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THE BOOK SHELF: Memoir explores Nova Scotia rivers and glory days of fishing

Harry Thurston is the author of Lost River: The Waters of Remembrance, A Memoir.
Harry Thurston is the author of Lost River: The Waters of Remembrance, A Memoir.

In his new memoir, Harry Thurston meditates on the curious and beautiful ways that fishing, rivers, and the people he has fished with have shaped his seven decades of life.

Lost River: The Waters of Remembrance, A Memoir (Gaspereau Press) tells the overarching story of Thurston’s life – one that encompasses both loss (that of his childhood home, rivers and some of the closest people in his life) but also love (of his family, his writing and nature).

“This book, Lost River is a memoir but there is a strong environmental consciousness behind it,” said Thurston during a recent interview from his home in Tidnish Bridge, on the banks of the tidal Tidnish River.

Whether he’s recounting his experiences fishing on his favourite rivers in Nova Scotia, reflecting on his deep family bonds or recollecting the long years he dedicated to lobbying for the establishment of the province’s 25,000-hectare Kelley River Wilderness Area, Thurston takes readers on a journey of discovery, reminding us of how connected we are to the natural world and why we should both protect and pay homage to it.

“When I stop to listen, there is only the sound of the wind in the trees and grasses, accompanied by a counterpoint of moving water, and in the surrounding woods, bird calls; but all of these natural noises add up to a kind of silence, what is always here but unheard by human ears—and will be here long after we are gone. The silence of the wilderness is the sound of our own absence, and ironically, it is this that I wish to preserve. It is here that I most feel entrained by the timeless, elemental forces of the planet,” he writes.

Dedicated to the memory of his father and older brother Gary, with whom he shared “the poetry of rivers and fishes,” Thurston’s memoir traces his life from its beginnings on Brook Farm, a place bordering the tidal Chebogue River, at the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. There, he learned to fish for trout at around age five with the help of his father and two brothers. His passion for trout, and later salmon fishing, was ignited and has remained throughout his life.

“I spent much of my childhood along the banks of the unnamed brook of Brook Farm, fishing, acquainting myself with the native plants and birds of the woods, and playing the animistic games of hunter and hunted with my brothers and friends. Many days were spent alone, outdoors, where I always had a sense of being with other presences, other intelligences,” writes Thurston.

In those early days, he and his brothers dug worms in a chicken manure pile behind the woodshed and fished with one of two kinds of rods: an alder cut to size with white string for a line, or a bamboo pole available at any hardware store in the 1950s.

“From earliest days, the beauty of fishing for me had been in its mystery. The fish was there but hidden below the screen of the water’s polished blackness or its blinding light,” he writes.

Thurston went on to study biology at Acadia University. He was accepted into medical school but declined, choosing instead to pursue writing.

“Poetry and writing overtook me,” he said. “It is hard to explain, even to myself. The language of poetry reflected my own feelings about the natural world. In a sense, I was lured into my career as a writer by the need to find words to try to reflect that strong connection I felt to the natural world.”

Spy on Ice

Nova Scotia writer Bob Bent takes readers on a trip through the worlds of hockey and espionage in his novel Spy on Ice (Nevermore Press). Six-foot-nine enforcer Wellington Dunn is hopeful his hockey career in Halifax is about to come to an end; he hates hockey and plays for the money. Fluent in Russian, he wants to devote his time to finishing his master’s degree in Russian literature. But when the Ottawa Senators sign centreman Vasily Pisov, whose father is head of Russian Intelligence, Dunn, in a twist of fate, is recruited by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to play in the NHL and spy on Pisov.

Run Tales

The 19 stories in David Mossman’s Run Tales: Down Home Yarns Around a Pot-Bellied Stove (Pottersfield Press) give readers a taste of life during the first half of the 20th century in Rose Bay, a fishing village in Lunenburg County.

The stories in the book, told to those gathered in Arthur Benjamin (AB) Lohnes’s General Store in Rose Bay, range in topic from poached lobster and U-Boats to rum running and logging. While all that remains of the once-vital general store is a dilapidated shack, the stories once told there live on.

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