Posted by: M.A. | September 6, 2007

The Thin Edge of The Wedge

Wedge Island is barely discernable on a road map of Nova Scotia because there are no roads to get you there. Although it is not truly an island, it’s tether to the Eastern Shore is so tenuous that it remains remote and seemingly adrift. It has been so eroded by the forces of the North Atlantic that it remains a mere fragment of what once was a formidable headland. Within a lifetime, it will most likely be diminished to a rubble of stone, an insignificant reef at high tide.
But for now, the Wedge exists, a reminder that nothing is permanent on this shore, defined by geologists as a “drowned coast.” We are drowning because the sea is engulfing the land we live on. It has been for a long time. The Wedge is a good reminder of that.
Something like a dinosaur’s bony spine of boulders leads a wary hiker from the salt-bleached fish shacks at the end of the road. If it’s a fine July day — blue sky, big and banshee above your head — you might slide your hand along the silky beards of sea oats as you leave solid land, then dance from rock to rock. Low tide is your best bet to make it there in one piece. Still, waves spank the rocks from both sides, slap cold saltwater on your shoes and spit clean frothy Atlantic into your face.
A good mile to sea and you arrive at this dagger shaped remnant of land, a defeated drumlin known simply as Wedge Island. Smashed lobster traps, shards of polypropylene rope as well as bones of birds and beasts litter the rocks near the shore but a hundred feet up the red dirt cliff sits a parliament of herring gulls peering down at you with some suspicion. If you scurry up the side of crumbling dirt, the gulls will complain loudly at your intrusion then take to the sky and let you pass.
Arriving at the top, you find yourself on a grassy peninsula a mere two feet wide where both sides have been sculpted away by rains and pounding seas. It’s a place of vertigo and lost history but the land widens as you advance seaward onto this near-island of bull thistles, raspberry bushes and green grass that seems to be cropped short as a putting green on a golf course.
Above, the circus begins. The gulls by the hundreds have taken full note of your advance as they circle and swoop in mock attack. They chastise and chortle and announce that you are in their world. None truly attack but sometimes they congregate in numbers great enough to block out the sun.
At your feet, hiding in the weeds or sometimes sitting in the full sun, are the young, pedestrian gulls — tan and dark brown speckled, they look nothing like their parents. Down puffy chicks in ones and twos, they mostly sit passive as Buddhist priests, trusting in the world they have known for only a few weeks. Solicitude must be paramount to avoid stepping on them. Speckled eggs still lie in the bushes, some already hatched and abandoned.
The intruder must take great care here at the edge of man’s world in this safe haven hatchery for the great gulls that rule this coast. Once you find focus on the first of the young gulls, others appear. As if by magic, concentrated vision undoes their camouflage.
Further out, at the very tip of the island, bare ribs of bed rock stick out into the sea. This is the same substance of rock you’d find if you could make one giant leap from here across the Atlantic and step ashore on the edge of the Sahara. Beneath your feet is the very rock that was once part of the super-continent that had drifted north to crash into this coast, then drag itself away to form Africa. The stone here is closely akin to the rocks of Morocco.
Wedge Island is a forgotten domain on the edge of the continent {and you feel the thrill of being at sea, on a diminishing finger of land soon to be swallowed by the waves. In the pools between the rocky ridges, rockweed grows in abundance. If you wade ankle deep in the water, you can feel the icy sting, like sharp knives against your skin, and marvel at the colours: russet and rust, reds and tawny dulce, golden golden fronds. White and black barnacles are rivetted to the tidal limits of the rocks and crawling everywhere along the edges is an infinity of patient periwinkles.
Sea ducks sit twenty yards away, bobbing in the ocean swell as waves slap and suck at the pebbles in the little sandy cove tucked between two bedrock ribs that look like the protruding backs of giant beached whales.
It is easy to imagine that man has never been here before. You are the first, perhaps the last, but on the way back, the truth reveals itself on the western shore. Not ten feet from a vertical drop off six stories high is a circle of lichen-covered rocks flush with the grassy surface. A manmade well. The water is deep and dark with long-legged insects skimming along the obsidian surface. The well is full, nearly to the brim — this seems impossible given the fact that we are high on this tenuous wedge of narrow land. The edge of the cliff is not much more than an arm-span away.
A survey of the surroundings now reveals two dents in the ground as if some giant has punched down twice onto a massive surface of dough. Two dents in the ground that were once the foundations of a house and barn long since abandoned. There was once a farm here. Fields grew cabbage and turnips. A family that lived on vegetables from the stony soil, cod and mackerel from the sea. No roads, no cars, but boats only for any commerce with the Halifax world. A way of life long gone.
In a year or ten at the longest, the rains and seas will conspire to undo the ribbon of land left between fresh water and sky. The stones of the well wall will tumble. Geological time can be short on this coast. The drumlin’s cliff will be pried by ice, and pocked by pelting rain. The sea will slip out stones from beneath the hill, the grassy turf will tumble up above and eventually the fresh water of the farmer’s well will gush out of the heart of the headland and race down to meet the sea.
Should the sun suddenly tuck itself behind a cloud, a shiver might run down your spine. The gulls will protest again as you retreat landward but allow you to pass, recognizing your caution with their offspring. Perhaps the tide has risen and you see that your path back to the mainland will be a wet one, hopping from one rock island to the next, ambushed by afternoon waves coming at you from both sides until you are drenched and chattering. And when your feet find their way back onto near-solid sand, you reckon that it is all only an illusion. Nothing is permanent on this shore. The gulls will hold the final lease on old farms and abbreviated real estate, then sail off to safer shores to hatch their offspring when the time comes.

