100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. We remember not only a devastating  casualty of war but the courage and compassion of the Halifax people and their ability to rebuild from the ashes of tragedy.

As a tour guide, I told the story of the Halifax Explosion as we travelled from Agricola Street to the Hydrostone area in the North End. This is my story.


Remember the three red and white smoke stacks that I asked you to keep in mind as we drove down Citadel Hill? Now I am going to tell you the story of the Halifax Explosion.

The early morning of Dec.6, 1917, during the First World War,  seemed no different than any other. Adults went to work or attended to household tasks and children walked to school. The Halifax Harbour was bustling with ships. The two principle characters in our story are the Mount Blanc, a munitions ship from France, under Captain Medec,  and the Emo, a relief ship headed to New York City, under Captain Fromm. The Mount Blanc was like a sailing bomb, carrying such dangerous items as TNT, picric acid, gun cotton saturated with nitric acid, and benzoyl, which was placed in secured barrels on the deck, away from the other explosives. Normally, such a ship would have flown a red flag to warn people of danger but Captain Medec did not want to fall prey to enemy vessels.

On the evening of Dec. 5, both captains were anxious to complete their missions.  Captain Medec wanted to enter the harbour and  join a convoy of vessels which would give protection sailing across the ocean, and Captain Fromm was in a hurry to exit the harbour and load his ship with relief items in New York City.  However, the captains were stalled because the submarine nets, created to keep out German U-boats , were already in place.

The next  morning both Captains were eager to be off. They both travelled towards the narrows, where the smoke stacks are, but because of some blundering decisions, crashed into each other at 8:45. The Mount Blanc caught on fire. It proved  impossible to put out and both crews abandoned their ships.

Few people knew how much danger they were in. They stood at the waterfront, watching the burning vessel. Children looked  out through the large school windows. They were no different than us, full of curiosity about an unexpected event.

Curiosity soon turned to terror. At 9:04:35 the Mount Blanc exploded, the biggest explosion caused by man  before the atomic bomb. Approximately 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured. Windows were shattered and slivers of glass damaged people’s eyes. Many wooden  houses caught on fire and people were stranded underneath the boards. Halifax immediately took control, calling in medical help from doctors, nurses, and  student doctors studying at  Dalhousie. People without homes were taken in by the Armouries, factories, churches and homes. A flood of help arrived  from other provinces and  countries. Can you guess which was the first city to send in supplies and medical help? I will give you a hint. It was a city in the USA. You’ve got it! Boston, Massachusetts! Each year, Halifax sends Boston a gigantic Christmas tree, as a thank you to the people of Boston. The tree is placed in the Boston Commons and beautifully lit.

When my husband and I decided to move to Nova Scotia, 17 years ago, we  read a novel called “Barometer Rising” by Canadian author, Hugh McLellan. The book is a fictional account of the explosion. A comment that has always remained in my memory is that we often remember a smaller event because of its juxtaposition  to a larger one. For example, many of you can likely remember exactly what you were  doing or where you were when you heard of the death of a loved one. During the night of Dec. 6, a ferocious snow storm hit the area. This made the task of finding family members much more difficult. There are many winter storms in Nova Scotia but this one is remembered because it is part of the story of the explosion.

There were several trials but finally the Halifax Explosion was judged an accident.

Here we are now at the Hydrostone stop. This area was completely destroyed. New houses were built of hydrostone, a fire resistant material. Look at the lovely green area and the many interesting shops. Much work was put into reconstruction.

Postscript  for reader:

Halifax has proven to be capable of handling major disasters. I am a transplant from Ontario,  but am proud to be part of an outstanding community. On Dec.6 we need to remember the people who died, and all those who showed great bravery,  provided aid and rebuilt the city.

Lest we forget.















The Road to Emmaus

Two men travelled to the village of Emmaus, seven miles distance from Jerusalem. The most momentous events in human history had just occurred. For three years, Jesus, a carpenter’s son, had healed the sick, raised the dead, taught the multitudes and gathered a group of disciples to carry on his mission. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah. He drew massive crowds, which filled the religious  leaders of the time with anger, jealousy, and since the Jews were under Roman occupation, probably fear. They stirred up the same crowd who had laid their coats and tree branches on the ground just days before to welcome Jesus as king, to call for his death by crucifixion. He was flogged and hung on a tree, left to die as a common criminal.

Now rumours were circulating that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead!

