Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The 4th Anniversary Edition: Mama Jo Returns. Again.

Welcome back to the blog everyone! Hello again faithful readers and greetings to new ones, this is the anniversary edition. It’s been nearly 4 years since my first departure for Prince Edward Island. I come to you with a special edition after about 3 years of silence. 4 years is an odd anniversary to celebrate, it’s not round or predictable like most, which is why I love it so much. I like to keep you on your toes. This is particularly special because for the first time in 4 years I went back to the Island solo. Every year after I left I’ve taken friends along to share in the adventure but this time it was just Jesus and I. Much like the first time.

4 years. So much has happened in that time. Here is a quick up to-date recap:
-      -  September 2011- April 2012: finished culinary school and became a certified pastry chef,
-       - April 2012- October 2012: worked at Anne of Green Gables Chocolates on PEI
-       - October 2012- September 2013: moved back to Ontario and was the pastry chef at Benmiller Inn, Goderich Ontario,
-       - January 2013 – September 2013: recorded a full length album, and released it November 2013
-       - September 2013 – August 2014: nannied for a family and their 2 delightful and mischievous boys
-       - June 2014: got baptized, again. I was baptized as an infant, but took the “double dunk” as an adult to declare my love for Jesus publically and be commissioned in a new ministry venture as prayer director of Uptown Community Church
-       - July 2014 – August 2014: did a Canadian East coast tour for 10 days promoting album and performing all over the Maritimes. It was a hoot!
-       - September 2014 – present: joined a church plant and was asked to be prayer director and worship team member. Jumped in with both feet, woohoo!
-       - September 2014 – present: working as baker and FSA at Conrad Grebel University College on University Waterloo campus, continuing to perform music where I can in mid-western Ontario, KW, and GTA
-       - April 2015: benefit concert with FRED PENNER! Short Twitter appearance on CBC courtesy of FRED PENNER!!!
-       - April 2015: 100% on my firearms license, beginnings of hunting and fur trapping license, woohoo!
-       - August 2015: currently writing anniversary blog J

Now we’re caught up.  

As some of you may or may not know it is tradition that I return to the Island every year since my departure from it 3 years ago. The Island had a huge impact on my life spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. If you are unfamiliar with my story I encourage you to flip through the other blog posts, but here is the Spark Notes version:
God called me to the Island to go to culinary school, not only for the great job security, but to get some solo time with me. It was a retreat, a solace, a place to get perspective and where God met me and formed me into the fearless and furious woman I am today. I’ve had my fair share of scars in life and the healing process started on the Island. But God, in His faithful and relentless love, has continued to cultivate me, rip out rotten roots, clip back over zealous branches, and water my heart with His blood. He patiently scrubbed the lies and shame from my cobwebbed heart so His grace and truth could shine through and alight the dusty attic of a chest cavity with His promises, provision, and power. In the past four years I’ve also grown bolder and feistier in my faith. I love Jesus and He is Truth. Deal with it. Regardless of my bold faith, I still have not managed to curb that sailor tongue of mine. Please forgive any crass words that may or may not follow.
The special occasion that spring boarded the return to PEI was to celebrate the marriage of Ian and Sandra Fidles, the couple I first stayed with when I moved there. I am over the moon excited for them!! The wedding was my primary reason for going, but I also hungered for ocean, red sand, and lazy listless days. My agenda for the 5 days I would be on the island were:
#1- Go to wedding
#2 – Go to beach
#3 – Eat Lobster

Departure day came quickly but I was ready! Like a child about to go to the zoo for the first time I sat cross-legged on the front lawn of my apartment building, luggage beside me, bouncing impatiently. A friend graciously drove me to the airport and we arrived in plenty of time. However the lines were very long and I quickly became stressed. The lines for check-in where monumental, however lines for the self-check in kiosks were nonexistent. Should I try the kiosk? I don’t like learning knew things when I’m under time pressure and stress so I held my ground and did the only sensible thing: pray. “The Lord is good, the Lord is gracious. He delights and has favour in those who Trust in Him and are transformed by Him. Lord transform me, I trust you.” I repeated that again and again and sure enough the line began to move quickly, and everyone who had 8:00pm flights were rushed through. The Lord is faithful!  
When I reached the counter I handed the Westjet agent my passport and reservation papers hoping to speed the process along. The Westjet agent slightly frowned at me, “No checked luggage? Why didn’t you use the kiosk, you wouldn’t have to wait in line.”
I replied, “I don’t know how to use them and I don’t like using new things when I’m under stress.”
“Oh but they are so easy!”
Ok Mr. Green Eyes, with the nice hair, and smells like lumber, summer, and whiskey, shut up. After receiving my boarding pass I booked it to the next mile long line.
Boarding time was 7:20 and it was 7:10. My heart was racing! “The Lord is good, the Lord is gracious. He delights and has favour in those who Trust in Him and are transformed by Him. Lord transform me, I trust you.” Again the line began to move quickly, Praise God! Another Westjet agent began calling out flight numbers and asking them to head to the front of the line. When she passed I asked what the flights were again, she asked for my boarding pass and sadly I was not on that list. I looked at her doe eyed and terrified. “How many are in your party?” she asked. “Just me,” I answered. “Come with me.” She whisked me to the front of the line and while I went through security she told me where the gate was. “It’s at the other end of the airport, you’ll have to run, I make no promises.” I was trembling as I put my carry on and purse through the scanner. “You’ll be fine,” she smiled and then she was gone. Clearly an angel.
“Do you have an liquids?” The security agent asked.
“Umm, I don’t remember,” I replied. I did, but the were well within the carry on limits. They waved me through and at the other end where I assumed they would stop me to swab my bags they were distracted. I saw my window of opportunity, grabbed my bags and RAN! Literally RAN through the airport. Praise the Lord for floating sidewalks. What made this whole ordeal even worse is that I had to pee, and I was anxious. I was panxious! I didn’t want to risk the bathroom break and miss the flight so I held it and ran.
I arrived at the gate at 7:40 and was one of the last to board, but was thankful I made it. “Thank you Lord!” The flight left on time and when we had reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt sign was off I went to the bathroom. Those airplane bathrooms are tiny. Hoo dolly!! What an experience that was. I won’t go into details lets just say I’m glad my ass isn’t any bigger.
After settling in the flight attendants came around with cookies, corn chips, and coffee, I gazed out the window at the beautiful scene below. The GTA fell quickly beneath us and from our position in the air we could see the jumbo-tron at the Rogers Center. We climbed higher and were treated to the setting of the sun as it sank behind sleepy clouds giving way to a brilliant red sunset. Out of the corner of my eye I could see flashes of lightning. There were three massive thunderstorms that we flew parallel too, we were treated to a show of light and magnificence. Each flash of lightning was unique and brilliant and could not compare to the one before or after it. At one point they lit up the sky all at once, to those watching, mainly myself and a young family behind me, we expressed our appreciation with oo’s and ahh’s.
As we moved east the storms moved west and I found myself craning my neck to watch them. “Lord, your grandeur is marvelous, may I have one final eruption of lightning? Perhaps 5 strikes in a row? Before the plane passes them.”  No reply. No delivery of lightning from them. “Ok, I trust you.” I turned my gaze to the sky to watch the stars slowly come out of hiding and suddenly FIVE more storms were on the horizon and they all erupted with lightning at the same time! It took my breath away. “Lord, you deliver!!” I leaned my head against the window and watched until they lost steam and the stars came out in their brilliance.
We flew over the mainland and from above I could see city and town lights scattered and clumped along the landscape. They looked like their own galaxies and constellations. But the brilliance of the night sky was incomparable to the man made patterns below.
As we flew over PEI a righteous full moon shone over the island and bathed the shores, rivers, scattered lakes and ponds in an enchanting silver hue. The island was silent under its muted and mesmerizing tones.
When the plane landed my heart skipped, pressing my hands against the glass I whispered, “I’m home.” A few happy tears welled up but I brushed them away. Stepping out of the aircraft I lifted my face to the east where the sailor moon beamed in greeting and inhaled deeply. Rich ocean air with ribbons of seaweed, salt, and sand wafted my senses and my knees buckled a little under the charming aroma.  
The beautiful and gracious Nadine picked me up from the airport. She was eagerly waiting outside sort of parked in the middle of the road, so when I saw her we exchanged quick hugs and hellos before tearing out of there. When we arrived at her home, her husband Tom was waiting for us at the door and welcomed me with open arms! Oh what a joy it is to be received so warmly but two beautiful friends!
Tom and Nadine got me settled and then ushered me to the kitchen for a late night snack of Nadine’s delicious pork and beef feta cheese stuffed burgers. Mmmm. Nadine is a fabulous cook and Tom is quick and willing to proclaim her talents to all that want to know and even to those that don’t. My favourite line from Tom’s praises was, “Nadine’s seafood chowder is righteous. You could baptize the dead in that and they would come up singing hallelujah!” I’m going to enjoy staying with Tom and Nadine for the next 5 days.
Tom went to bed, but Nadine and I stayed up late talking about coffee, food, being anointed by the Lord with sass and spunk, and other such joyous topics. It was close to 1am before I flopped into bed and succumbed to a long sleep.

