Autumn in the Annapolis Valley



(August 31, 2015)  I went to Wolfville again this past weekend, to deliver my daughter to her university residence at Acadia University. Attending Acadia is something of a tradition in my family, started by my great-uncle John Porter, who obtained his Master of Divinity there in 1951. I didn’t know the late Reverend John well, but he made a lasting impression on me at a family reunion when he greeted a long-lost cousin with a grin, a handshake, and the ambiguous exclamation, “The things you see when you don’t have a gun!” I can only presume Rev. John’s preaching was similarly lively.


I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in the verdant Gaspereaux Valley, in rooms barely altered from the time the farmhouse was built early in the 19th century. When I was a student at Acadia, this same farm included a raptor rescue run by the Biology Department’s museum curator, Cyril Coldwell. The business is owned and operated by one of his daughters, who serves baked goods and jams made from fruit grown on the farm. She carries on the traditions of sheltering the wayward and cultivating the land passed on by generations of farmers.


I’ve noted before that there is a lot of cycling culture in Wolfville. On this visit, with new and returning students descending on the town en masse, bicycles were absolutely everywhere. It seemed as if every motor vehicle sported a bike rack, full or empty. A European tour company was in town, with a trailer-load of bicycles. I walked past Clock Park just off Main St., and paused to listen to a drum group. I noticed several bicycles lying on the ground near them – the musicians had traveled to their venue by bicycle. The trail that runs along the rail line was a superhighway of pedestrians and bicyclists. I noted many parents with children strapped in trailers or pedaling alongside mum or dad on their own small bike. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be tiny children on tiny bicycles, cruising along behind a parent or grandparent, like some weird outdoor circus act.


At the Farmers Market, I couldn’t help but notice one very patient father with three small kids. They ranged in age from 2 to 7 years. The youngest was in a trailer towed by the dad’s bike, but the two older ones were on miniature bicycles and obviously very skilled at cycling. He very patiently helped strap on helmets and the seat belt. I asked him how he inspired his children to cycle, and with such aplomb at that. He replied that he cycled as much as possible himself, and had taken all of the children along whenever it was practical, in a seat on the bicycle or in the trailer. They had even all trained to travel 21 km by bicycle to a special music festival. He had spent weeks cycling the route with the children, each time going a little further, until they could all cycle the distance with ease. I thought this showed great fortitude on the part of the young children – many adults would balk at cycling 42 km!


I was horrified to learn that after flatting both tires over a pothole one day, my son locked his disabled (and very expensive) bike to a bike rack out front of a university building and left it. For three whole days. A bicycle is, apparently, such a part of the landscape that it never occurred to anyone to steal it.


Acadia University and the lands around it are steeped in history. One evening my university student children and I went for a hike to a small historic park. We enjoyed spectacular views of valleys and vineyards from the park’s hilltop stile. On our way back, we met a middle-aged man riding a mountain bike up the longest, steepest street in town. He was standing on the pedals, and although obviously making an effort it was also obvious he was quite equal to the task. This may not seem remarkable, but only because I haven’t told you yet that he was towing a trailer loaded with a very large, gas engine, full-sized lawn mower. The things you see when you don’t have a camera.

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