Memorial Weekend Snowglobe: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 2007

Cup'pa JoeCan there be anything more exhilarating than postponing spring home repairs — sanding, painting, minor roof repairs, all performed on high scaffolding — by virtue of snow and frost that confine one indoors to the leisure of world-class beer and televised postseason hockey? Such was the Memorial week marvel that confronted my buddy Michael up at his vacation getaway in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Deep into May each year Michael makes a 21-hour pilgrimage from Capitol Hill to Belle Cote, Nova Scotia, population approximately 340, to inventory winter’s wear on his magnificent property there. He reminds me of his mission each March, reiterating his open invitation for me to join him. I had my own arduous roadtrip to navigate this month, but am I sorry I couldn’t have been a sweatered witness to the spectacle that touque-wearing Mother Nature, eh?, treated Michael to all of the past 10 days. In previous springs, he’d always been greeted there by spring. Not this year.
You know how we in D.C. had a soundtrack of revving lawnmowers in our neighborhoods this past holiday weekend? Michael would press his coffee each morning in Cape Breton and listen to the revving of snowmobiles belonging to his neighbors. Lucky b******. Michael and I suffer debilitating bouts of hayfever symptoms from the pollen-saturated Mid-Atlantic, and as I listened on the phone to his chronicle of wood-gathering for home warming fires during broadcasts of the Memorial Cup I thought immediately of all that prescription medicine that never stirred in his travel bag.
The most difficult adjustment for me on my return home from Eastern Europe this month had nothing to do with eight time zones’ disorientation and everything to do with my lungs departing Moscow’s crisp air and being submerged in the height of hayfever mayhem here.
Nothing in the Cape Breton weather of the past few years could have forecast the deep freeze of May 2007. Michael and his wife Marleen and I have on a couple of occasions enjoyed February vacations in Cape Breton characterized by the smell of cords of burning wood in their two fireplaces and single-digit mercury, but recent winters there have been bone-dry in terms of snow. Snowmobiling enthusiasts, we’ve passed on mid-winter visits there the past two winters because the ground has remained brown throughout† Decembers and Januarys. And so on the phone Monday night I sat rapturously as Michael detailed five inches of fresh powder outside his house and the regular chiseling of ice off of his truck’s windshield.
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May 2007, the locals informed Michael, ranks as the coldest in Cape Breton since 1937. In the Cape Breton Highlands, a mere 30-minutes’ ride up a steep ascent from Michael’s house, there’ll apparently be snowmobiling solidly into June.
Many Americans by late May are heartily ready for the opening of swimming pools and the lighting of deck and patio grills, but with the Memorial Cup in full bloom last week, the news of one last blast of winter within which to watch it struck me as refreshingly novel. Michael is returned home this morning, meaning, necessarily, that he’ll know his share of 90-degree days in the three months ahead. Incidentally, he, too, grilled out back of his home last week; he just did it in a turtleneck.
An American arriving in Belle Cote after two full days’ journey is big news in town, and with each arrival Michael is feted with daily deliveries of freshly caught cod, trout, salmon, and lobster from his neighbors. The really thoughtful ones offer up a few bottles of the planet’s finest pale ale, Alexander Keiths. Some hardship, Michael’s missing out on our mosquitos and Bay Bridge gridlock.

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One Response to Memorial Weekend Snowglobe: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 2007

  1. Scott says:

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