As soon as we finished strapping our motorcycles to the deck of the ferry we saw our first iceberg, the first iceberg I'd ever seen, a glowing white chip against the horizon. Two more appeared grazing along the coast, then a half dozen in glittering white procession. Then the whales came, their dark backs rising and falling like a sea monster's coils as they wound slowly across the strait trailing blasts of vapor. Boats, icebergs and whales seemed purposely gathered in that water like three strange tribes of giants, but if they had business together I don't know what it was. Sean and I, at least, were bound for Labrador.
There's just one paved road in southern Labrador, a solitary ribbon of tar that materializes in Quebec and runs 50 miles up to Red Bay, where it stops. As we rode it up the coast, we passed a long chain of icebergs going the other way, creeping south along the shore and sneaking into the bays, much closer than they'd been from the boat. Just off the end of a pier was an iceberg like a porcelain sculpture of whipped cream, shiny, rippled, and white. An hour later when we rode by again, it had flipped over, transformed. One iceberg had three thin spires like steeples that looked too thin to support their own weight; others had a crazy blue color inside, an electric glow like radioactive gel toothpaste, the last color you'd expect to see from snow.
What does it mean when you see icebergs? You look it up in your dream dictionary and find out if she likes you or not, because icebergs aren't a part of the waking world. They're not even real things; they're ideas, symbols, icons. My brain is not equipped for icebergs.
We stopped for the night at L'Anse Amour. There are five houses along the cove and one of them rents rooms; inside it's as modern and comfortable as any suburban house and it could be anywhere except for the whales out the window. The cove is about a half mile across and has a smooth, sandy beach. It's cozy and safe, with whales in it. They're minke whales, which have come in to feed, and from the pier I have to face inland to watch them. It doesn't seem like they're in the ocean at all; it's more like they're in the backyard. One surfaces just 50 feet away and, as it sinks from sight, it's still gliding toward shore, toward me. I wonder how much closer it swam, invisible and vast.
Rita, our hostess, gives us bakeapples over vanilla ice cream and they're delicious. When we'd heard about the bakeapple festival, we'd tried to imagine apple trees in Labrador, but a bakeapple is a little orange berry that grows on the ground. Shaped like raspberries, they're tart and sweet and wonderful; how could we have never heard of something this good? Strange and new, the berries are as amazing as the whales and the ice, and must be one of the fruits we forgot about when the Gate was locked behind us.
When it gets late and the sun is about to fall, the whales are still there. They were there when we checked in, they were there all afternoon, and they're still there as the dark comes; not a dream.
How much can you see in one day? How many times can you see the rules of your world broken? I'd better go inside and close my eyes.
Visit Dave Karlostski's website to learn more about his latest adventures: http://the751.tri-pixel.com
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