Did  the men understand what had happened, that the destiny of mankind would never be the same? It appears not. They met a man on the way whom they failed to recognize. At first, this man seemed to have no idea what had transpired in Jerusalem. Then, to their amazement, “he explained to them  what was said in all  the Scriptures concerning himself'” (Luke 24: 27b, NIV). Something stirred in their spirits but still they had no idea who the stranger was.

They stopped at a house and  the man broke bread and handed it to them. Then suddenly, they recognized that the stranger was Jesus and the stories of his resurrection were true! In their confusion and disappointment, they had not realized that Jesus had been sharing with and teaching them, as they were together on the road.

We all travel the road to Emmaus. Things happen that we don’t expect, can’t comprehend or have no answer to. Jesus is always with us but do we always recognize him? Perhaps we need wisdom but don’t recognize God’s voice, even though the answer is right in front of us. We need comfort and fail to see all the little blessings God sends us each day.We are in grief or pain but don’t hear the small voice speaking words of love to our spirits. Or, someone needs our care and we walk by, not realizing that God is calling us to extend our hands and hearts.

For some reason, this story holds great appeal for me. God has answered prayers in ways that I could never have anticipated.  Sometimes, when I listen, I can sense his spirit assuring me that he has the problems I face well under control, that it is only a matter  of waiting.

Look for God on your own road to Emmaus. He will be there, drawing you with his love, comforting you in times of sorrow, pouring out his blessings and giving you the wisdom you seek. Ask him to reveal himself to you and he will break bread before your eyes.

Christ has risen, and because He has risen, all things are possible!







The Butterfly

Yesterday, I was talking to my sister on the phone, when I looked out the window and saw a gorgeous butterfly flitting through the leaves of my husband’s lemon tree. “Go and get a picture of it,” Brenda said. The butterfly didn’t stay long enough for the picture but the scene created a picture in my mind.

A number of years ago, when we were  living in a tiny apartment, my husband’s lemon tree appeared to die. There was no sign of  life, just a bare stick. Finally, I decided that I would discard of this dead tree and put a new one in its place for a  Father’s Day gift. The tree had other ideas. Before I could carry out my plan, a tiny spot of green appeared. It was a very small beginning, hardly noticeable, but now we have a healthy tree, that has actually had to be cut back several times.

Butterflies are my favourite symbol. Inside the dark cocoon a lowly caterpillar grows into a beautiful butterfly. Life out of death. Joy out of sorrow. Hope out of despair.

We all go through periods in life in which it  seems as if dreams have died. Perhaps they are too remote,  too impossible, too painful to fix. We don’t have the answers or the foresight we need. We have tried our own solutions and they haven’t worked.

When I saw the butterfly hovering about our lemon tree God spoke to my heart. The dreams you cherish are still there, waiting for the right time to be revealed. They are not dead. I am in control  of them. 

Whatever you are facing, don’t give up. Your tree will bloom. Your butterfly will land in its branches.










The Tale of the Orange Crush, in honour of my husband’s birthday

Andy young boy picToday is my husband, Andrew’s, birthday. Now in his 60s, his dark brown hair has just developed some patches of white. He is calm, serious, kind and loves to challenge people with trivia questions. Over the years, though, I have heard stories of a younger, different Andrew, capable of driving his parents and other authority figures to distraction. The story I am about to share, in honour of his birthday, is his favourite and mine.

In the late summer of 1960, Andrew was five and a half and his mother was soon expecting his brother, Christopher. The family were living at the time in Saskatoon, not far from where Andrew’s father, John Adams grew up. Andrew’s maternal grandfather was visiting, awaiting the new arrival. In order to give Mom a break from caring for a very active little boy, Dad, Grandpa and Andrew went for a trip to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

By August, the long days of sunlight and limited precipitation had taken their toll on the vegetation. Andrew looked out the window of the car and saw brown, barren land. The grass had turned yellow and most of the beautiful wildflowers had disappeared or gone to seed. Some of the trees had started to turn yellow, a contrast to the faithful evergreens. Harvest was about to burst into full swing, with harvesters, combines and grain trucks.

The rambunctious five-year-old was hot and probably a little bored. Their route was taking them along a highway  which was  away from any major centre.

“I’m thirsty!” Andrew said.

There weren’t many places to choose from. Finally Dad and Grandpa found a roadside Orange Crush concession booth. Dad stopped the car and the three of them went in.

“What do you have to drink?” Andrew asked.

“We just serve Orange Crush,” the clerk explained.

“I don’t want Orange Crush,” Andrew complained.

Dad and Grandpa grumbled as they took Andrew back to the car.

“I’m still thirsty!” Andrew whined.