The following morning I woke up leisurely and followed my nose to the kitchen where Nadine had made specialty coffee, waffles, and bacon and eggs. That’s how you start your vacation. After breakfast Nadine kindly drove me into town to pick up my rental car. Despite being able to fold into the island lifestyle without a seam, I still had the mainlander punctuality. I arrived precisely at noon but the car hadn’t. Clearly whoever was renting it was still gallivanting around the island, as they should be, it is a beautiful place. It didn’t bother me any and I was promised a discount for my patience. In the mean time Nadine dropped me off near Victoria park, I hopped out, and strolled through the familiar streets.  
I was grateful for the opportunity to stretch my legs and wandered down by Victoria Park, weaved my way through Victoria Row, around the Basilica, and down to Peakes. There were a few knick knacks I pondered purchasing but kept to the strict list I had:
-       Island wear for niece Beth
-       - Soap dish from Cordelia’s
-       - Chocolates for: Nadine and Tom, Bible study, work, and Jontue
-       - Antique cabinet knobs
-       - Antique hanker chiefs
-       - A few post cards
Enterprise called about an hour later informing me the car was ready for pick up. Because of the kafuffle I was given a complimentary upgrade to a Kia Forte, which is nothing like the rickety Camry I currently drive.
Before I even started the car I raised my hands in surrender and asked Jesus to protect the car and myself on the roads, to give me extra alertness and to break off any shame I had about driving extra careful. This was no joke. Islanders don’t know how to drive well, I’m not one to talk given my driving record, but it’s maddening. Plus the population of PEI doubled because it’s tourist season. So I shamelessly assumed the role or “pokey tourist” driver who obeyed all the traffic laws and blared worship music as an added layer of prayerful protection.
Unlike Edna my Camry the Forte actually drives. It accelerates when you apply pressure to the gas pedal and magically stops when the same pressure is applied to the break. Wow. Edna takes a bit more coaxing sometimes.
Keeping with my shopping list I went to Timeworn Treasures Antiques in search of knobs and hanker chiefs. The store atmosphere was in the full throws of summer. Bridal veils, soft pastel coloured frames, teacups and saucers, and lamps were arranged in inviting and creative ways. Retro suitcases and trunks were stacked with linens draped tastefully over them and the entire store was wrapped in a musical ribbon of the Sound of Music. With the help of the owner it didn’t take long to find what I was looking for, pleased with my purchases I was on my way.
That evening Tom, Nadine, and myself sat down to a delicious dinner of stuffed peppers with pork, mozzarella cheese, pine nuts, zucchini and spices. On the side Nadine prepared rice cooked in chicken broth. Now that is a trick I must use. Instead of cooking rice in water cook it in vegetable, chicken, or beef stock. It will cook and infuse it with flavor. Neat! All the different flavours complimented each other and danced across my tongue.
After dinner we sprawled on the couches and watched old movies. We started the night off with a black and white Carey Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and James Stewart classic: The Philadelphia Story. Then we sauntered over to the humorous Danny Kaye and Angela Lansbury treat: The Court Chester. And finally we wrapped up the evening in our decade with an episode from the TV series: Justified.

Timeworn Treasures Antiques 

Saturday marked the day of Sandra and Ian’s wedding! I couldn’t be more thrilled for them. The wedding wasn’t until 3:30 in the afternoon so I took advantage of the time to sleep in, binge watch episodes of Big Bang Theory, and taking a nap before heading out.
It was a delightful drive out to the east side of the Island. There was rolling farmland rich in colour, the potato crop was lush, corn stocks reached their slightly golden hands up to the heavens reaching for rain, and off to the south the ever present shimmer of the Northumberland Strait. The windows were down to allow the intoxicating country and ocean air to fill my lungs.
The wedding was outside in the back meadow at Sandra’s family farm. The ceremony was outdoors in the sunshine a rich breeze caressed our sun kissed skin, and though it was hot at times, it was still a wonderful relief from the Ontario heat.  Everyone was milling about, mostly staying in the shade. Islanders think 26 with an ocean is breeze is hot. Ha! I like to remind them, “It’s 38 in Ontario. Be grateful.”
When Ian had a spare moment we exchanged a quick hug. Our reminiscent encounter was short lived when he was waved over to carry out groom duties. The ceremony was about to start. Sandra’s brother began to sing and play his guitar while we found our seats. Pretty soon the bridesmaids and groomsmen sauntered down the grassy isle looking dapper and dashing. We all smiled and caught our breath when Sandra walked in on the arm of her father. She floated down in a dress fit for a princess. It billowed and flowed with yards of tulle and a ribbon of sparkling flowers tied around her waist. Her golden hair was spun into curls and her father beamed with pride and joy as he escorted her.
The ceremony was short and sweet and several readings from classic authors were read. Sandra and Ian are the type of couple who don’t hold each other back form their goals but also kindly hold one another accountable. Together they have faced a decade of life together and I’m hoping they face at least another 10 more decades!
Dinner was a buffet of delicious Thai food! There were speeches, tears, and toasts a plenty as we honoured the couple. People spoke of Sandra and Ian’s kindness and I’m very fortunate to be a recipient of that. They didn’t know me from a hole in the wall and yet took a risk in allowing a strange girl to room with them while she attended culinary school. I love and appreciate them both immensely.
The night followed with dancing and we all made an appearance on the slightly uneven floor. The tent and dance floor was over the most level place in the meadow, which unfortunately was on a bit of an incline. The dance floor especially leaned so every few songs we’d have to move the party up to the top of floor only to naturally descend again. No one seemed to mind.

Mr. and Mrs. Fildes! 

First dance

Father daughter dance

Mother son dance

Roommate picture!

