human beans, as souvenirs

 
When I come back from the east coast it’s usually sand and shells that come with me, the memory of cormorants flying a thin line above the ocean at sunset, the embrace of solitude in all that surf and space and horizon, the pleasure of spending time on red dirt roads that lead sometimes to a new beach where (I once overheard someone say) there is nothing to see.

But this time it’s more than the tangible, the feathers and stones, that have stayed with me… it’s the two women at the shared lunch table at Point Prim who have not only heard of the obscure Ontario town where I live but who lived there too, twenty something years before moving to PEI.

The guy who works at the lighthouse (also from Ontario) who says the ferry crossing over to Nova Scotia should be okay but calls ahead to check and then gives me his card and says if it isn’t I can phone and yell at him.

It’s the young man and his guitar who sings about the girl he left behind in Moncton, and a chef on the same boat, making free blueberry crepes.

And the owners of our B&B who tell us they’ve had 1200 people stay in their not so very large home in the past year and then invite us for a glass of wine.

And the photographer at breakfast, on his way to the Cabot Trail, and next to him a slightly addled couple with almost no sense of direction who you wonder how they drove here from Alberta and you just pray they’ll find the lobster supper they’re heading for in New Glasgow, and next to them the American who says her favourite part of Canada is the gasp, which, after a few questions, we understand to be The Gaspé.

The woman who runs the local co-op art gallery.

And the woman who runs a magical world of love, laughter and literature for people of all sizes.

The person who takes time to show us a ‘hotel’ room in an old railway car at Tatamagoush and the guy behind me in line at the Charlottetown Dollar Store who’s talking to someone in front of me about the number of frogs dying in ponds and rivers because of pesticide run-off from farmers’ fields.

It’s the group of elderly tourists, German maybe?, who arrive at Brackley beach as I’m sitting on the wooden steps, hello, hello, hello, they all say in passing and then take pictures of each other… and how there’s always one in every group that tears away from the herd, seeking a moment of solitude. The way that one plays at the edge of the water and jumps backward with all the joy of a child when the waves roll in as he knew they would.

And the woman who works at the tourist place in St. Peters who tells me that most restaurants are closed at this time of year and when I ask So where do the locals eat?  she replies, Well, at home of course…

It’s the server who says that winter on PEI is so quiet the speed limit on certain streets changes from 50 to 70. It’s everyone on the beach, including the guy who asked if I was Nicole Picot, the Minister of something for New Brunswick. (I am not.)

The discovery of George S. Zimbel while waiting out a rainstorm after seeing the wonderfulness of an exhibition that included Montgomery’s manuscript for Anne of Green Gables.

Familiar faces wandering around Summerside farmers’ market and a woman who sells me bags of freshly picked dulse.

The seaweed fanciers at a seaweed workshop where seaweed is fondled and used to paint seaweedy scenes.

The couple who, on a dockside patio, check their phone for info on Acadian history and then one of them reads out loud… loud enough for us all to hear. Go ahead, ask me anything.

The woman who is almost my friend and the warmth of her welcome.

The young people who on this beach of red sand discuss having once been on a beach where the sand was black but can’t remember where that was…

The people from the south shore who come to the north shore and stand in line for fish. But only on weekends.

And lovely Arthur from Florida, originally from Boston, embarrassed about Trump… and the equally charming people he’s travelling with and how they meet up each night to play cribbage.

Barb and Barry from Milton who in not more than ten minutes not only introduce themselves but list everywhere they’ve been on this driving holiday (because they’re retired; he from the fire department, she from banking), everywhere they’ve played golf, hiked (they “did” four hikes in Fundy in one morning “plus saw the tide thing”), where they’ve spent every night (because every day and every night are laid out in advance), as well as how one daughter who has a new boyfriend is studying in Guelph to be a vet while the other is working as a teacher in the U.K. but her landlord is giving her a bit of a runaround at the moment because his email has been hacked. The daughter happens to text while Barb is sharing all this so Barb texts her back then reads me the text her daughter sends in return. The landlord problem seem to be resolving, albeit slowly.

(The next day Barb and Barry announce “they have done the entire shoreline” of PEI. They also “did” Greenwich but can’t remember much and sadly have terrible things to say about the lovely woman at the St. Peters tourist place. Felt she was holding out on them about there being few places open to eat.)

The wedding party who take photos on the dunes beside the signs saying don’t climb the dunes and the guy who parks his car almost on the dunes at the sweetest beach but only steps out for a second, long enough to take a shot of the lighthouse then drives off.

A woman who made a museum of the place LM Montgomery boarded while she taught school and the view from her window.

A guy who knits socks.

A guy and his food truck.

A cat named Charlie (because cats are people too).

And his not necessarily best friend.

The painter who tells me about the land she’s just bought where she wants to build a studio. I tell her I’d love to move here.

She says do it, buy the property next to mine, I’d like to have good neighbours.

