Before I sit down to write my editor’s note, I like to wait for the most up-to-date version of the magazine layout just before it goes to press. While I see the pages develop along the way, it’s the big reveal at the end when my graphic designer Barbara sends through the last PDF that I can see all of the stories, photos, and ads coalesce. I love the energy and the sentiment that resonates from each one of our carefully designed pages, and it’s usually in these moments that something gives me a nudge to say it’s time to get writing. This morning as I return to this practice, I am sitting in my living room. Outside my window, a blue jay lands on a naked branch of my cherry tree, its weight briefly waving it up and down as if to say hello. It’s a grey morning and the forecast calls for showers for most of the day. It’s a pretty typical late-November day. But as I flip through the pages and give the copy another quick read, I turn to the ad on the inside back cover and the words at the top of the page remind me that today is not a typical November day nor have any of the other days since the calendar turned last year.
“History never looks like history when you are living through it.” The words of William Dawson, a thought leader born in Pictou 200 years ago and being celebrated by the McCulloch House Museum and Genealogy Centre. Outside of the early days of the pandemic last spring, when the world felt like it was spinning on a different axis, most of us have just kept our chins up, took a few punches, and did our best to live our lives as we always have.
As we wrap up the last issue of At Home on the North Shore in 2020, and I think back on our year and the enormity of our collective experiences, I can’t help but wonder how the historians of the future will look back at this time and how it will be viewed. I believe that when they dust off the volumes that tell the story of Nova Scotia’s response to the global pandemic, they will discover the finest example of how to live beautifully and compassionately in turbulent times. They will read chapters on our resolve to protect our communities from a virus that was out of control in other parts of the world, and global-health specialists will speak about how bubbles flattened the curve. History will also reflect how, in the midst of what we thought were the toughest days as a province, an unspeakable tragedy took place within our protective borders that nothing could have prepared us for, but how we were able to come together in our sorrow even when
we were physically apart.
These ideas must have been quietly percolating when my husband and I set about to decorate a tree for the annual Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Festival of Trees. For the last few years, our company has sponsored the event and we have designed a Christmas tree to be auctioned off in support of the great work of the agency.
This year our “Shine On” tree symbolizes the strength and resiliency that we have demonstrated as a province. In our darkest days, we still find a way to shine on, to share our light, and to sparkle, even if it hurts. The tree is decorated with 44 Nova Scotia Crystal glass balls symbolizing our Atlantic bubbles. Despite the appearance of fragility, blown glass can be resilient and strong. Twenty-two of the ornaments have been etched with a tiny heart and placed randomly on the tree, each one resonating with the love and memory of the beautiful lives we lost on a very tragic day in April. The year 2020 will be remembered for many reasons, but the most brilliant will be for the ways we continue to be Nova Scotia Strong.
As I turn my attention back to the pages of our holiday issue, I see how the last year has impacted the way we tell our stories. I am grateful that last January we were able to capture our cover story Welcome the Joy, the enduring charm of Amherst’s Bent Cottage, and Lori Byrne’s visit with the Denholm Family in Truro for her feature Christmas Cheer that Lasts All Year. It would have been a shame to have all of those gorgeous smiles and laughs stifled behind masks for most of the photo shoots. When I went to take photos in Erin Pettipas’ kitchen (see Graze Craze in our food section) Erin was very concerned about taking off her mask and gloves for the photos because she takes great care in her approach to food safety. I had the good fortune of taking that grazing board home to my own household and munched away while we watched the U.S. election results roll in (I am not going down that rabbit hole).
As we close in on the holiday season and plot our course for the new year, the path is still unclear. But there is one thing that I know will stay true: Nova Scotians will continue to be strong and shine on.
From my family to yours, I wish you moments of joy and peace, and however you are able to celebrate this season, may your new year begin with health and happiness.

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Crystal likes to think about her forays in journalism like interval training. " I have had a wonderful freedom to be home when I needed to be and work when the spirit moved me. In the spaces between I have learned things about myself, my family and my community that I hope will find a rightful place in the new and refreshed pages of At Home on the North Shore. "