Dusking beach – Îles de la Madeleine

Sundrops are about to splash the sky shades of rosy pink as light begins its daily fade to black. The transition mirrors our sauntering pace. Slowly, we drift along the empty beach.

Licks of waves entice the kids to dip their boots in and take a step toward the fathomless deep. Then they leave the water, back on track, new treasures to gather at each footfall. The beach is in turn hard and porous. At one moment we leave no trace of our passing, the next our feet sink leaving deep imprints. Our meandering trails blink on and off.

Calls of ‘maman, maman‘ ring out across the sand then skip along the water’s surface. “Look, look what I found,” shouts Noah. A lone red lobster claw, hollow and missing a pincer. Nellie chimes in with, “Look, here, look.” It’s a sea urchin shell with its pattern of embossed perfection.

We are filling plastic grocery bags with the natural bric-a-brac that washes ashore. Quartz, rounded and polished smooth. Moon snail shells in various degrees of erosion each a marvel of flowing form and iridescent shimmer. Driftwood cutlasses, snakes and abstract sculptures are scattered across our path to admire.

Mélanie is shining. She is the sun and the kids are spinning round her. Lila, firmly strapped on her back, is riding high. She’s got the best seat on the beach. Noah and Nellie run excitedly to maman with their newest finds. Mélanie’s gaze on their sandy bibelots immediately increases their value tenfold. Her look bestows instant affirmation of their ability to find and recognize beautiful stuff. She makes each of them feel special even after being presented with the umpteenth mussel shell.

The bags are getting heavier. Nellie begins to drag hers across sections of the beach. Each discovery is as fresh as the previous one and must be added to those already liberated from sand.

In the bluffs ahead, a small grotto whittled by the waves provides a diversion. We enter the narrow red earth channel with a horseshoe opening to the sky. Layers of sediment, damp to the touch, give texture to the contoured walls as they rise to the grass turf overhead. This is a good shelter from the wind, a hiding place, a pirate’s secret den.

We set up for a quick family snap to remember this dusking clear sky on a small strip of coast that has offered us so many gifts to take home. We are all very fashionable bundled up against the wind with our de rigueur rubber boots. The kids love to pose and I can’t resist either. Nellie of course lets loose with her trademark ‘cheeseburger’ just before the shutter pops. This is our official notice that she is engaged in the photo shoot.

It’s time to start retracing our steps. We still have to finish packing. load the car and clean our temporary home at Motel l’Archipel. Before we go, we take a few frames of the kids on a rocky outcrop. There, next to the grotto, we immortalize them where they stand on the red earth between a canvas of sea and sky.

As we return reluctantly to the motel, the mass of Île d’Entrée presents changing hues in the shifting light. It is like a magnet in its aloneness seeking to attract others, a small parcel of houses sprinkled on its least elevated shoreline.

Just in time, before we pick it clean, we take our exit from the beach. We pass through what seems to be a stand of trees. Some are in the water, some rising from the sand – all reduced to gnarled stumps, public art of the natural variety. This small copse of trees awash in the sea must be the result of erosion in the not too distant past.

On the kitchen table when we get in is a copy of our hotelier’s first bande dessinée, Les Aventures de Néciphore. Néciphore, a smart and gently scheming character reminiscent of a rural Andy Capp, takes us through the seasons on the Magdalen Islands from the setting of the first lobster traps to the celebration of mi-carême in Fatima. I don’t have time to read it right away, or one of its most recent companions, Les Aventures de Winnyfred which tells of Acadie.

Now in their sixth title, Jean-François and his partner Hugues are on to a good thing. They are using the comic books as a tool to promote regional tourism. I’ll have to get my own copy of Winnyfred in a bookstore. Over time, we’ll get the whole series. This is fun reading that provides context and a big picture perspective with a smile.

Our evening is wind and sun, sand and sea. We get to hold little hands and see their wonderment. It’s a nice way for us to enjoy our last carefree moments aux Îles – at least for this time.

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