I was so excited to go to church on Sunday! To see old friends and hear Tom teach the word of God, nearly everyone greeted me with, “Welcome home.” Worship time was breathtaking. It was only John and his guitar but he lead with such passion and conviction of Gods provision and guidance.
Tom preached on Jesus in the garden before His crucifixion centering on the knowledge that He knew His death would happen before He created the world. That truth finally clicked and tackled my mangy heart like a line backer. The weight and reality of Jesus prayer in the garden that day knowing that He would be praying that prayer before the earth had form or function blows my mind. He knew that when He formed the mountains of the gruesome death that awaited Him. When the first drops of ocean were poured out He knew your name and the struggles you would face and the rebellion against Him you would partake in. But the beauty of Jesus is that He is not shocked by our filth. He is not surprised when we lie, cheat, murder, disrespect others, get addicted to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. He knew we would be wretched when He swept the first brush stroke of sunset sky and He still choose to create us, invest in us, LOVE us. "For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserve it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time-to show us His grace through Christ Jesus." - 2 Timothy 1:9-10. Wow!
I was ruined by the Gospel that day, my heart churned with joy, reverence, and wonder. The Gospel is so simple, so True, it is satan who complicates it so we’re hesitant to accept it. Choose Jesus. Everyday. All day. Choose Jesus.
With the fresh conviction of Jesus astounding grace I packed snacks and beach gear and made my why to Greenwich Provincial Park. Nature is where I can listen to God clearest. Greenwich has a beautiful hiking trail that leads to the iconic horseshoe sand dunes.  
Walking the Greenwich trail was a breath of much needed fresh salty air. It curved along a peninsula surrounded by remnants of an old farm. The field that was now over grown with wild raspberries, carrots, flowers, and grass dipped toward the river on the south side and faced the town of St. Peters. In the salty river were oyster and muscle farms with their markers bobbing in the water. A few boats sauntered through the waters every now and then. The family that lived there were potato farmers, as most farmers on the Island are. Because of the rich mineral deposit in the soil and the ocean spray that sprinkles the land PEI has some of the most fertile soils. You have not tasted a potato until you have tasted one from PEI.
My wild imaginative heart is as content in open fields and plains as it is thick forests and cascading shorelines. The path wound away from the over grown farmland and into a patch of woods. The familiar musk of timber, damp leaves, and patches of sunlight warming the forest floor encompassed my senses and my imagination drifted. I don’t know what it is about the woods but I feel I should be running through them with a bow and arrow, or at the very least barefoot with a long flowing dress.
The foliage began to thin and the faint hush and giggle of waves breaking on the shore could be heard. The path opened to a huge inland pond with a floating boardwalk. Some of the tourists found the sensation of the floating boardwalk hard to get used to, I have excellent sea legs though, and didn’t loose stride or pace. After the journey across the swaying walk, we climbed up a 30 foot sand dune, descended the other side, and then walked down the beach a stretch only to climb another sand dune to take in the epic panoramic view of all our hard work.
When I descended the first dune and saw the ocean, rich and welcoming, I rushed toward it, threw off my shoes and bag and walked in up to my knees. Ohhh, glorious! The gentle surf and soft repetition of the waves cooled and refreshed my body. I rested only a moment before hiking up the other dune to see the iconic sight. The climb to the top of the dune was steep but there was a rope fence to hold on to.
Reaching the top, breathless, sweaty, and shoes full of sand, couldn’t compare to the peaceful and impressive view that waited. The dunes stood in there own realm, untouched by human cultivating hands, the only power the dunes were shifted by were the ever whipping winds. They seemed to relax against the horizon, as if they were an old couple well into their retirement years reminiscing about younger days when they were closer to shore before the wind pushed them inland and razor grass, grey lichens, and sprouts of trees took root and grew.
 Satisfied with the journey and after snapping a few pictures for posterity I gleefully bounded down the dune and walked up shore to the supervised beach. Families, couples, and friends gathered there in pockets of little beach nests containing umbrellas, coolers, and beach towels. I made my own little nest by laying out my beach towel and securing the corners with my shoes and bag. With my swimsuit already underneath my clothes I peeled off the sweaty folds of fabric and boldly walked into the ocean. I waded in up to my chest and allowed the beat of the waves to acclimatize my body. When I was at its full mercy and enchantment I dove into the waves and swam out as far as it was safe.
There in the cradling waters, its strong current pushing me back to shore, I thought back to a sermon Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, spoke on. He focused on Creation and Gods deliberate and beautiful design of man and woman and nature. When I spend time in Gods masterpiece be it woods, plains, beaches, or the company of Believers, family, and friends, and when I stop and allow myself to enter a posture of reverence and holy fear to the One who created ALL of it I feel immeasurably small, yet incredibly seen and known by God.
“I love the ocean, like the real ocean, and I wish we all lived closer to one. If I could be by a real ocean and hear its roars and be impressed by its waters and feel the fear that it could sweep me out and be done with me without breaking a sweat. That magnificence that awe that we feel would be surface level elementary reverence, but the fact that someone told that ocean to be, that’s exponential reverence.” – Matt Chandler. Exponential reverence. I’ve heard it explained that fear of the Lord is having respect for His headship over the world to physical and emotional fear of His power. While both are true I define it as a fear of a life without God. Swimming in the ocean, realizing its strength, fearing its monstrosity, yet loving, welcoming, and appreciating its presence would be unsatisfying without the deep reverence in the God who simply spoke it into existence and continues to command its movements.
I stayed at the beach until the plantain chips, peanut M&M’s, green apple, and bottle of water were devoured and my stomach still cried out for more. With the windows downs and the Island mix CD wafting through the speakers I drove back to Char’town. Subway serves Atlantic lobster subs and though this is not quite doing lobster justice I couldn’t afford a whole pound of it fresh from the wharf, this will have to do. The buttery, fleshy, red and white meat romanced my mainland palette into a love affair with the ocean delicacy.

Almost to the dunes

Ocean AT LAST!

Greenwich Provincial Park sand dunes

Wild raspberry bushes looking down to St. Peters

Blue chair. Blue shoes.

Check out them salty nautical curls!

Monday morning I gathered up my beach gear again and headed to Rice Point to meet up with friend Eliana to spend time with her, her husband Craig, and two children Ezra and Esmeralda. I’m so proud of them and their little family! It was refreshing to spend time with them. Ezra was a bit shy of me at first, but when I picked up one of his dinosaur toys and played with him, he warmed up quickly.
Part of the agreement I signed when renting the car was to not go off roading. However, most roads to the beach aren’t really roads and we had to park in a bit of meadow. Craig teased me saying, “You’re off roading!” Goofball. The beach has beautiful but unfortunately the tide was against us. We only had about 12 feet of beach to stretch on which was fine, we really only came for the air and sun.  
While Eliana and I chatted Craig and Ezra made a “sand doggy” the engineering skills to make a successful sand castle can be hard for a toddler to grasp. Our conversation wasn’t anything earth shattering but that’s ok, mostly we caught up and reminisced about culinary school. Sometimes you don’t have to have in depth conversations with friends you haven’t seen in years. It’s just as rich to know that you can still talk after so long.
While we ate lunch a deer fly landed on the arch of my foot and bit me. Ouch! Those demons with wings can really take a chunk out of you. In what can only be described as out back ninja skills Craig swooped for it with his hand, killed it, and tossed it to the waves.
“Thank you for avenging my foot.”
“And they say chivalry is dead.”
When we were finished eating Eliana reached for the box of wipes to pass around. Ezra made a bit of babble and reached for them too, we assumed he was getting one for himself, but he gave one to me! How kind! As long as there are good parents raising good children chivalry and kindness will not die. Way to go Eliana and Craig.
Eventually the tide came in so far that it licked the edges of our blankets and towels and pushed us off the beach. With a heavy sigh we went back to their house and chatted for a few more moments. I held Esmeralda while Eliana showed me around the property. It was the perfect opportunity to impart the 5 keys of life to the little one. I held the chubsy little girl in my arms, tipped her had back a smidge so she could hear all the wisdom I had to impart and bounced her lightly.
#1 Jesus loves you
#2 I love you
#3 Manners Matter
#4 Even shipwrecks have treasure
#5 Barbara Streisand is a goddess
Grateful for their hospitality but sad to be leaving I left shortly after to meet up with another friend, Natalie, in Char’town.
While I enjoyed every fiber of my time on the island, time with Natalie is like a refreshing crystal goblet of water. She is true and kind, her spirit is centered on Christ, she is vulnerable and brave in her faith and she thrives on the Holy Spirit. This woman, who I admire, love, and deeply cherish, welcomed me into her arms with wisdom, without judgment, and with ample energy! We spent the whole afternoon and evening together talking, sharing our hearts, admitting our hurts and pains, struggles with God, ponderings and doubts, and over all joys of our friendship together. I just love her!!!!
Time on the island would not be complete without a red sunset over a red beach. We went to Cove Head around dusk and walked the soft shore, sometimes we waded out to the sand bars and walked the warm waters, and before the sunset we sat in the sand and watched the water. I relaxed my soul and emptied any pressure or expectations of myself that were not of the Lord. Soft chuckling waves tiptoed up the red sand and then slid back into the big blue to be carried off to some exotic place. A breeze came off the land and ruffled the water into little windblown ripples. The ocean rolled soothingly, I relaxed whole-heartedly and breathed deeply.
Neither of us wanted to leave but nocturnal purples and blues began to fold over the sky and the moon was beginning her climb to shine over us. Natalie wanted to spend more time with me, and I with her, but it was late, I was tired, and tomorrow I would be flying out. I needed to sleep. We embraced long and tenderly and blessed each other before parting ways.  

