We love to travel. For me, much of the pleasure derived from trips and vacations comes from enjoying memories of the experience long after the luggage has been stowed away and the tan lines have faded. My favourite souvenirs are usually pictures (the kids? some touristy gitch they buy at a convenience store en route), but we inevitably come home with a carry-on full of miscellaneous stuff. Most of the time I aim to make it consumable (food, clothing, reusable bags), but I’ve found there is no way to avoid the stack of travel paperwork: ticket stubs, brochures, postcards. Most of it doesn’t even pass go, getting trashed before it even reaches home – in the airport, preferably. But sometimes those papers can hold deep sentimental value, helping to better preserve a memory.
Instead of keeping a static bin of random papers (I’m not one for scrapbooking or shadow boxes), I now repurpose special postcards and other paper paraphernalia as bookmarks. I do this with other sentimental messages, too; handwritten notes from the kids or letters I receive in the mail. I have a card from my wedding shower that was handwritten by the lady I boarded with during my undergrad. She passed away over a decade ago, but I love opening up a book and finding that note where, among other things, she talks about her own wedding – back in 1947.
While I keep a few regular “bookmarks” in rotation for my stack of bedside reading, I’ve taken to slipping special paper keepsakes into books that are sitting on the bookshelf. If and when I return to that particular book, it already has a bookmark at the ready. Plus, it adds a note of whimsy to my day when I pull my Chronicles of Narnia anthology off the shelf and discover a ticket stub from Broadway, or reach for Crime and Punishment only to find an old Mother’s Day card my daughter made in kindergarten, bedecked with tiny thumbprint flowers.
Ever visited a place where – and you couldn’t quite put your finger on why – but it felt a bit like meeting a new best friend? That sensation when you just know you’re going to hit it off with someone and will end up talking about that person until you meet again. If you’ve never had this experience, might I suggest a visit to Cape Sable?
We’ve visited a lot of stunning places in Nova Scotia, but Cape Sable captured our hearts like few others before or since. There’s a special magnetism about the island that’s hard to describe.
Quite literally the southern-most tip of Nova Scotia, Cape Sable lies just off the coast of Cape Sable Island. The semantics are a bit confusing, I’ll admit. Cape Sable Island is joined to the mainland by a causeway. Cape Sable (also an island) is accessed only by boat.
Over the last two years, we’ve made it a family mission to visit as many Nova Scotian lighthouses as possible. We’re lucky enough to live in a province with a seemingly endless coastline, giving us a lot of lighthouses to choose from. But we’d always kept both feet on terra firma. When I happened upon photos of Cape Sable it felt like the missing feather in our proverbial cap, but it was tantalizingly out of reach. Never one’s to shirk from a challenge, three days later we found ourselves groggily loading lifejackets and a picnic lunch into the trunk of the car at 6 AM. When adventure calls, beauty sleep can wait.
Our first task: transportation. I scoured obscure internet message boards looking for contact information for someone to get us safely across the channel. There aren’t exactly a glut of water taxis in the area. When I called the one number I could find for a potential “chauffeur,” I reached the wife of a retired boat operator. While her husband was no longer able to shuttle people out to the island she – in characteristically Maritime jovialness – spent twenty minutes thumbing through her phone book until she tracked someone down. A few more phone calls – and some map and weather consultations later – and we were headed to Cape Sable.
A notoriously treacherous stretch of ocean front, after the loss of the SS Hungarian (and the 200+ souls on board), a lighthouse was established on the island. The current light, the tallest in Nova Scotia, is over 100 feet tall.
This island has character in spades. Long white sandy beaches, stretching empty as far as the eye can see, except for the deposits of lobster traps which form a permanent Maritime art installation.
Sheep are put on the island seasonally to graze. We ate our picnic lunch in the shadow of the lighthouse while flocks of sheep bleated in the background.
We saw seal carcasses and giant lobster claws; we canvassed the beach for treasures and came home with a collection of buoys for our backyard.
Aside from the sheep, we ran in to the only other living presence on the island: the son of a former lighthouse keeper who now maintains a small cottage on the island. He gladly put down his paintbrush, welcomed us in to his cabin, and started sharing the history of the lighthouse and his own experiences living on the island during his formative years.