Posted by: M.A. | September 6, 2007

Elegy for a Surfer

I was in Paris when twenty-five year old Kevin Shawn Coker drowned while surfing back home at Lawrencetown Beach. When I arrived back home, exhausted from a series of airline misadventures and delays, I learned of Kevin’s death and I took it pretty hard.
I didn’t know him very well but I’d surfed with him once or twice. He was from PEI, drove an old Volvo station wagon, and seemed like a pretty nice guy. He was relatively new to surfing and I gave him credit for working through his learning curve during winter conditions. In order to learn to surf well, you have to wipe out a lot. The dues you pay for winter wipe outs in near zero degree salt water is fairly stiff. Only the truly surf addicted are willing to undergo the punishment for the reward.
On the day of Kevin’s accident, he was surfing alone. Back home here, I went asking every surfer I knew what the conditions were like that day. I had this strong need to know every detail. I have this gut feeling that every person who surfs at the beach where I live is somehow part of my community or my extended family. So now one member of that community had died tragically and I wanted to understand what went wrong.
The bare bones of the story suggest that Kevin drove out to the beach on a pretty rugged day. A strong northeast wind was roaring, the waves were not great surfing waves head-high, maybe a bit more, and gnarly. A lot of wind up the face of a wave, a bit of a rip headed out past the point. Grey, cold, gusty and pretty ugly. Not a great day to surf. But the guy had made his trip to the beach, was hungry for waves I’m guessing here and went surfing alone. Something happened while he was out there and he didn’t make it back to shore. He must have been far enough out when it occurred and that sent him drifting (still attached to his board by the leash) in the wind-driven current that was pushing him away from the beach and west to where he was found by the Coast Guard in Portuguese Cove on the other side of Halifax Harbour.
I’ve surfed plenty of times in similar conditions and if I was home, I’d probably have waited for better waves, more favourable winds, or surfed some place else. This is all a matter of comfort more than safety I guess, so I don’t judge Kevin as being totally careless, or foolhardy. I’ve surfed plenty of times alone never something I’d advise anyone to do. I’ve had more years of surfing experience than Kevin did but had it been me out there that day — had I not had a book launch in France well, tide and timing could have done the same damned thing.
So what to make of this tragedy? Aside from feeling a personal loss of a mere acquaintance but a member of this tribe, this brotherhood and sometimes brother sisterhood of Nova Scotia surfing, I feel a tremendous loss of innocence. No one has ever drowned here before in a surfing accident. It’s even extremely rare for anyone to get hurt.
There were couple of stitches over the years when somebody drove their fin into somebody else while dropping in on a wave. Most of us have been thrashed, thumped and held down a bit too long by cold, unforgiving waves when he we least expected it. I remember getting smacked across the bridge of my nose once when I kicked out of a wave. A great cinematic geyser of blood poured all over my dry suit. I put my tooth through my lip in last year’s surf contest while crouched inside a mighty fine beach break barrel. But up to now, surfing in Nova Scotia, even during the blisteringly cold months of January and February, was not a life and death thing.
One haunting voice in my head tells me that if I had not been playing poet in Paris that day, I would have made a surf check or two at the beach as would be my usual weekend thing to do. If I had run into buddy suiting up in his old Volvo, I would have told him to go to the cove in Seaforth and save himself some pounding from the gloomy-looking waves. Smaller waves but more protection form the wind, perhaps. Too late for that now.

