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© 2019 by Joan Lowden, the Basslady

Contact:  831.588.7576,   info@basslady.com

As the seasonal residents depart for warmer climes, things start closing up for the winter here in Eastport.  Oct 6th was the last day for Quoddy Bay Lobster so I had to pop over for one last lobster roll.   I also took the big step to officially change my residency to Maine - I now have a Maine driver's license, car registration and am a Maine registered voter.   Otis likes our new Animal Welfare plate.

As a Maine voter watching the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, I felt it necessary to take a drive to Bangor and pay a little visit to Senator Susan Collin's house since I am now one of her constituents.   I was interviewed on the CBS TV station in Bangor and also made the closing paragraph of this article in the Bangor Daily News:

http://bangordailynews.com

Here is the paragraph:  Joan Lowden, 61, of Eastport recently moved to Maine from California. She said it was Ford’s testimony that spurred her to travel to Bangor on Sunday with her two dogs. “I figured if Christine Blasey Ford had the courage to testify on Thursday, I could get my ass out of bed and drive a couple of hours to make a statement,” she said. “This is a lifetime appointment. The confirmation decision needs to be taken seriously and not rushed. I stand for a full investigation by the FBI.”

Alas, Susan still voted to confirm, but I felt like I least took some action.   While I was in Bangor (a 2.5 hour drive from Eastport) I also stopped at the LL Bean outlet and bought a couple of winter coats.   Oh, and Stephen King's Bangor residence happens to be right across the street from Susan's so I couldn't pass up the photo op there!

Exhausted from the political drama of the past few weeks,  I was very excited for the opportunity to leave the US for a bit and spend some time in Canada.   The drive to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was simply spectacular!  500 miles of red and gold, my photos don't begin to do it justice.

It was fun to connect with Russ and Suzi while in Cape Breton.   Russ and I played in several bands together in Santa Cruz over the years, so it was fun to experience the Celtic Colours music festival with them - they attend most years.    

The "Big Fiddle" is located at Sydney harbor and is over 55 ft tall.   It was commissioned to recognize the importance of fiddle music to the musical heritage of Cape Breton.  First brought to the island by the Scottish immigrants over 200 years ago, the island fiddlers are now world renown.

"One thing I know, wherever I go, my heart's in Cape Breton, it will always be so.

Whenever the fiddler rosins the bow, my first and last thoughts are for home."

Alistair D. Macdonald

Left:  Lunch in Baddeck before heading to the Traditional jam at the Gaelic College

Right:  Square dancing clinic at Cape Breton University - it was a BLAST! 

The traditional Celtic jam session at the Gaelic College was amazing.  I wouldn't have had the courage to attend on my own, but since Russ was playing Bohdran, I grabbed my uBass and joined the circle.  It was so much fun, and the players were so welcoming, I'm glad I did.

Russ and Suzi recommended that I take the mine tour at the Miner's Museum in Glace Bay near where I was staying in New Waterford.   It was probably the highlight of my visit to Cape Breton - a very powerful experience.    We had to put on hard hats and capes - I thought it was a gimmick at first, but they were much needed - I lost track of how many times I whacked my head on the wooden beams in the mines.  We didn't get down very far, but some of the "deeps" went as far as 2700 ft under the ocean.

Our guide was Abbie.   He is 80 years old - started in the mines as a teenager, retired in 1993 and began to lead tours a month later.  He has been leading tours for 25 years and was proud to say that he and his wife will celebrate their golden anniversary in November.   Slainte!

The men worked in darkness, hunched over as you can't stand up straight in most parts of the mines.  There were rats - which were a good thing because as long as the rats were there, you knew the air was safe!   And there were pit-ponies that lived under ground - many never saw the light of day.  In 1952 Cape Breton started giving the horses 2 weeks above ground per year just like the men.  In fact, it was said that the horses were valued more than the men.    It was a very hard life for all and I felt quite humbled to meet Abbie, one of the last of a breed.     

The song:  Working Man  was written by the Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeill.    The link below is by the Men of the Deeps choir - they call the mines "the deeps".   This choir rehearses at the museum and is generally featured at the Celtic Colours festival each year.    You have to be an ex-miner to be a member of the choir, I think this song is almost painfully moving - both lyrics and melody - and I cry each time I hear it.  It was performed several times at the festival and everyone sang along.

It's a working man l am
And I've been down under ground
And I swear to God if l ever see the sun

Or for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again will go down under ground

PLEASE check out this video by Men of the Deeps - it is incredibly moving and worth your time. Around the 5 minute mark the miners turn on their helmet lights and the lights go down.  I challenge you NOT to cry!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v56DCcyGnec

The Eastport Art Center is such an incredible resource.  A couple of weeks ago we had a Sip and Klimt party.   Inspired by Sip and Paint parties, but instead of a single image, we were able to choose from a range of paintings by Gustav Klimt (most famous for "The Kiss").  I think I was a bit ambitious with my choice, but I was actually happy with what I produced in 2 hours.   It had a Klimt-ian feel and I am thinking I might turn it into an encaustic work at some point.  It was a really fun night and there were some very cool interpretations!

Whew, I have to pinch myself to believe that I am living here and having all these new experiences. I'm now gearing up for winter - we had some snow flurries last week (I don't think I've been in snow for at least 15 years!).  Check out the dogs' new jackets!

Oh, and my weekly radio show has been a blast.  We don't stream, but I have recordings of past shows on my website:   https://basslady.com/radio

 

Send us warm thoughts as the temperatures drop!