South Shore

I write to you from West Dublin, Nova Scotia.

West Dublin is where my brother’s lovely partner lives, and paints. I am staying here for the weekend, my last weekend in Nova Scotia, for a while.

While many of Nova Scotia’s rural regions, along with their industries, are dying and becoming retirement communities with an unstoppable urban-wards youth drain, the South Shore is blooming, flourishing with energy and creativity.

(This, I think, is in response to the rising cost of housing in Halifax’s North End — the traditional, inner city artist community. The middle class are again interested in living in the city centre, condominiums,  a sterile life style, and high rents: with things more expensive, there is less space for artists to engage in their non-money oriented art practice. Why are rents increasing so much in Halifax, a windy corner of the economy? Its city centre has been catapulted to a broader global economy, where it’s downtown and gentrifying neighbourhoods are put on the same level (as much as possible) with their counterparts in more economically successful. That plus foreign investment.)

From my visits to the Shore, and listening closely to anecdotes and descriptions of life here, it seems a novel social structure, a rural-urbanism has emerged.

From my city-boy perspective, I associate the rural with isolation. Doing it on your own, for your own. Driving vast distances to general stores that come with brief socializing and gossiping, but then back to your property and your isolation and your work.

The South Shore’s rural-urbanism certainly has a lot of those rural characteristics. People who have moved out here seem to be attracted to the idea of “doing it for yourself”, and without the city, with its intense social pressures and collective, non-opt-outable culture, are doing just that. But the isolation has been stripped away, and instead, a lovely network of people exists here, and, however diffuse and spread out, it is strong. Rural-urbanism means isolation is a choice, & not a given.

It is beautiful out here, with its subtle Nova Scotian undulating loveliness. The rugged firs grip the coastline, and in this warm December, a vibrant green moss blankets the earth. The folk that have moved here are making beautiful things, at their own pace, on their own time.

It is refreshing to think about urbanism as a concept that can exist outside a city in the most literal sense. What does urban really mean? In the South Shore, urbanism is expressing itself differently: West Dublin and LaHave and Riverport and Lunenburg are places stringing together a wider rural-urban network.

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