Ezra playing in the sand

Eliana and I

Red toes!

Sunset at Cove Head

Natalie and I

Red sunset, red hair, red shirt. Lots of red!

The last day on the Island. Sigh. It started off wonderfully though. I awoke early and packed most of my bags, I had a busy day ahead of me and wouldn’t have much time to pack later. I rushed out the door and stopped at the grocery store to pick up a dozen eggs for Leanne and Jeff before going to their cottage for breakfast.
What a way to spend the morning! Right off the shore out on the deck with an ocean breeze whipping through our hair while we feasted on bacon, eggs, sausage, island potatoes, coffee, juice, and raspberry jam made by Leanne and Jeff! Oh the joys of visiting and spending time with friends. The character of the island is a perfect melting pot for kindred spirits to meet, grow, and flourish. After breakfast we nimbly climbed our way down the cliff to the shore and stretched our legs before the tide trapped us.
What a wonderful stretch of beach full off oyster and clamshells all strewn about like stars in a galaxy. I learned a new island term as well: shore shoes. Mainlanders know them as water shoes, but apparently that’s just not the way of it here. I’ll adopt that into my regular beach vocabulary and confuse everyone back home.
The tide was ripping in quickly and the curve of the shore made a little peninsula. Being of the adventurous kind I kicked of my “shore shoes” and headed to the tip. The water was shallow for a distance and I wanted to see how far I could get before danger was a factor. Turning back to shore for a picture it was apparent Jeff was either taking several or was have trouble with my camera. It was then that I realized the current of the water and speed of the tide was faster than I’d expected. The conditions were causing the sand underneath my feet to shift rapidly and I began sinking. I was only in peril for about a minute and realized had the worst happened I’m an excellent swimmer and have friends that would come save me.
We found a message in a bottle and took it back to the cottage to read. Someone had a lot of fun writing a silly note about liking the smell of batteries and other such nonsense. It brought us a smile and a giggle though.
The car rental was until noon and I wanted to be on time if not early, it’s that mainlander inner clock again. The return went smoothly, I was half expecting them to find out all the “off roading” I did and charge me an arm and leg for getting red dirt all over the car. But then again ALL the cars on the island have red dirt on them whether they’ve been off roading or not. While I was grateful for the rental it was the most stressful experience of the island.
Before leaving the Island I met up with dear sweet Kendra, another chum from culinary school, for lunch. Our conversation was similar to that of so many conversations I’ve had here. We caught up on each other’s life, talked about this and that, hopes and dreams, and shared giggles when remembering our school days. For dessert we went to a farmers market and had freshly picked strawberries. Island berries are very different from Ontario berries. I would describe their flavour as mild, but the texture is meaty, it almost tasted pink instead of the potent, crimson, flavour Ontario berries possess. But still enjoyable!
Finally the time had come, my bags were packed I was ready to go, Kendra dropped me off at the airport and after long hugs I let her go. The lines in Char’town airport are ridiculous. They have none! I was through check in and security in 10 minutes.
As passengers began to fill the waiting room so did dark ominous rain clouds fill the sky. Our flight was delayed 30 minutes, but safe than sorry. When we boarded the plan and got comfortable the captain announced that bad weather in Toronto would delay us another 25 minutes. Didn’t bother me any, I had a good book and a comfy seat and the patience of a saint. After a while the captain came on again, his voice was timid and hesitant to share the announcement. Uh oh. “Good evening ladies and gentleman, ummm, waiting time has been pushed to an hour.” There was collective moan of frustration from the passengers. “They’ve grounded some planes in Toronto and are waiting for weather there and in Calgary to pass. Sorry folks, we’re going to have to sit tight. If we unboard all of you and get the call to be in the air in 20 minutes we will have missed our window and may have to cancel the flight. Please be patient, and thank you.” I informed my friend who was picking me up about the delay but then went back to my book.
The elderly gentleman beside me kept accidently bumping my arm on the armrest. He was embarrassed and finally I said, “It’s a little squishy and I don’t mind if we bump each other, lets just put the arm rest up, we might as well get cozy, we’ll be here a while.” And just like that a new friend was made. The gentleman’s name was Chris and his sister Deborah, were in PEI for a family reunion. How fun! We got to talking and pretty soon babbled on like kids in a school yard.
After about 40 minutes the captain came back on over the intercom, “Ok folks we got the go ahead from Toronto, we’re on our way.” Everyone applauded and cheered and we tore out of the airport like a thief on the run. Sitting beside such charming individuals like Chris and Deborah made the flight home exponentially more enjoyable. We chuckled at Chris’s goody jokes, looked out the window at the beautiful sunset, shared why we were in PEI, and generally had a good time.
When we landed in Toronto everyone on board was relieved and another round of applause sounded for the captain and crew. It’s good to go to the Island but it’s good to be home too.

Overlooking the water from Leanne's cottage

Charlottetown from the shore

Leanne and I

Umm, this water is coming in really fast!

Kendra and I acting goofy!

It’s been almost a week since I’ve been back and it’s taken this long to compose this blog. I wanted to make it perfectly clear about my affections for both the island and the mainland. Adjusting to Island life is seamless, but folding back into mainland living is just was familiar. The Lord has blessed me with provision and redemption and a home in both places. He knows my heart, has anointed my identity in His truth, and I trust Him. I will not spoil time with Him with brash selfish decisions of moving or not moving to PEI. Hear me when I say this: I trust Him. I submit to His plan. I welcome His guidance. I look forward to His leadership. I am not bound by some fearful emotion or perverse religious chain. Ultimate freedom is experienced in the embrace of Jesus.
In closing, if there is one thing this vacation has taught it is that there is joy in submitting to the leadership and provision of God. Not for a moment did He leave my side on those island roads or ocean waves. He did not laugh or scoff when I failed to trust Him and make my own way and then pay for it later. And even when I realized my stupidity and cried out to avoid consequence sometimes He canceled the discipline to hold me tighter. My soul is satisfied and hungry at the same time when I am with Him. I love PEI and will always go back, Lord willing, but I love Jesus more and He has not let me down, and He never will.

Thank you for reading and God bless you.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Return of Mama Jo

I’m back!!!! For a special encore blog post. Get comfy, grab a coffee, and settle in for an overdue account of my return adventures to Prince Edward Island.

