Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia: The Deanery Project

I didn’t know about The Deanery Project until I got here but it sure seems familiar. That’s because, in many ways, it is a close sister project to a place I do know and love. Like two bookends on the continent, this 25 acre demonstration eco-village is the eastern counterpoint to O.U.R. Ecovillage on the west coast of Canada, forty minutes drive north of Victoria. I spent nearly two months at O.U.R. Ecovillage this past February and March finishing work on the From the Heart book while living in a woodstove-heated cabin and joining the others in the community there for meals and side adventures. The place and people became dear to me while I was there and I recognize so much of the same vibe in the place and people here. I feel that I fit right in. Of course, the hospitality that The Deanery Project director Kim Thompson shows us would make anyone feel that he or she fits right in. Kim gives us a tour of the place: The Sheiling, The Pavilion & Bread Oven, The Roost, The Main Hall, The Solar Kiln, The Bike Repair Shop, and the pier down at the water where The Hundred Islands, now protected land, is just around the corner.

This is really a brief stopover—a respite toward the end of a long journey. They have prepared a lunch when we arrive and then marvellous big feast of steamed mussels and more for supper. The evening meal is punctuated by toasts to the many people who have been part of the work along the way and we are invited to write messages on postcards to any on them. Jumblies staff will make sure they are addressed and posted.

Being in this place is a good reminder for me that one of the significant ways that settler Canadians are stepping up to be allies with Indigenous people involves a serious commitment to protecting the land, earth and air: environmental stewardship can be seen as something that draws us together. In many immediate ways the stakes are exceptionally high for Indigenous people whose lives, livelihoods and cultural identities are intimately tied to protection of the earth. Stepping up as allies to take action in support of communities who are directly threatened by environmental destruction means something. Here at The Deanery they are committed to promoting ways for humans to live in the world with a reduced eco-footprint through building and lifestyle choices. They are starting an artists-in-residence program. The possibilities are wide open.

After a sumptuous dinner with piles of fresh steamed mussels and more, there is time for some sharing of poems, songs, and stories. During this whole trip I have been holding back from stepping to the stage when opportunities to share like this have presented themselves. Tonight as we are wrapping up our weeks together, Ruth asks if I’d like to offer something from my repertoire as a storyteller. After a few others take their turn, I tell “The Egg,” written by novelist and screenwriter Andy Weir. It is a short piece about a man who dies and has a conversation with god in which he learns that the universe is not what he thought it was. I relish the chance to tell it to my friends and colleagues. Afterwards we drift off to our bunks and the next morning following breakfast, we get back in the rented cars, bid farewell to those who are leaving Train of Thought today, and the rest of us make our way north to Abegweit territory in Prince Edward Island.

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