People, surfers included, don’t tend to like other people who give unsolicited advice. But I’ll do it more often now to kids who look like they are about to surf potentially dangerous waves. I’ll do it even if they think I’m an uptight old fart. I’ll do it even if they laugh at me. Not a big deal.
No this wasn’t supposed to be a rant about safety. Surfing, after all, is partly a business of taking chances. Trying to do a thing you don’t think you are capable of doing. Throwing your board off the lip, squeezing tight into a watery tube and then trying to make it out. Playing it a little closer to the danger zone than the last time. The danger is more in your head than in reality, but it feels good to push your limits once in a while.
A couple of years ago, a visiting surfer from South Carolina (he said he was an unemployed minister in a denomination I wasn’t familiar with) stopped by my house asking me if I’d rent him a board. The waves were huge that day from a hurricane going by to the south. It was summer, though, and the water was warm. I asked him first about how well he could surf and he told me he was a real hot shot. I couldn’t bring myself to rent him a board but I loaned him one and told him where he could surf. It was a place that I felt was safe for a foreigner. Even though he was a supposed hot shot, he’d never surfed a coast with actual rocks before. I told him not to surf the Big Left which was big and raging like a freight train that day, a place that gets its kicks from sucking you over the meaty falls and then pummelling you along the rocky shore mercilessly. (Sorry, I’ve given the sea a personality again.)
The South Carolina surfing minister disavowed my commandments and, looking for the bigger thrill of danger, went straight to the place I told him to avoid. He never even made it into the water. Instead, he stood in front of a great sea-soaked bolder waiting for some slack between sets for paddling out. Before that hiatus arrived, he was targeted by the biggest, meanest wave of the day that roared up gave him a forceful body slam up against the boulder. He took a fairly serious ding to the head and ended up on my sofa, just shy of a trip to the hospital. I decided never again to loan any of my old boards to strangers who thought they understood the power of our waves.

