Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Eels, dogs and strangers of our kind

The beauty of a small town:  you don't have to know each other in order to speak to each other.

Sometimes you can have the same experience in a city.    Lately, in Halifax,  I wandered into the Forum, where a farmers' market had just started up- and sat down with my African meatpie at a table already occupied by a couple- and we had a friendly conversation.  One chats to the market vendors as one would to the vendors in downtown St Andrews.   And then next door at the Women for Music book sale - raising funds for Symphony Nova Scotia- some of us got into a little chat about this author and that.     The common factor: going to markets and going to book sales, one feels one is pleasantly surrounded by like-minded people .  It says something about you already, if you forsake the malls to go in quest of local food,  or if you set down your electronic devices and instead pore over real physical books,  debating which you can offer a good home.

In beautiful downtown St Andrews , you don't always know everyone.  In any Maritime coastal community,  travellers often pass through.    Those from there who have had to go away to work come back for holidays, especially if their parents are still here- and if you're a relatively new resident from here, you didn't know them when they were growing up here.   And many day trippers come by St Andrews for our musical events, our July 1 festivities,  our summer farmers' market and the like.   Not to mention the cruise ships which anchor in our bay or send busloads down from Saint John.  

And even in very rural small inland communities,  you never know who lives there or who might visit there- or whom you might meet if you stop in at a flea market or a supper.

One of the joys of all the chance conversations - whether with people I know or people I don't know:  you learn constantly.

Only this week:  I happened upon a nearby blueberry stand which sells the most delectable wild blueberry sundaes.  They're not portable, so 3 of us wound up sitting outside snacking at the same picnic table- actually 4, one was a very small baby.

  Among various topics:   I discovered there is an eel business in rural Charlotte County.   This was a revelation as I didn't know there were eels, but apparently our rivers are full of them.    Eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea,  and somehow the young eels travel the Gulf Stream as far north as Canada,  up many an estuary into our rivers.   They are harvested in nets - I am hoping with conservation in mind-  and sold  mainly to Asian customers, some of whom, I can vouch , make them into beautiful barbecued eel sushi.   Apparently the reproductive life of eels remains something of a mystery: Carl Jung found that human psychoanalysis was less bewildering.

Today, sipping my French Roast and reading my Times Literary Supplement in a beautiful sunlit outdoor spot, I was glad I asked what someone was reading as I found out an author I had never heard of.   Beyond book learning, I studied the behaviour of dogs.  

A dog was barking very loudly simply because he was lonely- even waiting for his human companion for a few moments was more than he could bear.  He calmed right down when she reappeared.   Much to my amazement,  two other dogs came up - dogs whom he'd never met before- and I saw tail wagging, sniffing,  and other signs of sheer delight  - not a growl or bark to be heard.      I wondered- what is it to be part of a species who so quickly warms to total strangers, recognizing them as part of our kind?

And as a former city-dweller like me overcomes my shyness and speaks to people I don't know- as I am rewarded by widened horizons - do I too discover the joys of warming to others of my species, others of my kind?

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