I’ve been standing on the deck of the Dunlop Inn in Braddeck, Cape Breton Island. The bay opens before us. There are beginner swimmers on the beach across the way. I imagine they are mindful of the jellies that drifted into the marina yesterday.
I am speaking with Bev, the hostess here at the Inn. We are talking about her life., and the life of the local community. She has lived in five houses, all on the same plot of land. There used to be an orchard on the land that produced delicious apples in many varieties, “tasting much better than the one’s grown now.” She and her husband have downsized their home, giving her prior residence to her daughter and family.
They have a family property inland, and make their own maple syrup. “Boiling down, down, down. It’s a lot of work.” Unlike Vermont, their crop was good this year, even though the winter was very mild. In town, some of the flowers came out early, during warm spells in March and April, then had to face the late snows and cold. In spite of this, the roses that line the back of the deck are prolific and detectible. Bev says she spent the morning dead-heading them.
Last night Jennie and I attended the local nightly ceilidh. One of the performers, a young woman in her thirties grew up in Kansas City and married a “boy from Baddeck”. She was classically trained as a violinist and now plays more fiddle, having “fallen in love with the music of Cape Breton.” She spoke of the necessity of tourism here. With the decline in fisheries and other resource based industries, tourism has become the primary source of income in Cape Breton. Bev echoes that message. “Tell people about us,” she says.
We speak for a few more minutes, then she heads for the kitchen door and work. I follow, make myself a cup of tea, and grab one of last night’s remaining oat cakes. It’s a bit soft but still delicious.