Last summer our school in the Cove celebrated its 200th birthday. To commemorate this milestone we considered holding a lecture series, a photo exhibit, a concert, an historical re-enactment… all this on top of our usual meals and socials. Alas, none of these dreams came true.
The Cove was a different place in 1820. Scottish immigrants had recently arrived to nudge aside whoever was already here—possibly a few French families who had escaped deportation and retreated to the woods, and certainly Miqmak residents. We know that our shore was a well-known destination for indigenous travelers from the other side who established a portage route up and over the hill from the Cove to the West River.
Our coastline featured a solid backdrop of beech and maple forests interspersed with hemlock, white pine and birch. Low-growing species like bayberry, sumac and raspberry held court on the edge of the capes, while blueberries and cranberries reigned over the low meadows. Down at the water’s edge sandbars were alive with millions of softshell clams, and every inlet rippled with lush salt marsh hay. Wildlife abounded, beavers, rabbits, ducks, geese, and fish fish fish.
Now cottages have replaced forests and our coastline has eroded sixty metres or more. Our bed of softshell clams has disappeared, and you’d be hard pressed to find a hemlock tree. Gone also are the Cove’s two corner stores, lobster factory, blacksmith shop, turnip-waxing plant, lumber mill and carriage maker, and living off the land has become an exercise limited to an adventurous few.
On the bright side we have paved roads, electricity and all the mod cons, a Presbyterian Church, and a park on the site of the lobster factory. We still have Miqmak residents, French neighbors too, plus the Scottish descendents of those old folks who started new lives here so long ago and without further ado established a school and founded a community.
Our little school, “Established 1820,” has been the centre of our community for two hundred years. Now it sits quietly, waiting for something to happen.
Without special events on the calendar, it’s hard to stay in touch with neighbors. We look for any little chance to exchange news on our walks or in the grocery store, to remind ourselves that our community is alive and that we need one another.
But was this ever in doubt? A few days ago our across-the-road neighbor phoned to say that she was making pepper jelly and did we have any hot peppers? Of course. I found some in the freezer, popped a few in my pocket and ran them over. Next day we saw our friend and asked how her jelly turned out. Well, she said, she discovered that she needed pectin so she phoned up the road to see if she could borrow some from Pauline. Then it turned out she didn’t have enough lemon juice and had to call down the road to Kim.
It takes a community to make things happen—even to make pepper jelly! Oh yes, the jelly turned out fine, but maybe a little too much pectin.