It has been nearly a year since my fingers have typed out a ripping weekly story of my adventures on the Island. Even though I am not living on the Island anymore I did make a promise to go back every year and a lady always keeps her promise. So it is my pleasure to go back to the Island where my soul grew up and I learned what it was to be a maiden of the Lord. It is my pleasure to capture your attention for a while and wield a story of the places, people, and seashore that I soaked up for this past week.

The journey begins about a month ago when in the mail I received an invitation to my dear Andrew Pauls wedding. For those of you that were avid readers of my blog a year ago you may remember that Andrew is one of “my boys.” But to those who aren’t familiar with my trail of manly friends let me give you the Spark Notes version. In my third year of university I lived with four wonderful Godly men. They took care of me and I them. We laughed, cried, baked, set the oven on the fire, and had sing a longs and pulled pranks. We became a family. Last year Andrew Stroud tied the knot with his sweet bride Alysha, and this year Andrew Pauls claimed the heart of an island girl, Debra. Now it is a big to do when someone “from away” steals the heart of an Islander but more on the later.

With a yellow and ocean blue wedding invitation in hand, a car full of road trip necessities to last a week, and a pair of friends, Josh and Laura, to journey to the Island with, I pointed my car eastward and settled in for a 17 hour drive. Because we are young and foolish and I didn’t want wait any longer to go back to the Island we drove the stretch through the night. Which was brilliant. We barely had traffic in Toronto and drove through Montreal when the city was asleep. Josh and Laura are great company on the road. Laura was delightful female company and was as eager to giggle at Josh’s antics as I was.

Our GPS, which we affectionately named Betty, in general was helpful but often times she led us astray and gave odd directions. We decided to abandon her advice once we were on the East Coast. 

Laura had impeccable taste in music and kept the car speakers tingling with East Coast tunes such as the Rankin family and Natalie McMaster. To feed our need to mainland musical treats we threw in folk music treats like Jon Bryant, Eastmountainsouth, and the Tra La La’s.

The drive through the mainland was gorgeous! Quebec is beautiful and we hit the dipping and rising hill country at sunrise on Monday morning. I was in the drivers seat and I’m not ashamed to admit that I almost ditched the car twice while admiring the sun kissed yellows, soft rose reds, and nocturnal purples of the rising sun. The St. Laurence is a thick mystical ribbon of river blue home to both fresh and saltwater aquatic life. 

We were making excellent time! By 2:00pm we found ourselves in Halifax. I have never been to Halifax but fortunately Island friends had moved there and invited us over for a quick visit while on route to the Island. Naturally we took the opportunity to visit them and see a new part of the East Coast. In a word I would describe Halifax as eclectic. There are charming old houses, hobbles, churches, and quaint shops and right beside them are huge modern sky rises, glass window store fronts, and loud neon signs. It was a curious partnership of the two. On one side tradition, lineage, and history lived and on the other birth, modernism, and change grew rapidly.

I do not like navigating downtown Halifax. The streets rolled and dipped as treacherously as the ocean and they were crowded and hard to see around. Plus for an instant Josh and Laura became even worse navigators than Betty. I had to bite my tongue and hold the sharp comments of Mama Jo at bay. Snapping at my friends would not get us out of the city any faster. Eventually we were directed to the Halifax Citadel where we were treated to a breath taking view of the city. From a military point of view it was the perfect place to have a battlement. It was high above the harbor on every side and held a land advantage making an enemy attack a waste of artillery and manpower.

To break up the leg of the journey we decided to take the ferry across the Northumberland Straight instead of driving the bridge across. We caught the ferry in Caribou Island and spent an hour and a half leaning over the railing drinking in deep ocean air, setting our eyes on watery horizons, and getting our sea legs established. From the deck we saw seals, cormorants, and jellyfish and we watched a true red sunset melt into the ocean blue. With every wave that licked the hull of the boat we became closer and closer to my Island home. As the ferry doors opened and I was given the go ahead to drive on I put the map away, turned off the GPS and let my island heart beat me homeward. Josh asked, “Do you need a map?” I turned, smiled softly and said, “No. I know where I am.”

We arrived at our host’s house late and they had graciously stayed up to greet us. But the best greeting was that of a fox. As we pulled into the driveway a fox trotted across the front yard regarding us curiously. Who are these creatures from away? He must have thought. We cooed and clucked trying to get his attention in hopes to lure him closer for a better photo op but instead he yarned and curled up under a birch tree and watched us until we exited the car. When the commotion of moving baggage around disturbed his quiet contemplation of us he trotted off.

After an exceptionally long drive we collapsed onto the spare air mattress and couch in the basement and fell asleep instantly.

We all slept for a solid unashamed 12 hours. It was glorious! The day’s plans were simple: beach. We tackled a 5 man tent and pitched it in the back yard where we would sleep for the following nights so we wouldn’t disturb our hosts. When all work was done and our little home away from home was set up we made our way to the beach.

Basin Head is my favourite beach on the entire Island and that is saying a lot because there is plenty of beach to go around. What makes Basin Head so unique is the long stretch of shallow water. The depth never goes past your chest for 50 yards and then there is a delightful little sand bar for another 15 yards or so. Because the water is so shallow it stays warm for the entire season. The three of us without hesitation jumped into the water and swam out a safe distance. I dove into an oncoming wave and when I surfaced and licked my lips the ocean had left a salty kiss there. Oh sweet salty ocean, with your tempting kisses and delicious spray! I was convinced in that moment that God had made a mistake in making me a human, it was clear I was intended to sprout fins and be a mermaid.

The waves crashed over us and we dove into them, seeking the highest white crest to ride back to shore, and allowed the current to cradle us. Swimming in the ocean has its drawbacks, I am not used to the sea life and am afraid that a lobster or jelly fish will grab onto my toes and send me into a fit. Josh and Laura are witnesses to my childish behavior whenever seaweed grazed my thigh I shrieked, “Ocean critters! Ocean critters! Get away ocean critters!!!” This was followed by flailing of arms and I would swim as fast as I could splashing and thrashing the water to ward off critters.

We played in the salty waters for a time but eventually the constant salty love from the ocean left me thirsting for sweets and we stretched out on the shore sharing a chocolate bar.

Basin Head also has the best pier jumping but it is home to the strongest rip tides and on a day like today where the current is strong and unpredictable it is best to stay off the pier and keep close to the shore. On one side of the beach Basin Head as miles and miles of white singing sands and on the other there are miles of red cliffs to climb. My feet have been sore for a good island cliff climbing and I left my sandals on the beach and nimbly made my way up, around, down, and over the cliffs in my bare feet. There is nothing quite as satisfying as scaling 30 foot cliffs in just your feet.

But as the sun turned its head toward the west we too had to head back to Charlottetown for an evening with Anne and Gilbert. We were an hour out of town and hungry as ever. We called the best pizza place on the Island, Famous Peppers, and by the time we rolled into town an Island made, locally grown pizza was waiting for us. We stretched our water logged and salty bodies on the grassy carpet of Kings Square Park and wolfed down dinner in record time. We arrived at the Guild Theatre just in time for the opening scene of Anne and Gilbert the musical. While on the Island you have to do at least one Anne activity.

The musical was delightful with precious harmonies, witty Island oneliners, and a darling heart stirring story line. The musical circles around Gilbert trying to win the heart of Anne. Anne is stubborn and has fanciful ideas of a romantic, tall dark handsome stranger that would whisk her heart away. But she lets her unattainable ideal cloud her vision that she fails to see the kind, warm hearted, loyal, and deeply affectionate Gilbert ready to care for her, protect her, and love her. I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say I gave it a standing ovation.

