"To travel is to live."
- Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
The drive out to Antigonish probably felt longer than it actually was due to our exhaustion. It seemed like it took forever in spite of the overwhelming beauty we saw all along the way. With only five hours sleep, an appointment earlier in the day, and having to go through the rental car process, it was a long day. Folks, just so you know, it's impossible to do Nova Scotia without a rental car.
We had a funny experience at the car rental agency. I had reserved a small pickup online about a week before we arrived, not because I love pickups but because it was the cheapest rental they offered. Since I was facing a three-week rental, I needed to keep the cost as low as possible. When we arrived, they pulled out a big F150 with a king cab that was jacked way up...about a foot above the wheels. The type of truck that screams "overcompensating." It was so high off the ground that my six-foot-tall son had to pull himself up into it. As soon as I saw it, I said to the clerk, "That's too big. I would feel more comfortable driving something else." She said they were completely booked up and had no other cars available and that was the one I reserved so I had to take it. I drove it only as far as out of the garage and down the ramp to the parking lot. It wouldn't even make the turn into the parking lot. It was so high off the ground that I could not see anything directly in front of it or behind it. I went back in and told her I would just stay in Halifax longer than planned and check back in a couple of days to see if any other vehicles were available. Upon that statement, she suddenly had three other cars available for me to rent. Interesting. We left with a Mini-Cooper.
We finally headed to the cabin we had rented in Antigonish, about a three-hour drive away. I should say that the rental was advertised as being in Antigonish but much to our fatigued dismay, it was about 30 minutes beyond that. Under normal circumstances, that would be no big deal but we were exhausted. As we drove past Antigonish, it seemed a great distance from one mailbox to the next. We started calling out the addresses that seemed to barely increase in numbers as the miles wore on and we started laughing. Laughing more with each passing mailbox. By that point, it's all we could do. We laughed... until we finally arrived.
It was worth the trip, both that night and beyond. The Antigonish area is home to colors more luscious than we have ever seen, even in Seattle. The depth and the color spectrum seems broader. Even on the sunny warm days, the colors felt moist, rich, and deep. The dense forest canopies all along the Trans Canadian Highway extended into infinity and, in other areas, the meadows felt the same...eternal, the only interruption being the farmhouses that stood proudly on their beautiful land. It thrilled me to pass by the miles and miles of forest canopies. It was exciting to think of all the wildlife that was living peacefully and naturally in those thousands of acres of land, undisturbed by humankind.
I offer a few photographs here as a feeble example of what we witnessed but they do not capture the expanse or beauty of it all. Not even close. It is very difficult to capture some things on a roll of film or digital file...like how the air smells so clean and how it moves in and out of your body, the fullness of your heart as you stand before it, and the oneness of it all.
One sad thing about this portion of our trip is that I accidentally shot all the photos in this area of Nova Scotia in sRGB. My heart sank when I discovered that mistake, which I immediately saw as they were downloading. I was hoping I was wrong and got up and ran to get my camera. Just before leaving Seattle, I had shot an event and reset the color profile on my camera to sRGB to save a few minutes in editing since the event photos were for web only. Sure enough, my camera confirmed the depressing confirmation that I forgot to change it back after the event and everything on our trip so far had been shot in sRGB instead of Adobe RGB. The internet displays only sRBG anyway but for prints or any other media, I did not capture the full color spectrum, richness and depth because of that setting. Painful lesson learned.
As equally impressive as nature's beauty here have been the people. We have both been taken aback by the welcoming and open arms of all we have met. Everyone here has been gracious to us. Not in a phony way, either. Everyone we've met has been genuinely kind and we have witnessed more patience in a couple of days than we have seen in years. Patience with one another, traffic, standing in lines, annoying tourists, everything. That kindness has attracted a lot of people to the area. We met a guy who was born elsewhere in Canada (I'll keep his secret as to where) who told us that when he visited Nova Scotia he was immediately taken by the kindness of the people and moved out here. Another similar story was a bank teller we met in Antigonish who was born in New Hampshire and relayed the same feelings. She visited and fell in love with the genuine kindness of the people. She said, "That was forty years ago." There was also a waiter who said he moved here from Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the same reason. We have not been here long at all and we keep hearing the same thing from so many different people. We completely understand it for we feel the same way. Nova Scotia feels like home.
Antigonish was incorporated in 1889 and is home of the oldest continuously run Highland Games in North America. It is also home to St. Francis Xavier University, one of Canada's oldest and most prestigious universities, founded in 1853.