24 hours, 09 10-11 2016
There exists, there remains, some possibility of rain, incipient, pregnant, pausing,
about to be realized.
As it said in the guidebook, if the road is muddy,
you may not like it.
I’m surprised, given ostensibly extraordinary lack of rainfall,
that the road is wet and muddy in places.
Even though I don’t like it, it’s not bad,
it’s still walkable, and my feet are not sinking into anything, though it’s slippery,
a little slippery.
It’s wet in the atmosphere too, as I have been told is characteristic
of Nova Scotia and of Cape Breton.
I walk along the River Denys Mountain Road.
I did not expect to come across it so soon, nor to walk down it so soon.
I found it
because the sign pointed it out.
I was looking more for signs for the roads across the street preceding it,
which I did not notice, but maybe I was distracted,
thinking about your text to me, thinking about what the environment meant to me,
thinking about the present.
My idea was, whatever is present is what I can comment on.
I can’t say much else. There’s a sign by the side of this mountain road,
this dirty mountain road,
something about KEEP CLEAR SNOW MOBILE CLUB TRAILS.
This reminds me of the guidebook again, a guidebook I do not have, did not bring,
looked at only yesterday and not for long, choosing this road
as a trail for a relaxing and convenient walk on my way into Cape Breton today,
and maybe it will be, so. I want to stay attentive to the present
because I don’t trust my knowledge of anything else.
I don’t trust my anticipation of theft, mugging, conspiracy, surveillance.
I do believe that I see puddles of water, reflecting, in brown, the sky,
as seen between tree limbs and branches and tree trunks. I do believe
that I parked my car, back there, on a piece of earth recently moved so as to create
a place to park or turn one’s car around.
It serves, though unfortunately to my mind
it appears to have resulted in some breakage and movement of some tree limbs and trunks towards the slope down to the river, which is not visible from here.
I don’t even know if I can hear it.
I only suppose that I am walking parallel to it
and may soon, at some time, catch sight of it again and hear it more clearly.
When Bob and I walked through the ovens we recorded the sound of water
sluicing up the channel between severely sharp tilts of rockage into the caverns, tubular, lengthy at times, and grotesquely dangerous to any potential swimmer or boat that might be washed in as the waves thundered proudly and indignantly triumphantly demanding and confirming their domain temporarily as they hit the air inside and the rocks and the water and whatever flotsam and muck they had stirred up and pushed toward the back end of the cavern, the oven, the tube, to where rock creates or sustains a limit, and rushed faster and faster back to crash against another oncoming wave, from the ocean.
As a travelogue this may be the best I can do. I present a travelogue concerning a transit of Cape Breton. I’m not sure how to pronounce it. I’m walking uphill. Rocks are embedded in the road, or the road was created out of dirt that existed and was put down and around among many rocks, some of which were pushed away, no doubt, and many of which remain, barely visible, at the surface. As the roadway curves, it goes up. On the drive here, I listened, from the area of Lunenberg, to the area of Agrichamonte, no, that’s not the name of it, but it’s a city that starts with A-g-r-i in which a Catholic university exists. Most of that duration I listened to the first disc recorded as a reading of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, whose fiction I am not personally familiar with, aside from reading Ethan Fromm in high school. I know that her other books are not much like that, or so I think. Anyway, I observed, through the English accent of the man reading the novel, that there exists or is sustained, evidently, quite a bit of complacency among the key characters and their associates, despite change taking place. Not only will a new opera house be built that will alter the census and divisions of their milieu, but they realize that getting engaged to be married changes things, at least a little, and maybe a lot, despite well-worn passages of expectations awaiting any newly engaged couple, and furthermore, that the return of an errant cousin, fetchingly beautiful and ostensibly more than available for intimacy and inquisition, will disrupt many expectations and perhaps derail life plans for her and others, if they have any. Some have plans primarily to keep things pretty well the same, but she, being a woman who has absconded from a marriage that appears to have been contrary to her needs, in another country, to return home under the shadow of an unfortunately scandalous reputation, may have no plans for normalcy other than perhaps that which she recalls from her childhood and adolescence, when her expectations, however barren, appeared in the context of an ostensible normalcy for her class and its local customs. The voice I heard there affects my speaking voice in this travelogue, as does a different male voice I listened to in the previous hour or so, reading aloud another novel, this one by Alan Furst, another one of whose World War Two espionage novels I have read on the page, perhaps ten years ago. And the traveler at the moment at the crux of this tale, moving alone between holiday, work, and home, work, appears increasingly anxious, and I suspect realistically so, that he will be arrested and stalled, detained and questioned, and, whereas he expects this will lead to beatings, torture, and death by firing squad or other mode of secretive state execution, I suspect he will be flipped or turned, as the expression may be, to become an agent for the opposing forces, namely, in this instance, the Third