Photos supplied by Suzanne Stewart
A timeless piece centred around time, The Tides of Time discovers what makes Nova Scotia, particularly the North Shore, a province not only to visit but to write about.
Doctor Suzanne Stewart, Assistant Professor at StFX, begins her book with an explanation of why she did not start in January, as our current calendar suggests we do. Instead she starts in Autumn, at the beginning of September and travels gracefully through each month and their worth.
It is clear with her inclusion of poets such as William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson and Henry David Thoreau that Stewart is a romantic at heart and sees clearly magic and love within our province. Her research interests include Romantic Period, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Nineteenth-Century Painting and it is clear throughout this book. These elements and her extensive knowledge add an extra beauty throughout the well-researched journey.
Lesley Choyce, author and owner of Pottersfield Press, understood the importance of Stewart’s non-fiction journey highlighting the farm and rural aspect of our province. Stewart was inspired by Nova Scotia itself, moving from Saskatchewan, “I became fond of it quickly in a seasonal way.”
As her journey takes us through each month, Stewart goes behind the scenes of the Antigonish Farmers Market to better understand each farmer and vendor. As someone who moved from Saskatchewan to teach at StFX and live in Antigonish, this author met with farmers in the area, including the late Joan Murray who tended a cranberry farm in Barney’s River, to tell their story. Or rather, to tell the story of what they cultivated through nature.
September started seaside, talking to Chandra Gavin about her and her husband John’s time fishing. While John was out catching tuna, Chandra stayed back to tell the author firsthand what life as a fishing family is like.
From there Stewart slowly made her way to each local farm both in their off and on seasons to better understand time, weather, and hard work involved in maintaining an apple orchard, maple syrup operation, growing blueberries, and more. Angela, Adam and Frazer Hunter of Knoydart Cheese Farm, a regular at the New Glasgow Farmers’ Market, invited her to their home to talk cheese and cows, even being able to witness the afternoon milking.
Going as far as Cape Breton to forage for wild mushrooms and stay overnight at Chanterelle Country Inn to enjoy some slow food. Earlene Bush, the owner of the inn and disciple of the Slow Food Movement, welcomed Stewart into her kitchen to witness the process and passion that went into each meal made complete with local foods direct from her property or her neighbours’.
Not raised on a farm herself, she was “very quickly humbled” by the resources and knowledge of our local farmers and the preservation of rural life in general. Stewart’s favourite section shifts with each reader’s personal story and reflection of each farm, telling her how it brought them back or taught her something new about the vendor at the local Farmers’ Market. The richness and complexity plus simplicity to every chapter and farmer offers a bigger picture of a grand richness through our seasons.
“If only one person would see one month or one labour or harvest differently than I would feel most rewarded.” Finding something intriguing in different ways and surprises with each visit, Stewart enjoyed the individuals and human traits with each farmer on top of all of the processes and perspectives during each season.
Classic poets with their poems act as a thread throughout, intermingling time with beauty and rural life throughout the world. Using the labours of the month calendar to suggest that we can still find such a calendar while working with the poetry Stewart adores and connects with life and land today.
“It is an ideal place with so many people living in rural areas,” Stewart comments. “One of the purposes for me are that people speak of a disappearing way of life in rural areas but I felt perhaps there is another story,” and in writing The Tides of Time she proved it. Countering the more commonly heard message of struggling farms and industrialized ways, this book highlights the brilliance behind the growth both through seasons, farmers and the land and sea itself.
“Natural beauty is so important to me, the preservation of rural life and people who live rural have a very rich knowledge of what they do and their humility sometimes, and dignity – all of that I find very appealing,” and all of that has helped Stewart feel at home on the North Shore of Nova Scotia. “We’re very fortunate to live in that kind of an environment here.”
Reading The Tides of Time and travelling to the farms of the North Shore was an adventure of appreciation for where our foods come from and how farmers depend on the days weather, not the mark of a calendar. A great read for anyone eating in the province, thinking of travelling to the east and for anyone interested in how temperatures effect more than our moods.