One of the great unspoken codes of surfing, and we have all sorts of unsaid primitive laws in the republic of surfing, is that you would always help out anybody in trouble in the water. Surfers have hauled in maybe a dozen swimmers over the years who got into trouble at Larrytown. And if I got smacked unconscious by my board while surfing, I trust that even my meanest enemy in the water (if I had one) would haul my sorry ass ashore and coax me back to consciousness with whatever it might take. But, hey, it’s a fairly sparsely populated coast and it’s hard not to surf alone if you only have yourself for company and the waves are a nifty six foot and peeling like crystal ware at your favourite secret spot.
I have in recent years slacked off on surfing what I consider to be big stupid waves. Cold winter conditions with relentless overhead walls, big churning piles of white water and no recognizable path to the lineup without punching through a dozen senseless walls of winter wave. Winter surfing is an inevitable package of pleasure and pain. Cold water, under water, frigid saltwater on the face for overly long seconds hurts like hell. My advice to myself on that issue is always the same: don’t wipe out. Stay above the water line. But it doesn’t always work that way.
The physical impact of very cold water on your body is generally hard to imagine unless you’ve been there. I try to avoid all that physical pain but without total success. Last winter my dry suit zipper came undone while surfing on a minus 20 degree day. I flopped into the sea after a good glassy ride and my suit sucked up half the Atlantic Ocean. The sea was not my friend that day but it garnered no true malevolence. I always have to remind myself that the sea is neither cruel nor kind. It follows laws of weather, physics and hydraulics or El Nino logic but doesn’t decide to give pain or pleasure on a whim.
Feeling the stiletto sting of bitter cold water and looking a little like the Michelin man, I slowly floundered ashore, still attached to my board, crawled up on the ice-capped rocks, lay down to drain the water out of my suit, then stumbled like a numb loser to my car and eventually a long slow thaw in the shower.
When all of those tragic victims were dying in the icy waters as the Titanic was sinking, I identified with their pain. I have had a good a taste of what it must be like to drown at sea in the North Atlantic. The actual intensity of the cold often seems to me to be beyond reason but that’s only because we were not cut out for that climate. Seals and whales obviously have no gripes nor do those little seabirds from the Arctic, the dovekies, who sometimes keep me company in the ocean.

So all I know is that I still feel pretty badly about the death of this young guy who had been surfing here at my beach. I care about who he was even though I didn’t know him very well and feel diminished by his death. I even feel a kind of responsibility.
On the surface, that responsibility is illogical. How could I have known something was going to happen and prepared for it? Illogical, right? No, there is a fundamental logic here that revolves around (corny as this sounds) caring.
So I guess this caring thing means speaking up when its unwanted. Giving advice, feeling a certain responsibility to other people. Complaining sometimes. This is the world and I live in it and whatever happens, happens with some thread of a connection to me. Whether I can change anything, give the right advice or whatever, I should give it a shot. Other people’s pain is, to some degree, my pain and I’d like to minimize it if I can.
I saw this guy on TV from Carlsbad, California talking about this thing that happened. He thought there was a problem with the bridge of an overhead part of a expressway. He heard an odd noise each time he drove over it. He thought something was wrong with the bridge but he let it go. One day, the bridge fell down and it killed someone who had been driving over it. He said he’d never keep his mouth shut again about something he thought was wrong. He became a great and tireless complainer in the high hopes that he could save someone else some grief.

I identify more with losers and victims and people with problems than I do with successful types and the obnoxious winners of the world – the sports stars, the Emmy award winning actors. But I’m not always good at following through with my altruistic nature.
Yet something about the death of Kevin Shawn Coker makes me feel more connected to people. And it’s all tied in to feeling some personal loss of a fellow surfer, a member of my extended family of surfing.
But I wasn’t even here that blustery Saturday. I was in Paris, staying at a cheap hotel on the Left Bank. I could spit into the Seine out my window if I wanted to (but I didn’t). I was there as part of another community, one of writers and readers, part of some gargantuan book festival called le Salon du Livre. I liked the family feeling of being embraced (well, at least acknowledged) by people whose lives were tied to writing creative thoughts down on paper and sharing them with an audience. And while in Paris, I hunkered down on a bench along the Seine and studied that brown, sluggish, depressed little river that has been so romanticized by novelists and film makers over the years. The river is imprisoned by high rock walls. The water moves along in a dreary European sort of way, without any real enthusiasm. It doesn’t smell that good. But it was the only body of water available to me and so I mediated by its banks and felt homesick for Nova Scotia, for an animated ocean, for waves, for sweet-smelling sea air, for surging salt water and for my next chance to go surfing.
And although I was treated well in Paris, I felt disconnected and anonymous for the most part. Not a lot of eye contact and people spend way too much time just sitting around in cafes and bars drinking minuscule cups of coffee or glasses of red wine. I would think that would lead to a sort of lethargy which is alien to the energized Nova Scotia creative mind.
So I was glad to get back home. About a week after Kevin had drowned, I went surfing where he had and I caught some fine early morning waves in his honour. I apologized to the wind and the sea for not having been around to lend assistance or give advice. I knew the innocence of surfing here was gone for good but I still felt a strong, powerful bond with the sea, the indifferent sea that gives and takes. And it’s almost a back-handed reminder that caution and caring were the greatest of human responsibilities that should not be shirked.

