Posts tagged ‘vacation 2011’

The Tumble Time

Eastern people lay
Like eastern people do
Waiting for the tumble time
Like tumble time people do.
Away on their skiffs, digging for clams
Boil them up and eat them raw
See the salty-spiced splake awake?
Seals and meals, the mackerel they take.
No clam bake, no first mate
Use the seized rod, no need for bait.
Waiting for the tumble-time.

A Low Key Visit

When it seems like your activity-filled holiday is leaving you  exhausted, and the weather isn’t cooperating – why fight it?  We have no itinerary so let’s put our feet up and stay in one place… at least for the day.  Today, we did just that.

We woke up at Candice’s dad’s, had a coffee and expected to make our way south to Indian Island First Nation.  Then the rain came down.  Came down so hard, it passed right through our rooftop, baggage carrier and into Deborah’s suitcase.

Instead of fighting it, we hunkered down in the warm, comfort of Candi’s Mom’s house, had a pancake breakfast and spent the day watching The Shining, eating delicious leftovers, getting manis and pedis, and signing Candice and Fiona onto Facebook.  That was it.  Relaxation at it’s best.

Tonight, we drove to Shediac, had a great seafood dinner at the Green House on Main restaurant and checked into Deb’s cousin’s beach chalet.

Glorious, glorious vacation.  Wish you were here.

Our Listuguj Family Visit

Oh what a great time we had in Listuguj today.  It was a full day of pow-wow, family and new friends.

After packing up at the Heron’s Nest and breakfast at the Eel River Bar truck stop, we travelled up the bay and across the river to Listiguj.  We met up with Candace’s mom, and later on, spent some time with Candace’s dad who live next door to each other.

After our noon meet and greet, we walked from Candace’s childhood home, along the shore, to the pow-wow.  The walk was pretty with a nice view of the river, the mountains and Cambellton, NB.

At the pow-wow, I took the opportunity to dance a couple of intertribals and sing a couple of songs with some local drums.  It’s kind of weird to be at a fairly large pow-wow and not recognize anybody.  I guess there is a different pow-wow family in every region of Turtle Island.

This evening we had a grand feast, hosted by Candace’s mom Brenda and Ed.  Our mexican dinner began in loving fashion as Candace’s mom acknowledged the coming together of new family and friends with a gracious and eloquent toast.  She spoke of her own children and grandchildren, her close friends, Scott and his family as well as our upcoming nuptuals.  Such a classy lady.

I spent the afternoon chatting with Deborah’s uncles Fisher and Terry.  Everything we chatted about will remain locked in “The Vault” forever.  Let’s just say they’ve got a unique sense of humour and have a healthy yearning for life.  I can’t wait to see them again soon.

As we were wrapping up our evening, there was a car accident immediately in front of the house, right in the centre of Listuguj village.  I hope everyone was okay.  It caused quite the traffic jam along the main rez road.

In the morning, we will be venturing to Indian Island First Nation to go oyster collecting and for a few oysters to gulp.  Can’t wait.

Our Heron Island Visit

We boarded our fishing boat at New Mills Wharf at low tide.  Just as the fishermen were weighing and packing their catch to the Poissonerie truck, our family was on our way out onto the open sea.

Well, it wasn’t really the open sea.  But for us city-folk, the twenty minute ride to Heron Island was as sea-faring as we were going to get.

After our boat ride, our family was ferried from our moored fishing boat to the island, ninety feet away.  I removed my t-shirt, tourist hat and sunglasses and dove into the cold saltwater and swam the final leg of the journey.  If it weren’t for the plague of seaweed, I would have felt like Michael Phelps crusing in for the gold.

We made our day-camp on a south-facing beach of Heron Island.  This place was the source of good childhood memories for both Deborah and her brother Scott.  Within minutes, we took our spades and buckets to the exposed clam bed just a short walk away.  With a little instruction from Scott, we began digging for clams.

Personally, I looked for a small airhole in the exposed ocean floor.  I prod around to determine if there is any additional activity, like a spewing clam or active air bubbles.  When I’m happy about my digging spot, a single dig to turn over the sand can reveal up to four or five small clams.  I use my hands to gently sift through the much to find the clams.

They’re ugly little buggers.  It’s like a fresh-water clan, except as you’re digging them, they have their mouth/air hole/waste/reproductive appendage exposed.  It’s like a tiny elephant trunk, weezing and squeezing liquid at you.  I wash them off in a tidal pool and throw them in the bucket.  Then I repeat, for hours of critter-digging fun.

The girls were great at it and probably accounted for about eighty percent of our feast.  They were clam digging machines.

