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Seasons come and seasons go, but awe of our environment-and the bonds forged within it - remain intact.

Summer's days of longer light are warmly welcomed after the cold and cool times of the year. That's when we take outdoors the things that we normally do indoors, things like reading and napping and dining.

Now we're thinking of moving back inside, and at this time of year we're anticipating the greatest feast of all-our eastern fall colours.

I recall being in western Newfoundland one year when fall happened. A richer mix of browns and greens and golds can't be found anywhere. Our Maritime reds and yellows and browns and golds and greens keep us on the move. We travel from mainlands to islands in search of the most vivid landscape palettes.

Is it the climate and topography that make us happiest and most relaxed? Or is it the things we do and the people we do them with that excite us most? "What did you do on your summer vacation" is ringing around the proverbial water coolers as this issue makes its way into homes. Students are asked to write essays about the highlights of their past couple of months. So I'll have a look back, too.

My summer began with a rather informal gathering of old buddies from high-school days in northern New Brunswick. We had kept in general touch with or about each other over the years but hadn't been together for several decades. Lois from Victoria, Elizabeth and Gail from Ontario and I from Nova Scotia headed home to Dalhousie, the most northerly tip of New Brunswick. There we were received by Norma, the gal who had stayed and carved out her comforts on the Nort' Shore.

We didn't have an agenda, but I suspect that we all had apprehensions and expectations-how would we be the same, how different? I had never been to a school reunion before and confess that I anticipated there would be talk of our teenage crushes, our children and their achievements; who's alive, where and who isn't. Not so. Sure, there was some reference to the lusts of youth, and together we visited old haunts and unravelled the threads of our lives. But our five days together went far beyond the superficial.

Our gums flapped from dawn till dark with reminiscences mixed with new ideas and opinions. We giggled as Elizabeth and I told about becoming "blood sisters," vowing to name our first children after each other. (I couldn't quite visit the name Elizabeth on any of my four sons!) We shared our thoughts about the books we've read, wines that have accompanied great meals, how and why we've developed as we have. We laughed much-we share the same sense of humour.

And we seldom took our eyes off the Baie des Chaleurs. It's easy to see why it has been named one of the most beautiful bays of the world. We kept cool with our feet in its icy water when the temperature soared well over 30°C.

We entertained some of those old crushes while we stayed at Norma's cottage in sight of Heron Island and the Gaspé. And we were entertained by one of our favourite people, Sandy MacLean-a former Dalhousie mayor. Sandy, with his glass-half-full approach, introduced us to a town that is much more alive than it seems on the surface.

Canada Day at the town square connected us to people whose names we remembered but faces we would never have picked out in a crowd. There is something special about connecting with the people who stayed and kept "our" town alive. Some of us grew up expecting to move away from home forever; some knew that they could survive well by staying. The town stays alive because of them. I wish that we could find the ingredient that fosters that drive and optimism-an inoculation of it might let more of our own stay right here on the East Coast instead of settling elsewhere and never returning. We don't move away to feel at home-we move away to earn money or seek adventure, but our first home is always home.

Clearly our lives were shaped by our teachers and community, and we are grateful. We aren't the same now as we were then-we're stronger, more independent, more interested in the world around us. Differences in ethnic background, language and religion didn't make a difference to us as we were growing up, and they don't now. Dalhousie might be a good place for leaders of warring factions of the world to spend some time-I'm sure they'd learn how to tolerate and even like each other.

My visit with old pals was not the only highlight of my summer. The sharing of bread, Stilton and shiraz on a remote pool on the Margaree still makes me tingle. The sight of a 30-plus-pound salmon making a travelling leap as it headed upstream far from my fly still makes my heart thump. Becoming more intimate with my fishing rod and learning something new about it every day still delights me. Billy's quick recovery from quadruple-bypass heart surgery is a miracle that I appreciate, too.

Getting to know my granddaughter Cindy from BC during her few weeks with me was a high spot of the summer. Maybe she'll move away from her home and settle in the East some day!

I look forward to the highlights of this season. Maybe a hike in Chignecto Park, perhaps a return trip to the Margaree or the Miramichi. Perhaps a few great meals from the wood stove. Always with a special friend or two. They help to make the seasons bright. They can live next door or they can be removed by a country. They can be seen daily, or once in several decades. It matters not. It's the strong bonds forged that count.

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