Reich. Therefore, his status and what people understand of it will be brutally different, even though no one may realize that he has indeed flipped, turned, been so recruited. Looking down the embankment, which now is very steep, as I have been walking uphill since the point at which I mentioned the roadway turning and curving, I see a very large blue can on its side in the woods, which mostly are pristine new growth, where what they were like a year or ten years or fifty years ago, I cannot say. The can might be a can used to hold paint that such as house paint or car paint that awaits sale from its manufacturer or a retail outlet. None of those is available for questioning here, but I do spot another piece of trash at my feet. This seems to be the top end of a Budweiser can, or, no maybe it’s Coca-Cola, I’m not sure. The script on one side reminds me of Budweiser, and they talk about the wood aging produces, and on the other side I see red with some blank angled lines in it, which reminds me of Coke, but then again it could be that funny logo at the top of a beer can that might be Budweiser. It’s a long time since I’ve looked at a Budweiser can, and so it is almost facetious, no, I think it is facetious for me to attempt to attribute this fragment of a can, flattened by many vehicle tires passing over it, heavy with the weight of vehicles and their contents— I’m not sure what it is, other than feeling sure that it is the ripped-apart top end of a can in which some sort of a drink, probably beer—and how can one be sure of a probably?—was once held, sustained, kept under some pressure, readied for sale at a retail outlet, to persons visiting or residing in these parts of lower Cape Breton.
Twenty or thirty paces further, I see a box
left over from a double six-pack of Budweiser in trees which are on their sides
broken off close to the road, downhill,
beneath them many elements of garbage including other
six-pack or twelve-pack containers
and metal cabinets and something I would think of
as a homeless person’s tent shelter if I weren’t so sure that
no homeless person would want to live amid quite such a mess as that
in quite such a distance from other resources of transportation
or assistance when needed. More sky
appears available soon, around a bend.
I’m developing a coating of perspiration around my trunk, as I continue to walk uphill without much difficulty, aside from the difficulty of speaking, while doing so without inordinate panting registering, probably again, without my knowing for sure, in the recording.
If the road had gone straight, I would soon, I suspect, be at a clearing,
with much sky available overhead to consider
the cloudy overcast gloom of,
but the road’s bend seems to be intent upon maintaining its trajectory through woods, and now, further, and further, from the river,
from which it draws its name. And more, and more
in favor of achieving some heights on the surface of the mountain
from which it draws its name.
Time holds many mysteries it does not disclose or explain here in the mountains, at least along my trajectory upward along some side of some mountain here. I can see
by my trusty reliable wristwatch that I have walked about half an hour already
since leaving the car behind me, and yet it feels much shorter.
I’ve perhaps been in a transcendent flight of fancy as a creative agent.
I’ve been enchanted, not by the sound of my own voice, which I barely care to listen to at all, but by the actions of producing it, which in fact are fully astonishing to me.
How can I possibly, how can I possibly produce a voice, with sounds emanating from my body, toward the pick-up, if you’ll pardon the expression, of an electronic device, which later, perhaps coupled with another such as earbuds or my personal computer, may reward my ears with a moderately accurate and reliable re-presentation of the sound, without my needing then to move my mouth or even comprehend the words at all. It will not translate them into Russian. It will not twist them around so that they are presented backwards. It will not undermine their integrity as human utterances to present to me the sound of a barking dog. I will instead hear them about the same time and rate and speed and emphasis and tone of voice and syntactical arrangement as I deliver them right now. How to understand this I cannot say except to accept that it is customary to do so, or to accept that the unthinkable is happening even now, right now, as usual, for me, as it can and has and will, for many others.
To speak, as I have been doing, off and on, much of the time I have been walking here, on the River Denys Mountain Road, has a salubratory—salubrious?—effect, namely, as I speak I am extremely unlikely to clench or grind my teeth. Therefore, my teeth are less likely to become increasingly loose and wobbly in my mouth or rubbed awkwardly against each other, destroying parts of the enamel thereon. Otherwise, I’m not sure of the point of walking further on this trail and therefore am turning around, in full recognition that I have no reason to suspect it will create a loop and little reason to imagine I will attain a viewpoint of anything beyond the foliage immediately adjoining the pathway or dirt road I’m on at any particular moment in the near future. It might take another hour or two, which I could spare, and yet I find that I’m exercising my legs and sweat glands more than adequately on the basis of this walk up and back. So I allow myself this relatively easeful and gentle downhill walk, which I hope will terminate in my discovery of my locked vehicle, my ability to enter it, and my success in driving it out of this dirt roadway onto a highway leading to my hostel of the evening, where I might set up my bedding and assess the options for supper and an evening’s quiet, complacent recreation.
