"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop


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Suzie LeBlanc
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House Yard Restoration Progressing Well

I was recently in Great Village to check on the yard restoration at the Elizabeth Bishop House. I am pleased to say that things are progressing well. The porch foundation is reconstructed thanks to Deverne Rushton. We are still awaiting a new front step, but it will be done in the very near future. It was decided to hold off seeding the front lawn because the work on the new bridge in Great Village will have an affect on the roadway right in front of the house. Once that work is done, the front yard, small as it is, can be fully restored.
All the heavy lifting and earth moving are done thanks to Cory Spencer. With the mild fall we have so far enjoyed, many warm summer-like days, the grass is already growing back in the areas that received the tons of gravel. You can see the blush of green emerging in the earth. This part of the lawn needs no re-seeding. Much of the grass may actually return before the snow flies. If we could harvest grass, we'd have a good income! It was so heartening to see the yard starting to look like itself again.
Part of the purpose of my most recent visit was to tend to some more regular yard work (raking leaves, putting gardens to sleep, and setting out material for the Fall Clean Up in Colchester County). There was still flood debris to pick up, but more manageable amounts than that immediately after the event, which Cory dealt with. A few friends came by to help out. I want to thank Rita Wilson, Rosaria Campbell, Darlene MacIvor and Patti Sharpe for bringing their tools and taking time out of a beautiful Saturday. And an extra thank you to Patti for taking the photos I am posting in this entry.
One thinks of William Carlos Williams.
I want to thank all those who have contributed to the EB House Yard Restoration Appeal so far. I will be putting up a list of contributors in the near future. Your support has been truly helpful and deeply appreciated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House Yard Restoration Appeal

(Photo by Patti Sharpe)
On the morning of 22 September 2014, a sudden and significant flood occurred in Great Village, N.S. The Elizabeth Bishop House was right in the middle of this unexpected event, which was caused by over 100mm of rain falling in a very short period of time. (There is speculation in the village of other external factors that exacerbated this intense rainfall, but that is a debate for another place and time.) The house was surrounded by rushing water, but thanks to forethought by previous owners, it came through the flood just fine. You can see my accounts of the flood and its affects in the posts below.

The yard of the house did not fare so well. The driveway was washed away and a significant amount of gravel was deposited in the yard. The front porch foundation and steps were affected and must be rebuilt. All in all, considering the intensity of the event, this damage is manageable. Even so, restoring the EB House yard, which was always lovely, and repairing the front porch will require significant effort and expense. We have insurance for the house, but it will not cover the yard restoration work. The porch might be covered, but there is a significant deductible.
(Photo by Patti Sharpe)
In the manner of a crowd-funding campaign, the owners of the EB House are launching an appeal for help with the yard restoration work, which is now underway. Any contribution, however small, will be deeply appreciated and will go directly to this project. Giving $20 will help a lot. If you would like to help out, you can send a cheque payable to the Elizabeth Bishop House to Sandra Barry (P.O. Box 235, Middleton, Nova Scotia, B0S 1P0). Unfortunately, we are not able to provide tax receipts.

We will post reports about the progress of the restoration work on this blog and let our kind supporters know how their contributions have helped. The posts below tell the first parts of this story. Thanks to all those who have already helped, especially the folks in Great Village, and to all who have written to express their concern and support. We are most grateful for the community, the family, that surrounds the Elizabeth Bishop House.
(Photo by Brenda Barry)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House Yard Restoration Underway

Right off the top, I want to thank Cory Spencer and Deverne Rushton for their hard and good work with the yard restoration work at the Elizabeth Bishop House. This restoration began earlier this week and is still underway, but wonderful progress has been made.
Cory is the young man who has kept the EB House yard looking so good during the summer, for the past four years. After the flood, he came by to assess things and earlier this week, he tackled restoring the driveway and removing the huge quantity of gravel that had been deposited in the back yard. Part of this gravel came from the parking lot of Layton’s Store (between the antique shops). Part of it came from the shoulder of the road and the head of the driveway, which washed out completely. Cory returned some of the gravel to the parking lot and used the rest to rebuild the driveway and fill in around the foundation. Cory also righted quite a few trees and shrubs which had been lifted out of the ground, many tilted at strange, Bishop-esque angles (EB was fond of things that were tilted off the vertical or horizontal axis).
Deverne is our steadfast and trusted carpenter/handyman, who can do just about everything else. He took on the task of repairing the foundation of the front port and will be re-building the front step. 
I went up today with my sister, Brenda Barry (who is also one of the owners of the house), to check on the progress and take some photographs, so I could update all those interested.