Posted by: M.A. | September 6, 2007

Winter

I never go surfing in the winter in Nova Scotia if the air temperature is below minus twenty degrees Celsius. A guy has to know his limit. But there are plenty of good days when it’s only maybe a flat zero or ten degrees below zero and the water temperature hovers between zero and minus three degrees. Wave density in cold water surfing is very interesting and I find that those light-water summer waves just don’t have the same punch as a good, heavy, close-to-solid icy winter wave. That, after all, is what winter surfing in Nova Scotia is all about.
Big chundling winter storms out in the North Atlantic conjure up powerful swells that hammer this coast. A couple of years ago, a big winter storm slammed the coast in the middle of the night and sent a couple of unexpected waves right through the patio doors of my neighbour’s house and into the living room. If it had been daylight, I or one of my friends might have been on that wave.
Usually, though, we surf off the tip of the headlands where you can paddle out without having to duck-dive through frigid water. There’s a nice point break a few miles down the road where you can paddle out in deep water, snake over into the line-up of say two or three surfers, and pull into a powerful head-high glassy wall of cold, clean energy. First, though, you have to slip-slide your way across big boulders glazed in ice, some with funky headgear of caked snow, and then slide your board out across frosty rockweed and glistening kelp fronds that welcome you back to the winter sea.
Despite the calm quiet beauty of this place, winter wipe-outs can be cruel as Central Park thugs. Seconds under water can be painful. You come up sucking hard at sub-arctic air and wait for the ice cream headache to arrive. Usually it’s just a sledge hammer to the side of the head and several seconds of wanting to ralph your breakfast. But it goes away.
Do we have ice in the water? you want to know. Yes. Some. Like the time I was riding a cool six-foot wall and ducked low when I noticed it was about to loop in front of me. I went for the head dip only to discover that a chunk of ice the size of a micro-wave oven was lobbing over me and my board. Fortunately, it slammed down into the trough and didn’t ding me or my board.
We’ve had ice pans slip into the break zone too on occasion. You can get off your board and lounge for a bit on your private little island or even try to make the drop on the right size slab of ice if the cold has made you woozy enough.
One of my worst experiences was actually this past January — all alone at sea on a sunny, windless one-degree Fahrenheit day with junior waves. The zipper on the back of my drysuit came completely undone from my overzealous paddling. I kicked out of a nice little blue wave, dense and just a tad slushy with tiny shreds of sea ice (the way I like them), and fell backwards, spread-eagled into the sea. It felt like hot knives stabbing into my shoulder blades. Full on winter North Atlantic filling up my dry suit. The seawater didn’t exactly drag me down but it meant I had to swim super slo mo to shore dragging a fair piece of my frigid friend, the North Atlantic Ocean. Without protection, it was mightily cold. Muscles began to seize. I waddled out of the sea and staggered across a crusty white shoreline of snow and ice-jewelled rocks. And then I had to lay head-down at the foot of the hill with my feet at a 45 degree angle tilting upward to drain the water out of my suit (and over my head) so I could walk the quarter mile to my car.
After that it was home to thaw in front of the wood stove and melt the saltwater icicles left dangling from my hair.

Posted by: M.A. | September 5, 2007

The Republic of Nothing (Third Edition)

The Republic of Nothingby Lesley Choyce

Like all great fiction, The Republic of Nothing speaks for all time. And like all great dramatists, Lesley Choyce can build a stage on Whalebone Island and bring the whole world to it.

