I Have Been to Heaven‏

Qualified Entry: Fiction Category

By: Andrea MacEachern

I know what heaven looks like from many angles. I’ve looked down on it from atop the great mountain to the Northeast.  I’ve admired it from the glorious valleys to the West.  I’ve wondered at it from the grassy, wide farmlands to the South.  I’ve seen it from a perch on a cliff over the ocean to the North.

I’ve been on the journey to heaven many times.     The journey to heaven is not terribly long. About a two-hour drive.  But there are some obstacles on the way.  I first have to tackle the bumper to bumper gridlock of the city to get on the short stretch of the highway 125.  I take the next exit onto the Trans Canada Highway and it’s smooth sailing for the next twenty kilometers.  Than, suddenly,  I round that bend in Bras D’or that reveals the monstrous Seal Island Bridge stretching out over St. Anne’s Bay.  I’m not afraid of heights but I’ve been told that the bridge sways on breezy days.  I safely make it to the other side and it’s smooth sailing again for about six or seven minutes until I encounter the next hurdle.  I slow down to a crawl to safely round the very sharp curve that begins the ascent up Kelly’s Mountain.  My aging Honda struggles up the steep mountain, and when I get to the top, I pull in at the look-off to give her a rest and grab a snack from the cooler in the trunk.  Although the view from here is heavenly, I am not in heaven yet.  There is still a long way to go!  I continue to travel onward down the mountain and take the next exit off the Trans Canada and onto the Cabot Trail.  I make my way down the long windy road to take my place in the line up for the Englishtown ferry.  Once on board, it takes only three or four minutes to cross the small bay, but some days the water is very rough.  I continue on my way along the northern shore.  I’m on the home stretch now but there is just one more obstacle that must be crossed before I arrive at the pearly gates of heaven.  Cape Smokey Mountain.  I approach the downward dip in the road that suddenly takes on the steep ascent to the top of the mountain.  This stretch of highway has been declared one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in North America.  I’ve heard from some of the locals that on many occasions tourists have asked them to bring their cars safely over the mountain because they are too afraid to attempt it themselves.  I switch to low gear and slowly and carefully make my way through the dips and turns, while the only thing separating me from a drop to the rough Atlantic below is a guardrail.  Finally, I make it to the top of the great mountain.  I’m not quite in heaven yet but I can see it in the distance below me.  In front of me, the vast, blue Atlantic Ocean meets the sky and the hills to the west of me.  But this is nothing compared to what lays at the bottom of the great mountain!  I continue on my journey and finally I round that final bend and heaven reveals itself.  I know this is heaven.  I’ve been here many times before.

I know what heaven looks like in all four seasons.  I know what it looks like in the summer. Clear, blue skies and beautiful sunsets.  Rolling green fields stretching into the back lands as far as the eye can see.  Soft sand blanketing the coastline.  Whales frolicking in the bay.  I know what heaven looks like in the Fall when the leaves change colors and the countryside takes on the appearance of a carefully worked piece of art and the surf roughly rolls ashore after yet another North Atlantic storm.  I know what heaven looks like after the first snowfall blankets the rolling hills and beaches in white and ice starts to fill the bays. I know what heaven looks like in the Spring when the streams overflow with melting snow and become raging rivers and the vast fields change to a deep green again.

I know what heaven looks like when that dreaded day arrives.  The day when I have to return to my apartment and job in the city. I make one last stop at all my favorite places.  Black Brook Beach.  Mary Anne Falls.  Warren Lake.  Broad Cove.  Neil’s Harbor.  Squeaker’s Hole.  Middle Head.  Ingonish Beach.  Than I make my way back over the Great Mountain and descend from Heaven to wait for the next time I am able to return.

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