Those Were the Days

From 1970-1980 the local paper here on the South Shore ran a column called, “Those Were the Days.” It was written by a former school teacher from the area, born in the early 1900’s. Her column was quite popular among readers. It was reminiscent of life growing up in a rural setting, at a time many of us could only imagine. I love the nostalgic feel her column produced as it brought the past front and centre, and sometimes had me dreaming about life in much simpler times. Much of what she wrote about I was familiar with, but there was also new things to be learned about life lived long before I was born.

We say that life was much harder back then and yet I wonder if people complained less about the way things were and just accepted them as the way life was. Maybe they were too busy in survival mode, preparing for the upcoming seasons, making sure there was plenty of food and wood and hay for the livestock to get them through the winter months. People did not run to the grocery store the way we do. They stock-piled food and supplies. If they made it from one season to the next, most times that was all they asked for.

The author of the column didn’t speak about her own specific experiences but wrote about life in general; a time before there were TVs and when no one locked their doors, and how simple life was back then when so many of the things we now take for granted were luxury items. But I suppose it is like that for each generation that comes along as people run out to purchase the newest gadgets to keep up with the rest of society. No one wants to be left behind. We call it progress.

When we look back fifty years ago, we can see so many changes in our world–some good. others not so good , depending upon who you ask.

A book came out quite an number of years ago with many of these same newspapers columns in it. I found an extra copy of the book among my mother’s things and it prompted me to start reading it again. I’m not sure why, but it feels like a good winter read and I’ve been saving it for my treadmill sessions. While much of what the author writes about are memories from long before I was born, there are still many things in the book I can relate to from my own childhood. Rural life moves at a slower pace and it often takes much longer for us to catch up to the rest of the world. Not surprising, many of us living in the country have hung onto some of the older ways. It’s just a part of who we are. I suppose that is why so many of the things she wrote about feels relevant to my growing up years.

The author wrote about how fast-paced the world was back in the 70’s, which is something I hear echoed these days by many people my age. Maybe that is something each generation feels. I find it interesting that she spoke about how fast paced life was becoming and I wonder what the author would think of the world we live in today, where thoughts and information can be shared in a matter of seconds.

I have to admit there are many things that us rural people have hung onto, things that have been passed down through the generations. Maybe it’s ingrained within us. I enjoy revisiting these stories of life before I was born and oddly enough I feel a certain connection to it as well.

While some things are becoming lost to the past, there might be some hope out there that at least some of these things will continue on. I see a new generation gaining interest in some of the older ways. Mind you, it certainly looks different than it did in the past but that it to be expected. People are raising “urban chickens” and gardening on small plots of land. They are back to canning vegetables and baking bread, making soap.

This winter as I work on the edits of my upcoming book, I’ll keep this little book close for inspiration. Coincidently, my next book is set around 1920 in rural Nova Scotia and was inspired by a friend of mine who was born around the same time as the main character. I won’t yet share the title with you as it could change. What I will do it share the cover, etc here as things come together.

One last thing–thanks for taking time out of your busy day to read my thoughts. I absolutely appreciate it!

What’s Past is Present

The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.~~Albert Einstein

I love the way the past and present can sometimes collide into one, when years dissipate and we pick up from a moment in time, like a heart never missing a beat.

DSC03688An early morning rendezvous with two school chums this morning did exactly that for me. We laughed our way through highschool and we’re still laughing today! One friend remarked how we picked up as if those years hadn’t existed. While one friend was at my book launch in 2009, the other I hadn’t seen in twenty-seven years. Yup, I did say twenty-seven. Remarkable, that I have such a vivid memory of her from way back when I was three. (Okay, so I’ll admit that was a pretty lame joke,)

What I won’t joke about is time and the ability we have to transcend our concept of what time really is. Life constantly changes, taking us along with it, but some things remain steadfast. The outside packaging may alter, but our sense of humour, our morality, and the essence of who we are, stay the same.

Here’s to the past, the present and the future. I hope to see these two ladies more often in the years ahead. Twenty-seven years are definitely too many. Sherry and Gail it was a real blast.  🙂

How was your weekend? Have you had reason to connect recently with someone from your past?

The Wall

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Annapolis Valley. We ended up in Aylesford, the little village where I went to elementary school. That was a few years back. It’s a nice little village and nearly an hour by bus when I was growing up. One of the things I remembered about the village was “the wall,” where young people used to hang out. I guess all small places have their “hang out ” spots. There was nothing fancy about the wall, it was just a wall that sometimes had graffiti written over it. Not so nice if I remember correctly.

Here’s what the wall looks like today. As we came out of the drug store the wall was directly in our view and I snapped these photos.

DSC03339As someone who loves history, I simply fell in love with this mural. It’s like a step back in time, showing what this little village once looked like. I have no idea who the artist is, but I think this is such a great change from what used to be there.

DSC03345DSC03343DSC03344DSC03342Sorry about the ridge of snow blocking part of the painting, but that’s winter in Nova Scotia. This is such a wonderful idea and a great way to preserve the past. It helps makes us conscious of where we come from and how things have changed over time.

Down on the Farm

Come with me and I’ll take you for a little trip down on the farm, the Ross Farm Museum that is.

