It was northern Cape Breton, an area known for its wildness—all ocean, rock and mountains. I remember being a kid, maybe 10, and it was storming outside. It was a cold and wet day—a perfect day to stay inside—and, instead, we decided to go swimming. This wasn’t a childish dare. This was one of those magical times where caution was thrown to the wind and we broke all the rules.
As a family, we piled in our 1995 blue ford F150 and pulled up to the closest beach, known for the undertow and wild waves. We jumped out of the car, pulling our yellow slickers up over our heads and ran for the water.
The ocean and sky melted together in a harsh mix of black and grey. Gulls screaming overhead, we shed our jackets, tucked our towels underneath in a halfhearted attempt to keep them dry and ran.
As we entered the water, we held hands and tried to keep our heads up. We knew the ocean could turn on us at any moment. Each wave passed by, lifting us towards the sky. We would squirm our toes towards the ground—anxiously awaiting the moment where we would find hard packed sand, sink down and sigh with relief.
The ocean has always held a magical pull for me. Growing up, I was the local water baby, first in and last to leave. We were lucky enough to grow up in Nova Scotia; an area known for it’s deeply intertwined relationship with the ocean.
I realize that not all people are born and bred for the sea. They are not inspired by the sound of crashing waves or feel rejuvenated by the salty air—they see seaweed, sand in the chips and big waves waiting to sweep them away.
Instead, I see the ocean as an extension of my identity. She can be shiny, playful and full of childhood memories. She’s pruned fingers, plugged ears and stringy hair. She’s sand everywhere, soggy chips and warm beer. She is whales, and seals, and fish and birds, big waves, small waves and rocking boats. At times she’s crystal clear and others she’s grey and moody. You respect her, are constantly in awe of her, curse her in winter and love her in the summer. You understand that sometimes you need a break from her and sometimes she’s the only thing that will help you rebuild.
I’ve seen pristine waters around the world, but somehow I never feel truly at home until I feel that salty air on my skin. I may move away as well—but I know I’ll come back. The ocean is anchored at the core of our identity as Nova Scotians. It has the comforts of home, our very own security blanket, known best for it’s rejuvenating qualities. It is quick to forgive us for leaving and allows the newly-returned-home to rebuild from the inside out.
Wherever I may end up in this wacky world, I know that, like the ocean, Nova Scotia may lift me up, send me off into the unknown with an anxious and excited goodbye. But it will always be there to welcome me home, feet landing on comforting, salt soaked soil—surrounded by those I love.