We tend to go back to places we loved as a child, be it a particular house, town, or even a country. The place calls to us like a bull moose during mating season; we run to it, back to thr original roost, back to home.
Barrachois Harbour, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, Canada. For those who are not familiar with Canadian Maritime locations) it is a sleepy, yet vibrant village forty miles away from the hometown where I grew up. As children, we would take an occasional outing to Tatamagouche, usually for an ice cream cone, or just for the drive. There was nothing more delicious than ice made from dairy milk straight from a creamery right in town.
When I grew older and could drive, I and my friends would make that day trip to Tatamagouche, always frequenting the much famous bakery where we would walk out with cookies, fresh loaves of bread, or tea biscuits. Everything was wonderful, but as teenagers, we could only afford to buy one item. However, we walked off and returned home like we had tasted delicacies from the kitchens of the Queen of Sheba.
In retirement, we found the perfect piece of property, bought from a gentleman who had purchased it thirty years ago. Hoping to retire to that property, he was much disappointed by his wife’s attitude that it was too isolated, and being a city girl, could never conceive of moving to such a rural setting. Being a city girl myself, I too wondered how I would fare being in the country. A year and half later, I will not leave the premise unless I have to go into town, or drive to Truro, where the rest of my family lives.
Living on the outskirts of Tatamagouche is like being at a rustic resort, where the peace and tranquility no longer make it a necessity to escape or to travel. We have all the quiet we want, right here. When we first moved in, it was so quiet that every snap, pop, and crackle made me think some burglar was trying to break in. Now I take the solitude for granted, and if an oil truck happens to drive up to fill my neighbor’s oil tank or one of the cottagers drive past, I take it as a personal intrusion unto my world of quiet.
Our days are judged by the passing of tides: when it comes in, when it goes out, how high it is, and how low. Mornings, we watch as the sun comes up, sometimes yellow, sometimes bright orange, and very often a crimson red, as if the sky had exploded. As the sun sets, we watch it go down on the horizon and look forward to it rising again the next morning. Full moons are something to behold, so bright and white that I want to capture it and place it in a jar, as my personal firefly.
Having lived most of my adult life in the city, seeing stars in the sky is a phenomenon. In the country, every constellation can be counted where the fantasy of the Big Dipper, Orion, and the Bear are all revelations to a city person. Satellites circling the earth, airplanes with flashing lights, even the helicopter which hovers frequently, on the lookout for drug smugglers is a wonder to behold when you live in pseudo-isolation. All these things, I marvel at because it is representative of God’s little miracles.
In winter we hibernate to howling winds, blinding snow squaws, pelting frozen rain and snow which blows upwards into the eaves. We face directly towards Northumberland Strait, and on good days, we can see just an outline or silhouette of Prince Edward Island in the distance. We still haven’t figured it out yet, just how far we are from the Island. Here, all locals have their version of how far out it is out there, and they’re all sticking to their stories.
Speaking of stories, one of the men who helped to build our house told us of his great-grandfather who manned the lighthouse that used to be at the opening of the bay. One bright sunny day, he headed out in his little rowboat to get the mail in Tatamagouche. He told his wife he would be back within a couple of hours. Two weeks later he returned. He had tried crossing the bay, a snow storm whipped up and he was blown off course, found refuge at a farm house, after five attempts at getting to shore. The weather never let up enough for him to return home until two weeks had passed. That is the fury of the Nor’ Easter.
Sometimes the winds howl so furiously, it sounds like an airplane going down the runway or a train rumbling and grumbling down the tracks, working up enough energy to cause destruction. Rain which normally falls downward can be blown sideways or upwards into the recesses of the house when there is a Nor’ Easter.
When wind is whipping in from the Ocean, we pray for the trees. When it is over, we have no idea how many tall trees will snap from the horrific gales. The Atlantic Ocean is so wild and so unbridled many are drawn to it. Many have drowned in it when high waves sweep the rocks and knock anyone who happens to be standing too closely. Perhaps that is the call of the sea which sailors or seafarers often speak of, something which we “land lubbers” cannot identify with. They compare the sea to a woman, speaking often of her “unpredictability”.
On clear winter days, small icebergs can be sighted floating in the distance. On bright, summer days, an occasional seal can be seen swimming at the surface. Sailboats come out to romp as well. I have noticed one particular sailboat, painted with brown sampan sails, and every time it appears, I run to get my camera, so unique is this particular sailboat.
If it is not wild life of the sea, it is wildlife on land. From Bessie, the neighborhood cow who roams and visits, leaving us her presents of cow patties, to the raccoon who competes with birds for the well-stocked bird feeder, not to mention the families of deer who deem humans friendly to continue eating placidly, only looking up momentarily to the disruption of passing cars. All these are wonders to behold by folks who live in the country.
After our log home was built, the neighborhood woodpecker decided the logs would be great feeder for insects, pecking away at our outside wall. Luckily, finding no scrumptious bugs inside the cured logs, he quickly went for a real tree, as we breathed a sigh of relief!
There is a duck sanctuary down the road. A bald eagle has built his nest nearby, and on eventful days, we would watch in awe at his majestic flight in the sky. We have also witnessed seagulls at play. They especially love rough days when the wind is so strong no birds are able to fly. Yet, for gulls it is an opportunity to show off, flying against the gales, letting the wind whip them up high, then floating on the air pockets below. Other times, when they are looking for food, they may drop a clam from up high, watch it break open, then swoop down to eat the meat. Then they fly up, to do it all over again.
Tatamagouche boasts a mecca for local artisans: from painters, to writers, to potters too. It is an enclave of talent. The surrounding areas feature such tourist attractions as a winery which uses no sulphates in the making of their wine. There are only two of a kind in the world. Miles away, in the town of Oxford is the Blueberry Capital of the world. We have a friend who goes to great expense to have shipped to him, bottles of real blueberry syrup for his pancakes.
We have not tasted such heavenly apples until we came home to retire. In the city, varieties of apples were limited and had little taste. Now we are exposed to a grand assortment, as they are grown in our wonderful Annapolis Valley, famous for their apples.
Best of all, Tatamagouche is self-contained. Tatamagouche has its own bank, pharmacy, hospital, bank, post-office, library, etc. For a town which only has one street, this is truly self-sufficiency. We even have a volunteer fire department where my electrician is the fire chief. Have you ever seen that comedy where the town police was the contractor, carpenter, electrician, real estate agent, but did none of those jobs?
Food-wise, the best- made sausages are to be found in Tatamagouche. People from Germany have long since made Tatamagouche their place to emigrate. Red homes with yellow rooftops dot the countryside, not to mention the pork stores. The area around Tatamagouche is home to the Mennonites, well known for their superior building abilities. As well, remnants of folks from the hippie era are still live and kicking. It is wonderful to be able to buy stone-ground flour from the Balmoral Grist Mill, homemade rustic bread from a nearby farmhouse, organic vegetables, free-range chickens, even our own maple-syrup bush and restaurant. If you happen to live in California, these things would not be a big deal, but in a small place like Nova Scotia, it is indeed something to brag about.
What more can a retiree ask for? As cottagers return for the summer, and the area once more awakens to the hustle and bustle of a population explosion, my husband and I are made aware that there is another life outside of our serenity bubble. Most of all, as a writer, I have found my little slice of heaven. Most days, I can go down to my “woman cave” and write about how much I love retiring to this ideal place. This is what all dreams are made of. As I write, the seasons come and the seasons go , and THAT is the magic of Tatamagouche, N.S.!