 

 

life’s a beach (aka: accidental seaweed)

 
One of my favourite books is Drinking the Rain,  by Alix Kates Shulman.

beach-8It’s about how, at the age of fifty, Shulman runs away for the summer to a rustic cabin on an island off the coast of Maine and has all kinds of little epiphanies, mostly about her relationship to nature. Having grown up and lived her whole life in New York City, it has never occurred to her that nature is especially significant except as a nice place to visit now and then.

beach-7 beach beachbeach-8 beach-2beach-5She returns to the cabin every summer for years, each time trying to bring the feeling of these epiphanies back with her to NYC in the form of shells and bits of seaweed and eating the way she did on the island, but apparently it’s hard to forage in Manhattan. So it never feels quite the same, it feels ridiculous in fact, this tree-huggy approach to life once her feet are firmly back on pavement. And it bothers her, initially, that she has to divide herself between this new sense of exhilaration and freedom as the island person and the reality of living most of the year in the city.

beach-9 beach-9 beach-11 beach-2The book is about finding her way to being both sides of herself, regardless of where she is.

***

But this post is about PEI, my personal choice of islands to run away to.

beach beach-3 beach-2There is magic there, and when you feel it you understand why islanders want so very much to protect it. The first post I did in this Week of PEI  was one called ‘Home and Away’… I get it. I’m grateful there’s so much love of place from those who call it home.

beach-12 beach-6 beach-7The island’s magic is in good hands.

beach-10I also get what Shulman says about the island vibe and how you can’t bring that back to wherever you live, but what happens is maybe even better because if you embrace that feeling, gather the moments, the essence of the place, like stones on a beach, and tuck them inside yourself… a kind of alchemy happens… those moments hold bits of energy that change who you are, wherever you are.

beach-3 beach-2 beach-3beach-4I bring back stones. And shells. And sometimes accidental seaweed.

beach-4Reminders of magic.

 

today’s colour(s) — tiny island version

dsc00319Hanging out with the buoys.

 

dsc00310Street address as sculpture.

 

dsc04589Supper!

 

dsc00318French River.

 

dsc07367Too bad my suitcase wasn’t big enough.

 

dsc00256There is no reason NOT to paint your doorways green and purple.

 

dsc07366Hard to say goodbye to old friends with cute red wheels.

 

dsc07427Cabin art.

 

dsc00234Enlarge this to really revel in that blue blue…

 

dsc07369Again with the purple and green. An island thing? Can anyone explain?

 

dsc00313I don’t know that it’s possible to have lime green doors and be a pessimist, or even uncheerful.

 

dsc00255They could have painted this white but, cleverly, didn’t.

 

dsc00306Tables with view of post office. (Actually this is right next to the sweetest bookshop/cafe/bike shop just outside St. Peter’s.)

 

dsc00303Is laundry on a line not a thing to be besotted with?

 

dsc00316Too late. All gone.

More island colour here.

just a site…

 
In Cavendish, PEI, heart of Green Gables country, with its bus tours, souvenir red braids, Anne Shirley motels and carriage rides with Matthew Cuthbert himself, there’s a scruffy little path off an unassuming parking lot with a simple sign telling you the path leads to the site of the house that Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up in and lived for most of her time on the island. Where she wrote her earliest books. It’s where Anne of Green Gables was rejected a number of times and the only reason Montgomery didn’t give up submitting was because the post office was very near by.

A gem of a place.

dsc00232The path, all brambles and apple trees, leads to a garden and the foundation of the old farmhouse. Montgomery has written, in her journals or letters, about coming around this very corner, seeing the lights on in the kitchen and the feeling of comfort that gave her.

dsc00228 dsc00216-copyThere’s no hoopla. No Matthew, no Lake of Shining Waters.

What there is is a small humble building, part bookstore (thankfully no gift shop) with an excellent selection of Montgomery’s work, and others, mostly about PEI… and part collection of things to look at, photos and letters, etc., that belonged to Montgomery. And there’s a woman named Jennie Macneill who’s eighty something and whose husband is related to the grandparents who raised Lucy Maud. He grew up on this acreage and together they’ve preserved the site and put up signs and built the bookstore and Jennie gives brilliant and heartfelt talks on Montgomery’s life here.

She does this as a labour of love. She’s Montgomery’s biggest fan.

dsc00218-copyNot a whiff of faux Avonlea. No green gables. This is the real deal.

dsc00207-copydsc00205-copyAnd it’s this realness that may be why there are no crowds here. A few people wander in and then out again… One young woman even walks away from Jennie’s talk claiming she’s a fan of Anne Shirley, not the author. There’s a sense of wanting entertainment or to be whisked from one thing to another.

The faux Avonlea a few minutes drive away is busy; I saw it coming in. A bus tour was disembarking.

dsc00221dsc00204-copyNearby are woodland trails Montgomery walked to school, to the post office, to hang out with friends. Only a few people bother to walk them and those that do, speed through. One couple asks me if there’s anything to see up ahead. When I say, well, forest… they turn around and say they’ve already seen enough of that.

But first they ask me to take a picture of them smiling big, hugging. Then they hightail it out of there.

dsc00203-copydsc00202-copy dsc00196-copyJennie says that one of the apple trees is over a hundred years old, that it would have been around in Montgomery’s day. It’s still producing a few apples. She thinks that maybe its enduring nature is because the tree approves of what they’re doing here, that it feels their heart.

dsc00231 dsc00215-copyOn the way out I overhear a woman complaining that there’s nothing here, that it’s just a site… and I wonder what she’s looking for.

I’m sorry I didn’t ask.