To the lighthouse — Archie


Once a year since we’ve discovered it was there we’ve made our pilgrimage to Miscou Island, the furthest point north east you can go in New Brunswick. Now, we always know we’re going. Even when we set out to go somewhere else, we know we’re going. Miscou has that kind of pull. This year, though, it had more pull than usual.

This time we had set out to explore Val Comeau Beach near Tracadie-Sheila, which is about midway between our cottage and the island. We weren’t up for a long trip since it was the first day of an all too brief holiday and commuting to work had been taking its toll on us as was being away from each other during the week. Much of the trip would be highway driving and in my little Echo with the wind blowing loudly in the windows — no air-conditioning — we may as well be traveling separately. So Val Comeau seemed reasonable.

Magical Naviagtion

woman measuring distance on map with finger

Val Comeau’s great. It’s a great beach and has a picnic spot by the beach that will be our lunch spot from now on when we go to Miscou. But halfway through the meal I knew we were going to Miscou. I’m sure Elaine did, too. “How far is it to Miscou?” I asked her while we were checking Tracadie later. “Not far,” she answered. Elaine’s the navigator. So we were on our way; as if we ever doubted it; as if we even had a choice. I don’t even remember asking if we were going.

What pulls us there? The beaches at Cap Lumière, another remote spot, are better. It’s not the restaurants. Miscou Lighthouse has only an ice cream stand which wasn’t there two years ago and last year didn’t have any ice cream. Locals have started to put some effort into making it more of a tourist destination, but we were going there when there was only the lighthouse. What drew us?

Elaine says you have to want to go to Miscou and she’s right because. It’s not enroute to anywhere you’re likely to be heading. But once you’re there…

woman walking on beach in overcast weather

Reaching Miscou Lighthouse is like reaching somewhere sacred. Stark, blown clean by the wind, most everything behind the beach is bog. It’s the edge of the province and when I step past the lighthouse it’s like walking through a membrane out of my world and into some other state of mind.

Most days the surf is serious ocean surf, the wind almost relentless, the beach goes on too far for us to reach the end. On a clear day across the Baie-des-Chaleurs you can see the Gaspé Peninsula, another province, a whole other world. When you look east you’re looking into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And always the wind blows. It’s an edge of the world.

It’s a place where you can breathe, where you’re conscious of breathing and how enjoyable it can be. The rhythm of the surf washes things away the way I thought confession was supposed to. When I emerge and am walking across the parking lot back to our car my perspective has always changed for the real, I see things clearer. I see myself clearer. I see Elaine clearer and she is more dear to me which tells me how things have to change in our lives, that we can’t go on working in two different cities. I guess those kinds of realizations are what you’d expect to get from a sacred place.

But what is the draw of Miscou? So it’s an edge of the world. There are many such edges, the earth being round and all. They stick out into the ocean and many have limited real estate appeal. We had thought of buying a cottage there until we visited in September. I was in nearby Lameque in March one year and it was like far-north tundra. But in July it is the temperature we’re happiest and most carefree but July is nice everywhere around here. Why go to Miscou?

There might be history there, but I don’t know any of it. I know something of Wilson’s Point on the other side of the island where about 13 families live. A Scotsman was the first European to settle there and it might be interesting but when we were there we thought only of getting to the lighthouse. “All right, that’s enough,”Elaine said after 15 minutes. Wilson’s Point was her idea.

It could be the lighthouse, which is kind of odd when you think that a lighthouse’s value is in warning you to stay away. It’s a wonderful structure, though, a true lighthouse and on past visits I’ve wished we could live nearby. Living in the lighthouse has never been a fantasy, but there is at least one cottage nearby that would be a great retreat and was even for sale once but we passed because not only had we visited in September, we didn’t have enough money to spend on a cottage we could visit once, maybe,  twice a year unless we’re more independently employed.

beach with large stones

In fact, I don’t think I would want to live there at all. It’s important not to. It could be a retreat, the kind where you have to go someplace like Shippagan for “supplies” periodically, but living there would be an ordeal, especially once the snow began to fly and I’ve had enough of that kind of living and don’t get me started.

Even worse, though, living there would likely destroy what it is to us: a pilgrimage. Its value to us is in getting there, breathing for a while, feeling the waves, looking at the distant vista that is Gaspé and the Gulf and leaving. Leaving is as important as getting there. 

Enlightenment, no matter how profound, is diddling if you don’t bring it back to the real world and use it. The enlightenment I got this year? That more than anything there is a person I would like to drive around with, write with, work with and explore with. I’ve had this insight before but it’s taken a year of long separations for it to actually make sense enough to want to make it real.