It takes two ferry rides to get to this island in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of Nova Scotia--three if you count the longer one from St. John, New Brunswick, to Digby. Brier Island is a haven of peace and nature at the end of Digby Neck, surrounded by waters populated by humpback and minke whales, gray and harbor seals, dolphins and porpoises. Trails crisscross the island, and the one I took this morning leaves the back of the lodge, is marked by lobster buoys, and leads to Seal Cove. Through a field of tall grass, into the pine woods, the twisting path crosses streams, winds around boulders, angles down and then up steep hills, and emerges on a cliff high above the sea.
The scent of flowers, evergreens, sea wrack, and salt spray fills the air. Wildflowers are everywhere: rosa rugosa, hawkweed, the rare and endangered Mountain Aven, Queen Anne's lace, wild orchids, purple loofestrife, daisies, thistles--my very favorite--and many others I couldn't identify.
The trail is lined with sea-silvered driftwood logs and root systems, thrown impossibly high above the tide line. Entire tree trunks have washed ashore. The buoys continue to mark the way, but at this point I began to follow the shore, mesmerized by the sounds of two foghorns--one from the Coast Guard Station at Northern Light, the other from Western Light. The cries of seals sound like mythological sirens and sea monsters. The seals were down on rocks exposed by the extreme low tide, and their calls pulled me closer, down the cliff, to get a better look. Once there, I heard the breath of a whale--hidden by fog, but very close to shore.
The wail of the foghorns was both mournful and comforting. A long hike can accomplish two seemingly opposing things: exhausting one's body and spirit so the focus is on the breath and getting to the next lighthouse, but also clarifying thoughts that might not be terribly welcome, that might be full of grief for the kitty who died a week ago. The good thing about a long hike is that there is also a better-than-average- chance that your feelings will roll in and out like the waves hitting the rocks, and that along with sadness, you're bound to feel the joy that nature always brings.
And then, just as the fog begins to clear, it's time to head back to the (L)odge...where the other kitty awaits. And soon the tide will change again, and I'll go to the passage at Peter Island to watch it flood, and the birds will be riding the crazy-swift current, fishing madly, and the fog might roll in again, or maybe it won't, but it won't matter, because it's all beautiful.