Monday, June 25, 2007

Finding balance in an imperfect world

The past week was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I started off the week by flying to Moncton for a meeting of Leading Spas of Canada, and ended up driving to Pennsylvania where I stayed at The Lodge at Woodloch for a night, and then attended a wedding in the suburbs of Baltimore Maryland. Moncton is a lovely place; most noticeably, the people are incredibly friendly, but all in all there just isn't much there to write about. There is no doubt that the Maritimes enjoys it's share of rustic, natural beauty. I've experienced this on previous trips to Halifax and Newfoundland and wish I had more time to experience it on this trip, but my schedule was too tight. Certainly the controversy surrounding the modifications to the Petitcodiac River is interesting, and the tide is impressive, but as Canadians trying to compete in a global economy, I believe that we have to do more to develop and promote our natural wonders, and we have to work harder at being creatively inspired to create new attractions and reasons for coming to our great country. Canada is currently ranked as number 12 on the list of places to go in the world. We also need to attract capital to this country if we want to be known as something more than a resource based economy. At the other end of the spectrum was my one night stay at The Woodloch in Pennsylvania. This place is incredible, but then with $38 million, you can make incredible. Set on 75 acres of woodlot, this destination spa, the first one built in the U.S. in a good long time, is magnificent. The owners spent the better part of their careers consulting on the design of other spas, so they had no shortage of experience to draw on. If you are a spa addict, and you have reason to drive through Pennsylvania, you should check this place out. Be prepared for a hefty tab, and a minimum stay of 2 or 3 nights. I simply couldn't find anything wrong with this place, other than the fact that it was too perfect, but then it has only been opened for a year. I'm sure over time a bit of the sheen will come off and it will find it's own natural charm. Of course, Ste. Anne's Spa is still number one in my books (surprise). Our final stop was at the marriage of my oldest nephew, Ben, to his lovely bride, Laura. Ben worked as a waiter here at Ste. Anne's during his high school years and went on to study business at the University of King's College in Nova Scotia. Upon graduation, he joined a small New York based bank where he has advanced at a breakneck pace. It was in New York that he was introduced to his bride to be Laura Yaggy, a somewhat infamous New York designer. This wedding blew my mind. The rehearsal dinner, which was bigger and more lavish than most weddings I've attended was held in a well heeled "old boys" country club on the outskirts of Baltimore. The wedding was held in an absolutely charming little church in the Maryland countryside. The reception was held in a tent that must have been the size of a football field. The porta-potties were beyond lavish, complete with hand towels monogrammed with the bride and groom's initials. There was a ten piece band with incredible range, and food to die for. Again, every "t" was dotted, nothing was overlooked, but the expense and extravagance was beyond anything I have ever experienced. I'm not sure I understand why our species wants to celebrate our unions in this fashion. None-the-less, it was an absolutely wonderful time, I danced, (something I rarely do anymore, long ago realizing that rhythm and soul is something you can't learn) but what the heck, I was surrounded by bad dancers! My nephew and his new bride have left for a two week honeymoon in Europe and I wish them the very best as they embark on their new lives together. I'm sure in time they will become generous and renowned philanthropists!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm going to be away from my office for a few days. I have a meeting to attend in Moncton, and then we're off to a family wedding in Baltimore. Hopefully I'll have some fun experiences to blog about "from the road", but if you don't hear from me, you can assume that I'm practicing what I preach - relaxation. Just as I was getting prepared to leave, I noticed some activity in a small tree just outside my office window. I took a peek, and look what I found - three beautiful blue robin's eggs waiting to hatch. I've asked my computer specialist to see if we can hook up a web cam to share the highlights of this birthing process with you (without disturbing the mother). Stay tuned to see whether or not we are able to. While the mother robin was out on her daily rounds, I noticed a much smaller bird visiting the nest to steal bits of straw, presumably for her nest. Focusing on the small miracles that happen around us every day can sometimes make the bigger miracles seem just a little more possible. Funny how the world works.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Holy jumping fish