I drove into Baddeck and parked, so that I could go into Tom’s Pizza. It’s called Tom’s Pizza, quote, The Best Pizza Anyway You Slice It, enquote. And, I don’t know, it seems like a cheap place to eat something good. I wonder if they have a liquor license. I might need to go to a bar before or after. I don’t know. I’m outdoors, but I’m in the car. There’s a lot of people around here. The eaters, the walkers. I’m going to go for a walk. Talk to you later.
Cape Breton. Tenth September, eleven fifty-five a.m., Cape Breton time.
In Cape Breton, all that which is ordinary is increasingly ordinary as I continue to explore further and deeper, farther and wider, and all that is extraordinary, special, unusual, remarkable, and amazing, becomes more amazing as I proceed. At times these are one and the same, for example, a young woman walking down the highway, into Ingersoll something, between Ingersoll Beach and Ingersoll proper, at a point where there are cottages, and no place to stop for photography that is not awkward. I do not photograph her but what she may see as she walks.
Back a little further, chasing this siren to the other side of Swamp Road, I come to the Periwinkle Café, another quarry of the last half hour having been café latte or at least a coffee, I stop there and photograph her across the dashboard, as she walks further past down toward Ingersoll Beach. Inside, I find a jewel-maker’s station, followed by, in the middle of the building, a café counter, with fresh-baked goods of diverse sorts, hearty, strengthening, and sweet, and attractive, with a man with a long beard and thin hair and body, and two young women—all three young, actually—serving espresso drinks and lemonade, and whatever else you might wish, next to a precise oil reproduction of a Wayne Thiebaud painting of slices of chocolate cake, their frosting almost shining, despite indirect lighting.
Today is wonderful for being here, because it’s cool, breezy, sunny, and cloudy. A bad day for a swim at the inland lake, but marvelous for standing and staring into space, towards whatever’s on the other side, since it’s constantly changing. The same landscape sustains viewing for as long as one has the patience to continue to discover new things in it, small things, sensitive things. The air is magnificently clear, and easy to look through.
Green Gove, thick with striated red rocks. Pink, white, granite, nice, with crystals glinting. Waves crashing. Rocks tumbled and coalesced into platforms surfaces mounds. Encounters of landscape.
It was said of Ellen, when she was a child, she was so beautiful that she really ought to be painted. Her parents were wanderers. They died. She took up with her aunt, for the rest of her childhood, who also was a wonderer and tried to settle down in New York, the setting of this novel. To paint a painting of the landscape is to settle it down, to fix it, to keep it, to take it and put it inside, inside one’s home, or the bank, the museum, the restaurant. Without that, it is a flux of memory, it is uncertain, it is unfocused, and out of focus it stays transmutative. But once fixed in a painting or a photograph, it becomes a thing that may be held in propriety, owned upon a wall, kept in sight, and under the protection of those who would have it always.
Like that of the coast of Maine, as it proceeds further north, the geology of Cape Breton must be something amazing, unusual, remarkable to study. Adjectives well up inside me, based on my enthusiasm. I don’t know what to think. Driving further toward Meat Cove, I don’t know how far I will get. I can only say every mile is more valuable than the last, so there is no mistake in coming this way.
Meat Cove is the northern-most community in Cape Breton, and here I don’t drive down to the beach, because that road looks too rugged. Instead, I pull over on a narrow shoulder, alongside the entrance to what is posted as Mountain Trail, in order to hoist myself above the crevasse that opens into becoming the community, However, what I find is, the trail doesn’t really go anywhere and is quite overgrown. If anything it’s a matter of a small loop from one edge of the road to the next. Or just walking over a rise. Perhaps all the trails posted in Meat Cove are a sort of prank or hoax to intrigue the visitors with the quaint and curious manners of its entrepreneurial initiative.
Between St. Margaret and Capstick I eat my lunch at the foot of a river, I believe it’s the Salmon River, and under a bridge, fighting down over pink granite mixed with all sorts of rock, to the edge of the water and back up the other side of the bridge. Anyway, I head back now, through St. Margaret, and the Bay Road Valley, Sugarloaf, Espe Bay, to Cape North, and then down through Sunrise and Big Intervale, until I reach a trail called Lone Shieling, where I might say, be able to see some three-hundred-and-fifty-year-old sugar maple trees. I think I’d like that.
