I read recently that the probability of my existence has been calculated, by those with the capacity and curiosity to do so, at one in 102,685,000 (give or take an order of magnitude). I also read that if the fundamental laws of physics including the ‘strong nuclear force’ and the ‘electric force’ (which governs the energies required to fuse and stabilise all the various compounds and elements), were varied by just 0.5 and 4 percent respectively then all the carbon and all the oxygen produced in every star that ever went supernova would have been destroyed within the instant of its creation.
Given we, and every other living being that is or ever was, are made from Carbon, this means that if the laws which govern the behaviour of the universe were tweaked, even a fraction, the very fabric of our being wouldn’t exist. Isn’t that incredible!
Do you see what happens when we stop running hither and thither looking at stuff and just slow down for a while? Put us in cosy little cottage, in a sleepy little town (Lockeport, Nova Scotia, Canada) with virtually no desire to go anywhere or see anything and this is what happens. Before you know it you’re absorbed within the mind of Stephen Hawking and contemplating the magnitude of the improbability that you should be sitting anywhere contemplating anything at all.
Of course a little down time does not affect all of us the same way. Amy’s response to unexpected leisure had nothing to do with existential dilemma. It was rather a far more practical and delicious embrace of all things domestic. She seized on the existence of an oven and ingredients and was soon baking happily. Emma found a jigsaw puzzle which she tackled with unbridled enthusiasm while Oliver oscillated between absorbing stories from his Kobo with those from the healthy supply of DVDs on offer.
For our first three or four days in Lockeport I don’t think we left the house before 2.00 in the afternoon. When we did, it was only to wander aimlessly through the pretty little town or to sit on the beach and doze in the warmth of the sun or to build sand castles. Amy and I also went on little photographic adventures, snapping pictures of lighthouses that adorned the rocky outcrops of Nova Scotia’s endless supply of coves, bays and inlets, lobster boats, historic houses and kitchy yard decorations.
At various times during our stay we visited the local library whose WiFi worked whether the library was open or not unlike the Rogers phone network mobile coverage which only worked in the nook by the window on the second floor of our cottage when the wind was blowing the right way. Across the road from the library was a shop called Becky’s Knit and Yarn which Emma and Amy visited when it was open. They came away with balls of wool, crochet hooks and knitting needles which soon replaced the baking and the puzzles to fill time in their days.
Amy crocheted three beanies in four days endearing herself strongly to Becky of Becky’s Knit and Yarn in the process. Becky wrote about Amy on her shops Facebook page and not long after the shop keep at the general store recognised her as the young girl from Australia that made the beanies. Amy was locally famous! An overnight sensation.
Becky holds a knitting session once a week which Emma and Amy figured they might as well go along to for a while. Oliver and I had to go in search of them when they hadn’t returned hours later. We found them firmly ensconced in a circle of ladies chattering away while knitting needles whirred. We’d been in town only a week but were already feeling like locals.
We did manage to awaken ourselves from our lethargy for a day here and there. We visited the Kejimkujik National Park (isn’t that a cool name) with Peter, Andrea, Sydney and Tobin who instantly made good on promises of fun things to do in Canada by showing up with canoes.
Together again, we paddled across gorgeous tea stained lakes surrounded by spruce forest and lined in the tidal zone with bright green aquatic grasses. All the while blue sky sat far overhead, stretching far further than usual in this flatter than usual landscape. Fluffy white clouds made the scene picture perfect.
We explored forested islands and rocky coves, swimming and picnicking in the sunshine. It felt very… Canadian. We bid the Douglas Grants another fond farewell at the end of another gorgeous day. This good bye was a tough one. It will be four months until we see them again.
Days later we drove north of Lockeport to Lunnenberg a World Heritage listed preserve of colonial Canada more or less as it would have been back in the day and home to the Blue Nose, a fishing schooner that was the pride of Canada for decades because no-one could beat it when racing gave way to fishing.
As we drove we soaked in the nuance of house, home, yard, cars and lifestyle that make one place different from another. In some ways Canada is so like home. Canadians after all are just versions of us living half the planet away. Still place shapes people and people shape culture and the people and the place here are a unique thing all of their own.
One thing you notice is that the whole province seems to have got the memo about how to build your house. Weatherboard or shingles are the order of the day whether that day be past, present or future. Houses should be well spaced apart. This is a big country so there really is no need to go crowding your neighbour. The coast bends and wraps and twists and turns so much that even water views need not be vied for with any sort of enthusiasm.
Gardens seem to be oddly absent with houses sitting amongst sprawling lawns, by and large unencumbered by the fences found in most Australian suburbia. Gardens are perhaps impossible due to the heavy blankets of snow which lingers here longer than might be preferred or just redundant due to the gorgeous natural environment outside of nearly everyone’s front door.
Lobster pots abound, stacked as they are in the yards of most every house. It’s tough to be a lobster in this neck of the woods. Seems to me that if you live in Nova Scotia you’re either plucking lobster from the depths, harvesting trees from the seemingly endless forests or serving said lobster to visitors such as us. My methods for determining the foundations of the local economy are of course not particularly thorough.
It was with some regret that our time in Lockeport came to an end. Ten days contemplating the improbability of my existence (and the related question of the existence or otherwise of an omnipotent creator) was over before it began. Long term travel does have a way of warping your perception of time and how much of it you dedicate to what. Alas there is more to Nova Scotia than our sleepy little village and we four unlikely beings were off to make the most of the improbable chance we have to see it.