My summer reading has me missing the ocean. I went home to Maine in April to visit my family, but wasn't able to squeeze in a summertime visit. After the cross-country move, Sonia and I decided to keep the travel to a minimum and take a few driving weekend getaways closer to our new home in the Southwest. On our trip to Colorado last week, I brought The Outrun with me to finish. Written by Amy Liptrot, it’s a beautiful memoir about growing up on Orkney in Scotland and returning home to get/stay sober after a decade in London. Her lyrical descriptions of the coast, the wind, farm life and the birds of Orkney and nearby islands sucked me right in. The book resonated with for many reasons especially the push/pull of the city vs. more rural life, and her honesty about mental illness and addiction, both personal and familial.
I was glad of the Fall-like chilly mornings and evenings in the Colorado mountains, so I could also bundle up in a sweater and scarf, as is often needed on Orkney. When we got home, I found myself looking through some of my own photos of and drawings of the ocean taken last summer on the other side of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia.
When my sisters and I were kids, our parents took us on a family vacation to Nova Scotia. We took the ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia and rented a small house near the water. There was a tire swing which we played on for hours. It has since been memorialized in a watercolor painting my mom made of my sister Emma swinging that’s been up on her wall for years since the trip. I remember running through the tall grass on the edge of a cliff and then learning what ticks were, as mom ordered us to strip in the kitchen while she picked them off of us one by one.
I love ferry rides and was especially pleased when my dad snuck me in to try my hand at the slot machines, and with one pull I won $25 in quarters. Having been so successful at the start of my gambling career, I decided to quit while I was ahead (my dad’s favorite saying) and haven’t tried again since.
I’ve always wanted to go back, so I was excited to go with Sonia last summer to visit her family in Halifax, where she is from. Actually, my mom has also always wanted to go back as well. Which I learned when I first told her that I was dating Sonia, and that she was from Nova Scotia. My mom’s response was “oh well, I want to go to Nova Scotia”. So when we planned the trip, I invited my mom to join us for a few days, and she drove up the coast from Maine to meet us.
On our second day the weather looked good so we drove with Sonia's sister Cath across Nova Scotia to Cape Split. There is a beautiful out and back coastal trail, through the trees to the headland that looks out over the Bay of Fundy. We found a place near some trees for a wind shelter to picnic and watched the gulls swoop out and about over the headland.
On the way back to Halifax, we stopped at Blomidon, to see the red cliffs and beach. The cliffs were formed from layers of sandstone and reddish-brown mudstone, and the beach sand is reddish-brown as well. At the water’s edge, where it’s still shallow, the water also appears light red, gradually merging to be a blue-green (depending on the day’s skies) as the water gets deeper. Also, I think Sonia planned her outfit to match the beach...
Sonia's family has a tiny cabin in Terence Bay, not too far from Halifax, and we drove out for a night. It's across the street from the water, on the bay. We had a good sleep, and in the morning when we woke up, the fog was so thick we couldn’t see the water, or even the road from the cabin. It had been ages since I’d been in a fog that thick.
After our coffee, the sun was beginning to come up, and we went for a walk by the beach, past the lighthouse and followed a small path along the water. The fog was still thick when we set out and began slowly burning off as we walked. When we made it back to the cabin, the sun was glinting off the water, and the fog was just a haze in the background.
When we left to head back to Chicago, I told Sonia and her family that next time we are in Nova Scotia I want to stay in the cabin for a week!