December 05, 2005

Thanks, Nova Scotia

A version of this story was posted in December 2004

Our Christmas tree is up, and so is Boston's.

The nearly 50-foot white spruce that graces the city's downtown is, like 30 trees before it, a gift from the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It's an annual expression of friendship and thanks for help that Boston provided after the 1917 Halifax Explosion, in which a collision between two ships, one loaded with wartime ammunition, took 2,000 lives, injured 9,000 and left 1,500 homeless.

The delivery of the Boston tree always reminds me of a personal experience with Nova Scotian friendliness. I was in Truro, (above) at the head of Cobequid Bay, a finger of the Bay of Fundy. I'd come to watch the tidal bore, an amazing crush of water that rushes toward Truro twice daily, filling Cobequid with a fast-moving wall of water that literally piles on top of itself. The evening performance, lit by a dramatic fireball sunset, was about to begin.

I pulled up to a farm that sat at the water's edge. As I began to see water from the distant Bay of Fundy move toward Truro, I realized I'd left my camera at my motel. The woman who owned the farm came outside, and I asked her if I had time to retrieve the camera before the water wall reached us. She considered the liquid shimmer advancing from the horizon and said, "Yes. You have time. But hurry."

I tore up the road and barrelled into the motel parking lot. The owner was waiting at the door, holding it open. "Forgot my camera!" She nodded and smiled.

I got back to the farm just as the water reached the channel neck west of Truro. In a minute or two, the advancing sea would be squeezed into a narrow space, and the aquatechnics would begin. The farmwife stood where I had left her, staring at the bay. "I knew you would make it," she said.

I considered the wonder I was about to behold, then considered the wonder I'd just been part of. I'm convinced that, through the power of welcome and friendship, the farmwife and the motel owner had held back the tidal bore and made it wait for me.