I have spent the past few months in Nova Scotia, where life is simple, and where I walked for hours every day on a piece of land off a dirt road near my parent’s house, never coming across a human soul.
Spending so much time wandering this property, I fell in love with these few acres of marsh, lake and rivers, and I began to know it intimately.
“The mayflowers are almost blooming,” I said to my parents one morning.
“They can’t be,” my dad said, “it’s still so cold out.”
“Yep, there are buds. Not everywhere, but in the places that get more sun.”
Soon, we were bringing scissors on the trail and our house was filled with the fragrant perfume of these tiny flowers, that have always represented the coming of spring for me.
My mom would join me some mornings and we tried to guess which leaves belonged to the lady slippers, a wild orchid that grows in forests across Canada, and soon we watched as they budded and blossomed, new flowers a pale pink or even white, their colour deepening each day. I watched as tiny round flowers turned to white berries, then picked them as they ripened to delicious blueberries several weeks later, each morning before breakfast. Chanterelles, boletes. Huge cobwebs covered in dew, and I wondered who lived in the rolled up leaf near the bridge. I learned about different kinds of spiders, and swallowed more than a few flies walking the trails.
There were mysteries, too – the hosta that someone had planted 20 minutes into the woods, that did not seem to be doing well. I found a milk jug in the trees not far off and started watering it. I couldn’t figure out why someone had planted it in this remote spot, and it occupied my thoughts throughout the day, and at night I dreamed of a stranger who’d planted it to remember a loved one. My mother and I had talked about bringing it home where we knew it would live, but after the dream I left it be, continued to water it, and it is still growing there now, full of new foliage and thriving.
Tiny toads smaller than my fingernail, frogs that leapt underfoot, a hare, a black bear. I saw a horsefly get snatched up by a huge dragonfly as I threw sticks into the lake. My world was a few square kilometers for an hour or so each day, and my spirit sang for it.
Eventually, I started hiking in and camping by the lake. My first morning, I woke to the most incredible sunrise, as mist moved across the water. Often walking the path after dark, flashlight in hand as I navigated the rocks to cross the stream, I could feel my body getting stronger and the stress dripping down into the ground with my sweat as I carried my whole world further and further away from the road. I longed to spend a couple of weeks in the woods, letting Max run, packing up camp in the mornings and walking until we found another spot by the water.
However, I ran out of time. Tomorrow I fly back to Yellowknife, to continue what I started in May. Max and I are moving back onto the water, where we have no electricity, no running water, and where we must paddle to shore each morning. I have lived in the North for more than four years now, and although I have loved living off-grid here, I have never had the kind of intimacy with the land as I have felt this summer in Nova Scotia. When I return, it’s time to change that.