They noticed the sign the same way as the rest of us: through a car window, at the start of the St. Margarets Bay Road.
Jane Rozee and Wayne Outhouse were just as taken by its message — “be grateful” in lower-case, Hoefler Text font letters, printed on a piece of increasingly dilapidated cardboard, attached to the side of a garage.
“It always seemed inspiring to me,” says Rozee, 60, who describes herself as spiritual more than religious.
The message seemed apt, too. In 1981, after four years of marriage, she and Outhouse divorced.
But life is funny. A few years ago Rozee reached out to her ex, a fisherman living in Tiverton, Digby County.
One thing led to another. In 2015, after 34 years apart, they were a couple again, looking for a house that would enable them to live under one roof.
“It just seemed right,” Outhouse, 64, said of number 145 St. Margarets Bay Rd., which Rozee found on the Viewpoint search engine a day after it was listed.
It was, for starters, a bungalow with loads of privacy despite the traffic whizzing past, and a body of water nearby, which meant something to a man like Outhouse who until then had lived most of his life on an island in the Bay of Fundy.
There was moreover the small matter of fate: When they walked into the house for the first time their Realtor — holding his first showing of his very first listing — turned to the couple and said “you are home.”
“It has very good energy,” Rozee explains.
So many other people seem to feel the same way toward the compact, charcoal-coloured circa 1950s house with the uplifting sign.
Rozee and Outhouse know little about the latter, other than it was erected by the house’s previous owner, about whom they also know next to nothing.
The words, though, clearly resonate. When the traffic into the Armdale Rotary was lined up, people would stare at it from their car seats. When the couple was outside, working on the yard, passersby stopped and asked them about it. Complete strangers, including tourists, would sometimes park their cars, walk up to the front door and knock, on the hunt for insight.
Someone has even snapped a picture of the sign and posted it in National Geographic’s Your Shot photo community.
“That little sign at the top of the rotary in Halifax that says ‘Be Grateful,’ someone named Cristian O’Neill commented on Twitter, “is awesome on so many levels.”
Last year the couple discovered the depth of the sign’s awesomeness. By then the notice, which was held together by Scotch tape, was getting pretty bedraggled.
On Rozee’s 60th birthday one of her four children showed up while she was at her job with the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia.
A new notice was placed over the old “Be Grateful” sign. This one said “Stop perpetratin’,” the last word, according to Urban Dictionary, meaning something along the lines of “faking, pretending, feigning” or “to get all up in someone’s grill.”
“It was a joke,” says Rozee. “My kids are always telling me to stop perpetratin’.”
Nobody really noticed the new sign during the long months that the Bay Road was closed for construction. Since the traffic resumed three months ago the change has certainly registered.
Now, if people ask them about the sign it is with a puzzled, notalways- happy look.
They want to know what it means and, if they remember what was there before, whether they plan to see the light and change it back.
When I showed up at their place Tuesday to get the lowdown, the couple were amused that it had come to this — a reporter, arriving on their doorstep, anxious for an update.
Rozee said that she had toyed about “messing with the people of Armdale” by replacing the newest sign with something equally baffling. She’s since abandoned the idea.
“It seems to belong to everyone,” she says of the sign.
That’s why, sometime this spring, “be grateful” is going back up on the side of their garage.
They’re experimenting with some new ideas: Gothic script, maybe getting a graphic designer involved.
They may be over thinking it. People really just want the old sign and the sentiment back.
They want to be reminded that life is easier when you are thankful for what you’ve got, no matter what that happens to be.