I am thrilled to share some big news with you. For those who are not aware, life recently presented my partner Sheila and I with the opportunity we had been seeking. We recently purchased a 98-year-old home, in Greenwich, Nova Scotia. This charming home and property is nestled directly between New Minas and Wolfville, in the beautiful Annapolis Valley.
When I first moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario in 1995, I was moved by the history and beauty here. I dreamed of a home that could capture some of that beauty. While I had driven past 381 Sunnyside Road a thousand times, I was amazed to discover this hidden sanctuary. It is the perfect place for our home, and for a separate designated building for my counselling practice.
For Sheila and I, this place aligns perfectly with our love of nature and our goal of improving the wellbeing and mental health of others.
Before I share more about the new office, I first must first tell you the story of how this came to be.
A Series of Fortunate Events
The One That Almost Got Away
About three and a half years ago, Sheila discovered a house that was advertised for sale. When we drove up and parked in front of the house, the owner, who happened to be outside, flagged us out of our car. He toured us through the house and revealed to us a beautiful 1.6 acre property with century old trees, a serene pond in the back and a meandering creek that bordered the back of the property. We fell in love immediately. It just seemed seemed perfect for us. It had a large garage that we discussed turning into an office space, which would be separate from the house allowing greater privacy for clients.
Five Star Wellbeing however, was in it’s infancy. I had just taken leave from NSCC to start seeing clients full time, and Sheila had just changed school boards. Unfortunately, neither of us were in a position to secure a mortgage.
The house quickly sold. Over the next three years, we looked at many other houses and properties, nothing seemed to have all of the qualities that 381 Sunnyside Road did. For three years, we continued to drive past the property, wondering who was lucky enough to call it home, and whether we'd find a place that seemed like such a good fit.
"When you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." - Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
In April of this year, Sheila happened upon a yard sale in Greenwich. After chatting with the host for several minutes about the sale of her duplex, two young women arrived and began talking to the owner. A few minutes later, Sheila overheard them share that they too, were planning on selling their house, though they were planning to sell it privately. Always curious about possibilities, Sheila’s ears perked up. The owner then inquired as to where their house was, and to Sheila’s surprise, one of the women said “It’s the red house in Greenwich, just around the corner on Sunnyside Road.”
Unable to contain herself, Sheila leapt into the conversation, “EXCUSE ME? Do you mean the red house with the beautiful property with the pond and the creek in the back?” The two young women looked slightly surprised at Sheila’s enthusiasm, and said “Yes, that’s the one.” After Sheila described excitedly that this had been the very property that she and her partner had been talking about for three years, the two women arranged for us to view the property. We arrived within the hour.
Our lives quickly became a whirlwind of decisions including realtors, lawyers, contractors, viewings and a month and a half later, our house had sold, and we were the proud owners of what we consider our own small piece of paradise.
I wouldn't say I believe in fate, but it does appear that someone was looking out for us this time around.
Seeking A New Home
I left my home in Brampton, Ontario when I was 23, to come to Nova Scotia. I will never forget the view of Cape Blomidon when I came over the hill on highway 101 in Hantsport (I always told my kids when they were young that was my favourite picture in the world). After completing my Education degree, I lived in Hong Kong for 6 years but ultimately was drawn by Nova Scotia's beauty and lifestyle.
Shortly after my divorce 13 years ago, I frugally purchased a small house in New Minas that was in desperate need of love and renovations. I recall feeling slightly disappointed as my life felt like it had taken a step backward. But over those years and with much effort and help from friends and family that house became something I was proud of. It became home, a place of fond memories, where I raised my kids, where we shared birthdays, and Christmas and holidays.
Something still always seemed missing though. That changed five years ago when I met Sheila and she moved in with my kids and I. Unlike me, Sheila has an appreciation for beauty, and her love of nature aligns with mine. We began doing odd jobs around the house and caring for it became a source of pride for both of us. About a year after she moved in, my daughter commented, “This has always felt like our house, but since Sheila moved in, it really feels like a home.” It did.
