Norval's Christmas Letter 2000

They weren't New Years resolutions, but they might have been brewing. In February, Dan made the resolution that we would have our weight below 200 pounds by the time we went to Costa Rica at the end of March. In desperation, I found a paperback on the Atkin's diet, and we started avoiding all carbohydrates and filling up on expensive fats and proteins. I was skeptical, but we both made our weight goals before we got on the plane! We're doing ok keeping the weight off, and we also know how to lose more if we want.

We also resolved to do more camping and motorcycling. As summer progressed, we began to wonder if maybe we had too much of a good thing. We did a weekend at Kejimkujik National Park when Mike and Phil (from Vermont/New Hampshire) came to visit in mid-July. We spent the last night of their visit on McNab's Island in Halifax Harbour, and Dan made strawberries in chocolate for the group of friends with us, watching the Tall Ships fireworks from the derelict WWII control centre. We spent a rainy but fun weekend near the Seal Island Bridge in Cape Breton, a Labour Day weekend at the GNG Camping Weekend near Bathurst, NB, and finally an overnight at a corn boil on the North Mountain in the Annapolis Valley at our good friends Bob and Dave. The latter three campouts were spent with Mike, a new friend from Liverpool, the three of us on two motorcycles.

Dan's birthday coincided with the end of our camping trip with Mike and Phil. Joe, our kid, came along with us. Joe had his own kayak, and each couple had a canoe. The weather and countryside couldn't have been better, at least for the first night. We even did an afternoon of whale watching in the Bay of Fundy. Everyone but Dan knew we had to be back in Halifax by 10 pm on our last night because I'd arranged a surprise party at the local bar. As we were leaving on the trip, Dan confided to me his relief that there wouldn't be any surprises because we were going to be out of town. Joe made up a story about why he had to be in town by 10, and I had to incur Dan's wrath for having misplanned a loverly dinner, which would have made us late. It was all worth it, and Dan made it to 37.

I took work clothes and materials in the car to the Seal Island campout and remained in Sydney for work, meeting with fisher(s or men, your choice) about an upcoming offshore oil seismic survey for which I'm doing the environmental assessment, and in mid-September I took my bike solo to Sydney for more meetings and rode back through the centre of the Bras d'Or Lakes in just t-shirt and jeans. The ride was glorious; with the blue water sparkling in the bright sun, it was all I could do to pay enough attention to keep the bike on the road.

We had our spiritual times as well. I snuck off from an Easter weekend InterPride workshop to attend the Easter Sunday high mass at Notre Dame Basilica (where Trudeau was just buried). The music was wonderful and I'm sure the sermon in French contained much wisdom that I couldnŐt understand. The service did include the most impressive baptism I had seen, of some child who was obviously important by the amount of applause that followed the water hitting his forehead. At the end of November, Dan and I went again, and my fears of being disappointed after the Easter service were shown groundless by having a service with 2 cardinals, a 150 person choir, a finale of the Hallelujah Chorus and the Widor Toccata.

If this was insufficient spiritual awakening, I did the first half of a Buddhist-taught stress management course based on meditation and Yoga. I was amazed at how effective it was; the tenet was that if you actively practised being relaxed, you became less stressed. I didn't complete the course because the day they did the allday meditation session I was on the plane to Costa Rica. I'm still not sure I want to do an allday meditation, but I may have learned new tools to deal with life.

Last New Years we had to forego the Jarre concert in Gisa because Dan was on call for Y2K problems at Dalhousie University. We decided to celebrate in the Grand Parade in front of City Hall, then to a rave where Ashley MacIsaac was performing. The Grand Parade event was great fun, but Ashley's performance fit in his downward spiral of bad performances, lasting only 10 minutes before leaving or being asked to leave the stage. Worse of all, we even missed that by just one or two minutes. We were more successful at a Burns Dinner in January (totally successful at eating haggis), listening to Ben Hepner sing tear-jerking love songs, meeting two very fun engineers, Martin and Saul, in Costa Rica who visited us in Halifax in early December, hosting a visitor, Kevin from Minneapolis, and another, Frank, from Germany, having dinner with Stewart Hamilton of CBC's Afternoon at the Opera, getting a fall colour visit from Aunt Liz Waldo, hosting a return visit of our Newf friend Harve and billeting another Newf as well as a theatre friend, Wulf, as part of the Fringe Festival in August. In case you're wondering about two friends from the Rock, surely you're familiar with the old saying: "If you can't get enough, get a Newf!"

We had enough time leftover to give a week to Rise & Shine 2000, a national solar energy conference we helped host in Halifax. The event was fun and productive and we got to meet many fascinating people. A special treat for me was to entertain Dr. Donald Aitken (not the diet specialist), an international alternative energy expert, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, an associate of the Taliesin school, and a doctor of nuclear physics.

Work has also been going well for both Dan and I, although you're probably wondering when we have time to work. Business opportunities look good for the next couple of years as oil and gas activity increases, and prospects of establishing a relationship with a company in Costa Rica are also positive.

Our kid Joe has moved to Toronto. We miss him, I miss beating him at racketball, and we have a huge pile of mail we need to get to him soon. We hope he'll make a barrel of money and come back to Halifax soon.

This year we're planning on spending Christmas Eve in New York City with Martin and Saul. I hear that you can spend hours looking at store windows on 5th Avenue. For next year, Dan will probably again decide he must head the Halifax Pride Committee, even though I've asked that he spare us the agony, and we'll once again make some non-resolutions to do plenty of cycling and camping too.