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David George Andrew Lawley
Born Vanport, Oregon, 9 February1945
Died Margaree, 15 September 2005


There is a pleasure in
the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on
the lonely shore,
There is society, where none
intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music
in its roar:
I love not man the less,
but Nature more.

- From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron



He was one of the foremost interpreters of Nova Scotia's natural environment.

Whether guiding visitors through the province's most picturesque landscape or writing about it, David Lawley's keen eye and love of nature was an inspiration to many who met him during his years as a guide and lecturer with the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

In A Nature and Hiking Guide to Cape Breton's Cabot Trail, he described in loving detail its wildlife and scenery,

"I always enjoy lying down on the coastal headlands," he wrote. "The smell of crowberries and the beauty of the small blue and yellow eyebright flowers is wonderful. We may see the small crowberry blue butter?y or just bask in the sun. Listen to the waves endlessly lapping the shore marking time on the eternal clock."

The guide, and another book on whale watching in the Maritimes written by Lawley, have been among Nimbus Publishing's better selling titles in Maine and the northeastern US, says Neale Sweet, publisher of Down East Books in Camden, Me.

A friend described how a professor in a US university was so inspired by Lawley's writings that he used his books in the classroom, and would annually take his students to Cape Breton to see its beauty for themselves.

Lawley taught a course on whale identification for Cape Breton University and lectured in schools. His lectures in the park were so popular that even staff who had heard them before would go back to enjoy them again.

A co-founder of Shunpiking, Lawley wrote articles about whale-watching, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing in the highlands.


In a 1998 article, he excitedly told about discovering The Tuonela Trail, which he describes as a "shunpiker's dream come true" hidden on the largest hillsides at St. Anne's Harbour.

"Looking high up through the tops of the evergreen hemlock forest you may hear the great horned owls calling for their mates. The crisp magic of winter in Cape Breton will fill your little ski shoes with more of yourself than ever before. Just you and the wilderness, and the merger of you becoming one with or part of winter, here in northern Cape Breton."

After serving as a sailor in Vietnam with the US navy, he first went to British Columbia and eventually settled in Cape Breton.

Mark Daye of Halifax, a friend for many years, says Lawley "mastered what it is to be human.

"He did his job in Vietnam and then decided to give. Because he knew, understood, that material things had no value."

He remembers Lawley calling him almost daily as he was cutting trails in the highlands, reporting that each day a moose stood watching him work. He said he wanted to cut the path around the moose so that people could see the animal. He was told that the moose would not stay around once the public started using the trail.

But months later, Mark and friends climbed the trail, and sure enough, the moose was still there.

After his death, his family and friends took his ashes to a point in the park at La Block, his favourite spot, waded into the choppy waters and scattered them. They had intended to go out by canoe, but it was too rough.

"Thanks for joining me," he wrote in closing his Cape Breton hiking guide. "and remember, of all the things that visitors take away from Cape Breton, the magic found in the highlands, the people, and the forest remains. We all feel the magic but we can only breathe it in our lungs, then give it back. It remains for all of nature to share."

Source: The Daily News, 2 October 2005, http://www.hfxnews.ca/index.cfm?sid=1758&sc=5

Soosaarjo@ns.sympatico.ca


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