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Saltwater for the Soul


An article from Issue 13 | Winter 2023B of Trailblazher magazine. Available for purchase here.

Jackie Barkhouse
Saltwater Soul Inspired
Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia, Canada

Makenna Reid 
Makenna Reid Photography
Oyster Pond, Nova Scotia, Canada

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” Karen Blixen writing as Isak Dineson

On any given day, The Shedquarters is strewn with bits of wild thyme, pearly everlasting, old man’s beard, and sage. The scent is sublime and takes me back to when I ran through fields collecting wildflowers and picking berries. To close my eyes for a few moments transports me to a gentler time when there was nary a worry in my world. Nowadays, worries can be held at bay as I design botanical pieces to sell locally at artisan markets and from The Shedquarters beside my seaside cottage-home. Nature is in everything created here.

Each season brings a renewal, and each day is whim driven. I prefer to work this way since I learned that sometimes the best laid plans must be abandoned. After that epiphany, a soulful-existence started to replace a morning-to-night routine, one that had formerly resulted in my collapse caused by physical illness and mental exhaustion. Slowly my days started to become rooted in reflection and healing, and I was convinced that if anything could help heal me it would be the wild power of nature. My situation was not unique. Many women have careers, take care of a home, raise a family, and care for elderly parents. In my case, when the chips fell and I could no longer continue as I had been, I was faced with the need to drastically change my circumstances.

Admittedly, for a while, my energy went into beating myself up for letting it become so dire. And after that period of anger, grief and mourning, the real work began. My extroverted career-driven demanding life turned into an introverted laidback quiet existence. With Steven’s support we sold our city home and moved into our ‘retirement’ cottage-home by the sea. Rugged, remote, quiet, rural. Here I am provided sanctuary and nourishment for my soul. And, for the first time since becoming an adult, I hear my own silence.

I live at the magnificent 100 Wild Islands on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. A place so wild it defies logic that I might choose anywhere else to undertake such a personal journey. I knew this place and was confident I would find the peace I desperately craved. The plan was to come here eventually, so I took a deep dive and gave myself a chance. That was more than a decade ago.

Here I have forged beautiful and meaningful friendships based on living with intention. Checking on each other because we are aware of the aspects of rural living that can make a person vulnerable and lonely. Reliant upon each other to help stay well and thrive. Rooted in a passion for a life inspired by nature.

Here I feel the seasons. Breathe the wild air. Swim in cold water. Run with abandon through fields. Collect herbs and wildflowers. Look into clouds for mermaids and whales that swim in the deep blue sea. Dip toes in the babbling brook. Watch silently as deer eat fallen apples. Pick ripe berries that stain fingers for days. Press delicate woodland leaves inside antique pages. Collect seashells and sea glass by the seashore. Wear plastic bread bags inside leaky rubber boots to trudge through the tart and woodsy-scented cranberry bog.

These are the same things I did here as a young, hopeful, innocent child. Things that helped define my life. Memories and experiences that I now use to gauge how old I am. Or not. Here I live with intention because I realize how fragile life can be. I hear silence. Friendships transcend age and time. I bear witness to the circle of life. An imperfect childhood in a perfect place. A long-lasting marriage. Two beautiful children, a son Zachary and daughter Samantha. A darling baby grandson, our Willem.

It’s true that the best I can do is probably all I can do. I am only human after all. I rise. Fall. Dust myself off. Keep going. I’ve found a way to acknowledge and mostly accept the good, the bad and the ugly in life.

Many of us carry a burden that others will never know about. Lives can be delicate like blown glass or strong like sheets of steel. I do my best to hold space for myself and others. And my utmost to give people the grace I so desperately needed at times.

Sometimes it takes a lot of living before we trust ourselves enough to take a chance. But in doing so we sometimes find that we won’t fall…we will fly.

Listen to Jackie’s interview on The Trailblazher Podcast here.

January 22, 2024

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