The woods at North Shieling are beautiful, fresh, refreshing, relaxing. Remarkable. Birches, maples, old, deep, near the creek. But why am I taking so many pictures? Okay, I don’t see another woods like this, anywhere else. Here I see it.
Why do I take so many pictures? Someone else will surely have taken these pictures, or ones about like it, I could find on line, through my electronic devices.
Instead I take my own, with my own handheld electronic device, the cell,
which makes it seem like one in a skedillion of cells that together comprise an organism of intelligence. Anyway, if I take the pictures, I am holding the experience, and if I take the pictures, I am mitigating some of the passion, the awe, the longing, the loneliness, the overwhelm, the ecstasy, and the loss that are involved in witnessing, beholding, such a place, such an experience of my own.
It’s a way of holding it at a distance, keeping myself halfway here and halfway in the memory of being here and halfway in the futurity of regarding it again to share, to show, to tell about, to remember, in another incarnation, as I will have changed and become somebody else or someplace else.
If one were to record the sound of water moving against earth, especially I think of stones and rocks and other water, as I did today. I recorded water breaking against rocks at the edge of the ocean, I recorded water coursing down under a bridge in the brook, and I recorded water beneath and of a waterfall at Macintosh Brook. To do this supports my attention to listening to the sound of the water, appreciating their distinct qualities, rhythms, differences, tonalities, prosody. I am only partly listening to them. Would I listen to them more if I were not recording? More openly, more fully, as when, if I take off my sunglasses and walk through the woods, I see more fully, I am more fully within and a part of the world that is in my field of vision, than when I find frames around it, between the in focus and the out of focus, between the filtered and the unfiltered light, reflecting from it. Good question. I think that I might actually listen more when I am recording even though still my listening will be quite partial. That is to say, I partially listen, but I fix my attention to the idea of listening, now and in the future, so that I may be listening for what I might listen for in the future, or listen to, or be surprised to hear in the future, or be complacent and matter of fact about hearing in the future, but I’m not thinking a lot about such future attitudes and perceptions. I’m mostly thinking about what I would want to preserve, and how much of it, and what it sounds like now, and I hope it will sound like that in the recording, later, but I know it might not. And, meanwhile, I think that later I will hear it again, also partially, with many distractions, reframes, other ideas coming and going, ideas about what I’m listening to, and the fact that I’m listening to it, as well as other ideas, that are in the way, crowding around and into my consciousness at that time. I’ve been thinking about what it might mean to cease use of alcohol for a person whose use is chronic and dependent, who finds it difficult or impossible presently to stop using alcohol, who finds the need or the expectation, the hope and anticipation of use of alcohol is a pregnant and persistent and typical theme of the day, again and again and again, rather than feeling, “Okay, well, I’ll wait and do it later. Oh, I know when I’ll do it, I’ll have one, that’ll be good, that’ll be fine,” which to me seems preferable. However, for some people, that may not be do-able, especially if a more intensive and chronic use of alcohol across the day has been established as a practice and custom and a presumptive need. Then, I thought one would feel happier, I believe, if one didn’t have that difficulty with a need that one knows is debilitating one’s wellness, precipitating depression and inflammation and therefore many other illnesses, psychological and physiological. So a person might prefer not to have that chronic use and need of alcohol, and instead, a person might be more willing and happy to consume more fruits and vegetables and grains and nuts, if not so dependent on alcohol. A person might be more capable of willing and enjoying exercise of a moderate and even intensive quality, if not so chronically dependent on alcohol. What occurred to me was that to choose some inspirational readings, including primarily those that have nothing to do with alcohol, that do not remind one of one’s interest in alcohol or one’s habits of having used alcohol, but that simply are encouraging, inspirational or philosophically inspiring texts, such that one might, again and again, read a paragraph or two at a time, when one feels that strong urge to drink, and instead of taking a drink, one might feel that that’s good enough, that that’s satisfactory, that that’s comfortable, and read another paragraph after that later, when one feels that urge or need or the frustration and aggravation, the annoyance and ill temper that might come in the first weeks of not drinking. So it would help to always have a volume or two handy to be able to read a fragment of again. I thought that might well succeed. It would depend also on no alcohol being available. If one
in such a situation were around others who were drinking alcohol or talking about their interest in soon drinking alcohol or making alcohol available to sight, that would be a difficult provocation to resist, and preferably no experiences like that would be present for the first month or three of someone’s trying to give up alcohol. It might even be permanently required, but I would think usually not.