We had scheduled the following day to be a day of exploring Charlottetown. I let Josh and Laura run off to explore the city for themselves while I visited my old haunts and soaked up some Island ladies that I had been deeply missing. We met at my favourite coffee shop, Leonard’s Café. They have the best European coffee, pungent and creamy, delightfully bitter, and the best carrot cake I have ever tasted. Yes, it even surpasses my carrot cake. It was coffee time indeed and the café was bustling with customers, I managed to grab a sizable table and I waited patiently for my Island sweets to walk through the door.

First came Lisa and her son Stewart. She looked radiant as ever, a more beautiful woman of body and soul I have never known. Stewart seemed a little awkward to be in the company of women but his video game averted his attention from our clucking. Michelle swept through the doorway like a fair Island maiden with ivory skin and red hair. Her sweet smile shamed the sugar. Lastly my dear Natalie arrived. She was beaming in a red shirt and matching jeweled earrings. Her tall and slender body gracefully breezed through the door. All my gals were here!!

We sat down, cake and coffee was ordered and conversation ensued. There was so much to catch up on and hardly enough time. I listened intently to all of them reaching my ears into their heart to absorb all they had to share.

When the last crumb of cake was devoured and the last drip of coffee had slid down my throat it was time to leave. Lisa and Michelle had errands to accomplish but Natalie had a few hours free and her and I strolled the streets of Charlottetown. It felt like no time had passed and the streets were the same as I left them. All of my favourite shops were still there. We made our way to Cordelia’, they show case oodles of island crafted paintings, books, CD’s, pottery, jewelry, and nick nacks. I am a fan of their jewelry and lay down my money for a pair of green and gold swallow earrings. Natalie and I continued to wonder and we met up with Patsy, another dear friend. She embraced me and said, “Welcome home.” I stopped for a moment and let that greeting sink in. “Welcome home.” Yes, I am home. This is my Island home, the place where my soul took root and grew into the lady I am today. The place where God met me and nurtured all my hungers and thirsts and taught me to be sustained in Him. Welcome home indeed.

For dinner I took Laura and Josh out to Brits Fish n’ Chips, the best place to get fish n’ chips on the Island. Laura and I had a healthy serving of haddock and Josh tried lobster poutine. Then for dessert we all tackled a deep fried Mars bar. With every bite we felt our arteries scold us but our tongues and palette begged us for more. It was a filling day in Charlottetown all round. 

That evening we were invited to White Sands beach out in Murray Harbour for a campfire with Andrew and Debra before the big day. It was a smash up of Island and Mainland friends and we shared stories, laughed, and relaxed. It was mostly a night of fresh air for Debra and Andrew to ignore wedding plans for a few hours. The weather was wild! A devilish eastern wind swept over the straight and for a moment you could see Cape Breton as clear as day and a few hours later it was veiled in a moody cloud of rain and wind. The swell of the sea rose to at least four feet and it crashed angrily on the shore and thrust it’s heavy hands into the red rocks down the beach. But that didn’t stop us. The men stayed to nurture the campfire while the women left their shoes in the men’s care and embarked across the beach to scale higher cliffs and dodge the waves.

As night slowly blanketed the shore we turned back to the glowing fire and had our fill of s’mores, hot dogs, and laughter. It was delightful. As we drove home it was clear we were driving just ahead of the storm and by the time we were snug in our sleeping bags in the tent the storm unleashed it’s assault on us.

For the first hour we slept soundly, but then the wind picked up and curled the tent this way and that folding the walls in on us. It started to rain and somehow little sprays of rain jumped into the tent and landed on our faces. A huge gust of wind that lifted us and the tent about an inch off the ground awoke all of us and we sat up straight in our sleeping bags. Josh checked on us girls making sure we were ok and then we sat contemplating our options.

Option #1: huddling in the center of the tent so the sides of the tent don’t eat us in the middle of the night.

Option #2: make a run for the house and sleep in the basement.

Option #3: brave the wind and rain for a few moments and peg the tent down, a crucial step we didn’t necessarily forget to do, rather a step that Josh decided we didn’t need. He was convinced that our combined body weight and luggage would hold us in place for the week, but he largely underestimated Island winds. He also thought there were no tent pegs but after Laura rummaged through the tent she found a bag of them. Josh silently pegged the tent down in apologetic action.

Josh and Laura took option 1 and 3 but I chickened out and made a mad dash for the house and slept in the basement for the rest of the night. I was glad for the warmth of the house and how the brick walls muted the sound of the angry storm outside. But I was most thankful for Angus, the Nova Scotia duck toller retriever that belonged to Lindsay and Nathan. When I lived with Lindsay and Nathan, Angus was of great company to me. He would often come into my room and sit at my feet while I wrote letters by candlelight. The downstairs couch was big and comfy and I had curled up quite contentedly on one side. Around 4:00 am I felt Angus leap up on the couch beside me, curl himself in the crook of my legs and rest his fore paw and head on my hip. He is a darling sleeping companion and we both slept soundly that night.

After the storm blew through we woke up to the most lovely morning imaginable. The world was soaked in rain and little droplets hung like strings of diamonds in flower beds and lawns. Today was a free day to explore the Island and we made our way to Brackley beach to explore the Bubbling Brooke trail. Brackley beach is located in PEI national park there are several stretches of beach to explore, half a dozen trails, Dalvay by the Sea, also known as the White Sands Hotel, and Covehead harbour and other such delights. To someone from away it would make sense to just pay the toll at the gate to the park but I classify myself as a local and used an Island trick. When stopped at the gate we were asked if we were headed to the beach, I replied. “No, we are going to the restaurants in Stanhope.” The gatekeeper let us through with a smile and nod. Hee hee hee, I am devious sometimes and I will do penance for my white lie later.

Bubbling Brooke trail is beautiful. It is nestled deep within a forest just off the seashore. Even though it is in close proximity to the ocean when you walk through the towering trees, and weave through the tall grasses your nose is over taken by the deep smell of growth and earth rippling through the forest vegetation. We saw wild raspberries, plenty of birch trees, Queen Anne’s lace, maples, silver pines, and plenty of other deciduous trees. There was also a sizable fresh water lake on the north side of the wood which is home to Canada Geese, ospreys, ducks, and blue Herons. It is very rare to see a fresh water lake on the Island especially one so healthy.

The Bubbly Brook trail was once a strapping farmland where first settles had ripped through the forest and filled the empty lot with crops and pasture. But after those settlers died off like magic the forest replanted itself and after a century of undisturbed growth the forest is thriving and alive and still growing strong.

We reached the Bubbling Brook which was really a small pool in the forest no bigger than what I imagine a magical pool to be. A dead tree stood erect at the far end of it like an ancient fairy godmother. She loomed over the pool ready to cast a spell or grant some ones wish. I imagined the best time for wish granting would be in high spring when the water is most active under the silvery bathing of a moonlit night.

Conveniently the park rangers had placed a bench by the edge of the water and we all sat down to watch the quiet gurgle and giggle of the spring. About seven little subterranean fountains bubbled in the center of the pool. Two delightful old ladies had beat us to the bench and invited us to sit down with them. Their names were Priscilla and Marina, truly magical names, and their character was as bubbling and spunky as the spring. They shared snipits of their life story, their love of gardening, and encouraged our young adventurous spirit to never waver even though the drag of old age makes it so easy to. I took in their beauty and admired each unique woman. Priscilla seemed to sparkle, her whole figure was still fluid and nimble enough to endure a solid hour hike through the woods. She was a practical beauty and didn’t fuss with her appearance except to dawn a clever hat and appropriate hiking clothes. Her elegant face was a highway of laugh lines and she smiled all the time and giggled often which contributed to the contours of her face. Marina was well kept and conscience of her appearance. She, like Priscilla, wore appropriate hiking clothing, though it was more fashionable, but her hair was died blonde, she powered her face to keep the laugh lines at an acceptable number, and her lips looked like she had spent the morning kissing raspberries. I fell in love them both.