Around five o’clock, Scott, Fiona and I gathered driftwood to make the fire while Deborah readied the pot.  Then Candace, David, Rose and all the girls gathered around the fire and the seven minutes of steaming required to cook the clams.  We all ate the slimy little guys to our hearts content.  Mmm.

We concluded our day back on the boat for some evening mackerel fishing until sunset.  Not much success in the fishing department, but I did manage to reel in a nice market-sized crab.  Scott caught our one and only mackerel.  Our evening outing was made special courtesy of a close encounter with a grey seal and David’s fried chicken offering.  Miigwetch!

Today, we’re checking out of the Heron’s Nest and spending the weekend in Listiguuj for their annual pow-wow.  Looks like another great day of weather on the sunny east coast.

A Visit by the Water

The sun is out.

A vacation story doesn’t begin any better.  Sure, this is the beginning of my sixth vacation blog entry, almost a full week into our holidays – but who’s complaining?  The sunshine sure feels good on my back.

Yesterday, Scott, Candace, Deborah, Ella, Aluk, Jasmine, Fiona and myself visited the great and progressive Listuguuj First Nation, Canada’s largest Mi’kmaq community.  We did a drive-by of their pow-wow grounds as they prepare for their annual pow-wow this weekend.

We drove out to an iscolated fresh water swimming hole in a pristene mountain stream.  The water was clear and sparkling in the sun.  A white, limestone ledge off the shore of the pool gave the water a carribean turquoise color – Deborah’s vacation standard.

We couldn’t really swim as it was very, very cold.  The water was a fast-moving rapids whose source was deep in the mountains.  Scott and I took a couple of quick dips.  I explored the eerie, but beautiful natural limestone shelf.  I dove deep below to recover a long-abandoned pair of Columbia eyeglasses. Ella, Aluk and Jazzy also got wet.  Ella, on a dare, was the first one in the water.

Last night, we had a enormous seafood and chicken feast at our cottage.  Scott and I manned the barbeque, while Candace and Deborah were on appetizer, salad and lobster duty.  (Ten lobster and about ten pounds of chicken.  Hoo ah!)  A lively crew joined us for our dinner party including Chief David, Rose and their two girls, Uncle Terry, Sue and Dakota, Uncle Fisher, Dallas and his future bride, Kayla, and Candace’s mom.

Our evening concluded back on the beach with an ocean-side bonfire, marshmallows, fireworks and plenty of laughs and stories.

Today, with the good weather, we’re finally going to make it to Heron Island for our clam dig, to explore the spooky colonial island, and do some ocean mackerel fishing.  Wish us luck!

A Visit to the Falls

I’m beginning to become adjusted to the east coast lifestyle of visiting, crazy stories, fun-filled laughter and plenty of seafood.

We picked up Nanny at her Elder’s home and made our way south to Bathurst, NB and Deborah’s community of Pabineau First Nation.  We spend a lot of time at Uncle Fisher’s and met his children, their spouses and his grandbaby Finn.  I sat on the kitchen floor, took our make-shift drum out of a popcorn can and we belted out an inter-tribal song with cooking utensils as drumsticks with Nanny looking on.

Later on, Fisher made great salmon on the barbeque.  We also enjoyed some delicious homemade lu’sknikn (baked bannock) made by Chief David’s wife, Rose.  We had a taste of some lobster rolls and fried clams too.

We laughed when I tried to scare the beejesus out of Deb, Scott and Uncle Fisher by running out of the bush full-tilt, rustling trees and branches, trying to mimic some large mammal.  Then I tripped on the road and ended up with a mouthful of green leaf-matter.  The laugh was on me.

The highlight of the day was our romantic tour of the First Nation by ATV.  Deb and I snuck away from the family, donned helmets, clutched each other on Fisher’s four-wheeler and made our way down the rez road checking out all the sites.

Our destination was beautiful Pabineau Falls – freshwater rapids and natural falls that is a beautiful and important part of Deborah’s childhood.  We walked hand-in-hand across the rocks and trails recounting the stories of her youth.  I layed facedown on the rock and reached my left arm deep into the rushing river in a spiritual greeting on nbi (water).  In a still pool nearby we watched a little wajushk (muskrat) swim by, only to play dead when it took notice of us observing him.

On our way up from the rocks, Deborah took a hard little spill onto her knees, the second such wipeout in three days.  The rain has made everything slick from cottage decks to exposed bedrock.  Appropriately, I renamed our sacred spot at Pabineau Falls – Wounded Knee.

An Ocean Visit

Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been pleasant since we arrived in New Brunswick. It’s been stereotypical east coast weather for sure. We’ve had to postpone our clam dig and ocean-side clam bake for the second straight day. We also have to delay our mackerel fishing trip for another day or two.