As you can see by the photographs included here (taken by Brenda, the yard is starting to look more like itself, more normal. There is still work for Cory and Deverne to do, and later in October, we will be organizing a little work party to do some additional clean up (especially to remove debris that was also deposited in the yard); but it was so heartening to see such good progress and to know that things are being set to rights after such a serious flood.
One quite curious thing: the patch of roses at the very front of the house, right on the road, had been completely covered by raging water and the shoulder of the road washed out around them, but when the water receded, it was apparent that they seemed to come through just fine. The photo of the rose included here was taken today, their glowing pink contrasting with the brownness all around.
We are relieved and grateful that with some hard work the EB House will be returned to its pleasant state. Thank you, Cory and Deverne for all your support. See the previous two blog post to get a better sense of the progress. In the coming days, the owners of the house will be sending out a crowd-funding appeal for help with this restoration work. Stay tuned for further updates.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House -- Restoration Efforts

Great Village is starting to repair and restore the damage caused by last Monday's flood, something I have taken to calling the Equinoctial Flood of 2014, invoking Elizabeth Bishop's "equinoctial tears" in "Sestina." There are still a number of signs that something rather dramatic happened, but slowly those properties affected are being tended to. I have been to Great Village a couple of times, including this past weekend, to assess the damage around the Elizabeth Bishop House and to make arrangements for repairs and restoration. As I mentioned in the previous post, the main part of the house is fine, but the front porch needs to be re-secured and the steps rebuilt. Our excellent carpenter, painter, all around handyman Deverne Rushton will be doing this job. The enormous hole at the end of the driveway, seen below, was filled in by the Department of Transportation this past Friday, but there still remains several large holes in the driveway and around the foundation of the house. And there is that large quantity of gravel that was deposited.
Our excellent landscape contractor, Cory Spencer, who has been keeping the lawn looking so lovely all summer, will be restoring the rest of the driveway/foundation and dealing with the gravel.
It appears that our insurance will not cover cleaning up the yard, which while not an enormous task is still quite significant. The owners of the house will be launching a little appeal for help with the yard restoration, in the manner of a crowd-funding campaign, which operates on a give a little, help a lot premise. I'll be posting something about this in the coming days.
Again, we are so grateful to the folks of Great Village for their help. The photos in the previous post were taken by Patti Sharpe the day of the flood. These photos were taken by her, as well, the next day, when the sun had come and and summer had returned. I want to thank her again, for her support through this rather dramatic time. More updates will come. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House Is Fine

"There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams / hurry too rapidly down to the sea…"
EB, "Questions of Travel"

In about two hours on Monday morning, 22 September 2014 (the first day of autumn), the meteorologists tell us that in parts of Nova Scotia 100mm of rain fell. One of those parts was the Great Village area. This volume of rain in such a short period of time caused the Great Village River to burst its banks, seriously flooding the centre of the village. A torrent of rain-swollen river water inundated the area from Layton’s Store to the bridge, which means that the EB House was in the centre of it all.

I did not witness the flood, but many people in the village did and I was told that around 6:30-7:00 a.m. people noticed some water starting to cross the road, then all of a sudden, a wall of water crashed through. Someone told me that someone remarked, “It was the biggest tidal bore,” they’d seen in some time. It was so bad that the bridge was closed for an hour or so. The rushing water lifted off a large propane tank on the Wilson’s Gas Stop property. After hitting the bridge, causing great concern, it floated down the river and out onto the marsh. A large trailer behind the fire hall was dislodged and moved to the side of the hall. Many photographs and videos were taken of this awesome, shocking sight. The water crested and began to subside as quickly as it had come. As the water drained away, the damage became more visible.

The EB House was in the direct path of this wall of turbulent water and was surrounded. It looked dire. As the water left, what revealed was a great deal of erosion around the foundation of the house. The front step had been taken off and the driveway, from the road to the verandah steps, had been gouged out, along with the shoulder of the road from the EB House to the bridge. Another peculiar thing was that a great quantity (a ton, literally) of earth had been deposited in the backyard of the EB House, a testament to how quickly the water ebbed: that is, it simply dropped large rocks, gravel and mud, as though from a dump truck.

