Talk about the 10,000-foot view of an issue. I caught wind of measuring tape-wielding police entering the Barrington Street Superstore not from the orange juice aisle, but from a news ticker scrolling across the bottom of a television screen I happened to be plunked in front of a third of the way up the mountain in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
It struck me in that moment, there’s context to be had on the road. And here’s what I know about my home province: It is distinctive, to be sure, but sometimes distinctiveness is just plain embarrassing.
I love being a Nova Scotian. The perfume off the ocean that smacks you in the face as you hit the moist night air outside the airport is one of the most welcome smells I shall know. There is Clam Harbour Beach. There is the candy apple red moss that covers the road to Peggy’s Cove in October. There is Cape Split.
But there are other virtues too, ones not foist upon Nova Scotians by the blessings of geography, rather those we’ve built for ourselves—the size and strength of our collective arts communities, HRM’s cosmetic pesticide ban and the fact that we have municipal compost bins among them.
Our greatest asset? It’s the relaxed tack we take in our everyday lives. You lose sight of it when you don’t go to a bigger city every once in a while to feel the ramped-up pace. There is a categorical lack of urgency here in Nova Scotia, the kind that allows you a chance to fill your lungs with air, straighten your back and look around you.
Being laid-back isn’t unique. You can find it in countless rural communities and university towns around Nova Scotia and across the country. But you don’t find it in many cities the size of Halifax. At the risk of sounding haughty, in this regard Halifax is practically European.
This isn’t quaintness—don’t be fooled by the tourism commercials. It’s simple sanity. And that’s how I like to think of my city and my province—as a handsome mix of urban and rural, as a place where you can get, within a 30-minute drive, an honest-to-goodness cappuccino and an honest-to-goodness church supper.
Although the Sunday shopping ban is often offered as proof of our relaxed lifestyle by ban supporters, for me, the embargo (and the ludicrous battle that’s ensued, which I read about shame-faced on the Tremblant TV screen) does not fit this vision.
I’ve long been pro-Sunday shopping. Nova Scotians have been bickering about this so long the reasons barely matter anymore, but for the record, it’s a matter of convenience. It troubles me, too, that it’s forced adherence to a Christian day of rest. The idea is outmoded, and, frankly, unacceptable. We are a cosmopolitan city in a diverse province and multicultural country. We need to act like one. Or at least have the freedom to do so.
I know Nova Scotians my age who conceal where they’re from because they don’t want to be thought of as a hick from a fishing village. For me, the idea that someone would disparage my home only means they don’t know how unique and amazing it really is. Perhaps I’m proud. Perhaps I’m not big on striving for the acceptance of others. But when it comes to what I will charitably call our “distinctive take” on Sunday shopping, I’m not embarrassed that outsiders will think we’re old fashioned village idiots down here. I’m embarrassed because when it comes to some things, we are.
Offer your own distinctive take. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org