Posted by: M.A. | September 6, 2007

The Thin Edge of The Wedge

Wedge Island is barely discernable on a road map of Nova Scotia because there are no roads to get you there. Although it is not truly an island, it’s tether to the Eastern Shore is so tenuous that it remains remote and seemingly adrift. It has been so eroded by the forces of the North Atlantic that it remains a mere fragment of what once was a formidable headland. Within a lifetime, it will most likely be diminished to a rubble of stone, an insignificant reef at high tide.
But for now, the Wedge exists, a reminder that nothing is permanent on this shore, defined by geologists as a “drowned coast.” We are drowning because the sea is engulfing the land we live on. It has been for a long time. The Wedge is a good reminder of that.
Something like a dinosaur’s bony spine of boulders leads a wary hiker from the salt-bleached fish shacks at the end of the road. If it’s a fine July day — blue sky, big and banshee above your head — you might slide your hand along the silky beards of sea oats as you leave solid land, then dance from rock to rock. Low tide is your best bet to make it there in one piece. Still, waves spank the rocks from both sides, slap cold saltwater on your shoes and spit clean frothy Atlantic into your face.
A good mile to sea and you arrive at this dagger shaped remnant of land, a defeated drumlin known simply as Wedge Island. Smashed lobster traps, shards of polypropylene rope as well as bones of birds and beasts litter the rocks near the shore but a hundred feet up the red dirt cliff sits a parliament of herring gulls peering down at you with some suspicion. If you scurry up the side of crumbling dirt, the gulls will complain loudly at your intrusion then take to the sky and let you pass.
Arriving at the top, you find yourself on a grassy peninsula a mere two feet wide where both sides have been sculpted away by rains and pounding seas. It’s a place of vertigo and lost history but the land widens as you advance seaward onto this near-island of bull thistles, raspberry bushes and green grass that seems to be cropped short as a putting green on a golf course.
Above, the circus begins. The gulls by the hundreds have taken full note of your advance as they circle and swoop in mock attack. They chastise and chortle and announce that you are in their world. None truly attack but sometimes they congregate in numbers great enough to block out the sun.
At your feet, hiding in the weeds or sometimes sitting in the full sun, are the young, pedestrian gulls — tan and dark brown speckled, they look nothing like their parents. Down puffy chicks in ones and twos, they mostly sit passive as Buddhist priests, trusting in the world they have known for only a few weeks. Solicitude must be paramount to avoid stepping on them. Speckled eggs still lie in the bushes, some already hatched and abandoned.
The intruder must take great care here at the edge of man’s world in this safe haven hatchery for the great gulls that rule this coast. Once you find focus on the first of the young gulls, others appear. As if by magic, concentrated vision undoes their camouflage.
Further out, at the very tip of the island, bare ribs of bed rock stick out into the sea. This is the same substance of rock you’d find if you could make one giant leap from here across the Atlantic and step ashore on the edge of the Sahara. Beneath your feet is the very rock that was once part of the super-continent that had drifted north to crash into this coast, then drag itself away to form Africa. The stone here is closely akin to the rocks of Morocco.
Wedge Island is a forgotten domain on the edge of the continent {and you feel the thrill of being at sea, on a diminishing finger of land soon to be swallowed by the waves. In the pools between the rocky ridges, rockweed grows in abundance. If you wade ankle deep in the water, you can feel the icy sting, like sharp knives against your skin, and marvel at the colours: russet and rust, reds and tawny dulce, golden golden fronds. White and black barnacles are rivetted to the tidal limits of the rocks and crawling everywhere along the edges is an infinity of patient periwinkles.
Sea ducks sit twenty yards away, bobbing in the ocean swell as waves slap and suck at the pebbles in the little sandy cove tucked between two bedrock ribs that look like the protruding backs of giant beached whales.
It is easy to imagine that man has never been here before. You are the first, perhaps the last, but on the way back, the truth reveals itself on the western shore. Not ten feet from a vertical drop off six stories high is a circle of lichen-covered rocks flush with the grassy surface. A manmade well. The water is deep and dark with long-legged insects skimming along the obsidian surface. The well is full, nearly to the brim — this seems impossible given the fact that we are high on this tenuous wedge of narrow land. The edge of the cliff is not much more than an arm-span away.
A survey of the surroundings now reveals two dents in the ground as if some giant has punched down twice onto a massive surface of dough. Two dents in the ground that were once the foundations of a house and barn long since abandoned. There was once a farm here. Fields grew cabbage and turnips. A family that lived on vegetables from the stony soil, cod and mackerel from the sea. No roads, no cars, but boats only for any commerce with the Halifax world. A way of life long gone.
In a year or ten at the longest, the rains and seas will conspire to undo the ribbon of land left between fresh water and sky. The stones of the well wall will tumble. Geological time can be short on this coast. The drumlin’s cliff will be pried by ice, and pocked by pelting rain. The sea will slip out stones from beneath the hill, the grassy turf will tumble up above and eventually the fresh water of the farmer’s well will gush out of the heart of the headland and race down to meet the sea.
Should the sun suddenly tuck itself behind a cloud, a shiver might run down your spine. The gulls will protest again as you retreat landward but allow you to pass, recognizing your caution with their offspring. Perhaps the tide has risen and you see that your path back to the mainland will be a wet one, hopping from one rock island to the next, ambushed by afternoon waves coming at you from both sides until you are drenched and chattering. And when your feet find their way back onto near-solid sand, you reckon that it is all only an illusion. Nothing is permanent on this shore. The gulls will hold the final lease on old farms and abbreviated real estate, then sail off to safer shores to hatch their offspring when the time comes.

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  1. [...] The Thin Edge of The Wedge And when your feet find their way back onto near-solid sand, you reckon that it is all only an illusion. Nothing is permanent on this shore. The gulls will hold the final lease on old farms and abbreviated real estate, then sail off to … [...]


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