Destination: Nova Scotia
Book: Island: The Complete Stories (hardcover 2000, paperback Vintage copy from Random House in 2002), by Alistair MacLeod
For a relatively small province of Canada, and one without major urban centers, Nova Scotia contributes quite a bit to the literary life of the country. More than a dozen small publishing companies serve the province. Canada’s most acclaimed writer, Alistair MacLeod grew up and went to school on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and supposedly still summers near Inverness.
My sister and I spent the night in Baddeck, maybe 35 miles or so from Inverness. I will not kid you, we had a strong temptation to jettison our plans to tour Alexander Graham Bell Museum and our drive around the coast to go drop in on MacLeod. But we will respect his privacy.
Besides, the Alexander Graham Bell Museum turned out to be fascinating. Here’s a fuzzy picture of the hydrofoil boat he invented and another of the outside of the museum.
Besides Baddeck, along the scenic route called the Cabot Trail, proved to be one of the most fascinating stops so far. We were simply in awe of the forests lining the highway and the long vistas that looked untouched by civilization. Just green, green, green (light, dark and medium) border by cerulean blue of Bras d-Or a enormous sprawling lake that covers 1/4 of Cape Breton Island. We could easily believe we were back in the pre-European contact days with the M’ikmaq (Mikmaw), the first inhabitant.
Along the road to Baddeck we had stopped at the Glooskop Heritage Center to learn about those people, and you can learn more about that stop at my other home, the Quincy Tahoma Blog. We also visited Kejimkujuk, a National Park that preserves lands once lived in by the M’ikmaq people.
So many different people came to Nova Scotia after the M’ikmaq. Alexander Graham Bell moved to Baddeck because it reminded him of his native Scotland. We noticed that side roads in the southern part of Cape Breton Island all seemed to start with Mac–MacGregor, MacInnis, MacSomething or Other. So it was not a big surprise, but a wonderful happenstance to find a Ceilidh (pronoucned Kay-lee) –a Celtic Music “jam”–at the Catholic Church hall. Some may want to go to nightclubs and five star restaurants, but give us the Catholic Church hall with hand-knitted potholders and baby sweaters for sale on the side, and a reunion of Campbells there to listen to a singer/guitarist named Donnie Campbell, and fiddler Anita MacDonald.
It is this kind of culture–the real people of Nova Scotia that MacLeod writes about in his beautifully crafted short stories. He is one of the best known writers of Canada, and if you have not read him yet, be warned. You’re going to want to go to Nova Scotia once you get acquainted.
The tourism office of Nova Scotia assisted with this trip and arranged for my lodging for six nights. Several of the attractions listed gave us complimentary admission.
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The Photographs used here are my property. Please do not reuse without permission.