Just as we were about to leave two youngsters, a brother and sister, came speeding down the trail on their bikes. They screeched to a halt, threw off the helmets and stood in wonder at the brook. The boy, Ira, loved the brook and began exploring its edges for frogs and other critters. The girl, Hannah, was slightly dejected at the menial size of the pool, but was just as curious as her brother. She looked at the pool and announced, “Yowzers! This is really small, how are we supposed to swim in this?” Ira replied, “We’re not supposed to swim in it we’re just supposed to look at it.” Hannah put her hands on her hips, unsatisfied with that answer, “What good is a pool if you can’t swim in it?” Hannah, however, jumped into the water determined to find a purple and pink polka dotted fish despite her brothers practical suggestion to look for a black minnow, of that he was sure they existed in the brook. The two of them jabbered on and on and Priscilla, Marina, Josh, Laura, and myself looked on laughing hysterically at the sibling antics. For a moment we all felt like family. No one felt out of place talking with this pair of youngsters or spunk master ladies. There was a level of familiarity and affection that was acceptable without it feeling creepy. The Island brings out the family in everyone. Already I have been called darling by five different Island strangers. The Island could give the rest of the world a lesson in true affection.

 After our stretch through the woods we relaxed on the expansive red sand of the north shore on the Stanhope beach. The water was deliciously warm and I walked along the waters edge. We walked far away from the crowded part of the beach and I sat down and hugged my knees to my chest and closed my eyes. The water swelled and diminished and sounded like someone sighing. Soon my lungs were expanding and contracting in time with the ocean and I felt like I was floating. My thoughts rifted to visions of prayers and my heart smiled. My concentration was broken when Josh announced he found a dead lobster half and he promptly balanced it on his nose and told me to take a picture of his foolishness. Oh Josh, don’t ever change.

I took Josh and Laura out for a real treat in the evening. We went to the Olde Triangle a Celtic inspired restaurant for a Celtic food, Guinness, and to listen to the Gaelic band Daimh, pronounced Da-eve. The band was phenomenal and had the whole restaurant clapping, yipping, and dancing. It was a true Island experience! Unfortunately we had to skirt away early from the concert to pick up Ben from the airport, our fourth and final member of this trips hooligan party. The band had energized us and we filled the car and the streets of Charlottetown with their tunes as we blared them through the open windows. Bens plane landed on time and his luggage came soon after he walked through the arrival gates. Laura and I grabbed him and ran out of the airport yipping and howling hoping to make it back to the restaurant in time to catch at least one last tune from the band. Alas we didn’t pull in until just past 11pm and when we arrived the band was packing up. We will have to see them again the next time they come to the Island.

On Friday at last I was allowed to whip out my Mama Jo quick whit, sharp leadership skills, and all around attitude so big my ass envies it. Today Josh, Laura, Ben and myself had the pleasure of making Debra and Andrew’s wedding cupcakes. We returned to my old school stomping grounds of Holland College. How I missed that old place! My former pastry instructor Chef Richard had graciously allowed us to use the industrial sized kitchen of the pastry kitchen to wield some culinary magic.

The boys were particularly excited to step into most elite kitchen in the country so to run off some steam I let them run through the grocery store, literally, dressed in aprons and bandana’s, literally, to pick up some last minute groceries. Laura and I however like the true ladies that we were, sauntered through the store elegantly like minstrels.

We strapped aprons to our bodies like armor, wrapped bandanas on our skulls like helmets, and raised whisks as long as your arm in the air like a sword. As soon as we stepped into the kitchen I went straight to business. I ordered the boys to grate 6 pounds of carrots and Laura was my right hand assisting me in cracking eggs, mixing the batter, candying pecans etc. Within 3 hours 120 and carrot cake cupcakes were baked, iced, and sprinkled in candied pecans. Way to go team!

With the work done for the day we wanted to make sure Ben had a day at the beach. We headed up to Cavendish beach for some sun, sand, and surf. Well, we got there and the beach provided sand and surf but it traded the sun for some rain. Two out of three isn’t so bad though. The waves were gentle and serene, they softly gurgled upon the shore. The sky was a quiet shade of grey with soft ribbons of silky blue trying to break through. Every so often a veil of rain would come down to moisten the air, and there was always the constant ocean breeze to keep the weather moving along to some other shore. The weather was chilly and to keep the blood flowing the boys decided to dig a hole. The logic behind was simple: we will build up a sweat digging a hole big enough to fit four people and we will get dirty as well, thus our only option to be refreshed and clean would be to jump in the ocean afterward. A flawless plan? Sure. Expect that the water was freezing! But if you stand in the water long enough your limbs will turn numb and your core organs will work wonders to keep you warm so you don’t really realize you are getting hypothermia, then it’s down right enjoyable.

In the evening we dashed away to the east end of the Island to attend Debra and Andrews wedding rehearsal dinner. It was the usual scuttle of this and that, standing, learning to walk down the isle, when to sit, when to stand, and there is always that halo of confusion. I’m convinced it’s every ones happy wedding jitters all muddling into one, but the nice thing about happy wedding jitters is that once you go to sleep you wake and those jitters have turned to joy!

After the rehearsal dinner the four of us stayed up late sitting around the living room talking about everything and solving the worlds problems. As we talked Angus kept watch by the window. Every now and then a fox would scurry across the front yard and he would jump on the windowsill and bark extensively and then run back and forth from the front door back to the window. Even though we decided mandatory physical labour in some kind of service setting whether that be on a farm, army, or tree planting would solve this generation’s lack of direction, laziness, and selfishness we could not conjure up a plan to control the foxes of PEI. It’s just as well Angus is doing a pretty good job of that.

Saturday, wedding day! We bounded out of bed like sunbeams over the horizon eager to be celebrating this day with two beloved friends. If there is one thing I love more than climbing cliff faces in my bare feet or butter it is getting dolled up! We dressed in our Sunday best, touched our faces with rouge and champagne and whispers of mascara and when the boys were finished in the bathroom it was Laura’s and mine turn to do the same. Before the wedding we decided to make a lunch stop at Boom Burger. It is a delicious eatery with Island grown vegetables, potatoes, and beef burgers. The portion sizes are just right even though the price isn’t but it’s a treat so that makes a little more bearable. For dessert we stretched on over to Cows ice cream for a scoop and then I took my little posy over to Anne of Green Gables chocolates to show them where I used to work. I missed Anne’s Chocolates, it was a fun place to work. The ladies I used to work with were still there and I was able to sneak onto the factory floor and give them all a hug.

We made our way to Murray River for Andrew and Debra’s wedding. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day. It was sunny, cloudless, but by Island standards hotter than the hinges of hell. In Ontario we are accustomed to weeks of 40+ heat, but Islanders only see about 2 days every summer that hit 32. Today was one of those days. It was toasty but that ocean breeze kept things moving and breathable.

The wedding was wonderful! A true Island wedding through and through. The wedding party had gone out into Debra’s farm the day before and picked their bouquets, there were cute burlap bows on the windowsills and pew ends with black eyed Susan’s in the center. Everything had a splash of yellow and blue, the two best colours to describe Debra and Andrew. Andrew is clearly yellow, he is full of energy, kind, compassionate, and has the best falsetto voice. Debra’s beauty, heart, and care for others is deep like that of the ocean blue that surrounds her Island home.

