Newfoundland folk music at its best: Jim Paine and Fergus O'Byrne singing of sea, land and love, playing a plethora of instruments. Another serendipitious event on my trip: hearing the soulful sailor song on the radio, I detoured my car to this local show at Woody Point. A highlight of my NL visit!
Codroy Estuary Nature Reserve
Ducks Unlimited - The River
23.8.2016 Port Aux Bosque, 7:45 pm, in a gazebo, center of town
It rained cats and dogs on my last night on the island.
I am now drying the tent and tarps on the rope I stretched between the gazebo rafters. The sun is setting. The ferry leaves in 4 hours exactly. I hope the two hours will suffice to dry everything in that wind, that no cops will come. I sit in the car with the lights turned off, eating rice from the Chinese restaurant in Corner Brook.
It downpoured in the morning (“they” call it showers). I pushed the wet tent and tarps into the black garbage bags and prayed for the best… Bye bye beloved KOA and onwards south to the expected shining sun in Nova Scotia.
I will miss that island, a lot. Driving was an ordeal in the rain with the usual Newfoundland ups and downs and with trucks passing me on the downhills….
I started my drive as early as possible, even though it should not have taken more than 6 hours to get to the port in a straight go. I prefer to have a wide margin of error and stop at different stations on the way. At Deer Lake I got gasoline and changed money. Somehow I also found my way into a drug store carrying very tempting cosmetics. Losing control, I spent US$82 on facial and body scrubs, lavender creams, hair cream and perfume.
By now I was already on the Trans Canadian Highway, or route 1. At Corner Brook I had another stop, this time for brunch. Wow, it’s a “city”, there are parking meters… Get back to the loonies and toonies…
New Garden Chinese restaurant was a nice, cozy place, nothing special though. I got a vegetable dish with rice, had some packed to go, and headed right along.
To my question, the lady at the KOA recommended a riparian park – Codroy Estuary Nature Reserve, off the main road . On the way there, I pulled off at the local “Joe’s” for a home-baked cookie. Atmosphere was rural, comfortable and non-rushed. After some tribulations I found the nature reserve interpretation center. A sweet, shy teenager was about to lock the place, but tried to be as helpful as he could. There was no problem for me to walk the territory, but they would be closed when I got back.
Can We Really Play Gods in Nature?
Even here in Newfoundland, Nature is confined into reserves…
Reading the history of the introduction of the moose, I now understood how this pristine island was colonized. First the coasts, mostly accessible through the sea. Then a railway was constructed with the idea “to conquer the interior”. Naturally, settlements were built along the railway. Next, a foreign species was introduced to encourage “sport hunting”. Big Nature receded. Everything at our mercy.
This is a difficult issue. I work at my garden. Here I am God. I decide which plants will survive, which plants will die. I buy them at a store, then pamper them at the expense of the wild plants endevoring to grow there. We all do this all the time.
In Israel there isn’t even a way of knowing what the “original” flora was. Human intervention had been ongoing and pervasive over the millenia, both deliberate and unawares. But Newfoundland? For sure, a few thousand Mi’kmaq must have had some initial impact on the land, but doubtedly as much as the later colonizers.
I read: “The Mi’kmaq do not view themselves as the masters of nature, but rather a component of and coexistent with the natural environment for the continuation of the community and natural environment for future generations.” (Parks Canada – Newfoundland Mi’kmaq ATP Protocol).
By now we, humans, are so overwhelming, that even in “corners” like this you are constantly reminded that everything you see and love is under peril:
I loved that: “Ducks unlimited”.
Of all things on the Republicans’ agenda, the one I fear the most is their insensitive attack on what is left of Nature, in the name of luxury hotels, ugly golf courses, oil fields, “Hunting Unlimited” and soft toilet paper.
It took that long for “civilized” humanity to start “conserving”, protecting and “saving” the other Beings on our shared planet. We all carry the fear of The Wild in our genes, we also admire virility and the ability to tame Nature to our needs. To deny that completely would be hypocritical. We all enjoy the “fruits” of humanity’s slow “conquest” of Nature: agriculture, captive animals, landscapes turned into cities, mountains dug out for minerals, etc. But, a line must be drawn.
The ruthless exploitation of Earth and Sea for unnecessary objects and wealth accumulation is not only criminal, the way I understand crime, but also counterproductive. The East Mediterranean is almost depleted of fishery; other life forms are also retreating and quietly disappearing. The Dead Sea is dying, silently, slowly, voicelessly. People like me escape all the way to places like Newfoundland, only to discover that here, as well, the monster is on the loose and had been for quite a while. What are we gaining?
