Reading About Nova Scotia and Campobello
This summer, my sister and I took a road trip together around Nova Scotia. We were limited to six days, which was about twenty days less than we wanted to have, but we found this Canadian province to be packed with beautiful landscapes and seascapes, historic forts, M'ikmaq Indian lore, Scottish music, well preserved Victorian towns, small fishing villages and more lobster and scallops on our plates that even we who love our seafood could eat. (You can read what it is like to travel with your adult sister in my article at Your Life Is a Trip).
Mini Lighthouse, Annapolis Royal seafront on Bay of Fundy
We drove up from Boston, across New Brunswick, and made a stop at Campobello Island to visit the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The former “cottage” of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt stands amidst gardens and generous green lawns that swoop down to the water where they loved to sail on their summer holidays.
Roosevelt "cottage." Campobello Island
A Volume of Friendship: The Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Isabella Greenway 1904-1953, Edited by Kristie Miller and Robert H. McGinnis (2009), put me in the mood for Campobello. In it Eleanor Roosevelt tells her friend how much she loves the Roosevelt summer place.
We took a ferry from Campobello Island to Deer Island and on to St. John New Brunswick. From there, we took a third ferry across the Bay of Fundy and landed in Digby.
My Famous Evening by Howard Norman. (2004) Norman's stories are random things that he picked because to him they represent Nova Scotia. He's big on bird watching, so there are a lot of birds, and he collects people's stories and legends, which are always interesting.
American writer Howard Norman has lived in and written about Nova Scotia, which he avidly loves. However, he explains, he is “from away” the Nova Scotia description of anyone not from the province. He writings wander across the province, particularly stopping in Halifax and along the Bay of Fundy. I happened to read one of the stories in this collection when my sister and I were in the tiny town of Guysborough on the east coast of Nova Scotia, and discovered that the story was set in Guysborough, and dealt with two sisters!
When we drove near Truro, we stopped at the Glooskap Heritage Center to learn more about the first nation people of this area, the Mi'kmaq (mee-maw). Besides informative exhibits, the museum gift shop offered several books about the Mi'kmaq and we picked up books of their legends and a book about archaeology.
Alphabet--Glooskap Heritage Center
Six Mi'kmaq Stories, retold by Ruth Holmes Whitehead
I particularly am fond of this very small book put together by Ruth Holmes Whitehead, an ethnologist who was featured in the Glooskap Center' orientation film. (Howard Norman's book, My Famous Evening includes a chapter on Mi'kmaq legends. (I wrote more about visiting the Glooscap Heritage Center at Tahoma Blog)
Our road trip circled the island and we wound up adding a few miles one day so that we could explore a bit of the Cabot Trail (which deserves at least two or three days instead of the few hours we had available) on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton is the farthest north part of Nova Scotia, and the home of miners and fishermen.
Lake scene at Baddeck
Island: The Complete Stories (hardcover 2000, paperback Vintage copy from Random House in 2002), by Alistair MacLeod
One of Canada's finest writers, Alistair MacLeod also lives on Cape Breton Island and he captures the lives of its ordinary people in this insightful collection of short stories.
Window view form DesBarres Manor Inn in Guysborough
Fall on Your Knees (1996/Paperback in 2002) by Ann-Marie MacDonald
One of the things that struck me about Nova Scotia was the wide variety of people who settled there. The most obvious are the French, English and Scottish, but immigrants from many other nations made there way to the far east of the North American continent for jobs in mining, or new starts in farming. A writer who captures that mix of nationalities in a dark story about a family with an Irish father and an Arab mother, is Ann-Marie MacDonald. Like Norman, MacDonald is “from away” but she is Canadian--and a powerful writer. Like MacLeod, she sets her story on Cape Breton Island.
I believe this fine literature enriched my experience in Nova Scotia. And guess what? I did not even purchase a “real” guide book.
You can see more literature that inspires travel at Vera Marie Badertscher's blog, http://atravelerslibrary.com/. She's the Traveler's Library Editor for Wandering Educators.
All photos courtesy and copyright Vera Marie Badertscher