Childhood summers spent in Lower Blomidon inspired poet Deirdre Dwyer's latest book.
The Blomidon Logs (ECW, $18.95) is named after the logbooks her parents kept at an old cabin and later an A-frame just seconds from a beach of towering red cliffs, mud flats and high tides.
“My mother and father wrote a journal entry every day about what we did and our adventures,” says Dwyer, who started spending summers in Lower Blomidon with her four siblings in 1964.
“Sometimes my mother drew sketches of what we did and my father drew maps of where the boys camped. Later on I would write in it and visitors would describe their adventures.”
The mystery of Cape Blomidon captured the kids even before they arrived when their father told them stories of Glooscap legends from Kay Hill's books.
The poem, Glooscap and His Magic, opens Dwyer's book: “The Great Chief who fought the Ice King, year-round winter, fought the Giant Famine/and Badger, sometimes a man./Glooscap brought the Queen of Summer/for six months/ as we rally, eager, to meet her at Blomidon.”
Dwyer and her two sisters and two brothers spent wonderful summers scattered at friends' houses, collecting rocks on the beach, picking strawberries, roaming the forest and the hills and getting to know the families in the farming and logging community.
“It meant freedom. We had so much freedom at Blomidon," says Dwyer in an interview. "My parents gave us the range to be on the beach all day or camp all night on the cape. It was a wonderful place.”
There is darkness and light in The Blomidon Logs. Central to the book is the mystery of the death of Dwyer's great-grandmother, an artist whose official cause of death was drowning.
“When I was growing up, there was book called Blomidon Rose on my parents' bookshelf and it alluded to a woman and an artist who drowned at Blomidon and it was rumoured to be a suicide.”
Eight years ago, Dwyer was talking to her aunt. “She'd gone to the cabin before she became a nun and she found what was her grandmother's journal and the last entry said, 'I just want to walk out into the water,' and that's what she did so it was intentional.”
Dwyer's great-grandmother painted throughout her life. “She painted the cliffs of Blomidon and my family always said she was the one artist who got the colour right — that red,” says Dwyer, who has hung her great-grandmother's paintings, including one of the cliffs, in her Musquodoboit Harbour home.
Blomidon was key to her father's choice of career as a forester. “He watched eight teams of oxen and horses take a boiler up to one of the sawmills. That day he decided to take up forestry.”
It was also key to Dwyer's development as a poet who loves nature and puts a reader in an orchard, on a beach, by a fire, in swift, clear, concise strokes.
“It was always a special place for me and I write about the things that are special to me. It's just so full of nature and marvels, the highest tides in the world, the beautiful cliffs.”
Dwyer, who has published two collections of poetry, started writing poetry in Grade 6 when her teacher taught the class the Japanese form of haiku.
She ended up living in Japan for three years teaching English as a second language in Tokyo after she graduated from Dalhousie University.
She has a master's degree in English and creative writing from the University of Windsor where she studied poetry with Eugene McNamara. Award-winning Nova Scotia writer Alistair MacLeod was also there then teaching fiction. “He was certainly a role model for me and W.O. Mitchell was a writer-in-residence and he was a source of great information on writing.”
Dwyer studied writing at the Banff School of Fine Arts and has taught creative writing in Halifax, throughout Nova Scotia through the Writers in the Schools program and through continuing education programs, most recently in Musquodoboit Harbour.
Dwyer and two of her siblings went splits on the Blomidon A-frame that replaced the old camp but “we realized we had other things to do and other houses to build. We sold it to a neighbour.
“I try to get back there every summer and it's always on my mind.”
In her daily life, she is surrounded by nature in Musquodoboit Harbour, where she grew up. Her home looks out over the harbour and she takes her dog Molly for walks in the woods on the railway trail and out to Martinique Beach. “It's also a beautiful place to live.”
The Blomidon Logs is on sale at The Book Mark and at Box of Delights in Wolfville. Dwyer reads on Friday, Jan. 27, 7 p.m,. at Saint Mary's University and is planning a reading for the people of Lower Blomidon.
There is a longing in The Blomidon Logs that anyone who has spent a country summer or lost relatives to the march of time will take to heart.
The second-to-last poem is Blomidon Beach: “Someday we'll walk around to Amethyst Cove,/find rocks that break smoothly/in our hands to reveal/darkness in rich amethyst.
“Someday we'll walk around the Cape,/keep the tide back with wishing.
“We'll go out at dusk to shallow water,/fill our pockets with dulse,/spread it out on the lawn next morning/and with starfish we'll make constellations.
“We'll make beaches everywhere we go.”