Friday, September 25, 2009

Warm in the Autumn Woods

Late-September Big Bras d’Or is seductive enough that we feel inclined to leave the truck where it is, wandering only as far as feet permit. More distant adventures must be 4-star to entice us away.

We traveled to scenic Broad Cove to see Alex and Geraldine McKinnon, friends my mother recently and happily added to her stable. Doris was confident I would find plenty of common interest with Alex and promised we would like them both. She was right. Alex took me to see the fine memorial display at the Inverness Academy where a long school corridor is lined with photographs of soldiers from the Inverness area who fought in the world wars. His grandfather and father served together in WWI. His father, Murdock, fighting in the Machine Gun Corps near Cambrai, suffered a shrapnel wound October 11, 1918, one day after my cousin David Livingstone was killed in action whilst commanding a machine gun battery in the same unit. I have no doubt they knew each other.

The next day I savoured a magical history tour with Cousin Julia Moore, a granddaughter of Capt. Rod Livingstone, the only survivor of four Black Brook soldier-brothers who went to Flanders. Jan and I were able to show Julia her grandparents’ grave at Glace Bay’s Greenwood Cemetery; she had never seen it before. Julia is gift of the Internet: we share an enthusiastic interest in exploring our Cape Breton family roots. She was steered to me by someone familiar with my Great War archival photographs on Flickr.

The three of us visited Cousin Sarah Mae Livingstone MacPherson, a niece of the Black Brook brothers. A visit with ‘Sadie’ is always a reward in itself but there was a bonus: Sarah Mae gave me a book David sent to his sister Annie at Christmas 1916, shortly after his brothers died at Ypres and the Somme, and less than two years before he too would be killed at Cambrai.

It was a cousinly week. I last saw my father’s niece Deborah Bartlett in the early 1960s when she was a child of about 10. Visiting from Ontario, Deb came to see us at the cabin; we entertained each other recollecting childhood memories then went off to Baddeck to revel in a feast of mussels and lobster.

The early days of fall are a revel of a quieter sort. Most days at Bigador we have to ourselves, or share only with our joint tenants, the rabbits, squirrels, jays and eagles. I completed the task of splitting the small mountain of birch and maple built earlier in summer. The woodshed is full again. Cool evenings are unproblematic: with plenty of firewood the reliable Drolet warms the cabin as we curl up with a good book, listen to CBC Radio or try to thrash one another in a vicious game of Scrabble. Jan wins most of the time; I comfort myself with the notion it was I who taught her to compete like a sewer rat.


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