Simply put, the cottage we rented for 25 years on Colpoys Bay at the base of the Bruce Peninsula became one of my spiritual homes. When the cottage was sold several years ago, I consoled myself with the belief that the sense of home it evoked is by now deeply embedded within me.
Yet we rejoiced when we found a motel nearby with the same view of the bay. Our stay at Waterview on the Bay for two nights each June brings back the peacefulness and wonder which characterized our bygone cottage days.
Earlier this week, we explored once again the ordinary splendors of the Bruce from that base near Wiarton, Ontario.
Each year it seems one or more of those ordinary splendors become luminous. Perhaps we chance upon a stately bird standing guard in the salmon stream we pass on one of our walks. Or a kilted man plays Amazing Grace on bagpipes at a lookout point at dusk. Or nature gifts us with Impressionist or Cubist art in clouds or trees reflected on the water. Or the sunset is especially splendid, with intense shades of purple and orange.
This year it was the orchids whose splendor became extraordinary. We wandered the back roads of the Bruce by car and walked the fens, on the lookout for two kinds of rare orchids native to the area.
Years ago, an employee of the Ontario Federation of Naturalists directed us to Summer Drive, which shows off the Yellow Lady Slipper in great abundance by the roadside. There she was again – dozens of clumps of her by the roadside.
We always visit the fens of the Bruce Peninsula, alkaline environments along the edge of Lake Huron which provide a habitat for certain rare and more common flowers. This year we found the Oliphant and Singing Sands fens wetter and more lush than usual. Ducks landed and took off in standing water, a contrast to the usual dry cracked earth with just the hint of a small stream. We enjoyed the delicate blue Dwarf Lake Iris as always, as well as the Pitcher Plant, this year less prolific than usual.
But truth be told, we were actually looking for the very rare Showy Lady Slipper, with her rose-coloured slipper and three white leaves. They’re hard to spot – whether close up or far away – because they like to hide in the shade of the dwarfed cedars and other growth. The last couple years we spotted just one blooming plant by a clump of cedars at the far back edge of the fen.
This year we directed our eyes to make a thorough search of the miniature cedars right by the boardwalk we were on. To our amazement, we walked right by a Showy Lady Slipper, fat and obvious and easy to photograph if one is paying attention. Then we found another one close to the boardwalk, and yet another. We spotted six in all in that fen. Thus an ordinary splendor of the Bruce became extraordinary….
Tuesday morning, I took one last look at the Bay, fixing this year’s visit in memory before packing the car to go home. As usual, I felt a little sad to be heading back to ordinary life. Then suddenly a faint rainbow appeared, the first time in 29 years we’ve seen one over Colpoys Bay….
Colpoys Bay and the Bruce offer splendors daily to any who pay attention. Maybe the promise of the rainbow is that paying attention can be practiced not only while in vacation mode, but also amidst the demands of daily life. I hope so.
Next week: Rowing against the Current
Questions for Reflection:
- Is there a particular cottage [called a “cabin” in Pennsylvania], a campground, a beach, a lake, or a national park that has renewed your spirit?
- If so, what ordinary splendors have attracted your attention at that spot?
- How has that experience illuminated the rest of your life?