I can’t believe I didn’t write anything about my summer home this….last year. It’s almost unthinkable. I can see why though. My time was so jammed packed I hardly had time to write at the end of the day. Thus, my memories will not be as fresh as they would have been all those months ago.
None of these accounts are in any chronological order. I can’t even begin at this point to piece together the days unless I look closely at the image files. At this point I don’t have the energy except to match the photos with each paragraph.
I flew into Sydney on the midnight flight. I love driving home at night. Ok. I love driving home anyways. Especially coming from the airport. The next morning we awoke very early to catch the ferry, which is a 2 and a half hour drive. From Sydney Forks to Pictou. Onward over the Northumberland Straight. Taking the ferry makes the whole experience a cherished tradition. Had my photography tour gone full speed ahead, I would have asked everyone to fly into Halifax instead of flying into Charlottown to have this experience. We arrived at my cousin’s place in Clyde River early evening. Enough time for a chat before we headed to the musical, “Anne and Gilbert”, in which my little cousin was one of the school children. What an amazing little actress, singer and dancer she is. Her talents know no bounds. The Musical itself was excellent. This production was not at the Convention Centre, but in a small community theater with a lower level art gallery and a bar that served fantastic local craft beer. One of the actresses had set up a stand selling cupcakes and tartlets. As she played the infamous Josie Pie, she called her company, “Josie’s Pies”. I recommend seeing the play if you’re spending time on the island. Not just because of my little cousin, but because I firmly believe, when in Rome, one should absolutely see an “Anne of Green Gables” play.
Before heading to Cavendish that day, we ambled back into Charlottown for site seeing, shopping and brunch at an amazing spot called Brickhouse on Sydney St. A cozy spot, well decorated with stunning pieces of artwork on the walls. The coffee was not your average cup of joe which made it all the more enjoyable. All though the brunch menu seemed average the dressing of was not and very delicious. The clientele was a little slow as brunches go, but I would go back when next in town.
As you know, I posted that I am no longer doing my photography tours. Prince Edward Island was suppose to have been this summer, but since no one signed up, I cancelled all the rooms at The Lake of Shining Waters Resort except for a room for Mom and I. The inn was very quaint with decor that suited its history. We had a small room with a double bed and a full bath, which was lopsided so your head went downhill. The floors throughout the house were like this like small ripples in the water. After lugging the luggage into the room, we sat on the bed to catch our breath. Faintly, but getting stronger, we heard a distinct rhythmic creaking noise as though someone was swinging back and forth in a rocking chair.
“Mom.” I asked, “Do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
“It’s the Old Lady knitting in her rocking chair.”
“Stop it! I don’t want to stay here anymore!”
Still the chair continued rocking. I listened for a while, enjoying the rhythm, contemplating on who this person might have been. Perhaps she was not old at all: A young woman rocking her child to sleep, or perhaps an old man reading a book. But it was time to search of a place to eat. Our first choice, the Blue Oyster, was already queued up with an hour-long wait. Instead, we ended up at Captain’s Cove Cafe. The fish was fresh tasting, they served local craft beer, but other than that…meh. They weren’t even on Google Maps. At least, not until I put them there and wrote a review. When we returned to the room, the invisible rocking chair was still creaking. Mom was still unnerved by this, but I told her, “If it was a bad ghost, they would have done something bad by now, so, leave her alone.” Mom agreed and as if the ghost heard my champion, the creaking stopped and we were left in peace for the rest of the trip.
