THURSDAY July 1. . . Happy Birthday, Canada!
The weather really came through, serving up a sunny day for Canada to celebrate itself. We are en route to the east side of the island, to a spot more southern than before, Panmura Island beach. Hopefully we will find some nice wind for Doug and a place for me to settle in with my laptop. In the afternoon we hope to hit a Canada Day celebration in Montague. Tonight there are fireworks in Souris. We shall see how it all goes.
Tomorrow night is a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) which is a celebration of local music, and on Saturday we will attend The Village Feast where Canada’s cooking celebrity, Michael the Inn Chef, will cook for 1,000 people, using local food, to raise money for a village in Kenya and eastern PEI charities. Thanks to our B&B hosts we were able to get tickets before they sold out. So, by the end of these next few days, we shall be practically native.
Panmura Beach turned out to be a great place for Doug to kite. I sat on the beach under our new beach shelter (which Doug bought on sale the day after Thanksgiving, how’s that for advance planning?). He is getting much better at controlling the kite and can keep it in the air for long periods of time, even when the wind is gusty. The movements he makes with his arms look like kayak paddling, from side to side in big swoops. The wind wasn’t quite strong enough to actually drag him, at least not with this kite, which isn’t all that huge, only 3 meters square. He was glad for his wetsuit as there were a lot of jellyfish in the water, scads of them, purple and black.
We climbed up the lighthouse on the point, had just a gorgeous view. We are fond of lighthouses and a bit sentimental about climbing one on the anniversary of the day we met, which was July 1, 1983. (If you read my memoir, Ruined, you might remember that scene.)
I forgot to mention earlier that we saw a bald eagle swoop down and pluck a fish out of the bay by Souris the other day. It happened too quick to get a picture.
Here’s a funny thing: when Doug took off his wet suit, he noticed the care instructions: Keep out of direct sunlight. Hah!
We stopped at a Bison Preserve because Doug really loves bison. To eat them, I mean. It turns out there is a small herd, only 11 or so, and they were all in the woods and not visible. To the bison I suppose it was a hot day. There was a craft store with local crafts and we did a bit of shopping, gifts for the girls and a very small pot which will be our memento of the trip. The pot is coppery in color, smoke-fired by a driftwood bonfire, where the smoke reacts with natural chemicals to create colors. A couple on the island is researching and recreating the native ways of making pots. Did I mention that the red clay of PEI is perfect for pots? Just like Virginia clay. I was glad to have the chance to support local artists.
Then we drove on to Montague for the Canada Day Celebration. It was like a picture postcard of mid-America: a beautiful blue sky day, town park along a marina, an old folks home with lots of residents being served slices of cake and ice cream, the town ladies serving up free hotdogs off the grill, kids in line wearing Avatar T-shirts and discussing whose dog is barking late at night, a group of black-leather-clad motorcyclists striding up to get their hotdogs too, a group of four fifty-something fellas playing country music in the town gazebo, wearing their red maple leaf T-shirts, a soapbox derby racing down the nearby sloping hill.
Afterward we drove back to the B&B and got on a pair of bicycles. Basically every road around here is scenic. We went up and down hills with views of water in three directions in many spots, old cemeteries, wildflowers, very few cars. Absolutely ideal bicycling. It started raining at one point but who cares?
When we were almost home we stopped and chatted with the Dunphy’s neighbor because as I rode by he called out a greeting and seemed eager to chat. He is a lanky man with powerful arms and thick gray hair. He is a lobsterman and it turns out that the season ended yesterday. It is only a 2 month season. I asked if he will fish something else now and he said No, he will go to the West end to scaffold. Which means he will go to Alberta, BC to do construction related to oil rigs. He does that the 10 months a year he isn’t lobstering.
He is a 3rd generation fishermen, and both his son and his son-in-law also fish. He said that there are good years and bad, the peak was the early 90s. Some years he gets 25,000 (pounds? lobsters?) while on the west side they’ll get twice that in the same period of time, a difference of $40,000 for the same amount of work. It sounds like they pull this in in two weeks’ time. He also talked about an invasive species of green crab that’s a problem in the estuaries. His theory on the decline in lobsters is the proliferation of the seals. One seal eats 40 lbs of fish a day.
