As loyal readers know, for the last few days we’ve been knocking around Maine and Nova Scotia, visiting towns and bays in that beautiful part of the world. In addition to being beautiful, I’ve also realized it’s big.
I like driving, but to get from Maine to Nova Scotia you must cross an entire Canadian province — New Brunswick — as you crawl up the west side of the Bay of Fundy and then down the eastern side. It’s a long, butt-numbing journey. The roads are excellent, but Canada is vast. You look out over mile after mile of pine tree-covered landscape, and you think that the flora in Canada must be responsible for producing a huge percentage of the world’s breathable oxygen. The freshness of the air is almost intoxicating.
Here’s another indication of just how big Canada is: if you drive the main highways through Nova Scotia you will pass by Stewiacke, an otherwise unremarkable N.S. burg whose claim to fame is that it is at the midpoint between the North Pole and the Equator. There’s some dispute about the precision of that claim, but it’s roughly accurate. Surprising, isn’t it? Given Central America, and America, I would have thought that the midpoint was much farther south. It gives you a dim sense of the size of the area north of America’s northern border.
Americans tend not to think much about our friends to the north of that border. They are polite, and friendly, and delightful folks who don’t cause us any trouble, and therefore we kind of take them for granted. That’s too bad. I’ve enjoyed every trip I’ve ever made to a Canadian destination, and I look forward to the next one. I’d encourage any American who likes lakes, and oceans, and scenic beauty to look northward. There’s a lot to see and enjoy up there.
Before we left Nova Scotia to head back to the States we got a chance to visit Chester, another of the pretty seaside communities you find all over Canada’s Maritime Provinces. In the Chester Harbor, next to the town memorial to fallen soldiers, was a colorful, lichen-stained stone wall that looked like it had been there a hundred years. And, now that I think of it, maybe it had.
Anyone who has been to Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia knows of the three churches. They stand side by side at the corner of town and on the edge of the bay. Their bells ring and echo down the inlet, letting us know the time. And, on a wondrously calm, breathtakingly quiet morning, like today, they reflect perfectly in the still waters of the bay.
Our hosts described Lunenberg, Nova Scotia as being like San Francisco. They mentioned that the town is built into hillside, just like the City by the Bay. But there is more to the similarity than steeply inclined streets. Lunenberg has a bit of a countercultural vibe to it, like I imagine Haight Ashbury had during the Summer of Love in the ’60s, with quirky diners and stores selling what appear to be Wiccan supplies.
The psychedelic paint jobs on many of the old wooden houses in the town add to the effect. Every block features a riotous collection of paint jobs that use every hue in the rainbow. The different colors make the street views real treat.
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is a fishing town. When you walk down to the dock, you see a somber memorial to all of the sailors who have lost their lives at sea over the centuries. You also see one of the crafts on which Lunenburg’s fishing tradition was built — the humble dory.
A dory is a long boat with a flat bottom, narrow bow and stern, and high sides that is made with ribbing and wide wooden planks. It’s a sturdy little vessel with ample room for the fisherman, his gear and his bait, and (we hope) the day’s catch. The dory has carried many a fisherman out onto the water in search of the elusive schools of fish, and it carries them still.
Yesterday morning Mahone Bay was covered with a pea soup blanket of fog, so dense we couldn’t see the end of the dock in front our cottage. By late morning it had burned off, and by afternoon it was bright and hot along the bay.
When I went for a bike ride toward the ocean at about 3 p.m., however, I noticed that the fog was still shrouding some of the barrier islands leading out to the ocean. It was out there, looming, like some wild creature waiting for the campfire to burn out before moving back in again. Sure enough, when I woke up this morning the fog was back.