The Slow Way

My middle sister refers to my cottage as “Ground Zero.” The place in our lives that no matter what happens, will always remain the same. Will stir up the some of the best emotions. Will take us back to digging up razor clams on the beach as children, running up and down the fields when walking is just too slow, and kissing the boyfriends we brought here as teenagers.

Everyone has a happy place, and without a doubt, my cottage on the North Shore of Nova Scotia is mine.

Since “getting sick,” everything has been up in the air. I made tons of plans for this summer, and now all of them are dependent on how I’m feeling that week, or that day. When I saw the sun would be shining this weekend, it didn’t take much to convince my family to go back to the cottage with me.

Sister Sara and I hit the road in her new sporty coupe on Friday. I gave the wrong directions while controlling the stereo, as every good passenger should.

One of the big reasons why I moved back home to the Maritimes, apart from being closer to my family, was to be closer to the countryside. I’ve always known I’m a country girl at heart. We’ll call Toronto my “city experiment” that only solidified these suspicions. Give me never-ending fields of green grass and bails of hay to crawl over and I’m a happy camper.

Despite my rusty navigational skills, anyone who knows me knows I will ALWAYS be able to find you a decent restaurant or bakery. I’m like a moth to a delicious flame. Sara and I expertly found a German bakery housed in an old farmhouse with turkeys running around, a place we used to stop by frequently as children.

My sister lived in Germany for a while, so while she chatted up the owner in Deutsch, I of course got to business surveying the goods. We left with some of that apple streudel on the right and chocolate covered almond cookies.

The best part about my cottage, without a doubt, is the air. Ohmygod. It’s intoxicating. The second you open the car door, you’re hit with a cool breeze mixed with scents of grass, salt, and sand if the flats are out.

There are usually three choices upon arriving at the cottage: sit down and crack open a beer, go for a swim, or grab the dog and go for a walk. Guess which one I always choose?

How can you deny a dog the chance to make this face? He LOVES it here! Picture me prancing through the grass too with a big goofy grin as we walked along the gravel roads together.

We spied many things you sometimes only see in the country, but most of all just people and animals being themselves in a wide open space.

Take for instance, this cat chasing a chipmunk off in the distance. By the way, I totally saved that chipmunk’s life by distracting the cat taking this picture.

And of course, your requisite insect-on-a-flower shot. I’ve always wanted to take one of these!

Despite the fatigue hanging over me from the chemotherapy, there is something about the cottage that makes me work through it and feel better.

There are a lot of times over the course of the day when I think about where my life has led to. About the cancer. About being home. About maybe never having a family of my own, or getting sick again several years down the road. Yes, I am a pretty positive person, but let’s not pretend I don’t have a lot of things to worry about too.

With all that said, this summer has taught me something. I could have spent my whole life travelling from city to city, looking for something I was never going to find. When in reality, it’s been next to me the whole time. It’s not always about searching for happiness, but rather being still enough to let it come find you. Because when you wipe away the things that worry and scare you, you will sometimes find the beauty in the world you never knew existed.

Not just words for you today, but a gentle reminder for me too :)


Posted on August 7, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. Lovely thoughts and photos.

  2. This is how I feel about my family cottage by the ocean too-
    the place I am most at peace with myself.

    You put my feelings into words Susan.There is something
    both so freeing and grounding at being at the cottage with
    the beauty of nature,memories and family,and the sound of the ocean!

    I loved reading this-it made me feel so happy both because it resonates with me and my childhood and to read how therapeutic
    it must be for you at this moment in your life.

    Dog walking at the cottage- best “medecine” for health or
    heartbreal ever!!!

    Have a wonderful Sunday Susan.

  3. *medicine*


    ah, typos ;)

  4. Your reflection is so true. You are so lucky to have such a lovely cottage which stores so many good memories. The location is so beautiful.

