Greg was leading a workshop in a little community near the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia. I had the better part of a day free to fill. A very rare occurrence.
I discover the Whirligigs Cafe in Wallace, Nova Scotia, Main Street just outside the front door, a wharf and water just behind. It’s eclectic and lovely – bright colors on the walls inside; cornflower blue, deep mauve, white – tall and short tiled tables, leather and wood, art and photographs on the walls, pink and purple violets their open faces belying the browns and grey outside. Blue sky and sun keep edging round the clouds.
Spring on the East Coast, oatcakes, cream and jam – another cup of coffee. Diana Krall singing an afternoon song. Bumblebee lobster traps stacked on the wharf against an azure and grey bay. Canadian flag, at attention in a brisk early May wind and in the center of the bay, a lobster boat drops traps and bright orange buoys then scuttles back, maneuvering skillfully into the dock.
The door bangs open as the lunch crowd bustles in. Beside me, three grown daughters (and their mom) change tables, rearrange the chairs for her comfort, pour her tea and talk of going to the market on their way home. Conversations rise and fall – I’m offered a fill-up on my coffee. The sun streams through white and black sheers in the front windows. Pastel paper globe lights are a pale replacement for the larger orb outside.
A family near the fireplace eats and leaves, their table awash with empty soup bowls and crumpled napkins. A beam of sunlight warms the wood. Two grey-haired men murmur of the ice leaving the harbour to their white-haired mother, earnestly leaning in, their faces soft and smiling.
Dishes and cutlery jangle, chairs scrape the hardwood floor.
“How long have you been open” someone asks.
A voice behind the counter – maybe in the kitchen, “This year we opened in February.” A smile, a nod.
“What part of the west are you from?”
“Winnipeg. But we’ve been here since 1970. 1970 we moved to Nova Scotia”
Diana’s piano takes center stage. A truck drives by.
We on the East Coast emerge from this long winter of snow and shadows, a hopeful awakening. Dirty snow merges back into the land. I am not sorry to see it go. Winter coats are consigned to closets deep in the bowels of our windows-wide-open houses. We wear our spring jackets, light and hyacinth-colored, new leaves bright, regardless of the temperature. The calendar says it’s Spring and we declare it to be so.
The chef in sneakers and yoga pants emerges from the kitchen, chats politics and weather with the couple sitting beside the front window – sunlight blessing their bright green salad and cherry tomatoes. She gestures, he grins, they nod together, a dance of place, and comfort and companionship.
Anne Lamott says, ‘Writing is about paying attention. So is life. Wake up and look up, and then scribble it down. Don’t look at your tummy. Look at the sky.’
The door again – two friends greet each other, hug, laugh, exchange pleasantries. More food appears from the kitchen. My pencil etches more than remembrances of this place; gratitude, spring-like expectancy. And in all these transactions in this day a revelation, a holy communion here in the uncommon common. Pay attention. Wake up. Scribble it down.
And I am.