About 10 to 15 miles down the road, was a hotel with a diner. This might prove more promising. They went in and sat on the  bar stools in front of the counter. The interior was dark. The middle aged lady behind the counter was occupied with another customer, Andrew was restless. He begin to swing over and over, round and round, on the bar stool.

“Stop that, Andrew,” Dad commanded, increasingly irritated  with his young son’s behaviour.

Finally, the lady was free to serve them. “What kind of drinks do you have?” Andrew asked.

“We have Coke and Orange Crush.” Andrew didn’t want Coke. He realized that Dad and Grandpa were unlikely to take him to a third place, so he said, “Okay, I will have the Orange Crush.”

It was all Dad and Grandpa could do to keep their tempers under control on this hot August day in the barren Rocky Mountain foothills. However, Andrew got his drink, most likely having no idea why they were so irritated.

Happy Birthday to my beloved husband! We will make sure that there are other selections of drinks at your party, besides Coke or Orange Crush!
















Are we too dependent on technology?

“Your assignment,” I explained to my students, “is to write about whether or not you think we are too dependent on technology.” This was an opinion essay. Are we overly dependent on all the technological gadgets we possess?

“When I was in university,” I said to the class, attempting to paint a scene of antiquity, “all I had to type my essays on was a portable typewriter.” My little typewriter, with its blue case, was nothing fancy. Every mistake I made had to be neatly whited out. If there were too many mistakes, I had to tear the whole sheet of paper out and begin again. Yet, somehow, this faithful machine and I made it through five years of essays and assignments. Sometimes, we sat up all night together, filling the silence with the clack, clack, clacking sound of words travelling from my weary brain to the typewriter’s keys.

And then there was telephone duty. “There were no cell phones, of course,” I told the class. “In my student residence, there were two phones on the floor, in little booths, and we would take turns being on duty. If a call came in, we answered the phone and went and knocked on people’s doors, telling them they had a call.”

No personal  computers, no cell phones. What about musical entertainment?

A radio, record player and collection of LPs.

For those of us of the baby boomer generation, technology has changed with a rapidity we could scarcely have imagined in the heyday  of our youth. My little typewriter is long gone. Probably the telephone booths in my student residence are gone too. So is the record player that poured  out such wonderful music, even though the needle stuck and lines repeated themselves over and over.

Today, I struggle with computer programs, and have a love/hate relationship with technology, but it has me in its grip nonetheless. Every day, I check my facebook, e-mail and text messages, and my cell phone is never far from hand. Word processors are much faster and more efficient than my blue-cased friend, and gathering information easily on search engines holds a seductive appeal.

Are we too dependent on technology? In many ways, we are. If all systems crashed, nothing short of pandemonium would ensue. That said, technology also makes our lives easier, allows us to keep in touch with family and friends, and opens up infinite possibilities for the future.

It appears, too, that even the reluctant can be converted. My husband was only very recently persuaded to get a cell phone. He was adamant that he would never text. But then he learned how. I was with my daughter, Hannah, when she received her first message from her father.

“Dad texts??” she said.

It appears he does.

What is your relationship with technology? Are we too dependent on it? Would we turn the clock back, even if we could? What do you imagine the future holds?


The Sunflower

In the early 1980s, when we lived in the rural village of Kisbey, Saskatchewan, one of the things that most impressed me  was a huge field of sunflowers on a local farm. The glorious, yellow heads all pointed in one direction, towards the sun. I was so taken with this sight, that years later, in 2013, I decided to select “sunflowers” as my special symbol for the year. Sunflowers, for me, are a reminder that we need to consistently and deliberately turn our faces towards the sun or the Son of God.

Since this was my “year of the sunflower,” I tried to grow these lovely plants in my garden. Whether it was the soil, the location or the weather, my efforts were fruitless. Several of the little plants came up, only to die. One day, however, Michelle, our Kansas girl who resides with us, brought me a little sunflower plant in a pot. Later, the girls purchased a beautiful, rich bouquet of sunflowers for my birthday. I felt God saying that he has more than one way of delivering the things we ask for.

James 1: 25 tells us: “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (NIV ).

As we deliberately look into God’s face, into “the perfect law that gives freedom,” we will find ourselves becoming more like him. We will encounter God’s blessing and success in what we do, because we have taken the time to consult him first and follow his ways.

Every time, I see a sunflower now, I am reminded of my need to turn my face towards God and to trust him for the answers I can’t see yet, for the direction I still need. As the new year 2014 begins, take time to turn to God. Not only will his presence fill you with joy, but you will be surprised at the ways in which he will answer the desires of your heart!


