Yesterday I was lucky enough to have an excuse to drive to the coast. When I decided to come to Nova Scotia, one of the things I was excited about was the ocean. I didn’t realize that Old Man Farm is actually not very close to the ocean at all! And while I had been hoping to go bike along the coast, it’s hard to justify driving for 30 or 45 minutes just to go biking. So, when Brooke said he had an appointment at Gampo Abbey and would I like to come along, I jumped at the chance.
The Cabot Trail runs right through Middle River, so we drove it over through Margaree, Cheticamp, and up into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. There are a million trails in the park and if I lived anywhere close by, I would go exploring there all the time. The highlands rise right out of the sea and it is very beautiful. Brooke describes it as a chilly version of Big Sur. The water, ironically, is quite warm – the warmest water in the Atlantic for quite a ways, in the Northumberland Strait, and despite being so far north is quite nice for swimming in the summer. Probably not yet though… in fact, this time of year, the ocean is still usually covered in ice, but due to the unseasonably warm weather the whole Eastern seaboard has experienced this spring, it was totally open, making for nicer views.
While Brooke had his appointment, I biked into the park a bit. It’s off-season for tourists, and so there was practically no traffic on the road. I really enjoyed my first ride of the year and the scenery of the highlands. You can still see snow off on many of the mountains.
Then, I returned to the Abbey, where we participated in the evening chant and then ate dinner with the monks. The shrine was completely peaceful and smelled of candles; the windows were open so you could hear the wind, waves, and birds outside. I have no training in meditation but I could see how the Abbey was in a perfect place for monastic life. By the time we were eating dinner, fog was rolling in over the ocean. The monks talked about how the view of the ocean is different every day, and really every hour. They are very in tune with their place.
On the way home, we stopped to enjoy the sunset on a beach. Unfortunately the wind was whipping in off the water, so it was quite cold, but I was still able to appreciate the pink light falling over the water and the pebble beach. I’m impressed that there were so many settlements on such a cold, windy coast – the winters must have been brutal – but at the same time, I think it would be a beautiful and amazing place to live, and whenever we passed an abandoned house, I would ask, how could you leave that behind?