I asked if there are any natural predators and he made the motion of a shotgun: They’re no good for nothing, ‘cept the pups are cute. I thought about the protests I’ve seen in front of the Canadian embassy, against the clubbing of baby seals.
We had supper at Rick’s Fish & Chips in St. Peter’s again, it’s casual and delicious and they have a nice salad. On the way there we drove through a sudden rainstorm, and the drops hit the windshield with such force that you could think they had sleet in them. But by the time we got to Rick’s you could eat out on the deck in the sun. The weather is that changeable.
By 9:00 we were in Souris for the fireworks. A young man was busking before the fireworks: firestick-juggling, fire-eating, fire-breathing. The fireworks themselves were a modest display and only took about 15 minutes.
I woke up a little after 5:00 and a glance out the window got me scrabbling. The sky was beautiful with pink clouds, so I grabbed my camera and ran out in my nightie and bare feet, snapping pictures and wishing I had taken the moment to put on my flip-flops.
Another couple had arrived last night, Mike and Debbie from Augusta, Maine. They like to hunt for sand dollars on the beaches.
We loaded up our host’s bikes and intend to ride from St. Peter’s to Morel and back.
I really can’t get over the cloud formations here. I have never seen them shift so quickly and dramatically. The sky here is big, like Montana, and if you turn your head from side to side, you can see a whole sweep of cloud formations, none the same, from end to end the clouds do not repeat. To the west they are white and puffy against a blue sky, while to the east they are dark and low-hanging. Wait. Now a little wind has come up and the puffy clouds have moved away, there are high cirrus clouds in the east, and in the west I can see some blue beyond. And so it goes for hours on end. You can’t possibly say where it will rain, or won’t, or how long a spot of sun will last.
The ride of 22 km (12 miles) took about 2 hours, stopping for a few pictures along the way and for the all-important coffee and candy bar at the turn-around spot.
We had supper at a slightly overpriced place on the water in Georgetown, with the sun sparkling as we sat on the deck. Delicious seafood stew and fried halibut. After that we wanted ice cream and drove to a McDonald’s in Montague, the same spot that had the Canada Day celebration. It was rather amazing that the McDonald’s itself was comforting in some strange way. We got coffee and soft-serve and read the local paper. Found ourselves lingering in an unaccustomed way.
At 8:00 we went to a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) which is home-grown musical and dancing entertainment in the Scottish tradition. This particular Ceilidh takes place every Friday night at the Dundas Plowing Match Fairgrounds, the equivalent of a state fairground. The hall had just been redone, so is very clean and comfortable. There are even colored lights on the musicians on stage. There were guitars, a mandolin, a fiddle, an accordion. The accordion was played by our host, Pat Dunphy, and Jane Dunphy was the MC. She introduced us from the mic.
People took turns singing, they were local people of varying talents but all were appreciated. It cost $4 to get in, and a little lunch was provided midway through the evening. We were the youngest people in attendance, I would estimate the average age to be in the mid-70s. Many of the couples had no doubt been dancing together for many years, and it was sweet to watch them. I grew up with no dancing, and I appreciate the tacit acknowledgment that it’s ok to have a body, and to move it, and to enjoy it. Many of the songs were waltzes or country numbers. One, sung by a very old fisherman, was about a boat from Newfoundland which is so dear to me. Also some patriotic numbers. I wouldn’t give a million dollars for one maple leaf.
Jane filled me in on the back story on some of the couples, which was priceless. A fisherman with his newly acquired Russian bride. A fella in cowboy boots he likes to show off. A woman, rail-thin, who has had “12 kinds of cancer” but still smiles and dances, and sang her heart out for 3 numbers. A couple in their 70s who still fish together every day.
Life really is better than fiction.
A bit of stargazing before we hit the hay.