Tuesday, 6 February 2007

tied to the land, salt in the blood

beachrock, originally uploaded by _Merlyn.

When I was ten my family moved from Scotland to Canada ( again). I left my strange life in the suburbs of Glasgow to discover the world of the back of beyond.

St. Anthony. The largest town on the most northern part of the Island of Newfoundland, you know... near where the Vikings landed. There's not much up there folks. When we arrived the road out of town, down the Northern Peninsula was not paved all the way, there was a post office, a co-op, a hardware / general store a small stadium, a gas station three schools ( elementary, Junior high and high school), a fish plant and the Hospital.

It was the hospital that brought us there.

Six months of winter, cool summers and short seasons in between . The local people were not happy about outsiders and in my life I have never felt less welcome in a place ever. I had my finger broken by a guy named Eddie Patey because I spoke with an accent. ( A Scottish accent) 'You talk funny and I 'ates you!" he said.

Now anyone who knows anything about Newfoundland will know that throwing stones about accents is pretty hypocritical.

My brother and sister and I didn't have many friends growing up, outsiders all the way. Nothing like being different and told that pretty much every day of your life to put you in your place. I was glad to escape.

The strange thing about this is that Newfoundland is home. Not St. Anthony, but rather St. John's. The town that taught me anything was possible. It is beyond magical. With amazing people, amazing everything!

The Island in general is nestled in my heart and when I left it the last time after visiting my mum who also now no longer lives there now, I cried for a long time, much to the dismay of my then fiancé.

So while I have some unpleasant memories about my childhood in St. A. I don't have unpleasant memories of the land.

The land...

what can one say about a place so hard and unforgiving it shapes you to its will not the other way around? How can I begin to describe the scent of tuckamoor on the warm south wind in what passed for summer? Or the peppery smell of ice when there was a berg grounded off the Point?

The look of the sky just before the weather turned and a blow came in to sock us all in our homes for days on end. Wind so fierce it howled through the woods in the back yard like a lion and ripped the screen door off in its wake.

How to describe the unbelievable splendour of the Northern lights? Or the brilliance of the milky way, which you can see because there is next to no light pollution?

My father was a man who loved the land, so we as kids learned how to camp, how to make fires and cook on primus stoves. In the winter I along with my brother and sister got to help out building an igloo in our back yard after a three day blizzard because the snow packed just right.

We went tobogganing in the moonlight, ski-dooing for hours. Walking over hills, berry picking, beach combing, ice pan jumping, fishing, and pretty much everything in between.

I may not have had the greatest relationship with the people of this small town but boy I loved the land. I still do, sometimes I find myself yearning for it in a way that is painful, like an old wound reopened, like a lost love's ache.

The last time I was there I took a lot of pictures, mostly it turns out of beach stones. Newfoundland isn't know for its sandy beaches though it does have them. Still who needs sand?

This picture was taken at Middle Cove. One of my favourite places to be. It was a cold grey day, and it was perfect.

The text was added as part of an art project, a 'book' of memories.

I have slept with a small rock in my hand, something about the cold hardness grounds me when I am at my most flighty. As an air and water element stone, earth, is my focal point. When I need to come down from the electrified stratosphere I touch the earth, I hold a rock. I remember not where I was born but where I was shaped.

Growing up in St. Anthony made me strong. The people I went to school with taught me about cruelty and unkindness, some of my teachers taught me about humiliation so that I might know how it feels to be on the wrong side of popular. The land taught me that I am small, insignificant in the scope of the universe and that in the end nature usually does what it wants.

As I look back I see these lessons not as poor sad me tales of how life was hard but as guide lines for how to become a better person. How to know what it feels like to be singled out for being different, we are all different. Embrace that don't fear it. I learned how it feels like to run around free as a bird with no worries at all, that wood smoke and water in the middle of a dense forest makes tea taste so good you'd never want to drink anything else.

Now I live, once again in a small town, I look out and see ruggedness, but this is a comfort not a sorrow. The house is decorated with stones here and there. Most of them from Newfoundland, because I need a piece of the rock to ground me.

I sleep with a beach rock clenched in my hand... so that I might dream of a place that I called home...

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