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The rise and fall of life

Ship's Position: 
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
Jacques Cousteau


When you spend time at sea or on the shore you seem to become tuned to the rise and fall of life, much like the tide. I’m sure this is true for anybody who spends time outside in the elements, my experience is with the sea which of course colors my outlook. In the spring as we get the schooner ready for another season, we watch the snow melt and then new life begin to form. The first green buds on the trees, the red winged blackbirds in the marsh grass, a school of small fish in the shadows under the transom all indicate life returning after the winter. Ospreys, arctic terns and eagles swoop and dive overhead while the majestic great blue heron creeps along the shallows looking for a meal. Otters and raccoons bring out their pups and the rush of summer is upon us. Out in the bay, porpoises and seals watch us while chasing mackerel and herring and not too far away, whales, sharks and sunfish enjoy the bounties of our shore.

In all this life there is also death. A Northern Gannet with a broken neck from an incorrect dive, a half-eaten seal or tuna on the Eastern Points shore. Last season we came across a seal carcass with a shark feeding on it. We are all keenly aware of the circle of predator and prey and yet often feel removed, just observers from another sphere.

These past few weeks we have been pulled back into the circle and been involved in several spreading of ashes ceremonies and celebrations of life. The sea is a great healer of life’s wounds, a constant in our lives. The ability to return a loved one’s ashes to the sea, to the constant and unchanging ocean, provides many with comfort. It took me some years to realize the tears shed during a funeral are for ourselves and the loss endured. The tears at sea are maybe the final letting go and the beginning of healing. Bluenose II, for some a symbol of Nova Scotia, a physical remembrance of when we were strong and able to do great things, is a platform to move from loss to healing. The deck of a moving ship, lifted by waves and tide reminds us all of life and the cycles that are inescapable.

Being crew aboard Bluenose II allows us the privilege to partake in these ceremonies and to have a glimpse of people lives and to meet those that loved them. This week we have spread the ashes of two former captains, a researcher, model builder and friend and lastly of a shipmate and former crew. All done with respect and honour due, all done with consideration for lives lived. Be kind to those around you.