Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Three

Just folks live with majestic Fundy Bay views above ferryside Saint John, New Brunswick, where towheads learn to skip stones from their pops; one father throws a sinker, then recovers, skims a seven

I try to rest on the ferry but no dice. I’ve parked the car on an incline and have visions of the deck floor being covered with slick oil from the diagnosed terminal leak and elder Yanks, South Asian families and lifetime fishermen slipping and falling on the treacherous floor surface as they try to go to their cars at the end of the trip

But no. When we go to the car as we enter the darling port of Digby, Nova Scotia, I again check the oil. The level, mysteriously and unbelievably, is still holding firm

We’re directed off the highway to the historic Acadia way where we make two memorable stops

1/ At a pier walk farmers’ market, the stalls are plank-empty and there’s nothing to buy, a toilet with paper and places to sit along the shore wall, sights of crabs scuttling in the low tide mud, rivulets pulling back to the sea, the power of nature in a thimble of water, and sandpipers, not by the dozens but enough, and KILLDEER! I forget the name but then it comes to me, like a shot to the heart

 2/ Behind a lighthouse along the coast where on a clear day you can see the spit of land where the whales come, K and I walk down to a ledge, the wind with shards of ice in late July, mind you, and covering the shore rocks like a wench’s hair is massive tresses of kelp with not a seal or a sea lion or an otter in sight

Landmark churches of Acadia, French Canada, doilies on the sofas, tea for breakfast, poutine for lunch. Even the gas bars shout stay away

The English rule in Barrington, though, where we arrive as late as is deemed prudent, 7 p.m., credential closing time for the 44th edition of the Nova Scotia Marathon, a manila folder with our orange-hued public warning to be aware of morning drivers, a T-shirt that’s shriek-loud orange, and a raffle. We put in our names, and not even a loonie is demanded, and I wonder out loud if the medium-dog-sized rosy-red toy lobster, the marathon mascot, is the prize, and the bored teen who is alone manning the desk at the Barrington Recreation Center doesn’t miss a beat. “Just take it. Please. No questions asked

In Shelburne, Nova Scotia, we put our things in the motel room. And go to the one place where you can still get dinner at 9 p.m. on a summer Saturday night. The Sea Dog Saloon. With a red ale they call Boxing Rock

For dinner we sit by the harbor, one of the oldest on the eastern seaboard. There’s a skiff anchored with a Jolly Roger flying, and in the distance a lone mansion in the woods. K smiles under the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen outside of the Rockies and says, D, that’ll be my summer house, indicating the skiff bobbing on the gentle waves, and beyond, the house in the bush, my winter one.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Four   

Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two

K and my unforgettable motor trip last month had less to do with the big race, the 44th edition of the Nova Scotia Marathon along the exquisite blue coastline of Canada’s most picturesque province. Rather, it was a marathon of stories, of moods, of laughter, of drama, of infinite surprises.


Lunch at Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill, Conn., next to the butterfly bush garden with a butterfly caution sign

On an jammed but fast-moving interstate north of Boston, with the car windows open because K and I both detest A/C, a rogue wind literally ripped the only map we had that took us from Massachusetts to the Maine-New Brunswick border, and whipped it out the open passenger window. It did not land on a windshield of one of the cars behind us. Thankfully

Under a shade tree in the Shaker Village near Gray, Maine, we whiled away an hour in adjacent Adirondack chairs. We admired a cat – and we don’t like cats

Hours later we realized from looking at the $#@&&^ Mapquest journey printout that a significant part of our trip required that we take a car ferry, upon which we had not made a reservation. Heretofore, we thought there was a bridge between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that linked Saint John to Digby. That would a 49-mile-long bridge. The longest in the world is the Quindao Haiwan in China at 26 miles.
“Good afternoon, yes, can I help you?” the chirpy sales clerk at the ferry service said to K, calling from her smartphone.
“We’d like to book a spot on your ferry,” K said.
“Do you have a car?”
“What date were you looking at?” the clerk beamed. It was late on a Friday.
“Tomorrow morning?” K asked sheepishly.
Amazingly, on a Saturday morning in late July, the height of tourist season, they had space. Not much. But enough

