Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Silent Cove. Chance Harbour NB - My back yard.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

UNKNOWN SOLDIER




One could describe the atmosphere in Chance Harbour as peaceful, beautiful, rugged and almost a state of mind.  About the only things that have changed over the last 200+ years are the people who are arriving, leaving or resting.  The history here holds all the stuff that movies are made of.  Stories of buried treasures from sunken pay ships, drama, mystery, love and heartbreak.  The movie may not yet be made but I’ve already given it my two thumbs up.
 
The
Bay of Fundy is one of the most powerful elements on the planet.  The highest tides in the world occur here.  In my time living here I’ve seen first hand how unpredictable those tides can be.  She can slide in almost unseen and unheard, like a thief in the night.  Other times you can hear her from miles away long before you see her.  Sometimes, the rush, the roar of an incoming tide is so powerful, so forthcoming, that you can feel it.  When the surf hits the top of the beach you physically feel the concussion.  It’s at this time that one gives their full attention to her and the respect she demands.  She will feed the hungry that seek her out.  She will also take away without judgment, or prejudice.  The latter is the chance that her fishermen take every time they set sail for a day on the water.  Before setting sail, the weather charts are checked as well as tide levels, wind direction and the sailing vessels that will carry them far out into the Bay of Fundy and beyond, into the Atlantic Ocean.  For those early settlers that fell in love with the rugged landscape, living here was no easy feat, with conditions being harsh at best.  The tides dictated their daily comings and goings. The Bay of Fundy ruled all mighty and all powerful in the smallness of their lives.


There is a lot of history on the property where I live, in one of four cottages, located on a cove with a beautiful view of the Bay of Fundy.  At the outer edge of the cove is a small uninhabited island known as Crowe Island.  Beyond the cove is Little Dipper Harbour, part of the great Bay of Fundy.  The coasts of the Bay of Fundy are treacherous waters.  There are a lot of underwater shoals and ledges and before the days of buoy markers many ships met their fate along this coastline.  A great number of them went down just off of our Crowe Island.  Some believe that there is buried treasure here yet to be found.  The best part of this property, outside of the view, is the ¾ mile long beach that we residents share.  Something else we all share on that beach is a graveyard, a 218 year old cemetery that holds the remains of an Unknown Soldier.  He was the first person to be buried in Chance Harbour. Sometime during the year of 1795 the body of the Unknown Soldier washed up on this very beach.  He was partially decomposed and wore the uniform of a British Officer.  Written accounts about this are conflicting in the time frame but the main belief is that Chance Harbour’s first settler, Daniel Belding, had discovered the body and laid him to rest in the area now called Belding’s Cemetery or Graveyard Point.  It was through natural progression that the graveyard would hold the souls of others that were to follow.  In 1967 The Chance Harbour Women’s Institute had a cairn built inside the cemetery as a centennial project.  Unknown Soldier is first on the list of names inscribed. There are a total of 24 souls buried there with 6 being infants from the same family.  And yes, Daniel is one of those buried there.




Upon first hearing the story of the Unknown Soldier I was captivated.  I had to go see him for myself.  When entering the graveyard we find it is in devastating condition due in part to neglect and the forces of nature.  Debris and boulders are strewn everywhere, an indication of very high powerful surfs.  It’s amazing that the bay hasn’t washed it away over the 218 years it’s been there.  Somehow it has survived.  The Unknown Soldier, this British Officer, I wonder from time to time just who he was, somebody’s son, brother, husband or father.  Was his death recorded from whatever ship he came from?  If he had family, were they made aware of his death? Or did someone live in hopes of his returning home to them?   Maybe some day the answers will reveal themselves.  For now, the Unknown Soldier remains an unsolved mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, I had an experience one day on the beach.  It was a cool sunny afternoon when Eric and I decided to take our dog Bear for a walk on the beach.  I walked along the sand with camera in hand and Eric followed behind me, head down, looking for unusual beach rocks. Bear, with his long nose to the ground and plumy tail wagging was happily sniffing for signs of our neighbor’s dogs.  I had stopped to take a picture of Crowe Island that sits at the opening of our cove.  I was holding the camera up and looking through the LCD screen to frame up my shot.  From behind me, I heard Eric approaching, his steps swishing across the sand.  He stopped a few mere inches directly behind me.  I could feel him looking over my shoulder and expected to feel his breath against the back of my neck.  He felt so close I thought he was about to fall against me and throw me off balance.  Feeling slightly annoyed, I took a step forward and turned around to ask him for a bit of space … and there was nothing … nothing but air there.  A deep, long, cold chill slithered down my spine and suddenly, I’d never felt so cold in my life.  I broke out in goose bumps, every hair on end.  Panic was rising up because I could feel someone right there in front of me.  I looked down the beach to my left, my eyes searching for Eric and Bear and a long stretch of empty beach stared back at me.  I then looked to my right and they were far up the beach away from me. They were standing just outside the graveyard.  The air around me felt oppressive and I was almost gasping as I yelled for Eric.  It was one of the strangest encounters I’ve ever had.  I’m still not sure what took place that day.  All I know is that I was in a complete innocent state of mind and just wanting pictures and a nice walk on the beach.  The graveyard, nor the soldier or anything like that was on my mind, yet I felt something happen as sure as I’m sitting here.  Could it of been the Unknown Soldier or maybe Daniel himself?  Or maybe I had an uncontrollable imagination?  I should think not.

The memory of that day still haunts me from time to time, with the most recent time while writing this piece.  From where I sit writing this, I can see the stand of thick evergreens that encompasses the little graveyard.   The spot where I write at is our old trestle table that sits next to a wall of windows.  These windows overlook the beach and the cove.  During my daylight writing hours the view inspires me, brings me peace, takes my breath away and keeps me in the now.  At night there is no view.  There is nothing to see beyond the windows but darkness.  One can still hear the tides as they rise and fall.  One can still hear the surf as it pounds the beach and in its own way brings its own beauty.  When writing this article, during the nighttime hours, I won’t deny that my attention was periodically drawn to look through these windows … out into the darkness … in the direction of the graveyard.  I think I’d have to say it felt
a bit unsettling. 

                                         



As I sit here in this moment, the tide is out, the seabed lays naked and exposed.  It is the beginning of twilight and soon the blue hour will follow, then, darkness will silently slide in and swallow the world whole. There is no wind. All is still, as if Mother Nature is holding her breath, waiting for darkness to fall and for the mighty Bay of Fundy to slowly and steadily fill the bowl shaped coast as her waters rise higher and higher.  The night may darken her, but there will never be any stopping her.  Her flow is constant, like the wind and the sun. Always there, always here, to flood our souls with love for this land … this beautiful back country of Canada.

You can always find me … at the next high tide.

Natalie ...