— Neil Peart

A small island off the coast of Nova Scotia declares its independence to the world. In this Utopian world, the ocean delivers many a curiosity, including a dead circus elephant and a raven-haired woman. When the turbulence of the 1960s draws the island’s inhabitants into politics, the Vietnam War, and the peace movement, and when civilizatino lays siege, an unexpected character comes to the rescue.

Sound impossible? Not on Whalebone Island, a.k.a. the Republic of Nothing. Where else could a psychic castaway, an anarchist-turned-politician, and American refugees cultivate their eccentricities? This new edition of Lesley Choyce’s celebrated novel features an afterword by Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, leading readers to discover once again that nothing is everything.

The Republic of Nothing is published by Goose Lane.

Available through online bookstores.

Chapters.ca

Amazon.com

Posted by: M.A. | September 5, 2007

Excerpt from Driving Minnie’s Piano

Driving Minnie’s Piano — Memoirs of a Surfing Life in Nova Scotia by Lesley ChoyceBy Lesley Choyce

 

The headlands are covered with white, the spruce trees on top of the hills are green and the icy rocks I have to slip and slide over to get myself into the sea are glistening like jewels.

The water is cold (who would have guessed?) – just hovering below freezing. February and March have the coldest water of the year. The air temperature is a semi-tropical minus ten. (I’ll surf down to minus twenty but after that I find that my face muscles freeze and I start talking funny.)

I push off into the blue sea, knee-paddling while above gulls swoop and artic ducks fluff up their wings as they float on the surface.

I take long, deep strokes into the sea and pull clean winter salt air into my lungs. Soon, a couple of friends will join me, but right now, I’m alone in the sea, with a big smile on my face. Even though my journey to the place where the waves are breaking takes eight minutes of paddling, I feel like I’m a million miles from the claustrophobia of mainland North America. The high cliffs of Chebucto Head, far to the west, shimmer on the horizon, bolstered to near triple their height by the mirage effects of the winter sea. A container ship leaving Halifax Harbour also appears magnified like some huge extraterrestrial vessel. I myself am a tiny speck on this immense ocean, overwhelmed by how perfect it feels to be here, now, ready to tap the immaculate energy and grace of the sea.

These waves have travelled hundreds of kilometres from a brutal North Atlantic storm now wreaking havoc on fishermen unlucky enough to be working the tail of the Grand Banks. But here each wave is a work of perfection. I’ve paddled to my take-off point and sit for a minute, watching my breath make small clouds in the clear air.

 

The waves are about two metres high – “head high,” as we’d say. They roll towards me, then arch up into perfect peaks as the offshore wind pushes up the face of the waves, making them steep and smooth until they cascade forward, top to bottom, some creating hollow sections big enough to tuck a surfer into.

I wait, dwelling upon the euphoria of it all. I’ve abandoned the warm inside-world of work and life tied to the continent. Now I am drawn into this other plane of existence. I see my own version of the perfect wave headed my way. Three deep strokes and I’m off, dropping down the smooth, angled hill of water, an easy take-off at first but then the wind pumps hard against me as the wave goes vertical and I pull myself up onto my feet. I’m jamming a bottom turn just as the tip of the overhead wave blocks out the morning sun.

I go left and pull up higher onto the wave as it begins to feather. Then I do the usual: tuck down as the lip of the wave starts to spill forward, a pure two-metre waterfall. I’m shrewd, cunning and all-powerful, a small sea god in my endorphin-charged brain as I speed across the face of this blue-green wall of water.

But for some reason, I discover I’m not as clever as I believed. Sure, I’ve escaped from my office, left the troubled and vexing world of publishing behind me for now, but the sea would like to remind me that I am only a vulnerable guest in this winter domain. I am a player in the game but t have no real control over the rules that can change at any time.

I discover that my speed does not match the speed of the wave collapsing behind me from the peak. I tuck lower, adjust my position on the face of the wave for maximum warp only to discover that I’m too high up and fading too far back into the hollow bowl of the wave.

