Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Goes Your Summer 2013 so Far? It's Been One for the Record Books for me!

I have to admit, life has been pretty good to me overall and when it comes to summers, I've been dealt some pretty good hands. I've been fortunate enough to have had every summer off work since...well, since I started working many years ago. Things just kind of fall into place for me when it comes to having the best time of the year to myself to do as I please. The first two years, I was a student and traveled back home from the city to be with my family. I later found myself a job at a company that allowed me to work as much overtime and weekends as I wanted throughout the winter so I could take the entire summer off if I wanted to...and, of course I wanted to so I worked my butt off all winter to save up enough money and time to be able to take a leave of temporary absence from my job. This summer is a little different. I had a job but I got laid guessed it, right before summer began! Not that being laid off is a good thing but it fell at just the right time. Now don't all be hating on me now. I don't know how well I would fare if I ever found myself having to sit in an office every day from 9-5 while the sun splits rocks outside and the beach calls my name but I know the time may come when my luck will run out.

This summer is different in another way. It's different because, unlike other summers that have been all fun and good times, this summer has been a roller-coaster of sorts with an equal mixture of good and bad. Don't get me wrong, the bad was really bad but the good has been really good. It's just there is one thing missing; my Mom.

April 22nd is a day I will never forget. That was the day that I was unable to reach my mom for an extended period of time. I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of guilt, grief, sadness and shock that overcame me when the uniformed police officer who was sent to break into my mom's apartment to check up on her informed me that the reason she was not answering her door or her phone was because she had passed away in her sleep. The following weeks were a blur of activity that had me making phone calls, making funeral arrangements, dealing with lawyers, doctors, funeral directors, bereaved friends and family members, landlords and utility companies on top of having to deal with the heartbreaking task of cleaning out mom's apartment filled with life-long memories and treasured heirlooms. I was so busy, I barely had time to grieve. It wasn't until well into the next month when the activity died down, the funeral had come and gone and my pink slip came in the mail that I was finally able to break down and let reality set in that my mom was gone and we wouldn't be doing all of the things we said we would be doing together this summer.

Now, if you have been reading or following this blog for a while, you know I am not one to get depressed or to let life's hurdles get in the way of living the one life I have to live. I'm more of a "plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead" type and this quote certainly rings true when I think of all the things Mom wanted to do but never got the chance. We just never know when our time will come. My time could be tomorrow or it could be 50 years from now but I'm not going to sit around wasting any of the time I have left. I made a vow to do exactly as Mom would have wanted me to continue living my life to the fullest no matter what happens. And that is what I have been doing these past few months.

