top of page

Monkey Weddings & Summer Sapphires

South Africa to Nova Scotia: Stories, Recipes & Memories

In Search of a Beach on Cape Sable

There is an old adage in Nova Scotia that says, if you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes and it’ll change. Meteorological extremes and proximity to major ocean currents that collide and mix offshore, create a pea soup fog that often envelops Nova Scotia. No more so, than Cape Sable Island. A small sandbar that pops out of the ocean at the very southern tip of Nova Scotia sits smack bang in the middle of the mixing. I first visited Cape Sable years ago when writing a paper for the about the state of Nova Scotia beaches. It was on a freezing cold day in March and I had driven alone from Halifax only to find myself on Cape Sable, five hours later and in fog that was so thick I couldn’t see a thing and a temperature on my dashboard that confirmed my suspicions that it was no place for a human to be on a beach, at -10°F. I felt every one of my 7500 miles away from South Africa that day. I turned around and drove back to Halifax never even having set foot on the beach.

On my second visit, it is late summer in August when we travel with our friends a few hours from their cottage in Beach Meadows on the south shore. Through thick fog and falling temperatures we drive across the causeway that joins Cape Sable to the community of Barrington, continuing through the little town of Clarks Harbor, in search of a beach I missed seeing and rumored to be the most enchanting in the province. After following signs marked at the very end of the road, we finally find it. We are the only one’s there. The kids and our Beagle Sophie, erupt from the car with built up energy from the drive, unaffected by the total lack of sunshine. The pewter sky hangs low and I can touch it if I stand on my tiptoes.

Scattered everywhere along the beach are hundreds of pieces of driftwood, possibly washed up from the remains of a 1500 year old sunken forest. We are kept company by hundreds of tiny piping plovers, that look like they have been wound up too tightly and then let loose across the sand, their tiny plump bodies the color of bone and driftwood, a brushstroke of black across their forehead and around their neck. We are standing on important ground designated as one of the worlds most important birding areas – lying directly in the north-south flight path of numerous water birds. The North Atlantic is wild and fierce, but surprisingly warm as it splashes around our feet. By the end of the walk the kids have abandoned their clothes, the dog is soaked and everyone agrees it was worth the trek to find. We drive back through the thick fog, past the colorful Cape Islander lobster boats being rocked by the choppy water. No one is talking; the only song playing is Stevie Nicks, “Landslide”.

Dinner that night is a little bit of a celebration in honor of wild places, tiny birds and friendship.

bottom of page