Cape of light and emptiness

Seek the light — good universal advice. We’re heading to Cap Lumiére, one of the most beautiful and empty beaches around. It’s on the Acadian Coastal Drive which stays as close to the coast as you can get and has good signage. To get there, we hug the coast from Cocagne to Bouctouche, go through the village, past La Dune, up to Chockpish, then onto Route 505. This last leg is like driving on the edge of a cliff in spots.

We go past the dock, busy because it’s the height of lobster season, until the road turns to a sandy beach road, we park and walk. From here you can walk for miles.

A high, white place

This is a high, white place to me even though it’s sea level. It’s a holy place, a place to go to be alone with my thoughts. It faces east, the direction of new beginnings.

When I’m here, I find it hard to believe that it is so beautiful, yet so undiscovered. There even isn’t much on the web about it, or about the lighthouse, built in 1864, which sits squarely on the roadside just before the beach.

There is a whole world at your feet waiting to be discovered.

It’s baffling why so few find and venture out to the Cape of Light. Perhaps the information highway doesn’t reach here. Perhaps it’s a place that you have to find serendipitously, the road leading you there when you’re ready to find it. You go when you feel the magnetic pull of the place.

natural canal cuts the beach in two

Topographic art

To me, the beach at Cap-Lumiere is one of the most magnificent beaches along the Acadian Coast. It’s actually called South Richibucto Beach on the topographical map I have up on my wall. It narrows and reaches to almost touch the other finger of beach reaching down from Kouchibouguac National Park, North Richibucto Beach. It reminds me of the Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel. A white-bearded, windswept God reaches out a finger to a muscular, reclining Adam, giving the gift of life. In my mind, they’re Finger of God Beach and Creation of Adam Beach and all this is Eden.

Behind the beach at Cap-Lumiére sits a large, boggy salt marsh. Maybe that’s what keeps the beach from being over-developed and overrun. Bog makes bad real estate and mosquitoes keep away all but the most determined walkers and seekers of beauty. What’s left is a strip of sandy shore and luckily the wind often keeps the pesky insects away. But maybe there are bog fairies there that are the keepers and protectors of Cap-Lumiére. I wouldn’t doubt it one bit. After all, I haven’t seen too may four-wheelers there.

This whole shore is riddled with inlets and small streams that all meander their way to the ocean at this particular spot. Wind and water do their job shaping and reshaping the sand dunes as well as the sand bars that lie a little way offshore. Every time we come here, the contours of the beach have changed some, the forces of weather here being powerful and sometimes downright wrathful making the interface of sand and water sculptural and dynamic.

A lot of a beach’s spirit is determined by its waves and here they’re vigorous and loud. This is a beach for people who are kinesthetic, who like to feel the invigorating force of the elements. But on a hot summer day at low tide Cap-Lumiere has a gentler side. The water is warm, and the waves are strong and can massage, are therapeutic, and the hot sun casts a sleepy spell.

woman taking pictures of things on the beach

A world at your feet

We only visit, but what lives here? Birds, seaweed and sea plants, insects, little fish and crustaceans all populate the beach. There are different kinds of seaweed, more than I’ve seen on other beaches —long thick brown pieces that have ruffled edges like lasagna, seaweed that looks like shredded paper and seaweed that has little air-filled bladders that pop like bubble wrap when you press on them. After a storm, all of these are washed ashore in a jumble, like some tangled salad.

You can make a day at Cap-Lumiére be whatever you want it to be, and wander along its shore as long as you want to. There is no interpretive centre, no signs, no boardwalk. It is a rare find and a gift in this day and age of development gone mad. Make of it what you want. Make all of the discoveries yourself.

Empty of human imprint

It gets me wondering, though, what’s so good about solitude and lack of human imprint? Sure it’s fun to be packed onto a sandy shore with sunbathers, running and laughing children and sometimes their pets. You can people watch, smell the sunscreen and catch the tide of excitement and activity like a ride on Coney Island. That’s a different kind of beach, a different state of mind. Emptiness offers something else.

I read an article recently about the over-scheduling of our children. Nowadays, you’re considered a bad parent if you don’t fill your child’s free time with activities, lessons, sports and play dates. The article went on to say that kids need unstructured, alone time to regroup and tap into themselves otherwise they become overstimulated, scattered and ultimately shallow with no inner resources to draw on.

We grownups need that too but get less and less of it all the time. That’s why a solitary walk on an empty beach becomes so important. At Cap-Lumiére Archie and I go our separate ways, following or pausing to observe what attracts us be it low flying plovers feeding in the seaweed, tiny hermit crabs you can pick up in your hand, interesting shells and rocks, beach peas or the view that’s just beyond the curved shore ahead. Later, our paths merge and we’ll continue along together, the rhythm different now.

beach sand path to beach

A place for solitude

Solitude gives an opportunity to explore our connections with other people by their very absence. We have a social identity, a way of being when we’re with other people. In solitude this persona fades, we see more clearly other aspects of ourselves, a more authentic self. Being alone is not the same as being isolated or lonely. It can be healing and delicious.

When alone on this beach and in other remote natural places, sometimes prickles come on the back of my neck, like there is a presence. Like the place is saturated with spirit. It can be felt, but not so easily described. It makes me feel expansive and connected.

In art, defining shapes is important, but so is defining what is between those shapes, the empty space without which the work would be meaningless, chaotic. My time at Cap-Lumiére is that space in between that helps me define my life. It gives me clarity and an awareness of what is and what isn’t.