When we added on to the original Ste. Anne's building back in 2003, one of the requirements stipulated by the local building authority was that we provide a large reservoir of water for fire fighting. A local excavator and colourful character known as "Stoney" took on the task of digging a pond at the highest point on the property, right next to the Sentosa spa cottage. From the bottom of the pond, we connected a 6 inch pipe to a fire hydrant close to the spa. I thought it was kind of neat to have my own fire hydrant, as did all the local dogs. Each day I would go up to the pond to see if it was filling up with water. It was fairly quick to fill up to the top of the pipe feeding the hydrant, but it seemed to stall at that point. I concluded that because our pond was on top of a hill there weren't sufficient natural springs to keep filling it up. I decided to buy a liner. The first liner I ordered turned out to be too small - I had gotten the measurements wrong. The second liner, while big enough, called for a massive effort to get it pulled across the length of the pond - I think there were 12 or 13 of us tugging on this thing. Eventually we had to attach it to my truck to pull it the last few feet. With this great big liner in place, it became evident that the banks weren't quite level - we ended up with about 6 feet of very ugly pond liner exposed on the east side. To make matters worse, even with the liner in place, and a hose pumping water into it, the pond was still not filling up. Well, it turned out that the hydrant was the culprit - it was left open just a crack, so the water was leaking out just as quickly as it was added. We closed the hydrant, and a couple of months later we finally had the pond filled. Debbie and Darlene, our wonderfully creative and incredibly strong gardeners hauled hundreds of stones from the property to the banks of the pond, and planted a wide variety of bushes and shrubs to dress up the banks. Now we had a pond - all we needed was a fire to fight. Being an optimist, I decided that we would try growing fish in the pond. I bought about 80 seven inch trout, and about 24 minnows to get things started. Since then, all kinds of creatures have made this pond their home. It is literally teaming with life; tadpoles, minnows, bugs, trout and bass all co-existing and fulfilling their role in the cycle of life. Once in a while a great blue heron will drop by in hopes of a meal, along with the odd family of ducks and geese passing through. One of our great sources of entertainment comes each night around dusk, when make our daily trek from Maison Sante up to the pond to feed the trout. What a show they put on - like a symphony, jumping for each little pellet as though their life depends on it. Unfortunately, this is not an easy phenomena to photograph, so the picture above is not from our pond. You really have to see it in person, so if you're in the area, be sure to drop by some time around dusk for the fish feeding frenzy at the spa.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Why aren't you outside enjoying the weather???

I'm flattered that you're reading my blog, but with all the great weather we've had recently, I'm finding it hard to find the time to blog myself, which begs the question - how are you finding the time to read my blog? I can't remember such an incredible spring chock full of warm sunny days, just the perfect amount of rain right when you need it, and the night sky - breathtaking sunsets, full moons, bright stars and the odd spectacular thunderstorm. I hope you are taking the time to enjoy it. Now I want to share a little story with you. At Ste. Anne's we have some fitness equipment, now located in a relatively small room at basement level. (It used to be in a much more spacious facility 1 km. up the road, but people didn't like having to walk there to use the equipment (go figure). As a result the "remote" fitness facility was seldom used, and we decided to move the more popular pieces of equipment into the inn.) Now, when I walk by this cramped little room, which more people tend to use because it's close, and I see people sweating away on the treadmill, I feel like screaming out "What are you doing in here - go outside, swim, walk the hills, enjoy the great outdoors, smell the roses", but of course, being the mild mannered person that I am, I just merrily continue on my way. Today our facilities staff are putting the finishing touches on renovating our 3 spa gazebos, where, starting tomorrow, we will be offering spa treatments. If you haven't enjoyed a spa treatment outdoors, you really ought to give it a try, they are more commonly found in more tropical settings, but I just love them. With a light breeze blowing through the canvas drapes, birds chirping away, natural cooling provided by great big shade trees, scent courtesy of the lilac bushes, light conversation and laughter wafting in the distance, and a set of skilled hands working out all of the knots - this is about as close to my idea of heaven on earth.