ooo, you’re encorrigible!”

…or maybe they’re just talking about the weather.

Taken on August 24, 2010

between the sea and sky

Today is the day after Labour Day. Today is a good day to go back to work, back to school, back to whatever it is that got put aside for the summer. The days are getting shorter with the turning of the year, and they will go by quicker with all the activities that start up again to fill evenings and weekends. I find the hint of autumn weather invigorating — the cooler temperatures remind me of the excitement I used to feel about the first day back to school. There is a brisk wind blowing in from the sea, a wind of change and opportunity. Today is a good day to spread your wings, to let the wind lift you up and send you flying!

Taken on May 31, 2009

market slip

This rocky bit of shoreline has seen a lot of history. By tradition, this is where United Empire Loyalists landed following the American Civil War. An estimated 15,000 Loyalists arrived in what is now New Brunswick between 1783 and 1785, the majority landing here to found Saint John. They weren’t the first to settle here; this spot is just around the corner from a traditional Wulstukwuik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq trading spot and the site of Fort LaTour, and a number of Acadians had settled in this region as well. Those who had lived here before were displaced, having no “title” to the land.

As the young city became a properous port, this became Market Slip, where ships lined both sides of the pier selling fresh fish and other goods. Photos from the 19th century show a sea of masts and carts clustered around the area, and a line of warehouses that were later included in the development of the Market Square shopping centre in the 1980s (just to the left of this photo).

Now there is a boardwalk and hotel along the old pier, a mall with a line of cafes and restaurants, a summer stage, and a popular beach volleyball venue just above the high tide mark. The fishing boats from a local Mi’kmaq community dock just around the corner on Long Wharf, dwarfed by the huge cruise ships that bring hordes of tourists in the summer and fall. It’s a far sight different than what the Loyalists may have envisioned, but it still thrives.

Taken on June 26, 2009

foggy future

You are on a bridge, looking toward the future. What do you see? Is there a corner, or a window, or a door? Do you know where you are going, and where you’ll end up when you cross that bridge? It’s foggy over there, and if you looked the other direction, toward the past, it will be foggy there, too. You think you can see the present clearly, but it’s foggy where you’re standing as well, although it’s not immediately obvious. Just take a few steps, look back and you’ll see it. And you’ll also see a little farther ahead, each step you take. Don’t rely only on your eyes; use your ears and your sense of touch. Listen to the voice inside you. Follow where your heart leads and all will be well. All will be well. All manner of things will be well.

Taken on August 20, 2010

crossing Reversing Falls

The fog is so thick you can barely see across the river. This narrow rocky gorge is where the St. John River rushes and foams into the harbour mouth. These rapids are extremely dangerous, featuring whirlpools, strong currents and sharp rocks… that is, when the river is running downstream. At high tide, the river is overcome by the the sea, which pushes the water back upriver — this is the local phenomenon known as Reversing Falls. You can see how the current runs from left to right, instead of the other way around. The fierce force of river and rapids has been tamed by the tide, but only for a short time.

Taken on August 20, 2010

Princess Street

The fog had rolled in while we were enjoying supper in a pub at the foot of Princess Street. The bright afternoon had given way to a different mood, a more contemplative setting for our walk back to the car. The shops had closed, no tourists were lingering about. As we strolled up the hill, a few pedestrians walked quickly by, their heads turned toward home. It was easy to imagine this city a century ago, looking much like this, the uptown streets quiet in the evening.

Taken on August 9, 2010


I love the incongruity of this. The word “smile” written as graffiti. That’s smile without a smiley face, with what looks like an anguished face. That’s smile written on an alley wall just off one of the main shopping streets in uptown Saint John. There is irony here, and humour. It made me smile.

Taken on August 9, 2010

night walk

Yesterday, after the showers had passed, the clouds started to lift. The sun appeared, and the moist earth breathed dampness into the air. Then the fog rolled in. (Welcome to summer in Saint John!) Yet, I still love the fog. I love the soft filtered light during the day. And the fog halos around the streetlights in the evening. And the way it adds mystery to the darkness, inviting you out at night, to walk with the fog through the quiet city streets.

Taken on June 25, 2009

empty benches

Another wet day. Another dreary grey day. A day for staying indoors, for working, for listening to good music. It’s a good day for making bread, for knitting, for rearranging the living room furniture, for catching up on your reading. Will you play lively music to energize you, or soft music to soothe you? Will you linger at the windows, looking out at the wet world, or busy yourself with all the things you’ve been saving for a rainy day? It could be a good day for being productive, or it could be a good day for being contemplative. What will you choose?