I did, however, get a chance to meet Deb’s ‘Nanny’ Marie yesterday. She’s really a sweet old timer with a bit of a gruff exterior with a hint of unabashed honesty in every word she makes. The tone of the room steps up when she enters, both out of respect and adjustment to her slight hard-of-hearing. We had an enjoyable time with her.

Yesterday morning, we made our way to the beach in front of our cottage. We propped up Nanny in a nice, broad lawn chair and wrapped her in a homemade quilt which provided a comfortable vantage point of her Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren walking ankle deep in the low-tide.

We spent an hour or so gathering up pieces of sacred wampum and various little critters trapped in the tidal pools. Ella, Aluk, Jazzy and Fiona caught some small shrimp, flounder, baby mackerel, jellyfish and about a dozen crab. I caught one as well, representing the first crab I have ever caught in the sea.

When we returned to Nanny’s sheltered perch, she recounted trying to unjust her seat and falling forward precariously unbeknownst to her caring Grandkids just meters away. She laughed off her situation, hoping no one seen her embarrassing spill.

I also gave my daughter a little gift yesterday. I noticed Katherine Faith wasn’t partaking in a lot of the socializing, fighting a sore throat and a bit of a cold. She was also noticeably homesick being so close to her Cape Breton home, but yet so far away. So during lunch, I arranged to drive her half-way home while her Mom would meet her half-way. She was so happy and excited to be going home early. She was even more excited to see her BFF Kendra who came along for the drive with her entire Caper family.

I’m missing Waabgwaaniis immensely today. I just bask in her beautiful presence and really appreciate when she is around. She is growing up to be a wonderful, respectful young woman. She lives her teachings as Anishinaabe-kwe in everything she does. Today, we are visiting Deborah’s home First Nation of Pabineau. Nanny will be joining us as we visit Uncle Fisher’s house today.

Our Homecoming Visit

Deborah is from the small New Brunwick Mi’kmaq community of Pabineau First Nation.  Our summer vacation is all about returning home for her, introducing me to her Granny and the rest of her family, as well as enjoying the wonders of her homeland.

The drive from Quebec was beautiful.  Especially along the Restigouche River, into New Brunswick and along the pristene Bay of Chalour.  I see the landscape very much how I view Anishinaabe territory – from the eyes of our ancestors, Gchi-Anishinaabeg.  The Spirt of the land speaks in a wholistic language – foreboding but inviting, vast but nurturing, hostile but Loving.  The land and the waters are beautiful here and provide everything that is needed, then some.  For the Mi’kmaq, nothing is more important and valued than their territory and each other.

We crossed over into New Brunswick via the Listuguj First Nation, the largest of all Mi’kmaq communities.  From there, be visited the Eel River Bar First Nation, where we had dinner at their impressive highway truckstop.  Just across from Eel River is where we checked to stay for the week.  Both First Nations are proud, entrepreneurial centres.  Most Mi’kmaq have to rely on their own economies, and their own hands for survival.

Although we haven’t quite made it to Pabineau, last night we were joined at our Cottage Resort by many of Deb’s family.  It was a joyeous homecoming started by many hugs from uncles and cousins.  The Girls were reunited with their cousins, giggling and playing until late in the evening.

It was nice to see Deb and Scott reunite with uncles Fisher, Terry, cousins David, Kayla and Sandy, nephew Dallas and his mom Ann, and a couple of spouses and friends in the mix.

Today, we’re going out clam digging and are going to have a clam bake at historic Heron Island.

I’ll also finally get to meet Deborah’s ‘Nana’ as we break her out of her Elder’s home for some day adventures. Complicating things for us is that she somehow thinks we’re taking her for the week at the cottage and likely has had her bags packed for days.  We’ll have to let her down gently that there’s no room at the inn.

Next Visit: Whales

Right now, we’re driving through the Gaspe region of Quebec.  Deb’s Dad, Jim suggested we come through Rimouski and Amqui en route to the north shore of New Brunswick, not only to cut some time off our journey, but to see the impressive views of the St. Lawrence.

As Deborah drives along, I can’t help but contrast the view we have now – to the views we seen yesterday.

With the cool wind in our hair, the scent of the salt water and diesel wafting across the open deck, we shoved out on our whale watching adventure on the broad open sea of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Almost immediately, my eyes focus on some black seals just off-shore from the port of Riviere-du-Loup.  From that point, early in our sea faring adventure, the ocean is alive with sea mammals.

Within a few minutes, my eyes focus on specks of white, bobbing in and out of the green-blue water in the distance.  Sure enough, our guide, in his broken english announces to the boat deck that a pair of Beluga Whales are off the star-board side.

