Tuesday, June 4, 2013

May 8th, 2013 Community Connections from The Pilot.

Because so many people are from away and not all of my columns get on the website I've decided to place them here on the blog once the ten days is up and I retain ownership of them again.  I will be leaving out the events schedule and birthday greetings at the bottom however and please remember these are the unedited version and not exactly as they would be in the paper.



Weather Connections
And so it begins.  Spring has finally sprung.  I took photos of dandelions and called them flowers then saw purple and white crocuses and knew it was real.  The days are longer and warmer and the sun spends just a bit more time warming our faces and making us smile.  While some are running off to warmer climates in Florida and Cuba I’m still quite content to sit in my sweater on the steps and enjoy this first Newfoundland spring in 25 years.  I’ve no desire for sand when sun rays crown thy pine clad hills.  

Home Connections

I walked upon the hill where I spent so many hours as a young girl.  My two little girls were with me and listened while to talked to them about Gooseberry Island and the little space just beyond our sheltered cove where I would paddle a punt.  Echoing in my ears was the refrain of Me and my friend Madeline Powell getting our rowing stroke synchronised by singing the song United we Stand as we pulled on those paddles lifting the little vessel and pulling her along.  Usually then we would just drop anchor and lay on the thwarts.   Our goal was to soak up some sun.  We would drift there chatting in the heated salt air.  Our dreams were whispered into the summer day and lifted into the cloudless skies of a Change Islands August afternoon.  I don’t remember what we dreamt of or if those specific dreams came true but standing in that place looking out over the familiar waters I know that there was  no better place to dream them.
I was home.  Change Islands had beckoned me for months but weather and responsibilities had kept me until I could take it no more.  I had gone, I said, to check into the oil soaked birds and see the clean up equipment.  But that’s not why I go.  Change Islands is where I learned to breathe and it is where I go to catch my breath. 
Where I stood seemed ordinary but somewhere close by in that garden two or three Beothuk Indians are known to be buried, a connection to both shame and tragedy of our great province.  Left behind are  The ruins of the Scammell’s house that was torn down after I left.  That house was the home to a for MP in the Squires Government, JH Scammell.   The garden is  where good men and women lived and raised families from the time the first settler, Lawford’s days and where he had three daughters, the ancestors of all of the Scammells and Parsons who lived there for several generations and whose descendents will return this year in August to gather and celebrate, reuniting in our common history, in our beautiful garden.
And at that point, I had only just gone upon one hill.
Now the pony refuge takes up part of the land, a noble purpose.  We visited the sweet animals who were immensely curious about our little cockapoo.  Sneakers wasn’t quite so enthralled.  Perhaps it was a bit intimidating to a twenty five pound dog to have 5 large ponies stick their muzzles in your face to try to figure out what breed of tiny horse you are.  I can only imagine the thoughts of both canine and equine.
And from there I am also afforded a distant view of Bacallhao Island, where the Manola L went aground and sunk and is now being investigated.  I was struck by how close the oil slicks are to the squid jigging grounds made famous by Arthur Scammell.  I hope our government protects the wildlife and the pristine shoreline that I love so dearly. 
I might be a bit of an understatement to say, “It was good to be home again.”
And I returned with my bike so now you’ll see me all over Lewisporte panting for breath trying to get back in shape for the summer.  Remember when you were a kid and bike riding was easy?  I think I scuffed the skin of my knees on a daily basis and got right back on.  The hilly gravel roads of Change Islands made for a challenging bike trail and nobody had gears to change, just standard bikes and we could go everywhere.  Just clip that clothes pin on your pant leg so you wouldn’t get caught in the chain and off for a jaunt with your friends.
 
Rural Connections
A few weeks ago I applied to attend a conference in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island.  My reason for applying own personal interest in any and all things that will benefit the communities of Notre Dame Bay and particularly the community I grew up in, Change Islands.  Upon arriving here my husband and I made a commitment to becoming a part of, and contributing to, the area in some way.  We both love our home and wish to see it become all that it can be.  I have however felt a lack of direction.   When I saw the advertisement for the conference with its theme “Rural redefined” I decided that would be the place to start.
So on October third I will be heading out to spend a few days with people of varying backgrounds who have one goal, to revitalise and redefine their rural areas.  Keynote Speakers include Fogo’s Zita Cobb and Trinity’s Diane Butt.
This conference is available to anyone and I invite you to consider being a part of it.  The website is thegeorgetownconference.ca.

Literary Connections
My mother in law visited and left behind a copy of Gary Collin’s book from a few years back Soulis Joe’s Lost  Mine.  Connecting immediately to the story (my paternal Grandmother lived in Benton)  I finished it on Change Islands and thought I would take the opportunity to write about it here.
All that sparkles is not gold but everything still sparkles in Soulis Joe’s Lost Mine.   Navigating both non-fiction and fiction, the book takes us into the interior of the province where generations of Newfoundlanders have made their living prospecting for minerals in this resource rich province.  The Keats family had been part of this tradition for six generations.
Research for the book was unorthodox.  Mr. Collins offered himself up for hire to Allan Keats to spend a summer working with him.  Traipsing through mosquito-ridden woods looking for signs of something important, yet not quite identified, was part of the employment.  Learning about what makes these men so good at their work, was the other part. 
And interwoven through the journal of the time spent with the current day prospectors is the fictional account of Soulis Joe, the ancestor who started the endeavor and whose legend is wonderfully captured by Mr. Collins.
Soulis Joe, a Nova Scotian, is an indentured Mi’kmaq servant left behind by his parents who flee Nova Scotia to Newfoundland for the sake of survival.  In vivid detail we are taken through the journey this young man makes across the water to the home that he has craved since their abandonment.  We are taken to the time of the slave trade and the stench of the “Blackbird.” This slaving ship that can’t be cleaned from the smell of its human bounty though she’s empty,  is part of the backdrop for the beginning of his travels.  It follows his encounter with a chained man in her belly, his subsequent escape and travels through his new province where he finally is free. 
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting
It’s luring me as of old
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.

That section of Robert Service poem, Spell of the Yukon, pretty much describes the motivation behind the quest for the minerals that drives the great grandson of Soulis Joe and every descendent thereafter who inherited the desire to search, to find, but not so much to obtain. 
So enthralling is the legend of Soulis Joe it could have stood alone as a book but perhaps that would have detracted from its true meaning.  Balancing it with the actual work of today’s prospectors and the changes over time, Collins brings us to the end where Soulis Joe’s lost treasure is actually revealed in a poignant and pleasurable way.  But you read this book for the same reason its namesake walked the land, to move, feel its peace, to enjoy its wonder, to pick up a few treasures along the way, but not necessarily for the nugget at the end.

Poetry Connections
Mother’s Day is coming up and I would like to wish my mother a very happy Mother’s Day from all of us.  A couple of years ago I had a book of poetry published.  Included in the collection was a very personal piece that I wrote when my youngest daughter went off to school.  I leapt upon that time to do all of the things that I hadn’t been able to do over the nearly 20 years that I had been a mom and focused almost entirely on that role.  Of course I was still a mom, but I had some freedom now that I hadn’t had before and I found myself trying to figure out where “I” fit again.  I would like to share this with all the moms out there who give so much to their families but who are also valuable far above and beyond measure in other ways just by being themselves.  Happy Mother’s Day.
Herself

She slipped into the silver gown
the one she wore each day
its silver threads and fabric
had begun to rend and fray

She checked the seams that held her in
and saw they'd ripped and torn
she knew the dress was useless now
the one she'd always worn

She slipped it off, discarded it
on the floor threadbare and worn
the remnants of her facade
ill-fitted, old and torn

There was no gown to mask her now
she stood in barest skin
and realised she felt herself
comfortable within

Authentic now she knew her skin
needed no silver gown
the Goddess that she knew she was
didn't even need a crown

this is the one I am she said
honest true and free
and she slipped into herself one day
and let herself just be