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diaryland: sirilyan.diaryland.com: entry for 2001-11-11 (13:29:00)
In which our plucky young hero was isolated-ated-ated.

Earlier this week, a big storm pounded Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. This is a surprise to nobody; Atlantic Canada is at the northern end of the hurricane zone, and there's no such thing as a dry autumn in that part of the country. Besides, if it weren't for the rain, Nova Scotia wouldn't have any climate whatsoever.

The rain managed to wash away part of a span that matters a great deal to me, and to about a hundred thousand other people, and not at all to most of the world: the Canso Causeway.

(Yes, "Canso Causeway" sounds like the name of a supporting character from a really bad mid-90s sitcom on NBC, the sort of time filler they'd throw up now and then because they just couldn't figure out how to crank out 250 episodes of Friends each year. I admit this.)

The Causeway connects Cape Breton Island, about which I've written before, to the mainland of Nova Scotia. It is a two-lane road built on top of an artificial addition, the only road on or off the island. It was first opened in 1955.

This is the sort of thing that comes to mind when I hear the word "isolated"; it's why I laugh when someone talks about a city like Chicago being a whole seven-hour drive from where they're living. It hasn't even been fifty years that you've been able to drive from Sydney to Halifax; there are still people alive who remember being trapped on the island if the ferry can't run (and trust me, there are many times neither ship nor boat would take to the sea in Nova Scotia). True isolation is barriers, not distance.

Sure, I may live in the middle of nowhere right now, and I may complain about it. But if I were to get in a car and drive, I could end up anywhere on the continent I wanted: Toronto, Tampa, even Tijuana. (Yes, I'm aware I couldn't just drive straight to Victoria or St. John's. Read that last sentence again.)

Detachment from the world, like the kind that happens when you're trapped on an island, is not a good thing. It slows progress, it stunts your growth, it changes your culture. I'm an urban boy by nature; I found out too late that I like cities, that I find places with two or three or even six hundred thousand people a little small. I can only imagine how much it would have hurt me to have lived in Cape Breton at a time when coming and going was at the whims of a ferry schedule and an unfriendly sea.

There's a difference between being in the middle of nowhere, and being nowhere, off to one side from everything. And based on the evidence, I prefer the former.

I'm lucky I was able to make that choice.

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