I also learned from my garden that so-called Nature is all-powerful. It will come back “with a vengeance”, or just come back, period, because it simply is bigger than us, more sophisticated than us, and ubiquitous. Perhaps we’ll even “succeed” to kill all multicellular life on Earh. There’s still no way to stop the built-in reproductive imperative of prokaryotic and eukaryotic unicellulars planet-wide. Many have adaptations and versatility that go beyond our ability to destruct, and if Life will have to restart again from the same hydrothermal vents, so be it. A small consolation, though.
Again, those trees with no soil underneath, holding on to whatever is and thus actually helping create whatever is and will be.
And the ferns and the berries…I so love the little life underneath the canopies.
Some leaves have already started changing colors…
Looking at the heart of a fern, a reminder of ancient times, when we haven’t been around, nor trees as we now know them.
There’s the joy of new arrivals and the sadness of those who are now barren and old. It’s Life as a total entity, non-divisible and unstoppable.
This is the view from the ecological station. Beauty unlimited.
It was nice to read among the doom and the gloom: human agriculture was actually beneficial to the ecosystem in this case, with ups and downs. Similarly, in the Arava, the Kibbutzim with their extensive agriculture, planted trees, even the cowsheds, create a rich ecology around human-made oases. Key is the phrase: “responsible farming and gardening practice”. Clearly it is hard to know what “responsible” is, but being sensitive and giving some credit to science help.
Waves Unlimited - The Ocean
All this pastoral tranquility did not prepare me for what I found on the right side of the highway. The grand Atlantic was beating on the black beach rocks with all its might. Above – ravens, seagulls holding their small warm bodies with amazing stamina against the wind – confronting the sea, confronting eternity…
I pulled to the side, crossed over the metal rail, found a dirt road leading down to the waterfront.
This is me, overly equipped for the little walk with the camera, walking stick (just in case, of course) and the bag.
So here I finally was at the gazebo (see pic above), Port Aux Basques, drying my tent, “killing time” until boarding. Some people looked a bit askance, but no police car stopped to inquire, and nobody asked anything. The tent and tarps were almost dry by the time I gathered them back into the black bags and headed to the port.
Has it really been only 5 days since I came to Newfoundland? Seems impossible! I’ve seen and experienced so much! My heart has already bonded here, leaving its small trace of love on this landscape and its people. Certainly a place to return to, if life allows…
But coming back to Cape Breton was not such a bad deal either…
I keep walking in beauty.
Addendum - The Spirit of the Mi'kmaq
April 26th , 2017, Jerusalem
Following the writing of this chapter about Newfoundland, I found myself spending a whole day, here in Jerusalem, learning about the Mi’kmaq. Fascinated by a people, 10,000-20,000 in number according to estimates, who lived in a territory that spanned Maine, Cape Breton, NB, PEI, Magdalen islands, parts of Quebec, the Gaspe peninsula, and the southern part of NL. That was pretty much the same general territory I covered on this trip, or, in geographical terms, the eco-region defined by the estuary and Gulf of the mighty St. Lawrence.
According to Father Biard (ca. 1611), in January the Mi’kmaq hunted for seals on the coasts and off-shore islands; from February to mid -March they hunted moose, caribou, beaver and bear inland; in the last half of March, they would move out to the coasts and estuaries to catch smelt; by the end of April they had herring. Spring brought migratory sea birds and salmon. From May to middle September they would fish and gather shellfish. Then they moved to the tributaries of the larger rivers to take eel, and in October and November groups would go inland to hunt moose, caribou and beaver. In December, young cod was captured under the ice.
“It is likely that the Mi’kmaq did not make a distinction, as Europeans did, between what was natural and what was supernatural or spiritual. On the contrary, not only people, but animals, the sun, rivers, or even rocks, could have a spirit – could be a person. The sun had special significance, but the Mi’kmaq believed that all the universe was filled with a spirit called mntu or Manitou.“ Personally, I connect to the Mi’kmaq view of the world, and expand it further to include the unicellular and molecular worlds, based on how I understand science.
What a life, what a people… and, of course, it is not just the Mi’kmaq, but so many of the so- called Amerindians, “First Nations”, or “Native American” tribes, whatever the term used to describe them. The Navahos in New Mexico believe their dances keep humanity from self-destruction. Indeed, it might be imperative to our “longevity” on the planet that we re-connect with that spirit, re-find that spiritual core buried underneath layers of civilization and mechanization.
Moving back and forth between NL and Cape Breton is precisely what the Mi’kmaq used to do. I’m following their footsteps straight to Nova Scotia…