Not far from where I live is the Ross Farm Museum. I love going there. Strange, but I feel as though I’m going home whenever I visit. It’s that step back I time, I think, that feels so comfortable for me. I’m also inclined to think I write historical fiction for that very reason. It feels good and comfortable. I can easily imagine living in that time and place.

I thought I’d share some of the photos I took a few weeks back. There is lots to see and do every day. I wish we had more time that day because you could spend hours there and probably still not see everything.

It was a beautiful fall day. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. I really like the fences. Okay, so I like it all, the fences, the haywagon, the buildings.

I close my eyes and imagine the wagon heaped up high with hay.

Lots of wood for the winter. There really is nothing like wood heat when the wild wintery wind is blowing.

A peek inside the farmhouse. I’m not sure that bed is very comfy, but no one ever said life back then was easy. No luxuries to be found, at least not what we would consider luxuries.

So there you have it, a little step back in time. There is plenty to be learned from those who came before us. I appreciate that not everyone finds history as  fascinating as I do. In fact, I’ve heard many people say they really could care less. That makes me a little sad because one day we’ll be a part of the past and everyone, no matter who they are, deserves to be remembered in some way. We can’t all go down in history for the remarkable things we’ve done, but that doesn’t make our lives any less important.

Past or present, which do you prefer?

Blast From the Past :The Royals– 1939

Writers never know where their source of inspiration will come from. For some time now, I’ve been interested in some old Standard magazines that were given to us many years ago. These magazines were saved by my husband’s grandmother when the King and Queen came to Canada in 1939. Since the main character in my next novel was born that same year, I decided to make reference to this visit in the novel plus the captions provided little tidbits of information about the tour.

So here are a few of the photos from the magazine of the King and Queen from way back in 1939.

No wondeer the King has a strained look on his face. I would too wearing that head gear. * Note: I said “head gear” for lack of a better word. I’m sure it’s ceremonial, and hopefully something they did away with years ago. On the other hand the Queen looks a tad smug. I’d say she faired a bit better.

They obviously brought this poor veteran outside for photos. There were other photos in the magazine were the veterans were outside in the hospital beds.

The coloured photo is of the Queen with Princesses Elizabeth (future Queen) and Margaret. I think this photo is my favourite.

I hope you enjoyed this visit back in time.

I’m not expecting that many of you have seen these pictures of the Royals before. 😉

The Voice of Stories Past

I interrupt my writing this evening for an important question for you..

It seems no matter how much I write, or how many stories I’ve had published, there are always questions that pop up from time to time.The art of writing, in itself, is always a constant work in progress as we tread from the familiar into the unfamiliar. Each writer has different experiences, learns different things. Hopefully, we share what we’ve learned. Since I don’t have a writing group to ask these things of, I’ll see what you all have to say.

Here’s the problem, or should I say my question.

When a story is set in the past, let’s say 1930 for argument’s sake, and the main character is telling the story in first person, do we assume that the past this character is speaking from is the recent past or could they be telling a story that happened in the distant past? Am I making sense?

It seems to me that the voice used in the story would definitely be different if it was a story told in the distant past. Say if I was telling a story that happened to me when I was twelve wouldn’t the story sound different than if I had told that story a few weeks after it happened? I have to say yes. That said, I’m thinking it should be made clear to the reader that the story happened in the distant past or else, as the reader, we generally assume that the narration if coming from the recent past.

For me, this could become an issue when I write Young Adult if my character was to sound wiser than their years or experience might dictate.

So, here is my questions put clearly: Is it generally assumed that a story told in past tense has just recently happened and if it happened many years ago should it be clearly stated at the onset?

Head Up My Own Past Syndrome

I’ve been a bit distracted this week, my mind wandering throughout the day. Yes, my head’s been, literally, up my own past. I don’t know how else to word it.

I smile to myself as I pull out memory after memory of my school days. Must be this turning 50 or something. I’m not sure. What I am sure of are the wonderful feelings I’ve been experiencing as I’m called to remember things I hadn’t thought about in years— the boy the teacher made me hold hands with the day the class walked to the fire hall in the first grade, the friend I wrote letters to over the summer vacation, the girl who sat next to me in Math class—you get the picture. This week has been a bit of a “blast from the past” for me.

On a whim I started poking around facebook, and looking up some of the people I went to school with. After thirty years of not seeing many of them it’s been fun to touch base, and see where they’ve all been these past thirty years. I had to wonder if many of them would even remember me as I hit the “Send Friend Request” button. I was kind of quiet in school. I’m sure I didn’t make much of an impression. Miraculously, little emails began to come in, people asking how I was, letting me know about their kids, their jobs. They genuinely seemed glad to hear from me.

Living in a small community where we were bussed to school an hour away, often left me feeling that so much was missing, things that the rest of my classmates likely took for granted. I never got to talk to these people on the phone (longs distance charges) nor did we ever hang out on weekends or evenings. The only time I saw these people was during school hours. Wonder why I’d be doubtful if they’d remember me?

I find it strange that these friendships, forged in the past, seem to bring something out in all of us. They call us back to a time and place when life was much simpler, a time when our whole lives were stretched out before us. We were not thinking or imagining a time when we would turn 50. We were innocent. We were young. We were anxious to take a bite out of life. We lived in the moment. We did not have our heads up our own pasts.

So to all those who graced the halls of West Kings High during my school days, just letting you know, you were a pretty cool bunch.

How about the rest of you, have you ever suffered from Head up your own past syndrome?

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