And then he mentioned “shipwreck” and two sets of ears went into full alert mode. He grabbed a container from the window ledge and showed the kids shards of pottery from one of the many wrecks. He had a most eager audience.
By this time we were winding down the day. Our guide, who had left us to explore for hours, returned and meandered with us toward the boat. En route, we stopped at a small inlet where he showed us remains of one of the wrecks and then pointed out the beautiful pottery shards littering the beach, possibly well over a hundred years old. Imaginations were blown!
We climbed giant buoys:
and played Pictionary in the sand with giant lobster claw pencils.
Cape Sable – melancholy and beautiful in its own stunning way. We can’t wait to return for another visit. I have a feeling it will be like seeing an old friend; we’ll pick up right where we left off.
It’s official. School is out! It feels both celebratory and overwhelming. Summer always ends up being fun, but staring down all that white space in the kiddo’s schedules can seem daunting. One day at a time, I remind myself, and we’ve started things off with a bang. In the last week of June we: hosted friends for a weekend BBQ – a first since the latest restrictions eased. We enjoyed a fun day at a family-owned cottage – swimming, kayaking, and playing lots of washer toss. Levi attended a birthday pool party, one of the few we’ve had since COVID started. I love that he’s still young enough to happily attend girly birthday parties with unicorn-themed everything. He is so into lightsabers and LEGO and Transformers, but boy he loves the girls in his kindergarten class and was obsessed with picking out the sweetest presents for them both (it was a joint party for two girls; how great an idea is that!). We got caught in a torrential downpour within seconds of arriving at the beach one day and watched epic lightning (from the safety of our car).
Yesterday we celebrated Canada Day (by doing laundry, deep-cleaning the car, and generally getting life in order). Both kids ended up having spontaneous playdates, one kiddo had a tennis lesson, and John and I fit in an at-home date night.
Every month for the last 2 years I’ve recorded a tally of my workouts (runs + walks) and total mileage across each. Several times I’ve hit 175 km exactly. Back in January I reached 175.4 km. Reaching/surpassing the 176 km marker was a clear target, but it wasn’t important enough for me to track it through the month. End-of-day Wednesday, the final day of June, I went to do my monthly tally and clocked in with 199.55 km! It was slightly frustrating to be under the 200 km mark, but I’d blown past my goal – so I shrugged and went on with my evening routine. When I happened to mention it to John, he looked at me like I had two heads. “You’re not going for it?” he asked! So that’s how I found myself recording the world’s slowest treadmill walk at 10 PM, getting me to 200.15 km of recorded workouts in June!
In honour of summer adventuring – and because I get asked for details about our favourite local destinations quite regularly (and it’s always easier to “sell” a destination when pictures are involved) – I thought it might be fun to highlight some local spots on the blog. Look for a few “Destination Nova Scotia” posts in the coming weeks.
Love of the Week: Canada
O…Canada. Like all entities (individual and collective), this country of mine is a constant work in progress. I believe patriotism should never trump morality; I recognize that there will be many challenges and mistakes – there will be times when major redirection is needed. Countries are – and have been – run by fallible human beings who bring their own depravities, insecurities, and biases to the table. Ultimately this country, like all others, needs Divine leadership for true love and justice to prevail.
But at the end of the day, I am immensely proud to call Canada home and consider it a major blessing in the lives of my family, especially my children, that we call ourselves Canadians.
Most years we hit the road; adventuring as a little family unit or meeting up with friends for good food and fun. We’ve done community slip-and-slides and dunk tanks; we’ve eaten lots of free slices of red-and-white pound cake. I’ve always made sure to get Canadian garb for the kids, and at least one page of the annual photobook is dedicated to Canada Day activities.
But I feel like our celebration this year – home as a family, preparing for a week of summer adventures – is the right pace for coming out of a global pandemic. I doubt pictures of vacuuming the car will make it into the photobook, but that’s okay. We Canadians tend to be pretty unassuming…and that’s part of our charm.