We’ve been away this week, on a road-trip to Nova Scotia for the annual camping trip with our friend Dave. A recurring theme has been Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Post-Tropical Storm Arthur, and we have closely watched his progress along the east coast. It’s made me sure of a few things, like:
1. Camping in hurricane-ish weather isn’t so much fun,
2. If you do camp in hurricane-ish weather, be grateful for the hard-sided trailer you’re in, and
3. Pick a place like Cape Breton, because they are some of the friendliest people around.
Cape Breton is stunning. There simply isn’t another word for it. Some of the vistas are breath-taking. We drove the Cabot Trail, and hiked trails that parallel it. We ate the most fantastic seafood chowder at the Red Shoe Pub, and many plates of fish and chips, lobster or crab sandwiches everywhere we went.
We also heard some fantastic music, not only because Cape Breton is known for their jigs and strathspeys and reels, but because the KitchenFest was happening. Kitchenfest (hosted by the Gaelic College) is a music festival highlighting some of Nova Scotia’s best. One night, we saw JP Cormier, and I have never seen anyone flat-pick a guitar so fast. Then he picked up his mandolin and went even faster. He’s an accomplished fiddler too. We learned the chorus to a Gaelic love song, and we watched as people danced square-sets with the ease and joy of people who grew up doing it. It was a celebration of their heritage.
David Rankin welcomed everyone (in Gaelic and English) by saying, “I’m David Rankin, and if you haven’t already guessed, I’m from Mabou.” The reason he said that is because his family is internationally recognized for their musical talents but what struck me most is the “if you haven’t already guessed” part. It spoke to the very strong sense of heritage that we found here. He said his last name, and everyone already knew where he came from, just as everyone already knew Cormier had come home.
We all have that kind of heritage but we don’t all celebrate it, and perhaps that’s a mistake on our part. I know for me that my family is remembered in our home town. I recall a day when I returned to show that little jewel to a friend. We stopped in the diner because I knew the fries were good, and there was a group of elderly people celebrating a birthday. One woman stood up to take a group photo, and I offered to take it for them so she could be in the picture too. We got to talking–and one woman said I looked familiar. I told her my name, and she laughed. Then she asked about my siblings and my parents. The group started talking about the “Colenutt house”–even though it had two or three other owners since then. They all knew which house she meant (it could be because the house used to be red and white and now it’s green and white in the front and half green/half blue and white in the back. I think they ran out of paint).
There are only a handful of times when I felt I knew where I’d come from. My Gram had so many stories to share, but when she was alive to tell them I don’t think I gave her all the attention I should have. It’s one of my regrets now.
Then again, maybe where we come from isn’t as important as where we are going. Regardless of our past, whether it was full of a heritage we are proud of or not, we are promised an eternal home. I think Cape Breton might be used as a model. My Gram and my friends are waiting for me there, and not even the threat of a hurricane can take that away.
My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival.