Thursday, 15 July 2010

Summertime and Newfoundland

After 2 weeks vacationing out east with my family, I guess I've stayed on vacation to some degree. This is not necessarily a bad thing--I've been enjoying the kids and the summer. But it means that I haven't been keeping up with posts!                                                                                                                                    
I am a person who is drawn to natural places. Places I loved as a child have been destroyed, and I am dismayed when I hear some speak of soccer fields and golf courses as "green spaces" (green in colour maybe, but that's about it!). Places of wild beauty, like Temagami and Clayoquot Sound (and most of Vancouver Island that still hasn't been raped and pillaged) own huge chunks of my heart.
This year my family and I went out east and I met: The Rock.
Newfoundland spoke to me. The land is dominant in a way that took me by surprise the moment we drove off the ferry. I suddenly understood why the Newfoundlanders I have known are the way they are--strong, tough, kind, resilient, non-judgmental, warm and caring. The bleakness of the tuckamore sweeping out to wind-scraped meadows of caribou moss and wildflowers--strong, tough, beautiful and nurturing--shows just how much a land can shape its people. It is a place devoid of material excesses. You won't find a Tim Horton's or McDonald's every few kilometres (except in Cornerbrook or St. John's perhaps). You're more likely to be invited into someone's home for tea. It seems like Newfoundlanders would prefer small villages to towns or cities. Historically this has led to many "resettlement" plans, but the small villages (sometimes less that 100 people, not often more than 600) seem to have a staying power that defies conventional economics.

So often, in my semi-urban existence in southern Ontario, the land becomes something to cross, build upon or manipulate as if it were put there purely for human convenience. From where I sit in my comfy house with A/C and all modern conveniences, it appears to be the people who shape the land.

Don't get me wrong--the ancient white pine forests that once adorned NFLD are long gone, and the fisheries may never recover as the larger fisheries continue to break laws, cross boundaries and fish in completely unsustainable ways. Offshore drilling remains a constant environmental threat.

But there is a resiliency there, perhaps borne of the wind and climate of the place, maybe from as far back as the massive geological collisions and retractions that formed the island, that speaks of a land not easily tamed.

In NFLD, the land still speaks, and it calls to me.