For almost two weeks, we have waited expectantly for an authoritative word about Blythe’s family’s summer homestead in Nova Scotia. Wildfires have devastated the province and constant vigilance of satellite imagery has indicated that our home lay directly in the path of the Barrington Lake fire, the largest wildfire in Nova Scotia’s history. Located in the evacuation zone, with roads closed and communication spotty, we did not know what had happened to our home.
With the evacuation order ended, it was finally time to go to Nova Scotia and see for ourselves. We arrived by ferry in Yarmouth on the province’s southwest shore. Everything seemed normal.
Not knowing what fate awaited us, we had made arrangements to stay in an inn on the waterfront near Yarmouth. The alluring peace and serenity of the province was intact.
As we drove northwest down Route 103, the main highway, we could begin to see evidence of the fires in the distance. In 2023, wildfires have already burned seventeen times the amount of acreage as in a normal Nova Scotia year.
When we turned onto the Shore Road, about five miles from our house, evidence of the fire became more apparent.
Upon approaching Cranes Point Road—our road—charred remains closed in.
Proceeding down the road that led to our place, blackened soil and once-green woodlands encircled us.
Finally, up over the hill, the house lay just over the horizon.
Miraculously, the fire had stopped literally feet from our home. The house was spared by a narrow (and unintentional) firebreak caused by mowing around the house to keep insects at bay and enhance our view of the water’s edge beyond.
In some cases, the fire was within inches of our home. And we were not alone.
Time and again, we encountered neighbors who selflessly reached out to others, providing food, shelter and emergency service—fire fighters who sacrificially tended to others’ dwellings while they were under evacuation and could not return to their own homes; Harry and Jeremy who kept the small firebreaks on the point mowed even as the fires ominously built in the distance; Amanda, the new owner of The Cooper’s Inn on the Shelburne waterfront, who opened her rooms to evacuees without charge; the unknown neighbor who stopped to help fix a hole in the roof caused by the fires. It is a remarkable series of kindnesses that we are experiencing here in Nova Scotia in response to the tragic rampage of its out-of-control fires.
I am reminded of a brief Instagram video I saw recently about turtles coming to the aid of one of their own. Check it out. If turtles can collectively—and successfully—respond to trauma, so can we.
And before leaving the fire zone, we saw new fiddle head ferns already poking through the blackened soil and lupines in full bloom gracing the charred landscape. Grace upon grace.