Sunsets and solace at Westboro Beach (plus bonus pics!)

By Anne Boys-Hope – 

Nancy Mooney went down to Westboro Beach the day that Corporal Nathan Cirillo died. She wasn’t alone.

“The beach was filled with people as the sky turned orange and then pink. People just stood around silently, no talking, no laughter just a pervasive sadness filled the beach,” says Nancy. “I think that is when I saw the power of a sunset…people needed to be there, and with other people, to see a bit of beauty in a very sad day.”

Click image to enlarge
October 22nd 2014: “This was one of my first and most memorable sunset photos,” writes Nancy. It was taken the day Cpl. Nathan Cirello was murdered. Click image to enlarge.

An avid amateur photographer, Nancy captured the sunset with her camera. It’s a serene image, like a Monet painting with wispy white clouds floating on a pastel sky.

That photo sparked an idea to document the sunset, and the people looking at the sunset, every day for a year.

Nancy started taking daily photos in January 2015, inspired by Christophe Ledent’s Ottawa Seen 365 Ways in 365 Days and James Peltzer’s daily photo project.

Day after day, she returned to Westboro Beach at sunset.

WEB_Nancy2
Photos of Nancy Mooney by Ellen Bond

It’s close to home where she and her husband Len Fardella have lived for 15 years. Together, they own and operate Peter’s New Jobs, a job search service. Len is also a volunteer board member at the Parkdale Food Centre.

Over the course of the year, Nancy witnessed the ebb and flow of the seasons. While summer was a hive of activity, in winter she was often alone, save for a few brave souls ice fishing or skiing.

“Sometimes it’s just me, the sun, the moon and the tree I usually stand at watching what’s happening,” says Nancy.

A few months into her project, Nancy started sharing her photographs, with compelling captions, on social media. It didn’t take long for people to notice.

“I think people like the consistency of seeing what Mother Nature does each evening. People love the sunsets that are spectacularly bright and colourful, but sometimes even ones that are grey or cloudy appeal to people. I also find people like the little vignettes about the people I meet on the beach,” says Nancy.

She now has a loyal following on Twitter and Instagram, including CBC meteorologist Ian Black.

“She is one of my most popular retweets—and gets a great reaction on Twitter. One of my favourites was the young boy from Syria at sunset,” says Ian.

That photo tells a poignant story.

“This young teenager rode his bike down to the beach and watched the sunset. He had just come to Canada from Syria via Lebanon sponsored through a church group. He spoke little English but we were able to converse. He told me it was cold here,” recalls Nancy.

“This young teenager rode his bike down to the beach and watched the sunset. He had just come to Canada from Syria via Lebanon ¬– sponsored through a church group. He spoke little English but we were able to converse and he told me it was cold here,” says Nancy Mooney. Photo by Nancy Mooney.
“This young teenager rode his bike down to the beach and watched the sunset. He had just come to Canada from Syria via Lebanon ¬– sponsored through a church group. He spoke little English but we were able to converse and he told me it was cold here,” says Nancy Mooney. Photo by Nancy Mooney.

Come sunset, it’s hard not to think of Nancy.

“My phone pings and there is a message from someone on Twitter asking, ‘are you getting a photo tonight?’” she says.

Yes, she does take a photo every night, no matter the weather. And if she can’t make it, she has helpers.

“A few times when I’ve not been able to go my son or my neighbour have gone for me,” she explains.

More than 365 days and 10,000 photos later, Nancy has achieved her goal. But she isn’t planning to stop anytime soon.

“I’ve met such nice people, and I try to cultivate a nice twitter feed. I want to send something pretty into the world.”

Back at the beach, on a warm spring night, Nancy’s eyes light up when she spots a couple wearing jaunty hats under a purple sky. “Just a moment, I have to take a picture of these people!”And she’s off.

Follow Nancy on Twitter at twitter.com/NancyFromCanada or on Instagram: instagram.com/nancyfromottawa.

Web bonus! Below are some of Nancy’s favourite sunsets. Click on the image to enlarge:

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