At this point, I want to thank some people for their incredible kindness in checking on the house as soon as it was possible: Meredith Layton, Patti and Harold Sharpe, Deverne and Valerie Rushton. Patti contacted me immediately and told me of the event. She sent me photos, some of which you see in this post. They kept check on the house all day. I went to Great Village on Tuesday morning and all these people, and more (especially Cory Spencer), continued to be truly supportive and helpful. This is the nature of a small community, people care about each other. I know that similar acts of kindness went on for everyone else whose properties were in the path of this vast quantity of water. Bless all the people of Great Village.

I want to say clearly, in spite of the rather awful looking driveway and yard, the Elizabeth Bishop House itself is fine. I attribute this fact to Norman Bowers, who bought the house from Bishop’s maternal family in 1932 (after Bishop’s grandparents had died). One of the things not commonly known about the EB House is that the basement is an amazing place. It has three- and four-foot-thick concrete walls and floor – it looks like Fort Knox. The northeast corner of the floor is open earth because, since it was put on that site, the basement has taken in water from the spring runoff. The water goes in and the water goes out. Additionally, Norman Bowers knew the historic high water mark (the house was surrounded by water during the Great Saxby Gale of 1866, and perhaps once or twice since then – one time in the early 1930s, for example). Nothing has ever been stored there. The furnace is elevated nearly to the ceiling. The well pump and hot water heater are also elevated. I measured the high water mark from this flood: 35 inches. Extreme as that is, the basement took it without much trouble at all. The basement walls go down beyond the external erosion, which means, it was not compromised. The front porch foundation is not part of the main foundation and it will require some work (and a new step), but all in all, the house is secure.

The lovely yard, which is the most visible element, is a mess (besides the gravel, lots of debris floated into it). The clean up of it will begin in earnest as soon as the N.S. Department of Transportation in-fills the shoulder of the road at the beginning of the driveway, a task which needs to be done quickly, because as those who have stayed there know, the corner on which the EB House sits is a busy one.

I am showing you these photos of the height of the event so you can see something of the spectacle. Patti took more photos around the house on Tuesday, after all the water had gone, and I will post some of them as soon as I get them. When the yard is put back to rights, I will post more photos. We are withdrawing the house from market temporarily, but I am writing this post partly to state publicly that the Bishop House is fine. And to thank the community for its caring and concern. There was damage done to other properties and I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to those people and say that I hope the damage is minimal, as it was at the EB House. And I want to thank Norman Bowers, wherever he is in the spheres, for his incredible foresight and action to ensure the EB House is on solid ground (or concrete, as the case may be).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Suzie LeBlanc giving EB presentation in Montreal

On Thursday, 9 October, at 12:30 p.m., at the Atwater Library in Montreal, Suzie LeBlanc will give a presentation about Elizabeth Bishop and will perform some of the songs from "I am in need of music." This presentation is part of the library's "Lunchtime Series" http://www.atwaterlibrary.ca/events/lunchtime-lecture-series. You can find out more about the Atwater Library here: http://www.atwaterlibrary.ca/about-us

Suzie was the final artist in residence at the Elizabeth Bishop House this past weekend, and she spent some time taking photos of the house, village and bay to use in her presentation.

The artist retreat has now closed.

Before her Bishop talk in Montreal, Suzie will be attending a Masterworks Arts Award event. On Monday, 15 September, "the Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Awards Foundation will host a public panel discussion with the creators of the five works selected as the 2014 Finalists for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award. The event will be held in Neptune Theatre’s Scotiabank Studio at 1593 Argyle Street from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m." This event is open to the public.

Suzie also has a new CD, "Suzie LeBlanc La Veillee de Noel de la France a l'Acadie" (apologies for lack of accents) due to launch later this year. She will be giving a performance of this wonderful music in Halifax on 17 December at the Music Room.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Nova Scotia stone

Recently, American poet Michael Morse visited Great Village and stayed at the Elizabeth Bishop House. By his account, he had a pleasant time travelling around the area and spending a lot of time by the Bay of Fundy. On his drive back to New York City, where he lives, Michael stopped in Worcester, MA, and visited Bishop's grave in Hope Cemetery. He sent the photo below: a Nova Scotia stone placed on Bishop's gravestone.