For Science.

“I don’t know about this,” my friend said, as she stood in line to order a sub.

My gaze followed hers, down to a nearby bin.  I blinked a couple of times, reminding myself I need to wear my glasses.

“Does that say …?”

M. nodded.  “It does.”

I just shook my head in disbelief.

Because I wasn’t ordering, and because this was still the Time of COVID, I felt like I was in the way, so I told my friend I was going to look around the convenience store a bit.

I was wandering the various displays of junk food — pondering several bags of Doritos, eventually choosing none of them — and rounded a corner.

There it was.  Again.

I stood on tip-toe to see if M. had picked one up — she hadn’t — and so I gave in to impulse.  A nano-moment later, I put it on the counter, before I changed my mind.

Some things one just has to do — for science.

A little while later, as we resumed our road trip along Route 8 up to Miramichi, I pulled it out of my cooler bag.

“I did it,” I confessed.  “Are you in?”

M. — with an expression of curiosity, skepticism, and horror which I was certain mirrored my own — agreed.  Sink or swim, we were in this together.

I opened the package carefully, and broke the contents into four pieces.  Two trials each.  I handed M. her first portion, and simultaneously we put the pieces in our mouths.

Silent, thoughtful, and confused chewing ensued.

“What do you think?” I asked M.

“I … don’t know,” came the uncertain response.

“Me either. … Want to try again?”

Even after the second trial, we remained mystified and befuddled.  Besides not being able to parse our reactions, we both had the same, unspoken question hurtling in our heads.

Who thinks to put a thin layer of popcorn in a chocolate bar?!

We may need to do more trials to decide whether it was a good idea or not.

For science.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Nose in a Book

“Karen can often be found with her nose in a book” was a frequent comment in my childhood report cards.  I smile now, remembering, because that is exactly how I am sitting now — with my nose buried in a book.

I live in a small city on the east coast of Canada, and I am well-known in several circles as a fervent Thoreauvian — one who is more than just a mere fan of Henry David Thoreau, but practically an evangelist.  My Facebook is as decorated with Thoreau as the back of my car is with Thoreauvian bumper stickers.  In short, people know.

So when a friend had come into his possession a copy of a Thoreau ex-libris volume dated 1882, he knew I’d be interested.  “Interested” was putting it mildly.  So he dropped it off at my husband’s computer shop, and my husband brought it in to me just as my online writing group settled in to weave with words.

I rest my nose against the edges of the pages, and there is that heavenly old book smell — of old tables, of ancient church choir rooms, and of vanilla.  (My friend, a museum conservator, told me that the chemicals that break down in old paper are closely related to the chemical composition of vanilla.  I believe her.)

The first thing I did was open it up to see the library markings.  Some people loathe such things, but I am delighted by them.  Like marginalia, these relics show the journey of a book.  How many people had read it along the way to me?  The fact that it is marked “St. John” and not “Saint John” tells me that it was probably withdrawn before 1950 or so.  Where did it go after that?  How did my friend find it?

I now see the Introduction was written by Henry’s friend (yes, we are on a first-name basis) H. G. O. Blake, and I feel the warmth of recognition.

Then I realize the book was published thirty years after the date of the first entry, and twenty years after Henry died.  Suddenly this tome feels all the more precious — an intimate link between me and the man himself.

Last week another friend saw a hard-to-find two-volume set of Henry’s journals in a local used book store, and snatched them up for me, saying I could pick them up and pay him when convenient.

I am blessed and grateful for my friends, who not only know how much Thoreau books mean to me, but go out of their way to put them into my hands.

Henry would approve, I think.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

The First of July.

Today is the 154th anniversary of Canada becoming a country, rather than a collection of British colonies. Happy Canada Day to those who are celebrating.

I may set this post to “no comments.”   I don’t want to launch into political debate here. I just wish to mark the day while I sort out my own complicated and conflicted feelings.

The Canada I believed in — the one I thought I was part of — does not exist. But I’m slowly realizing that it can.

With a lot of hard work, compassion, education, humility, and — most of all — listening, this can become the country I thought it was.

When Summer Hits …

… it packs a punch.

The thing I love most about living along the Bay of Fundy is the way it moderates our weather here.  In the winter, while the rest of the province is getting pummeled with snow, the words “rain along the Fundy Coast” are music to my ears.  And in the summer, while people a mere fifteen-minute drive upriver are sweltering, life here is quite bearable.

So what the heck is happening this week?!

This afternoon, it was 30 deg C/ 86 deg F, but with the humidex, it was a “feels like” temperate of 40 deg C/104 deg F.  I know that compared to what is happening out on the west coast, this pales in comparison, but it’s just one more thing that is completely unrecognizable to me in this weird decade of the 2020s.

Anyone else of a certain age think we’re going to wake up to find Bobby Ewing in the shower, and the last year and a half was all a dream?

They always say that, while in the Maritimes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes.”

I’m still waiting.

By the air conditioner.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Karen J. McLean