Happy New Year and every blessing in 2014!!

Ruth Ann Adams







The Stable Night

One afternoon, about a month before Christmas, I came home from work to find that our power had been turned off. My husband’s job loss had thrown us into a grim period of financial uncertainty, including the inability, at times, to pay our bills. Fortunately, my husband  found a way of paying off the power bill and assured me that  we would have power again by the next day. However, that night, it was dark in our tiny, seventh floor apartment.

I dusted the apartment by candlelight and later went out and sat on the stairs leading up to the 8th floor, to do my  Bible reading. For a while, though, I simply stayed in our living room, lit by the shadowy light of the candles. Signs of Christmas were everywhere: in the stores, in brightly lit decorations, in festivities, concerts and tightly stuffed mailboxes. The pace would only quicken during the next few weeks. As I reflected quietly though, in our candlelit room, it occurred to me that my dark surroundings were much closer to the first Christmas, than the festivities we would later enjoy. The stable was not likely bright nor spacious. The circumstances were humble. Mary and Joseph were facing uncertainty and perhaps fear.The angels would come in all their bright and holy  splendour, but for now, there was birth and pain and darkness.

The next day, we celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday. Not long after her friends arrived,  the power was restored. The apartment was bright and cheerful. We never lost our power again and our circumstances gradually improved. However, I will never forget that night of flickering candlelight and my small glimpse into the long ago darkness of the  stable night.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV).

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams


In my last post, I made a reference to my deep desire to visit England. As well as being fascinated by royalty, my studies in English literature and history in university triggered a life long dream to see the places where the authors and heroes I so admire lived and plied their craft. Perhaps because visiting England was such a wistful dream for the future, I failed to see the plot that was thickening in my own home.

About a week ago, during a family gathering, my daughter, Hannah, handed me a brown envelope. Inside were pictures of first an airplane and then, various scenes from England! When it dawned on me what was happening, I cried and could hardly convince myself that it wasn’t a dream that I would soon wake up from! Hannah and my husband had been planning this trip since September. The whole family knew about it, including my sister, and I never, ever caught on. Hannah told me that we would be taking an historical tour of England, Wales and Scotland. I poured over the itinerary, studied a map of the British Isles and walked around with my head clearly in the clouds.  About August 19th,  Hannah, Susanna, my husband and I will be boarding a plane and flying to a land that has captivated my heart for many years.

Psalm 126:3 says: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy (N.I.V).” I am so grateful to God for taking what is purely a desire of my heart and turning it into a joyous reality.

More to come on England….

Fran by the sea

Tales of Royalty


     there is something intensely magical about tales of royalty. Stories  of kings and queens, princes and princesses, are the stuff of fantasy. Some of the first books we read as children are fairy tales. These often  contain a royal palace, whose inhabitants dwell in worlds that  feed our imaginations and encourage us to create stories of our own.

My own fascination with royalty began on the shoulders of my grandfather. When I was five, Queen Elizabeth 11 and Prince Philip conducted a Canadian tour which included London, Ontario, our city of residence.  My parents, grandparents and baby sister and I joined the crowds of eager spectators lining the streets. As the story goes, just before the Queen and her entourage were to ride by, a lady stepped in front of me, blocking my view. My grandfather lifted me high on his shoulders, from which vantage point I waved and waved as the Queen passed our way. To this day, I am certain that she smiled at me!

Several years later, I discovered a biography of Queen Elizabeth 11 on my grandparents’ bookshelves. I read it repeatedly, devouring the details of the Queen’s childhood, so different from my own. Perhaps it was this book which first awakened my deep desire to visit England, something I still dream of doing.

Time went by and the biography was left behind. I went to university, married and read tales of royalty to my own little children. Then it happened again, an opportunity to see Queen Elizabeth, this time in Ottawa. My two oldest children and I waited by a fence on the grounds  of the Parliament Buildings for hours to catch a glimpse of her Majesty. Finally, she passed by, a quick look at a pink hat and royal presence. It was well worth the wait.

On Feb. 6th, Queen Elizabeth 11 celebrated her Diamond Anniversary, 60 years on the throne.
In less than four years, if she continues to rule, Queen Elizabeth’s reign will surpass Queen Victoria’s. Some people feel the Queen is an unnecessary figurehead, a person of no real significance, and that the monarchy is obsolete. I disagree. Not only is she a person of integrity and faith but  represents a world in which just perhaps dreams come true. Besides, she smiled at me, and the young child that I was will never forget!

God bless the Queen!

Until next time,

Fran by the Sea