Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Calais, Maine to Deer Island, New Brunswick

Waking early, I treat myself to breakfast at a diner next to the motel and with a hot cup of coffee in hand, I take to the road.

Within minutes, I am in love with this large province that I have never given much thought to. The long, winding roads and this coastal route that at first provides small glimpses of the famed Bay of Fundy, and then open to breathtaking vistas of the blue-green waters that I have come to see ebb and flow in the most extreme tidal fluctuations in the world!

With a map, but no planned route or destination, I freely wander the scenic back roads that weave in and out of forested areas and wide open expanses. The sky is azure blue with just a few clouds floating about and the trees are green and budding and everywhere, the smell of the cool waters fills the air.

I see a small island, Deer Island, noted on the map, with a short ferry ride and with a love for tiny islands and any kind of ferry ride, I steer Lobsterina, as I've dubbed my small, red car, in honor of the lobster fishing industry in this area, in that direction.

On the small car ferry that holds just 8 cars or in today's case, 5 cars and 1 semi-truck, I meet Lawrence. He is sitting in his truck, arm resting on the window, gazing out in to the Bay and I am standing on the bow of the ferry, taking photos of the landscape. I am struck by how pensive he looks and when he turns his head and catches my gaze, I smile and he returns it with a large smile of his own, and I watch him wipe a tear from his eye. When I ask if he is alright, he gets out of his truck, joins me on the deck and we spend the rest of the ride talking. 

Lawrence is 86 years old and last month, lost his wife of 55 years. They lived on Deer Island for most of their lives and when she died, he was unable to face staying in their home and instead, stayed with one of their children. Now, more prepared to face the empty house, he is making the journey back home, alone, to begin to pack her things.

As the ferry horn blows to signal our docking and for passengers to return to their vehicles, Lawrence rubs my left cheek with his rough, calloused hand, leans in closely and whispers, "The night after she died, I woke up, feeling her rubbing my face, just like that. It only happened the one time, and I sure wish she would come back and do it again."

This man's grace and sorrow remain with me through the evening...

I drive the entire circumference of the small island in just over an hour and think about love and loss, endings and beginnings. All the while, I pass small wharfs and houses up on stilts and when I step from the car to take photos, I breathe in the salty sea air and this is when I realize, I am in Atlantic Canada...

I stop at a gallery and the owner tells me about a campsite whose sign fell down and hasn't been replaced and so which I missed. Grateful for the kindness of strangers, I delight to find a camping spot on a hill, beneath an oak tree, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. As I prepare camp, the cool breeze from the Bay washes over me, the sound of the incoming tide slapping against the shore lulls me deeper in to my sleeping bag and one final peek out the tent window blesses me with a view of the dark blue sky filling with stars and a crescent moon.

And this is New Brunswick. 

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