Yet inside I had always knew that house was temporary. Sunnyside however, is different. It is the first place since my childhood, that I feel truly at home.
Office and Outdoor Preparations
381 Sunnyside is a serene escape, surrounded by nature's beauty. The property’s primary feature is the peaceful pond situated directly in the middle of the property surrounded by century-old willow, spruce, and black locust trees. Since moving in, this natural oasis invites us out the back door each morning, for peaceful walks around the pond, allowing us to ground ourselves in the gentle pace of our natural surroundings. We have noticed that everyone who comes to visit, appear to be comforted by the environment. Shoulders begin to drop. The pace of their conversation seems to slow, and their eyes are drawn to the enormous trees, the reflection of the sky in the pond, the sound of birds and frogs, and the gentle trickle of the creek.
The calming presence of the water and the rustling leaves of the trees are more than just visuals – they connect us with peace and reflection.
Nature, Wellbeing and Mental Health
I started Five Star Wellbeing Counselling and Mental Health to provide care and support for people at the most challenging and painful times in their lives. But my vision was to also help people become more resilient and stay healthy and well. To do so, I provide workshops on wellbeing and mental health, but this new office space and it's surrounding property will help clients EXPERIENCE how nature and movement play a vital role in mental health.
The moment you drive onto the property at 381 Sunnyside Road., you can feel that it is a place that is congruent with the values of wellbeing and healing, that I hold dear. This property is perfect not only for clients, but also for me. I already find myself more aligned with nature's rhythms, spending more time outside and being more physically active.
When we took over the house, the early season hot weather had resulted in a algal bloom which had engulfed the pond. We purchased a pond rake which allowed us, over several days to rake and remove about 85% of the algae from the pond. At the same time, storms over the last year, had resulted in several limbs and trees which had fallen into the pond. Our skillful neighbour helped us cut the lumber and we were able to clear it all from around the property over a number of days. The transformation has been extremely rewarding.
We look forward to welcoming clients.
As I write this, our new office space is under construction and our goal is to create a welcoming environment. It will feature a comfortable waiting area with coffee, tea and water. The wheelchair accessible space will reflect our commitment to inclusivity. Two spacious offices will welcome individuals, couples, families and groups.
For clients who are interested, we can walk the property, and conduct therapy outdoors when the weather permits.
The project, currently underway, will transform a 23x23 garage into a welcoming space for our new counselling office. Here are a few images from where we started to where we are now. We plan to begin welcoming clients in early September.
We are grateful and would like to (KJ Builders), especially Ken Seawards who is the lead Contractor. We also wish to thank Ron Martin Plumbing, Jeff Brown and JDE Electrical, Greg’s Painting LTD as well as Rafuse Home Hardware and Kent Building Supplies for materials. Finally we wish to thank Tried and True Builders (Formerly R&A Rentals) for the equipment rentals which were instrumental in clearing trees, limbs, brush from the pond.
Count Down to Completion
With every nail hammered and every brushstroke, we're counting down the days until our space is ready to welcome you. Within the next few weeks, we'll be ready to open our doors and invite you into this space that holds the promise of greater wellbeing, mental health and healing.
A Grateful Conclusion
I also want to extend my gratitude to each one of you. Your support and patience on this journey means the world to us. We eagerly look forward to sharing our new space and property with you.
Yours in Wellbeing and Mental Health,
See you soon.
Your wellbeing matters. Take five minutes to learn if you are suffering, surviving or thriving in five essential areas of life and what you can do to improve your wellbeing. Try it now.
Derrick McEachern is a Registered Counselling Therapist (RCT) in Nova Scotia, and a Canadian Certified Counsellor. He specializes in providing mindfulness-based and emotionally focused therapy. He offers workshops and webinars and consults with businesses on ways to improve employee wellbeing and mental health.