One of THE places to go in PEI is The Dunes Galley and Café. It’s a sprawling building with many chopped-up levels. Art of all kinds fill the walls and any available corner. The Art itself is unique, mesmerizing, fun and intense. Some pieces are affordable, others not so much. They range from blown glass fish bowls set erratically in driftwood to the usual paintings and usual photography to massive unique pieces of furniture, jewelry and clothing. They ship anywhere when you spend such-and-such a dollar amount. When you spend more than $75 you get a batiqued cotton shopping bag. If you don’t want to spend too much at the café, a coffee and desert is worth it. If you want to relax, the property has a Buddha garden to wander though with matured trees. Ponds freckle the property as well as the rooftop garden complete with greenery. Needless to say, one can spend an entire day at this place. Mom and I had another agenda however. Brackley Beach. Another must-do in PEI is go to any of the many beaches spread across the coastline. Brackley Beach is a personal favorite, but this year, we found a hidden part that our waitress at Rachel’s Restaurant recommended, Robinson Island. Drive past the parking lot, past the change houses along the dirt toad to a section where paths lead over the dunes to this oh so private part of the beach.
I had heard of the population growth of jellyfish this year, especially the onslaught of the dreaded Portuguese Man-O-war. Thankfully it was not as bad as I had thought. Though I didn’t come away unscathed. Such beautiful weather we had! Hot summer days, equaling Toronto weather. I had to laugh when I thought about a friend talking about going to an exotic destination with beaches for her vacation. I tried to convince her to come to PEI with me for this exact purpose, but I only received “the look” for my pains. The thing I like about Brackley Beach and you may see a trend here, is that as you can walk out, it get’s deep to your knees then shallow again for quite a while. Here I lay letting the waves lap over me, ever cautious of jellyfish, feeling my hair sweep from one side to the other in the current. I even wadded back to get my phone taking a series of photos, later stitched as an animation to capture this. I am a fish myself, as you know. I could have stayed in the water all day. I had work to do however.
After drying off, I went to the car to stealthily change from my modern bathing suite to my new Edwardian walking suite. As I emerged from the car, I already had curious looks from those who were coming and going. It wasn’t until I crested the dune with the water ahead of me, that I completely felt myself in the here and….. then???? One of the “Anne of Green Gables” scene that pops into mind is when Anne and Diana are standing on a dune watching the setting sun on the water after the concert at The White Sands Hotel. “We are rich Diana…” Anne says to her bosom friend. Mom was such a trooper staying behind the camera, pressing the shutter button as I slipped from pose to pose. Photographing myself on the beach in my costume was a must for me. Even though I zigged-zagged around small jelly fish, skirts held up, I was stung in the end by a sneaky little bugger whose tentacles must have been long indeed or was swept speedily away by the current because I didn’t see it come or go. Turned out that picture of me looking for the F%^&er was one of the nicest images from that day. Take photos in costume at the beach…check!
A kind of frenzy happened when we returned home. As I mentioned in my Christmas blog, I wanted to do some clearing in the back yard. Well, I didn’t start with the pine trees as I had hopped. Somehow they looked denser in the summer than they did in the winter and thus more intimidating. Instead I cleared weeds and weed trees from around the more matured trees. Of the larger pine trees that served as sentinels and borders, I hacked off their lower branches that were tangled in long grass. Now that this was done, the father and son team who mow the lawn were able to whipper-snip under and around making for a beautiful manicured lawn. When my neighbour mowed his lawn… WOW! All of a sudden our lawns amalgamated into one beautiful park like setting. Because the backyard looked so wonderful I really lamented the fact that I had to go back to Toronto. When I returned, there were evenings and weekends where I itched to get back with saw, clippers, wheelbarrow and gardening gloves. LOL. With all the brush I laid on my neighours bon fire pile AND the crap from the basement there was a merry fire indeed. I made banana boats for everyone to celebrate. Though in the end it was only Kevin and I. We sat and watched the fire dance while he updated me on local happenings. I learned my school fellows had exceeded to amazing careers, we listened to music that miraculously carried over Blackettes Lake as though it were just across the street. Best of all, we patted ourselves on the back for such a marvelous job we did to make our backyards beautiful together.