I created a mental bucket list to complete before the end of the Fall. Summer really began in mid-June for me. That is when I decided, at the spur of the moment, to take a road trip. Road trips are not something new to me but this road trip had special meaning because I was traveling to a city I had never been to before (Dieppe, New Brunswick) to visit a person I had never met before - my great-aunt who Mom had never met and intended to visit for the first time this summer. Summer 2013 bucket list item #1...completed! I also did another thing on that same trip. I always wanted to drive over The Confederation Bridge, the massive structure that takes travelers across the Gulf from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, so I veered off course, drove over the bridge and took the scenic route home through PEI...bucket list item #2...done!
Since starting off summer with that road trip and managing to tick a few things off my bucket list, I have embarked on a number of adventures. Many of them started off as familiar and routine trips to various places around Cape Breton that transpired into something new and exciting. For example, I left my home in Lingan one day in early July to go camping in Ingonish and ended that trip three days later with a kayaking excursion in St. Anne's Bay with North River Kayak. I always wanted to try kayaking but never got around to it. Bucket list item #3...Done! What I thought would be a routine weekend attending a reunion with family and friends ended in me visiting one of my Dad's childhood haunts. King's Rock is located at the bottom of a cliff and it was a favorite swimming hole and hang out for him and his friends growing up. In order to get to the actual rock, one must swim for a while through deep water filled with seaweed and jellyfish (I loathe both) to reach a series of rocks offshore. I wanted to do this the first year the reunion was held but didn't make it to the King's Rock segment of the weekend. This year, I was the first (and one of the only ones) who put thoughts of seaweed and jellyfish aside and swam out to those rocks! Another one knocked off the list! I had heard there was a cave located near the beach by my house in Lingan and always wanted to look for it. I set out one afternoon and after scaling cliffs, climbing over huge rocks, getting my feet wet in the rising tide and trespassing (is it really trespassing though if someone else made the hole in the fence and I just climbed through it?) I did find the cave! Another one knocked off the list! A last-minute Canada Day trip to Margaree saw me discovering a new beach on Cape Breton Island and since I try to make it a point to discover a new place on the island every year, this can be considered another check on that 2013 bucket list...but I can't tell you where that beach is or what it is called because I've been sworn to secrecy! As many of you already know, I am very adventurous and there aren't very many things I am afraid of so it shouldn't be surprising that one of the things on my travel bucket list is to do one of those tornado-chasing tours in Tornado Alley. For the first time since I can remember, parts of Cape Breton were under a Tornado warning during a severe thunder storm. I was in a safe area that night, camping in the highlands but a few days after that scare, the sky over Cape Breton County was filled with very dark, fluffy, scary-looking clouds that looked just right to possibly spawn a funnel cloud or two. When the warnings for severe thunder storms were posted and the first rumbles of thunder were heard and the first flashes of lightning streaked across the sky, I hopped in the car and drove right into the impending storm. Fortunately for all the sane people, the storm passed quickly and no funnel clouds emerged. Although it was exciting to watch a storm unfold right before my eyes, unfortunately, for me (the maybe slightly insane one), I will have to resort to Tornado Alley if I ever want to see one up close!
This summer also saw me meeting a one-in-million blue lobster that was caught off Cape Breton, watching a beautiful full moon rise over Cape Smokey Mountain, spending a quiet evening in a very dark place watching a spectacular meteor shower (I always try to plan my trips to the highlands around full moons and meteor showers), sailing on the Bras D'or Lakes on board the famed Amoeba sailing boat and enjoying a night watching a wonderful fireworks display over Lingan Bay with friends. I made a point of spending an afternoon picking strawberries at Rendell's Farm in Point Aconi like I did every year with my mom since I was a child. I didn't have any room in my freezer for the amount that we used to pick. The whole point was to honor that tradition and rekindle those fond memories I have of picking with Mom and to have enough berries to make strawberry shortcakes for a few days! My sister who I had not seen in almost two years came down for a visit and not only did I get to spend some time with her, I got to spend some time with my new friend Troy, her dog who loved walking Dominion Beach with me every afternoon. And, of course, I didn't forget about my feathered friends that I have been stalking for the last 3 years - The two bald eagles who have a nest near my home. In late spring, young ones were born and this summer I watched the little ones go from newborns being fed in the nest to young eagles perching on a branch near the nest getting ready to learn to fly to actually seeing them soar through the sky.
It is now August 18th. Summer is coming to a close but the adventures are not over for me yet! I still have many things to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. So what is in store for the near future? Let's see...I have always wanted to stay at the Keltic Lodge Resort and, lucky me, I have a booking to stay at that famous resort next week. I have pretty much hiked every trail on Cape Breton Island except Franey, located in Ingonish. Everyone is always telling me how I must hike this trail and I am going to do it during a trip around the trail next week with Dad. Mom had planned to embark on a camping trip in the Grand Canyon this summer and ever since my sisters and I found her detailed itinerary of that trip while going through her things in her apartment, we vowed to do that trip this fall in her memory...and it is going to be epic! The three MacEachern sisters together on a camping adventure in one of the most revered places on earth that will most likely end with a side trip to Las Vegas. I've always dreamed about embarking on a multi-country Europe trip and the plans have already started to unfold with that trip likely being completed this coming spring or next summer. My yearly visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg for the FĂȘte de Saint-Louis is a given and will happen next week but this year will be a little different. The 18th century fireworks are usually the final and most anticipated event of the festival but this year will see hundreds of fiddlers storm the fortress as part of the Louisbourg 300 celebrations. Depending on the reliability of the Marine Atlantic ferries (there's been some problems with the fleet as of late, but that's not anything new) I'll be making my yearly trip to St. John's to visit with old friends and old haunts including, of course, George Street. With a few more trips around the Cabot Trail, a possible jaunt up to Margaree for Labour Day, a fall road trip to The Mainland to visit friends and relatives and at least one hike to one of my favorite swimming holes, The Glooscap Caves (or Fairy Hole as it is known locally), I think it is safe to say that this summer, with all its ups and downs, is definitely going down as one to remember!

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