Growing up in Nova Scotia meant that even if you couldn't see it, you were always
within distance of the ocean. The first year we came to Ottawa was probably the time I missed it the most. In
the few quiet moments I could find, I wrote reams of bad poetry and corresponded with a retired sea Captain,
Roland Betts. I had met him when we lived in Tatamagouche and on the off-chance he would still be living in his
lighthouse in Wallace, I wrote to him. He sent me some of his poetry and in return I
sent him some of mine.
While sorting through a pile of old papers in the den one day not long ago, I found his
letters and a pile of my own yellowed scraps of verse, dated 1966. Be warned - they are really bad. I'm going to put up
a couple of them anyway, if only to document how homesick (and young) I was at that time.
Too many, I know, are the wistful tales
That are born of loneliness
But you've never encountered true longing
Till you've loved and left Inverness.
There's an island that clings to the sea,
O'er-hung by a trembling mist
Where the mountains lift their heads
To the sunshine to be kissed.
Where Smoky, old mountain, at dawn
Reaches out her beckoning hand
To touch the glad heart of Cape Breton
As the sea reaches out to the land.
The waves sing a soft lullaby
Lapping out across the years,
And the whole wide ocean is smiling
As the mist on the peaks disappears.
Stronger will be the song in your heart
Than the tunes of loneliness.
It will lure you back like the pipes of Pan
If you've loved and left Inverness.
There's a tale that someone told me of a ship that went to sea
Carrying the Captain's new bride, Elizabeth Montgomery.
He was dark and weather-beaten; she was small and sweet, they say;
And the sails were set for China on the ship that sailed that day.
Dark clouds hung above the swelling of the sea they loved so well.
Thunder roared its awesome warning, drowning out the buoy's bell.
White waves crashing in the wind - spray and wind and taste of death
There was no one left to tell the story of the Captain and his Beth,
For all perished on the "Seahawk" in that fearful April gale,
Bits of planking washed up on-shore, the only remnants of their tale.
Now they say she haunts the shallows, when the moon is full and high,
Seagulls wheeling high above her, echoing her mournful cry.
The ocean holds your heart if you've ever lived by her side.
Even the gnarled, grey cliffs must submit to the pull of the tide.
I remember those summer days when the air was still and hot,
The waves lapping at my bare feet, my head full of deep, young thought.
I remember the fierce days, when the air was a whirling pool
And the sea spewed out her anger and I like a silly, young fool
Stood on the edge of the breakers, engulfed by the roar of the tide.
Wet to the skin, I thought I'd burst with the joy I felt inside.
Here in this land-bound place, its echo calls to me.
And longing fills my very soul to return to that temptress, the sea.
Languidly, sea arches her back
With sinuous, feline motion.
Her eager darting tongue
Devours the trembling sands
As watching sentinels of mountains
Clap their hands
To the undulating rhythm of her retreat.
[Footnote: I've called this page "Saltwater Taffy" cause it's sticky and sweet.}