Two miles inside the Maine-New Brunswick border we stopped at a visitors center that was minutes from the border. K wasn’t keen; she wanted to put some serious miles behind us. But we had no maps, and the car … In the past couple of years or so it has been reliable, and a week before had been given the all-clear by my trustworthy mechanic, but it was emitting a strange smell. Like burning rubber.
In Maine it was 5:55 p.m., but in New Brunswick, we lost an hour; it was almost 7 p.m., closing time at the visitors center when we left with stacks of maps and brochures.
In the parking lot I had a thought before getting back on the road … I checked the oil. To my utter dismay the dipstick was bone dry. K and I stood dumbfounded, alone in the empty parking lot, staring at the thing. Now what do we do?
“Car trouble?” said a middle-aged man, the manager of the visitors center, in a heavy French accent. I guess the open hood and our long faces were a dead giveaway. He had driven up behind us without our noticing.
“Yes, oil, we –  ”
“Here, maybe this will help,” he said. The man must have anticipated our problem because before approaching us he had grabbed an extra quart of oil that he had in his trunk.
After I put his oil in my car engine, the man gave us complicated-sounding directions, half-French, half-English, to the nearest auto repair shop. We blinked at him million-mile stares, and he said, “C’mon. Follow me.”
We did, of course. The Canadian Tire was open for business. Brady, at the emergency bay, put her up on the hoist, and then, shaking his head while wiping his hands with oil that seemed to be just about everywhere on the underside of the car, delivered the news: the rear engine mount seal was gone. The engine wouldn’t stop leaking. Eventually it will have to undergo a car-killing overhaul, but here, try some heavy oil, it won’t leak as fast, you know; yeah, four quarts at first, and use this seal repair additive, check the dipstick every one hundred miles or so, and hope for the best. Good luck

K and I drove on toward Saint John. At the first fifty miles, I checked it. The oil level was holding firm.

Starved, we looked for something, anything open at 9 p.m. in Fredericton. Out on the Trans Canada, there’s a 24-hour Tim’s, of course. But we needed a real meal. Spotted an A&W, shrugged, the drive-thru would have to do, but in trying to turn in was so tired that I missed it. Instead, we found ourselves in the parking lot of the Hilltop Grill, a steak and fern bar. Live music on Saturday, but it was Friday and there was still some action. Here, K would have her first Moosehead ale on tap. I daresay, after the day we had, the memories this trip will deposit in our brains, it won’t be her last. I can’t remember when it was I enjoyed an ale on tap as much as that first sip of Moosehead with K on the night road to Saint John.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Three

Running for Your Life: The Horror

 Public notice in the Etats-Unis/US waiting room, Terminal Three, Lester B. Pearson International Airport :

All passengers are invited      

      to enjoy our enhanced seating and iPads

while waiting for a flight.

                                     Restaurant purchases are not required.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two

Running for Your Life: Sometimes Not There!

Boston Marathon race bibs are brought to you by John Hancock.
Steamtown Marathon (2013) race bibs are brought to you by Subway restaurants.
Nova Scotia Marathon race bibs are brought to you by … folks, just folks.

In our personalized race envelopes, along with that uncluttered race bib and an Orange Crush-colored T-shirt, was tucked these gems, the second and third of seven bullets of essential information before we started on the Sunday morning race of 26.2 miles (that’s 42.2 kilometers in Canada):


  • This is not a closed route – PLEASE WATCH OUT FOR Church services, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s runs for morning coffee drinkers, men driving from wharf to wharf!
  • Shoulders on road – sometimes not there!

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood, Part Two

Running for Your Life: Light in August

After a marathon, the pause. And in it, falls light.

Training, in its obsessive preoccupation, is akin to grief. The person who deeply grieves goes away. She leaves the equivalent of the dishes from two meals in the sink, doesn’t dust her things or clear clutter from tabletops and counters. You may even seem the same to others on the street who aren’t privy to your personal life. But what’s around you, when you emerge from your “away” state, has altered.

That’s how it feels now for me, after having completed the 100-day before-and-after training for the Nova Scotia Marathon. Like waking from a 100-day sleep; in my case though, a slumber of my own making.

Crossing the finish line of a marathon, especially with a loved one there to greet me, is an indescribable feeling. That’s why I suppose in the past I have found myself back in a training head before too long. I’ve found that that feeling is worth every minute of the training, and the “away”ness that goes with it.

Because now it’s Light in August. Not just William Faulkner, the author of that title, a favorite of mine, but my own writing and “My Struggle” by Knausgaard, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki” by Murakami, “Subtle Bodies” by Norman Rush, Anything by Anne Carson, “Ecstatic Cahoots” by Stuart Dybek, art by Ai Weiwei and Sigmar Polke.

There has been a surfeit of running; now it’s a glorious time, in the Light of August, to restore and revive in the “home” – to read and write and sometimes, run.

Next: Running for Your Life: Nova Scotia Mood