  5. I have been loving your posts so much recently. Even though I don’t suffer from cancer, I relate to what you are writing on a personal level. Learning to live in the moment because we are forced to turns into appreciating living in the moment because we hadn’t before…I get that!

    I swear that dogs smile! Especially when they are outside.

  6. Beautiful thoughts and photos. This reminded me a bit of Dorothy’s reflections as the Wizard of Oz was about to transport her back to Kansas – discovering that what she was searching for was really in her own back yard (and heart) the whole time. The state of deep peace and contentment is an inside job that takes the stillness about which you spoke to recognize. You have found that no matter the circumstances you will be okay. Great news for such a young woman. I was in my mid fifties when this began to dawn!

    • I love that you referenced the Wizard of Oz. I’m a huge children’s lit lover and that’s one of my favorites!

      It’s too bad that it often takes illness for someone my age to realize these things!

  7. I love this. And it took me 35 years to find my stillness.


  8. great post girl :) i really needed this today!

  9. “apple streudel on the right and chocolate covered almond cookies.”–

    I’d love to help you sample those :)

  10. Beautiful. I hope you enjoy your time there. You are absolutely right, and I love what you said. “It’s not always about searching for happiness, but rather being still enough to let it come find you.”

    I too grew up in the country, and find much comfort when I am back. It is funny how there is so much pleasure in taking a dog for a walk. I think it must be the joy they have in going, it must just float right up to us!

  11. I love this post. I live in Halifax and totally get how wonderful the air smells in the country. I love to travel down the shore to Parrsboro, smell the sea air, hear the waves meeting the shore, the joy of walking a dog, how the simplicity in the countryside is soooo beautiful and meaningful all at the same time. I think it’s wonderful for your recovery that you can revel in what nature provides, oh, and German baked goods too!!!

  12. Lovely message. You went “over the rainbow” and discovered, for you, “there’s no place like home.” Time to pass on the ruby slippers to someone else. :-)

  13. This is so very beautiful. One of the things I’ve admired about watching you deal with your diagnosis from afar is that there has never been this tone of, “Why me?!” or “Why do I deserve this?!” You have been the definition of grace and I am so moved that you are finding lessons and hope in what you could easily being seeing as a curse. You totally inspire me. I hope to appreciate my own stillness today.

  14. This is beautiful. The last part literally made me cry. Thanks for sharing :)

  15. “It’s not always about searching for happiness, but rather being still enough to let it come find you…” Love that. Adore that. Beautiful post.

  16. Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful and inspiring post. I have been reading your blog religiously since Caitlin showed it to me and I am in awe of your strength and grace through your experience. I tell my friends and family about the things your write and reading this is adding to my desire to work as a cancer care therapist some day. Enjoy your weekend at your beautiful oasis!

  17. Beautifully said.

    I definitely need to take the advice “It’s not always about searching for happiness, but rather being still enough to let it come find you.” I feel like I am constantly restless and searching for the next thing to do in my life. It’s difficult to just sit back and just BE.

    Thank you for the reminder to do just that!

  18. Thank you Susan for the great reminder! I’ve added it to my favorite quotes collection. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  19. This?

    Because when you wipe away the things that worry and scare you, you will sometimes find the beauty in the world you never knew existed.

    Made me tear up.

    Exactly what I needed to hear today.

  20. I could definitely do a better job of wiping away the things that scare me. Fear is such a hindrance in life. Thanks for the reminder. I think it’s something everyone could benefit from hearing once in a while. Your positivity is really inspiring!

    By the way, I love the “YOU SLOW” sign!

  21. What a cute little dog! It’s so enjoying the walk :D Your cottage is really fantastic. I love the pictures you take there. Glad you are feeling well enough to get out and enjoy it :D XOXO

  22. Not only do I love how you take us with you & I can feel like I am there & smell & see exactly what you do but it makes me feel good that you are there & finding what is right for you. Your last comments – amazing! I will be sharing on my blog tomorrow! Thank you!