The next morning, I woke up looking at an antique coffee table in my bedroom. “I know what I’m going to do with you!” I told it. I lugged this, my great grandmothers rocking chair, an old blanket that resembles a tapestry, my grandmothers Old Country Rose tea set, a jar of freshly made strawberry jam, much sought for tea biskets, milk and sugar up the hill in the beautiful morning summer sunshine. As I was dragging all this up the hill, I was complaining to Mom that I hadn’t seen Robert since we got back from PEI. Usually he pops in the day of or the day after I get home and we have many great adventures. Then ta-daaaaaa! Here he comes up the driveway. I run out of the house giving him a big hug and say, “Guess what you’re doing today?” I think he had something completely different in mind, but he wasn’t at all adverse to immersing himself in my project for the afternoon. He even came with me into Sydney River in search for the elusive tea biskets. *Shout out to Robert for helping me that day. I had so much fun. Especially when you took the camera off the tripod and for capturing most of it on video with your Olympus.* At one point he had asked if I needed (waving his had over my tableau) all of this exclaiming, “They wouldn’t have dragged all this out to have a picnic.” Excuse me? “Of course they would have!” I cried stoutly defending the Edwardians. I had a firm image in my head that was going to get out one way or another. In doing this shoot, I wanted to create more casual images. Life at home so to speak. The first of the snap shots. For it was in 1900 when the Brownie camera came out. Almost every household had it. Even Lucy Maud documented aspects of her life throughout her adult years in PEI and Ontario. Film would be sent to the Kodak plant for processing and returned with a new roll in the camera, ready to go. How wonderful it must have been to have the advent of accessible photography. I often equate these beginnings to those of digital photography. If I’ve said it before, the feeling is as true now as it was then.
Every summer I go hiking. Robert’s suggestion of Devil’s Hill Falls was not a disappointment. It’s located just off the Louisbourg Highway on New Boston Rd. No doubt named for the American contingent of soldiers during one of the English invasions on the Fortress three centuries ago. Make a right onto New Boston and then a left at the end of the road. Just beyond this intersection, is the entrance to the trail on the right handside. You climb a slope to a small bridge where the trail crosses a babbling brook. There is a steep and somewhat tricky climb down but you can keep following a succession of mini falls. Just so, when you follow the brook on the other side, leading away from the ocean. Such beautiful green foliage and moss making the whole area like a fairy Queendome! There were MANY great spots for future photo shoots, the kind with a model draped over the edge or over a rock in sorrow or martyrdom wearing a gossamer gown that is pulled by the waters current. ARGH! AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING! But I’ll get to that later. There are many dreamy vistas to photograph without a model as well. Throughout the hike, I looked longingly into each pool picturing myself luxuriating in its fresh waters. Wow! Did that bubble burst quickly when I dangled my feet in one. It was decidedly too cold. I hate getting older or being sensitized to Ontario’s climate, I’m not quite sure which one it is. It makes me feel as though I am not made from the hardier Cape Breton stock after all. Robert and I spent the morning tramping up and down and all around, making plans to come back next summer to make more of a path and other improvements. It got it’s name from the time in Cape Breton folklore when a drunken man arrived home late one evening from a local dance claiming he met the devil along the way as an excuse for his tardiness to his wife. The Devil heard this, signing the poor fellow’s death warrant.
The same afternoon was spent hiking (my first time) the Lighthouse Trail. It was a misty overcast day, typical of Louisbourg weather, the ocean ahead of us full of movement. At one point we deviated from the path (as we always do) to climb the larger rocks across the many tidal pools. I was enamored with the grain in the rock, taking many of my micro landscapes. We walked as far as the cove where we sat on the rocky beach looking out across the ocean to invisible France, imagining the tall ships sailing into harbour. Before leaving the Town of Louisbourg, not to be confused with the fortress itself, we had a great scoff of chip-truck-fries, which seem amazing now even though I fussed and stomped my foot at the time for not eating at places I haven’t tried yet, like the sushi and East Indian restaurants.
