There is an alternate universe in which I do not live, with my family, in a fixer-upper-that-will-never-be-fixed-up in Los Angeles, California, but, instead, in a blue wooden house — old, but in perfect condition — along a little-known river called the LaHave in Nova Scotia, Canada. This fantasy domicile is at least a hundred years old — once belonging to a sea captain, perhaps — and has wide, wood-framed windows that look across the road onto the wide, calm river mouth with its green dories, orange buoys, and neatly-trimmed sail-boats. The garden in front is lush, with vivid green grass — not too short — and thriving hydrangea and butterfly bushes. There’s a screened-in porch furnished with comfortable couches, a swing, and a rocking chair. A Lunenberg Bump hangs over the front door. There’s an old brick chimney, but a new, fancy kitchen. Best thing of all, however? The fulcrum upon which this entire fantasy pivots? Right down the street is my favorite eating establishment of all time: the LaHave bakery.
The fantasy, of course, is not true — nor possible — but the bakery is. My family has been coming to this part of Nova Scotia for twenty years or so. We have done much exploring, and been to many memorable and spectacular places. But the outing we consistently look forward to the most is the trip to this, our favorite bakery. It involves a short ride — either by car or, better, by bike — to a cable ferry that comes every half hour. After a fifteen-minute crossing, you are on the other side. From there it’s a two-minute walk up the street to an old, yellowish-beige, Victorian-era building that has, in the past, housed sailors, served as a youth hostel, and been a commercial trading center. For the last couple of decades, though, it has been the home of not just the bakery, but a craft co-op, a boatmaker’s shop, and a highly-regarded skateboard company, (the latter boasting an indoor half-pipe, awesome tee-shirts, and a mind-bogglingly beautiful river view.)
All of these businesses are incredible in their own way. The bakery, though, with its dozen varieties of fresh and perfect bread, consistently delicious pastries, sweet and understated cranberry scones, bags of dried dulse — gathered, very likely, from the beach outside the door — jars of homemade blueberry marmalade, and hot black tea served in old church-marm mugs, is just perfection itself.
In my fantasy I sit on its front porch, on a yellow Adirondack chair. The air is fresh and bright around me. Cyclists — wearing normal clothes, not the spandex horrors their American counterparts sport — come and go on the road in front of me. Boats slip by behind. I sip milky tea and revel in the salt smells, the electric blue of the sky, the massive softness of the clouds. And the river, always the river, present in everything you see, taste, and smell.
When I am done I trudge back to my Captains’ house, sit down on my screened-in porch, and watch the sun nestle into the far off sea.
From there the fantasy grows fuzzy. What do I do when I’m not at the bakery? What are MJ and Mike are up to? These elements remain opaque. And why shouldn’t they? Fantasies, after all, are not about the quotidian: there are no dogs to walk, diapers to change, trash bins to roll out, dishes to wash, toddlers to plead with, bills to forget to pay, windows to be broken. Neither, of course, are there the complicated, profound, lengthier pleasures that originate in real life.
There are, rather — for me, at least — just a few moments of perfect, quiet bliss. A cup of tea, a yellow chair, a porch, a pretty house nearby. The vivid blue of a river mouth.
And perhaps a really good scone.