Throughout the whole afternoon, my eyes were fortunate enough to meet the wildlife minutes before the guide’s announcements. It takes a bit of a sharp eye and some patience to scan to maritime horizon to find these elusive sea creatures.

We didn’t get very close to the Belugas but I felt fortunate, nonetheless, to gaze upon their bulbous heads and sleek bodies in the coldness.  Apparently, we were navigating through a pod of about a hundred Belugas.  But no sooner than we make our approach to a swath of calm water, the pod disappears without a trace.  Our ship continues east into the Gulf.

About an hour into our cruise, we cross a curious pod of seals, numbering about sixty.  To most of the boat, including our girls, the seals are a mere sideshow curiousity.  I wave to them anyhow, greeting their Spirits.  They are beautiful to me and worth the $60 ticket.

As soon as we cross the salt-water threshold into the deep sea, my eyes spot the first of many Minke Whales.  These weren’t the stars of our expedition show, but for the guy that was happy to see the seals, they were far beyond my expectations.  A dozen at a time, these 10 metre whales breeched and dove, showing their dorsal fins to us in a vast, maritime ballet.  Incredible!

The star of the show, however, was the spectacular Fin Whales.  Long before we can actually see them, I can spot the spray and mist from their blow hole.  At first, we see a pair of Fin Whales, dancing in tandem through their feeding ballet.  For about five minutes at a time, the second largest animals on the planet, take their collective breaths, before diving far down and disappearing into the abyss.  Then our search is on again for the next sighting.

About ten whale-watching boats skirt about the surface hoping for the next great vantage point.  Our boat is by-far the largest.  Most are smaller zodiacs packed to the rafters with orange ablazoned, life-jacketted tourists.

Then as quick as they disappeared, the Fin Whales resurfaced to the delight of our cameras and gasping crowds.  These animals are so majestic and impressive.  Their shiny backs glisten in the sun, reflecting our Grandfather’s radiance as they billow and splash gently in the sea.

After a couple more sighting, we’re told we’ll only be staying about five more minutes.  But we’re all satisfied.  (Except the ungrateful teenagers who continually express their bordom from probably one of the most memorable life experiences this writers has ever encountered in the wild.)

But little did we know, we’d experience a much more breathtaking encounter.

After a couple, ever-closer encounters with the giant Fins, we hit the motherload.  About 20 metres from the port side of the vessel, four Fin Whales make their appearance exclusively to our us.  The breech and dive, showing their greyish heads and sides clearly visible to us all.  I can even see some redish-brown coloring and their unique texture of their hides.

Then I noticed, all around us, we were surrounded by whales.  Dozens of Minkes and this small family of Fin Whales.  It was intense and beautiful.  For a good ten minutes, these kings of the sea swim closer to our boat to the delight of us cooing tourists.

Soon after, they disappear silently into the lat afternoon, leaving us all thankful for this close encounter.

Miigwetch G’zhemnidoo for this amazing experience.  Life and Creation is great indeed.

First Visit: Quebec City

Many might think the first day of a road trip vacation is devoted for travel… but yesterday was truly a great and fun day.

The first part of my trip was related to work.  Finishing up a meeting near home in Nipissing, I ventured southward to Thornhill.  From there, we packed up, including putting up a brand new rack on the top of our mini-van, picked up Robbie and Francesca from the subway, and started making our way towards Montreal.  Considering I still had to turn in my MTO rental car, we left the big city in less than an hour.

Montreal was only a little late night stop along the road. However, we had the chance to order breakfast in Francais the next morning.

Yesterday morning, we drove along the Trans-Canada, through rural Quebec farm country,  and arrival in Quebec City.  Well, saint-nicholas to be more exact.

We were warmly greeted by our first “visit” from Deb’s dad Jim and his wife Rosanna.  (In case I haven’t mentioned it, this trip will be about a series of these visits.)

Following an emotional reunion in a plethora of photographs we embarked cross the bridge into Quebec City.

First stop: Simon’s department store.  What else can I say?  After a few hundred dollars of great value we embark into old Quebec.

I Love Quebec City.  There’s something to be said for national pride, history, and beautiful culture and architecture that makes up this great city.  We even had a chance to explore our own indigenous culture as we stopped at the various native craft stores along the cobblestone path.  As I stood still stoicly in front of one shop, a few tourists and my family took some photographs of a real Indian.

We spent the entire afternoon walking through the historic old town.  We checked at the shops, vendors, and even the street performers.  We walked along the waterfront, all the way to the market, into the contemporary downtown.

We ended the evening with a pleasant dinner and conversation with Dad, Rosanna and the girls at our hotel patio.

Today, we’re embarking on a whale watching excursion to the St. Lawrence.  We’re off to riviere du loup.  I hope to check in again soon.