I realize this just as the lip of the wave connects with the left side of my face. It’s cold, numbing and as powerful as a Mike Tyson punch to the jaw. I’m sure I release a colourful syllable but nothing more as I lose my footing and pitch forward into a thundering mass of whitewater as the collapsing wave throws its salty weight from on high down upon me.

I hit the surface spread-eagled and then get slammed by the impact of a ton of winter water. Just for the record, water is more dense in the winter. When it hits you, it carries more tonnage. If it could get more dense than this, it would be frozen and then it would hurt worse.

Winter wipeouts are not pleasant but they are temporary. The trick to minimizing damage when working your karma through a winter wipeout is to dive deep and then come up quick. The idea is to let the wave go past you while you sink beneath the vector of energy.

The only problem with this is that you have a sudden craving for oxygen and the cold water on your face is causing your brain to seek asylum elsewhere. When you come up gasping for air, your lungs hurt and you feel the first sign of the brain-wrenching ice cream headache that is exploding inside your skull. Evolution has not prepared the unprotected human face for even seconds of immersion in water below the freezing point.

I gulp air, tough out the minute or so of the brain implosion and then get back up on my board and paddle back out towards the sea. I go through the checklist: I’m alive, I’m surfing, I will be a little more cautious on the next wave.

Right about then, a great army of grey clouds advances from the north and I see the squall advancing from the land. The sun is swallowed and it begins to snow. Because of the strength of the wind, the snow does not really fall to earth. This is horizontal snow, blowing straight into the waves, straight into my face.

I can no longer see the headland and can barely discern the next set of waves approaching. I let two slide under me and then paddle for the third. Paddle, stand, drop, bottom turn and then slide up into the pocket again, only this time, going right instead of left. All I can see is snow pelting me in the face. It’s cold, wet and creates a crazy visual kaleidoscope since I can only see about three feet in front. It makes the whole event that much more interesting. I have to feel the wave and use intuition to decide what it will do next. Luke Skywalker on a surfboard. In winter.

© 2006 Lesley Choyce

Lesley Choyce is a writer, poet, musician and playwright in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is the author of more than 65 books.

Visit www.LesleyChoyce.com for more.

Driving Minnie’s Piano is published by Pottersfield Press, distributed by Nimbus Publishing. To order with VISA, phone toll free 1-800-NIMBUS9 (1-800-646-2879)

Nova Scotia Shaped by the Sea A Living History (New, Revised Edition)The history of Nova Scotia is an amazing story of a land and people shaped by the waves, the tides, the wind and the wonder of the North Atlantic. Lesley Choyce weaves the legacy of this unique coastal province, piecing together the stories written in the rocks, the wrecks and the record books of human glory and error. In this true-life adventure, he provides a down-to-earth journey through the natural and man-made history that is both refreshing and revealing.

The story begins after the retreat of the glaciers when the first people arrived, and over thousands of years evolved the highly civilized Mi’kmaq culture. The arrival of the Europeans disrupted their life, unleashing tumultuous conflicts that would last centuries. Then came the power struggle between France and England, fought at sea and on land. As England emerged the victor, the Acadians were driven from the land they loved. Once the wars subsided, the pirates and privateers still plundered the seas, but the honest sailors and shipbuilders of Nova Scotia led the province into a flourishing world trade. During the First World War, Nova Scotia was again thrust into military action, resulting in one of the most devastating explosions ever to rip through a city. Decades later, Halifax was torn apart again, this time by military riots.

Here in the new century, it is clear that the way of life along this coast is changing. But while the wealth of the sea has been plundered by human greed, the dreams of life in harmony with the fierce, yet beautiful, North Atlantic live on, even as the restless surge of the waves continues to carve away the coastline.

Penguin Books published the first edition in 1996. Lesley Choyce lives at Lawrencetown Beach and is the author of 65 books including The Coasts of Canada, a history of the country’s shorelines. He has edited a companion volume to Nova Scotia: Shaped by the Sea titled Nova Scotia: A Traveller’s Companion, 300 Years of Travel Writing (also from Pottersfield Press).


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