Hey I won’t make a habit of this but I wasn’t quite finished so …
What with all the mad rushes to the beach to glean coal, one can imagine the devastation to said stocks. And it came to pass that on some days there was no coal to be had. Not one piece. I neglected to say that on some days that first year we gathered upwards of twelve pieces. We’d bring them home to lay on counter to admire before adding to the current bucket or vase. Yes and we do have internet and cable. And friends. But life is simple in the Mouton.
So as I said, more people looking …. such fierce competition, and really my husband and I weren’t completely obtuse with respect to guests and Nova Scotia hospitality. We weren’t about to place a big old scar onto that well deserved reputation. We’re the dummies/hospitable hosts that told people and pointed it out and said, ‘yes take some home.’
So needless to say the coal became the equivalent of an endangered species in the inanimate realm, and finding it became even more rare and thrilling. Which became a problem because by then I had become somewhat of a beach collecting junkie. And I am not talking about live things like shells or sea urchins or sand dollars since I have no interest in taking live things away from the seashore. I know every little living thing has a purpose. Besides they stink by the time you get them home.
It was during this dry coal hunting spell that I noticed the beach glass. Well you can probably guess the rest but I’ll tell you anyway. I began to collect sea glass. I still had coal in my sights, but sea glass wasn’t such a bad alternative. So glass became the bounty and coal the rare gem. And I filled a ceramic bowl with glass. And then a bigger bowl. And then empty peanut butter tubs into a milk crate. And another…
And my husband said, “What are you going to do with all that glass?” and I said, “I’m not sure, but I’ll think of something.” and my sister-in-law said, “I can teach you to make jewelry.” and I said, “I don’t wear jewelry, why would I want to make it.” And she responded with, “I’ll show you anyway.”
Which lead to the whole fancy dog house thing. She showed me how to wire up glass and it got me thinking. And the result of all that is I began to make angels. Early on I took some to a craft fair and before I drove away, my husband said, “Don’t be disappointed if you don’t sell any.” Well it was a two hour sale and I came home with a wad of bills and he smiled and said, ‘Wow, you better come up with a name for them.’
So now I make angels in the fancy dog house and it is a good thing. Not all day and every day. Just when it seems like a good thing to do.
And leading up to the idea of taking over that cabin for my own purposes which now my husband refers to as the sweat shop. Yes I have a little factory out there.
We moved to this area…never mind all that. We live by a fabulous beach. We walk to the fabulous beach a lot. On a tour during the purchase of this house (I wasn’t there), my husband noticed in the basement, along a ledge were several lumps of coal. Not dull ugly coal. This was sleek, shiny coal. My husband was curious because he played baseball in a Cape Breton coal mining town for several seasons in his youth. So he knew a little about coal. He asked, “What’s with the coal?”
The fellow told him… In a nutshell, a boat carrying coal fromVirginiain the 1920’s ran aground somewhere out in the bay and lost all her cargo. And so, he said, it washes up onto the beach. He left the coal on the ledge for us.
I saw it and loved it because it is black and shiny and rock solid but lighter in weight, with sparkly seams. And so began my quest for coal because I love to scrounge and hunt, especially stuff that doesn’t bite.
During our first years, on our daily beach walks it became a ritual to look for coal. We timed our walks around low tides, best times for gathering. Sometimes we collected politely and cooperatively, one of us doing the high tide line, the other walking the close to the waters edge. Other times it was dog-eat-dog, a mad sprint to grab a piece in view. Sometimes we faked each other out. A normal amount was 2-4 pieces each. There were days we collected more, but there was size and quality to consider, the gleam and sheen and streaks. It was thrilling for me, my adrenalin flowing at a feverish pitch when I spotted a piece, especially a big one, some in the size range of a lemon, the rush of contentment with putting such a piece into my pocket or bag.
We put the coal into a dish on the mantel and soon needed a bucket. Robert bought me an enormous glass vase and I filled that and placed it on the floor. Our guests noticed and asked. We told them. We shouldn’t have because all of our visitors began to participate in the hunt for coal. That’s how nice this coal was. They kept it. They didn’t even give us a cut. They’d sneak off to the beach before us to look for it.
I need to go out for a while. Be back in a bit…