  23. As horrible as “being sick” is, it’s great that you’re able to learn these lessons. I lost my brother to suicide 7 years ago and it affected me a lot like this, especially since I’ve struggled with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Learning where you belong in life and surrounding yourself with things you love makes a person feel whole again.

    I hope you keep learning these lifelong lessons; however, next time in a more gentle, less threatening way!!

  24. Ah, Susan… you are taking me back down memory lane in more than one way. Back to our childhood cottage, also on the north shore of NS… back to my journey through treatment… back to life lessons discovered on that journey. You are so eloquent… thank you for sharing and I hope you had a super-duper weekend.

    I wanna know where that bakery is… *drooool*…

  25. Beautiful post in SOOOO many ways. Thank you for continuing to humble me ;-)

    I grew up on the North Shore and I hope one day to procure a cottage somewhere around Black Point or Melmerby (not sure whereabouts you are), but that seawater will forever course through my veins for life. I love where we are at the South Shore too, but let’s face it, the ocean on the North shore is the BEST in the Maritimes!

  26. Just wanted to let you know that your posts the last few weeks have been so heartwarming and REAL. I know you’ve gone and are going through so much but just reading your posts has been great. Just informative (re:cancer treatment) enough without being tedious as well as entertaining too.

    I was in Nova Scotia for a weekend once and loved it….being a country girl after all. Also want to check out PE Island because I’m a huge Anne of Green Gables fan though I kind of imagined being “Anne” while I was there (: Cheezy, I know….

  27. Wow, what a moving post. I loved the last paragraph. You’re such an incredible inspiration and person. I’m so glad I found your blog and can follow through this journey with you.

  28. Thank you so much for this post. I find myself “looking” for happiness…..maybe I need to let it find me. :)
    Love, love, love your pictures and your post. Once again, you inspire me. You make me realize I need to just go for it and stop being afraid of failure and rejection. I need to do what makes me happy. Thank you.
    I hope the chemo is kind to you and you are able to get out and enjoy life to the fullest. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  29. I love that you are savoring every moment of this time- it’s so important and you are managing everything with the grace that inspires so many.

  30. That cottage looks like a nice place to heal!

  31. hi! i’m a first time commenter, but i found your blog around the time of the auction which I loved. Your words are such an inspiration and you write beautifully. They are such a breath of fresh air and a new perspective and really give me no reason to not smile ear to ear. Your last paragraph about being still and letting happiness come find you is perfect. It resonates with me, it is beautiful and eloquently written. I am seriously going to copy it, print it, and put it on my fridge. Thank you. I hope the cottage does well to mend your body and your mind while you continue to fight! You are such a warrior. xo

  32. So profound Susan… It amazes me how open and honest your posts are! It makes me realize the little things like my whining about hockey camp for my son, and the commute not worth the negativity… I should be grateful I can provide him with the experience and enjoy watching him grow and thrive.

  33. This post is so wise, it is one of my top favorites from you, for sure. I wish I would have had such a beautiful place to retreat to growing up. I am also a bit of a country girl at heart, but more a long the lines of a wilderness girl.
    I love Archie’s hair at this length, he looks extra cute!!

  34. The look on your poodle’s face is sheer joy! I love how happy dogs look when they go on walks.

  35. So True, I just posted about happiness, rather that we seem to seek it but that finding it appears elusive. Glad your spending time in healing places.

  36. Another beautiful post — loved that you saved the little furry by distracting the cat!

  37. I love your puppy dog!! he/she looks like a happy dog :-) and fuzzy too! perfect for cuddling. Your cottage and all things associated looks and sounds amazing, glad you enjoyed yourself!

  38. “It’s not always about searching for happiness, but rather being still enough to let it come find you. Because when you wipe away the things that worry and scare you, you will sometimes find the beauty in the world you never knew existed.”

    Amazing. You truly inspire me everyday!

  39. I want to visit your happy place. It is stunning!

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