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

dialogue

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