Sunday, June 3, 2012

The twentieth luminous thing... relaxation.

And pie.

And books.

Okay it's been a hard day to choose! We woke up tired from long days of doing things and being scheduled and driving too much, so we decided to do a lot of not too much today. We were the last people to eat breakfast, and then drove into Digby to explore. On the way in we drove by a cafe called Mag Pye's, with a big pie on its sign, and decided to stop (maybe it was the Magpie wearing a crown that called to me!). Our breakfast had been less than delightful and we needed something to buffer it, we reasoned.

Mag Pye's is a charming little tea shop, with old wooden tables and mismatched china and tiny jam pots and an old-fashioned bakery case filled with homemade yumyums. No one noticed we'd come in, so we listened to the owner in the back shouting about getting rid of some of the sugar cookies because they were too soft. She saw us then, and apologized, and offered to send us home with the offending cookies (which are too soft, but good all the same!). She was local, and talkative, and a happy, nice, smiling person who has four dogs and appreciates homemade and good food. I had a tea biscuit—more on tea biscuits in a later post, I promise, they deserve a post of their own—and tea and mom had bread pudding with homemade caramel sauce, and coffee. We had a view of the harbor and a paper and the place to ourselves and it was wonderful.

After an hour or so we thought we should explore Digby so we walked up and down the main street that runs along the water. The first place we came to was Crooked Timber Books, a mostly used bookstore. It was in an old house and had quite a great selection of books, plus at least 50 teddy bears for sale for about $5 each (sadly, I could think of no one besides me who'd want one of them and it felt too silly to buy myself one) and old dressy clothes, sequined and beaded, and furs. There was a Squirrel Nutkin poster in the kitchen. Of course we found books. Of course I found two thick hardbound anthologies of detective and mystery stories that were too good to pass up! The nice woman who owned the shop was originally from Brooklyn, and also loved mysteries, and it turned out all the teddy bears had belonged to her children and had then been put away in boxes. Most still had their tags on, and some looked more well-loved than others.

We put our books in the car and continued on, although there wasn't much more we saw worth writing about. Some junky beach sort of gift shops, a multitude of tacky seafood restaurants, wharf cats. The town was pretty much deserted on this warm and sunny Saturday. The air, though, was glorious—chilly but not too cold, and smelling clean and salty with an undertone of complexity coming from everything else there is about the sea beyond salt, the animals, the sea vegetables, the wind and sun and tides. We breathed a lot. After another bit we decided we should eat a good, latish lunch and then skip dinner, all of which may have just been an excuse to go back to Mag Pye's and have their lunches. So, we did. I had a salad with local Digby scallops and bacon, and mom had french canadian pea soup made with ham that the shop cures and smokes itself. Everything was really delicious, some of the best food we've had since we left the Chanterelle. I also had a pecan square, which the owner told me was made from "pecans, butter and honey." Well that was heavenly.

Then we drove back to the Harborview and took a nap.

Feeling completely slug-like, we walked down to the beach when we woke up. The clouds had moved in, and the tide was still mostly out, and it had turned colder. And there were some very odd, hairy lumps way down across the tide-bared sand.

Mouth of the inlet, through the gap is the Bay proper

I'd once stumbled across an Edward Gorey exhibit at the cartoon museum in San Francisco, and the work on the catalog cover appeared to be an elephant disguised as a rock. That's exactly what these lumps looked like, Gorey rocks uncovered on a beach in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia. A close look showed us sea boulders covered with seaweed and barnacles and mollusks, snails or limpets or welks. The Gorey rocks couldn't help but seem sentient, shy animals lying quite still so no one would notice or bother them before the water came back to hide them again. It's rather nice to know they are out there, lurking just out of sight.

I realized after a time that our walk across the "beach" was nothing of the sort. This wasn't beach, it was the living floor of the Bay, oddly and temporarily exposed. Every shell we picked up was alive, its inhabitant sealed up waiting for the tide to return. Broken pieces of shell were covered with small snails, hunkering down until the water was back. The noses of mussels poked out everywhere from the sand, we were walking across thousands of them. When I tugged on one gently it tugged back, and anchored itself more firmly in the sand. Gulls were eating the remnants of clams and shellfish that didn't survive the clammers, and barnacles covered all the rocks, shut tight for these dry hours. We are so used to a dead beach, to walking among the detritus of the sea and tides, but this was a living basin, drained of its sustenance, allowing us a glimpse of life under the water.

Our walk back takes us past the small local cemetery, where ravens yell in the tall trees.

Tree with raven

Horse Chestnut in full blooms, Silus-Smith Cemetery, Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

Mom talked about some of her favorite vacations, most of which entailed big plans but resulted in the quiet joy of doing not much of anything, and thus coming home rested and relaxed. Riffing off that philosophical principle, we spent the evening on the sun porch feeding Rosie cashew bits and talking to Darren, one of the owners, and listening to the silence as the bay darkened into night.

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