Before leaving Toronto, I put a casting call on Model Mayhem hoping to find a model in Sydney or the surrounding area to continue my Water Nymph portraits. There’s a lake just off the highway to Baddeck that is shallow enough to serve the purpose. I only had one response to my inquiry, a model in Halifax, 5 hours away. She really liked my idea and was sorry she was so far away. Other than that, nothing. I even reached out to Ratchford Studios in North Sydney who seems to have no end of models streaming into his studio. His receptionist suggested keeping watch on Facebook for a list he would post, but he did not. I don’t understand why there isn’t more of a network for this kind if thing. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s because there’re aren’t many model photographers in Sydney and mostly all the commercial photographers who have their own studios do family, graduation and school portraits. If anyone in Cape Breton is reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong. When I move home, one of the things I’d like to establish is a network for artists. Connecting models with photographers and other artists. When George, Chad and I met at Breton Brewing to hang out and chat art speak, we discussed this idea as well as other aspects of stepping up the creative photography game in Sydney. It was a fun meeting and we came up with lots of ideas that lead to the creation of a private facebook page. We decided that there aren’t enough galleries in Sydney that catered to the emerging artist. Sydney is becoming a bourgeoning arts community, faster than ever before. It’s as if someone has finally grabbed the average Joe by the horns forcing the meat and potato public to appreciate and respect what local artists have to offer. I’ve learned recently, my old high school, Holy Angels, is destined for a redesign into an arts centre. How amazing and how fitting! For once in my life, I actually enjoyed going school because of Holy Angels.
It was a chilly day when we finally found the time to visit Point Micheaud. I brought my bathing suit, but there hardly was any sun to bath in and there was no way I was getting in the water that day. Instead, we took our usual walk up the expanse of beach taking pictures of all kinds of seaweed and collecting many rocks and shells. We observed a woman looking into patches of beach pebbles washed in and out with the tide. When we caught up with her, the three of us stood, mesmerized by the surf swirling around our ankles patiently waiting to see a revelation of hidden treasures.
Lick-A-Chick never disappoints me. It’s the best fried chicken ever. It’s always consistent with a healthy line up. The locals never grumble if they wait too long. What place better to enjoy it than the great outdoors. Groves Point has become out traditional picnic spot were we seek the same picnic table, to have our mean, bring our books, blanket, chair, bathing suite and towels. The day was so fine, the water so warm I lived in it. Thanks to the weekend at the cottage, I was desensitized to seaweed. Seaweed in the Bras ‘d Or Lakes was always the bain of my existence when I was younger.
Farmers Markets are always an adventure. When traveling home, I like to experience many. For the first time, I went to the Farmers Market in Mabou. If one is to travel to the other side of the island, it has to be a day trip. And boy, was it ever. I can’t remember the last time I was in that are but it was many, many years before I moved to Toronto. I forgot how much more majestic the hills were. How much more the country the country side is. The Irish and Scottish immigrants must have held their breath as the ships came closer to land. To see that this was some semblance to the home they’ve left behind so many miles away. The Market is in an arena with vendors taking up every corner. Breton Brewing that summer had a wonderful beer that was aged in a Chardonnay Oak cask. Music to my ears! I wasn’t disappointed with its taste either. In fact, before I left home I bought another bottle (at the Keltic Dr. Farmers Market) to bring back to Toronto for a friend to appreciate. I’m happy to report that they liked it just as much as I did. After the market, we went to The Red Shoe, the most famous restaurant in Cape Breton. It’s claim to fame? The Rankin’s of course! Owned by the Rankin’s not to disappoint in entertainment, food, local craft beer, wine or atmosphere.
Inverness Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Breton. I don’t remember ever being there, though Mom said I was as a child. We walked a bit at one end, then another. Since it was the last opportunity to swim in the Atlantic, I slipped into the sun setting waters relishing yet fighting the current. I’m lucky to be such a strong swimmer, marveling in its strength as I swam back into the shore again and again. I can see how someone could be swept away. I think on it now as though reaching to grasp at a profound dream quickly fading. Although the pull of the ocean is freighting, I’m in love with it.
If I may, your backyard can hold as much adventure or more than an all inclusive resort trip.