Friday, August 7, 2009


I am back in the land of my birth. I have traveled to the coast of Cape Breton Island in eastern Canada. I am here with my mother. We are visiting her family. We have been discussing this trip for a decade and I am happy we can finally unite.

I am mostly a stranger here other than to close family. Though I was born and spent the first 4 years of my life here, I grew up a thousand miles away in Ontario. It could have been a million miles away. It could have been another planet.

The reality is I have spent half of my life outside of Canada so I greet return visits with a comfortable but curious disposition. In any case, I have not been back here for many many years, far too long to leave matters of family.

We are in the largest Gaelic speaking community outside of Ireland and the UK. Most of the population is of Celtic or Anglo Saxon heritage. I am profoundly struck by the cultural connections. This is an anthropological Petri dish. It is land that harks back to another time.

The pace of small town life is unmeasured. Houses have large gardens and picket fences. Traffic moves at a snail’s pace and politely gives way to pedestrians. Strangers regularly greet you on the street and bode you well. Shopkeepers are polite and ask after your family. Modern urban dwellers do not appreciate that places like this exist.

Most of my mother’s family live 5 minutes from each other. My Aunt’s house is the centre of the universe. The volume of traffic through the door in a day is most impressive. Brothers, sisters, cousins, children, grand children, neighbours, friends; it does not abate. Everyone is welcome.

The tea is steeped for what seems hours in advance of lengthy storytelling and discourse, engaged in by all generations. The laughing is often contagious. The branch of my family we are close to look after each other and are charitable with their actions both at home and in the community. They are good people.

I am fortunate for many things in life not least of which is a lovely family and friends and to have travelled and lived around the world. The older I get the more curious I become about why peoples from wherever they are, are the way that they are.

Though I only spent the formative years of my life here it is patently clear to me how important these years are in a child’s development. My indelible memory is that of being loved to near death by my grandparents and aunts and uncles, and well looked after by my cousins.

I am grateful. It explains a lot.

Blood is thicker than water.



daisyfae said...

you didn't even have to mention the physical beauty of the place! did 2 weeks primitive camping the atlantic provinces and fell in love with the location - and people!

have a donnair for me!

American in Norway said...

Ahhhh... what a lovely post... glad you made it "home"

tomeoftheunknownblogger said...

Nice post BB. I trust that Canada Customs did not give you a significant going over before allowing you in?

The family connections you describe so eloquently were certainly found in my late wife's family who, I believe I've mentioned, were Scandinavian in origin.

My family? Not so much. Mom's side is a little more in touch regularly although I have little to nothing to do with pretty much all of my cousins. Dad's side is much worse, although Dad's side has its roots in the UK (probably more Brit than Celtic). I haven't seen or spoken to anyone on my Dad's side since my grandfather died and before that it was to tell my grandfather of my own Dad's passing. Cousins? It's been decades.

When I read accounts such as yours I get a little envious. Then, I remember the last time that my siblings and I were all together and then recall that I said at that time, "Never again."


canadianfermentation said...

Nice post. My dad was originally from Cape Breton as well. I have yet to visit, but it is in my plans. Actually I've always had the urge to move there, sight unseen. This post just reinforces that urge.

nursemyra said...

I've been to Cape Breton Island!

Michele said...

Since Americans are genetically unable to fathom the geography of Canada, I had to look up Cape Breton in Wikipedia. According to the pictures, it's fantastically beautiful. What a cool place to be born!

So glad you're enjoying such a wonderful time with your family. Here you are only missing more rain. ;-)

Zhu said...

Are you coming by Ottawa by any chance? Hurry up, it doesn't rain today!

I'd love to visit the Maritimes sometimes. Canada is such a huge place...

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I know the feeling. I grew up in Maine, but I have lived all over the world since. Now when I return to Maine, I feel like a stranger, even though my relatives are still there, as are many of my high school peers. Thomas Wolfe says "You Cannot Go Home Again," but it seems to me that you can. For me, it is only difficult in that people generally do not move away from rural Maine and so I am not easily understood even by those who grew up with me.

suicide_blond said...

thank goodness..
where would be if we couldnt go home??

beaverboosh said...

df - cool... yeah beautiful place and people... had lobster for ya!

ain - thanks, it's great to be home

rob - never say never. maybe we will see you in Norway or the UK?

cf - hey cool dude, i don't know about moving to CB, maybe retirement, but it is definitely worth a visit

nm - girl, where haven't you been?

michele - it is a pretty cool place, definitely off the beaten track... looking forward to the rain... NOT

zhu - next time darling... ya you need to check it out some day

elizabeth - welcome... you can always go home... I have been hugged and loved to death here

suicide - away. (hey girl, long time, I missed you)

Return to Norway said...

Excellent post. Enjoy the laughter with your family

beaverboosh said...

c - was a blast. hope you are getting settled!