My cousin Sarah Mae Livingstone MacPherson proved to be one the great rewards of my immersion in family history as it was altered by the events of the Great War. Sarah Mae is gone now but Jan and I were lucky enough to meet her a dozen years ago in the aftermath of our first trip to the Western Front when I was ardent to find relics of Livingstone men lost in the mud and mire of Flanders and France. We relished her company for several years.
On her first visit to the cabin at Big Bras d`Or Sarah Mae plunked herself down in one of the padded Adironacks on the front porch and announced that if this were her place she`d be content to spend most of her hours sitting in that chair watching the world go by. Slowly. Nowadays, well past the three-score-and-ten milestone myself, I understand even better why Sarah Mae felt that way.
The porch commands a fine view of the Great Bras d`Or and Kelly`s Mountain: it is a place to watch eagles sail past, listen to territorial warblers, enjoy the sight of gannets plunging headlong into the saltchuck, intent on a meal of the freshest seafood. It is also a fine place for reading a good book and enjoying a cup of King Cole tea.
We returned to `Bigador` the first day of summer, June 21, and apart from some peeling paint here, a bit of rot there, we found the old place – close to half a century at this point – pretty much as we left it last October. Familiar sights and sounds remain reliable. The varying hares grow accustomed to our return, rubythroats battle for position at the hummingbird feeders. The legions of Clintonia lilies are past now, replaced now by equally populous battalions of bold, bright orange hawkweed. We relish our daily 7-km walks to Dalem Lake, busy ourselves with projects then enjoy the passing scene just as Sarah Mae recommended we should.
Occasionally there is novelty too. Never before had we seen a poplar adorned with fresh black-bear incisions. We keep eyes peeled for a sighting of the bear itself. Unexpected serendipity occurs. On a sunny afternoon an astoundingly beautiful bug – in all its cobalt blue and bright orange iridescence – drops by for a visit and lingers long enough to permit a photo shoot. At Dalem`s edge we find an adult spotted sandpiper and trailing just behind, a youngster dipping its tail just as mama does.
Some old-reliables remain faithful whether we like it or not. Mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ems are as prolific as in any other year. We try not to wish them away, for fear of the consequences their absence would cost the cherished Blackburnians, Parulas and Magnolias.
There are other dependables. Cousins Lynn and Louise are reliably congenial, good-natured and full of fun. Alas, Lynn is also reliably murderous: instead of playing the slots at the casino we gather at the cabin to play a version of Bananagrams all our own: no two-letter words permitted, at least one eleven-letter word required of each 36-letter set. She typically gets the job done in seventy seconds. Her three competitors have long since abandoned the hope of beating her in a match; now we battle just to prevent her from outscoring the field. We ordinarily fail.
So far the weather has been sublime: the days mostly sunny, the rains concentrated at night when a deluge is least inconvenient. The rain barrels are full. Blueberries ripen up the way on MacKenzie Hill. If the Blue Jays lose I am spared aggravation: here there is no television to watch Bautista strike out with the bases loaded. I don`t get up at 4 a.m. to read The Guardian or the Washington Post and lament the state of the world: there is no Internet here among the spruces and firs. Strangely, I feel none the worse for the lack of it.