Taken on November 15, 2006

weir at low tide

In the Maritimes, we’ve become used to hearing about fisheries quotas, disappearing species, the threat to livelihoods that depend upon the sea. A warm dry July has even brought a (temporary) end to salmon fishing in New Brunswick, as the fish need to stay cool in the deep pools, and they may overheat if harrassed and driven to shallower water. Of course it’s not as bad for us as for Newfoundlanders, who lost 90% of their livelihood when the bottom fell out of the cod fishery. But there are reminders all around us of how vibrant the fishing industry used to be here. This weir, its net bedraggled on the rocky shoreline, is one example of a rich resource people used to take for granted. No more.

Taken on May 31, 2009

purple dusk

The other evening we went for a walk. It had been a hot day, but the temperature dropped suddenly as the sun set. As we turned the corner, we could see why — a bank of fog was spreading its tendrils through the city, bringing with it a refreshing coolness. It was a lovely evening for a walk.

Taken on July 15, 2010


I think about why I left, and why I returned. I remember how I felt there was no future here, how there seemed to be few opportunities to learn and grow, to find my feet without everyone looking over my shoulder. Saint John is small enough that people know you, or your dad or your aunt or your second cousin. And I wanted to try being someone different, to try being suave or confident without people remembering my awkward teenage years. So I left, and learned to survive in a big city, where people only see what you can and can’t do, and are willing to take you on face value. And I discovered that I couldn’t really be anyone different than who I was, and that was only one of the lessons that I learned. When I finally returned, I found a different Saint John. I found people with enthusiasm and vision. There is a new energy and new opportunities. And maybe that Saint John was here before, but I had to come back with new eyes to see it.

Taken on June 22, 2010

the fog people

You never know with fog. Sometimes it hovers just offshore but doesn’t come any closer. Sometimes it closes in overnight and evaporates with the morning sun. Sometimes it is more dramatic, clinging coldly to low-lying areas until it finally lets go, trailing ragged white streamers in surrender. But most of the time, you don’t see the fog settle or lift. It is there when you drive to work, and gone when you look out at lunch time. Fog has a mind of its own. It comes and it goes, and you never know.

Taken on June 22, 2010

city centre

I have had the privilege of travel from a young age. When we were children, we travelled with our parents, and I have taken a few “big trips” since then. Somewhere along the way I developed a love of maps and a strong sense of direction; I can often orient myself instantly in a new city. There are two keys to that skill: one is having a good map, and imprinting the main thoroughfares and landmarks on my memory; the second is having a sense of the city centre. Almost every municipality that I’ve been to has a city hall at its heart, usually with a nearby business district and some kind of public square. The effect is even stronger when there is water as well, whether fountain, lake, river, or harbour. And in uptown Saint John, the harbour, city hall, King Street and King’s Square are all together, perfectly aligned.

Taken on May 31, 2009

St. James Street

When I lived in Ontario, I missed the fog. There was smog, yes, but it’s not the same. The fog has life to it. It moves and hunkers down, opens up and closes in. It creeps up from the cold Bay of Fundy, cooling the air, muffling the sound of traffic, softening the shadows. It can move surprisingly quickly, slipping into town the moment you’ve turned your back. I always knew, growing up here, that a day at the beach is not complete without a sweater, because you never knew when the fog would come in.

Taken on May 31, 2009


I was away from this city for a long time, but whenever I came back for a visit, I would take a few minutes to drive this hilly road. Highland Road does not go far, but it is steep and winding. It leads out from the North End and up along the top of the steep cliffs overlooking the Narrows, where the St. John River turns a sharp corner before flowing past Indiantown and Marble Cove and then rushing into the harbour at Reversing Falls (except at high tide, when the harbour rushes upriver instead). The road doesn’t so much end as peter out; the pavement stops but a rough dirt road continues around the corner. I know if I follow it, I will find the foundations of old houses and the detritus left behind by the people who used to live here, who settled along the river when the river was the only road, when the river and the forest provided everything. One day I will keep going, past the end of the road, and see for myself.
Taken on April 9, 2010

foggy park

I heard the fog horn sounding last night, and woke to fog blanketing the city. I like the way fog muffles the sound of the construction crew down the street, and softens the edge of buildings. In the summer, when it is hot and sunny upriver, it is often cool and foggy in town. I don’t mind.

Taken on May 31, 2009.


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