Beth and Cricket
Here in New Brunswick, nights are cold and the harvest is complete. Seeds have fufilled their improbable promise, evolving from tiny, dry packets into a madness of squash vines on the manure pile, or scarlet runner beans dangling foot-long pods, or yellow-fleshed rutabagas. Old potatoes have spawned new ones. A field of buckwheat prepares the soil for next year’s corn.
The cool, dirt-floored root cellar houses bags of carrots and beets, twine-hung cabbages, potatoes in wooden crates. In the kitchen are Maliseet baskets rustling with crisp-skinned onions and garlic. The freezers are filled with succulent greens, corn and wild berries.
The trees are in full, glorious colour.
I lie on my back in the woods watching the flicker of light, higher leaves casting shadows on lower ones, a sky-drift of yellow and red minnowed with blue. One day, Peter and I were lured from the path by chanterelles, orange-yellow lily-shaped mushrooms which drew us farther and farther into the damp, mossy darkness beneath spruce trees. We picked two shopping bags full, amazed at our good fortune.
And everywhere are apple trees; some planted, many sprouted from seed. Some apples are bitter and hard. Others surprise us with their spicy sweetness.
I love to make meals either from our garden, or from the wild. Wild-apple crumble. Rutabaga scallop. Kale and cornmeal pie.
In this in-between time, the pause before winter, Peter and I took a breath, and found time to go to Grand Manan, an island in the Gulf of Maine. We camped on a cliff high above the ocean. It’s the season of whales. One night, sleeping in our tent, we were awakened by their blowing. We got up and sat on the rocks. It was a warm night, and the sea was lit by the oily sheen of a full moon. The blows were distinct, familiar, the sound of cavernous lungs, each one with its own personality. And we listened, awed, to these alien lives lived so close to us, yet as remote as the Milky Way over our heads.
Autumn is a time of endings, beginnings. Always there is a sense of sadness and exhiliration, fulfillment and potential. Feet in the soil; eyes on the stars.
And so, like another season, the long work on my novel is ended and the book begins its life.
Here is the lovely cover, designed by Random House’s Terri Nimmo.
And the jacket copy:
A gripping tale of love and obsession set in the 1860’s, Beth Powning masterfully combines truths of the heart with the sweep of adventure.
“Growing up on the Bay of Fundy, Azuba Galloway dreams of going to sea. She watches magnificent ships slowly making their way into Whelan’s Cove, the sense of exoticism bursting from their holds along with foreign goods. Years later when she meets a seasoned captain, Nathaniel Bradstock, and they fall in love, Azuba imagines an exciting life with him. But Azuba becomes pregnant soon after they marry and Nathaniel, who knows too well the perils of life on a ship, refuses to allow Azuba to join him.
Days turn into weeks and months – voyages can take two, three years before the ship and crew make their way back to New Brunswick. When Nathaniel eventually does return, he discovers that a horrible mishap involving Azuba has caused a scandal and he is forced to take her and their young daughter aboard his ship. They set sail for London with bitter hearts.
Alone in a male world, surrounded by the splendour and the terror of the open sea, the voyage will not only test her already precarious marriage, but everything Azuba believes in. With a sure hand, Beth Powning captures life aboard a sailing ship – the ferocious storms, the impossible isolated ports of call, the grueling daily routine – and show how love evolves even in the most extreme circumstances. The Sea Captain’s Wife is an awe-inspiring tour that captures the vigour of life in the last days of the Age of Sail and gives us an unforgettable young heroine who shows compassion, courage and love while under incredible duress.”
So we head into winter, summer fading into memory as the sharp air turns our minds forward.
With best wishes for a productive, contemplative, and vigorous autumn,