I mentioned earlier that when someone “from away” marries an Islander the only thing worse would be to take the Islander away. Andrew hit two for two on this one and let’s just say he better make sure Debra returns to the Island regularly to stay in their good graces. It’s not that Islanders are offended or become uncivilized it’s just that Island culture is very homey and close knit. Islanders like Islanders. They like people from away as well but only during the tourist season or if you are planning to move there. But if you want to move to the Island you have to adapt to their culture and it’s best to keep your ore out of things especially if you have an opinion about how to improve upon Island life. I can say without malice because for a time I was and “Islander.”

I can’t say anymore about the wedding other than that it was beautiful, homemade, and woven together by a boundless community of love for Debra and Andrew. True hearts were shared, unveiled, and nurtured that day. My favourite part of the day was at the beginning of the ceremony. When Debra’s dad walked her down the isle and the minister asked who gave Debra away, her parents replied they were quite happy to bless this union. Andrew, who was on the stage let out a, “Woohoo!!!” and literally jumped off the stage, hugged Debra’s parents and escorted Debra onto the stage to marry her. Andrew remained his joyful, jumpy, self all day and I feel that helped the day go along a lot smoother. It’s important for the groom to stay himself during the wedding day. Naturally because the bride is a woman and women have the super power ability to multi-task to the point it becomes our kryptonite she will have enough to worry about that day and she doesn’t need to keep her groom from crying because she will be the one drowning the congregation in her tears.

The sun set on another beautiful Island wedding and as we drove home we had that sick feeling in our stomachs, that feeling of sadness and wanting. Sad that we are leaving and wanting to stay longer.

As Sunday rose slowly over the red roads so did we. We stretched and groaned rising from our sleeping bags breathing in the sweet freshness of PEI. The aroma of seaweed, fresh green earth, and faint rusty road filled our lungs and spurred us into quickly packing up camp. We filled our bellies with a healthy breakfast of omelets, provided by Ben, and then we packed up Edna and went to church.

I was beyond thrilled to be going back to Charlottetown Community Church! It was the first place where I made life long friends when I moved to PEI. I walked through the doors and before I walked two steps in the door I was embraced by my old friend Niell. Once I was released from his embrace Pastor Tom engulfed me in his huge arms and squeezed and squeezed. Then his wife, Nadine, who by the way has more spunk and sass than me, said, “Come here doll and let me hug you!” She hugged me richly and then stood back and with a sexy Brooklyn side glance said, “Mmm, girl you look fabulous. Fabulous!” That Nadine is one hell of a lady, I can see why Tom married her. Friend after friend came up and wrapped their arms around me, it felt like I hadn’t been gone at all, like nothing had changed, like life was still as normal as when I left it. It felt safe, truly like coming home. One sweet gal friend, Trevina, said it right when she said, “You may have been born and raised in Ontario, but you grew up on PEI.”

The church service was amazing. Tom preached on prophesy and how to recognize it in your own life, how to speak words of truth into others life, and how to know the right timing when to say those words of truth. At the end of the service Tom lead us in prayer and opened the doors for the Holy Spirit to usher in and rest in our hearts, stir in us prophesies, encouragement, and prayers. Several people leaned into the agony of praying for the family and one woman bravely led them in prayer. Three others felt a Spirit of pain and needed healing for a specific part of the body and they prayed for each other. As I prayed I too opened my minds whispers to speaking in tongues and soon the gibberish turned to rhythms of: Ya-weh, Ya-weh, Ya-weh. It matched the beat of the ocean and from the rhythm I felt a whisper say, “Peace is tangible, it is already yours. Just stay calm and breathe.” And then the whisper was gone and my heart sighed and smiled with the continuous beat.

Church ended and Josh, Ben, Laura and I were given farewell hugs to last us all the way to Ontario. We picked up some last minute groceries and then we climbed into faithful Edna, pointed the hood homeward and drove one. Before we crossed the 13.5 km bridge that would take us to the mainland we stopped at Border-Carlton tourist village and joined the army of Asian tourists taking pictures of the bridge and lighthouse. The opportunity to stretch our legs and have some last minute shenanigans on the Island was a Godsend. It delayed our leaving just a few minutes, I would have preferred my car to break down and we be stranded there for another week but alas we weren’t so lucky.

As we crossed the bridge I turned round in my seat and look longingly at the Island. No! I can’t be leaving you, not again, it is too beautiful, too soul enriching to abandon so quickly. My thoughts screamed at me to combat roll out of the car and run back but my heart told me, “You will be back, you will always go back. You have a lot to finish back home.” I rolled down my window, partially stuck my head out and breathed in as much ocean air as my lungs could hold.

The drive to Montreal was long but enjoyable. We had plenty of funny stories to share or make up. When a particularly catchy song would serenade us over the stereo we would roll down the windows, sing in the loudest off key falsetto voice and car dance.

Laura was super excited to show us Rivier-du-Loup and we stopped on the beautiful banks of the St. Laurence for ice cream and to stretch our legs in the glorious sunset. Shades of shy pink, sleepy mauves, and lullaby yellows bled across the sky and cast mysterious blue shadows on the mountains on the other side. When the sun had fully hid behind the mountains we continued on to Montreal where we spent the night in a true bohemian style apartment. Josh had a friend who kindly let us stay at her apartment for the night while she was out of town. We each found a comfy place to curl up for the night and crashed.

When morning came and the city slowly began to wake up we packed up quickly and found the nearest and cheapest crepe restaurant. I barely had both eyes open when Josh ran up behind me in the living room, grabbed me from behind and screamed in my ear, “Happy Birthday Joelle!!!!!” At first I thought I was getting mugged and my initial plan was to elbow him in the ribs but then I relaxed and realized that it indeed was my birthday. Funny how that sneaks up on your once a year. I had been so busy with Island plans and vacation enjoyment that I forgot about my birthday. Thank you for the somewhat terrifying reminder, Josh. Every year since I can remember I have always had crepes on my birthday. This year was no different and this year we had true French crepes. They were three times the size I could ever make them and were saturated in cream cheese sauce, raspberry coulis, and fresh strawberries. Mmmmm.

After an enormous breakfast we piled back into Edna and once again were homeward bound. As this was the last stretch of our journey the boys took the cockpit while Laura and I relaxed in the back seat like the princesses that we were. I was especially grateful to the boys for taking the wheel so willingly as we had to conquer Montreal in morning traffic and Toronto just at the beginning of afternoon rush hour.

We made it to Kitchener at exactly the time Betty predicted we would and we were all a little travel logged and smelled like road trip. I dropped everyone off at their own homes and after another hour of driving I arrived safe and sound at the Ritsema Homestead once again finding myself happy to be home and excited for the next visit to PEI. I showered, left my suitcase unpacked and thrown on my bedroom floor and then collapsed into my own bed. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

I hope you have enjoyed this encore Mama Jo blog post and my previous blessing from last years remains the same. May God enrich you and lean into your heart, may His plans for you ignite your day to day destinies and may you always leave room for cheesecake. See you next time . . . maybe.

Here we go!!

Silliness in Halifax

Josh and Laura acting silly

On the ferry to PEI

Smelling that sea air and dreaming of Island charm. 

Basin Head beach

Camp fire at East Point

Michelle, myself, Natalie, Stewart, Lisa. All my gals!

View from the battlement in Victoria Park

Laura conquering some cliffs

Me conquering some cliffs

Laura and Josh taking on the deep fried Mars bar

Bubbling Brook trail

Bubbling Brook

Ira and Hannah

Mariana and Priscilla

Brackley Beach

Josh with a lobster nose

Brackley Beach

More of the bubbling brook trail

Cupcake time

Kitchen Princess and her jesters 

Don't mess with Mama Jo

The finished product

Debra and Andrew

Fun photos 

Debra, myself, and Andrew

Haa haa! Let the pranking begin. 

Confederation Bridge

I don't want to leave!!!

Longest covered bridge in the world, Hartland New Brunswick. 


Happy 25th Birthday me!