An Epiphany of Creation

P1010134

The Goddess’ Cauldron

Into Sedna’s icy seas

I cast wisps of prayer and blessing for this new year.

From her dark depths

cold crystalline shards of unknown shadows

float to the surface,

intrigued and captivated by the phosphorescent luminous.

All now, swirl and churn, mixed with my morning kiss.

Embraced by its heart and heat

All now, melt and merge.

All now, transformed

into wave and mist, cloud and rain

crashing, soaking, washing

shoreline sands, rocky cliffs, silent forests,

skin and scale and fur and feather.

Time will stand still and breathe anew

into this vow of creative surrender.

(Inspired by this clay plate from Newfoundland artist, Peter Sobal, and spontaneous invocation at the Self as Source Writers’ Retreat, December 7, 2015.)

Newfoundland Vignette 6 – The Great Northern Peninsula

Access to Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, via three nights’ stay at Tuckamore Lodge in Main Brook, gave us the opportunity to visit the old French Shore fishing villages of Conche and Englee, sail into Iceberg Alley off St. Anthony, and head to the island’s northern most tip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of L’Anse aux Meadows, now known to be the first settlement of Europeans on North America.

Given this was billed as a hiking, kayaking and arts tour, we were treated to a hands’ on demonstration of the embroidery used to create Conche’s famous French Shore Tapestry, a 220 foot long linen and wool mural depicting the history of Newfoundland from its earliest times to present.  Designed by French-Newfoundland artist Jean Claude Roy, and meticulously stitched – over 20,000 hours and four years – by a dozen of the village’s women, this colourful labour of love hangs in the local community hall.  After a picnic lunch of cod au gratin, tea and date cake, prepared and served by some of these same women, we strolled through the village, taking in the sites of fishing dories and lighthouse, the iceberg in the cove, sunshine sparkling on blue water, painted clapboard houses. The wind blew cold and I was bundled accordingly, while June’s summer sun brought out short sleeves and flip flops on the locals.

Eager to see more, several of us drove further down the coast into Englee for a viewing of hand hooked rugs.  Again crafted by local women, this was a project, like many along the island’s fishing coasts, that served to resurrect an old island craft, provide revenue from tourism, and instill confidence in communities left bewildered and bereft by the Cod Moratorium of 1992. None were for sale, as this would be a collection travelling throughout the island, and I was inspired to make a purchase at the Grenfell shop in St. Anthony of a small hooked sampler featuring vignettes of my favourite sites, my souvenir.

St. Anthony, touted as the “Iceberg Capital of the World, “ lived up to its reputation with an iceberg in the cove below the lighthouse and then a huge specimen off shore, said to be grounded given it hadn’t moved since first its first sighting.  In the distance several miles out, several more loomed on the hazy horizon, barely hinting at their mass, both above and below sea level.  Again our weather was perfect for picture taking – not too sunny – and the swells a visceral reminder of the sea’s enormous power.

The same day we drove north along the Viking Trail to L’Anse aux Meadows.  I did a rough pen and ink sketch, then painted from memory and impression during my overnight in Deer Lake before flying home.  I was heartened to know I’d captured enough of the location and mood that a friend, who visited years ago, readily recognized the scene.  My reflections on that land and connections made to home came several days later.

VI

Long Time Home

L’Anse aux Meadows, NL and Sherwood Park, AB

July 7, 2015

 Two days travelling then waiting.  Anticipation grows with the wish to be settled back home.  Thankfully all uneventful, as a day later, and for several more, re-routing, premature landings, delays, all in response to bomb threats on my airline.  The world’s madness – is it more than ever, or the consequence of instantaneous connection – hits my consciousness broadside, closer to home.

And what of those ancient mariners and the many days’ and weeks’ and months’ anticipation and sailing across the ocean?  What bold imagination and steel-hearted courage, madness even, drove them from their Nordic homeland to what we now call Iceland, Greenland? And then further south, to be the first of their kind, my kind, to settle on this, my home and native land?

L’Anse aux Meadows, the very tip of Newfoundland’s northern most shore.  One thousand years ago.  We now know centuries before the likes of men we call Cabot, Columbus, Cartier.

When I recall the day I disembarked from the van, set foot on and looked out over that first “from away settlement,” over the bare expanse of naked land and sea and sky – cold and windy and grey and raining – I can hardly imagine, in a thousand years, their first reaction to seeing and setting foot.  Unless I search in my own DNA and evoke that of my father’s, when he first saw, from the ship carrying him across the ocean from Germany, and set foot on the land that he would claim and make home, that day over a mid-century ago.

Newfoundland Vignette 5 – That Remarkable Vista

It wasn’t until I crossed the bog, boarded the excursion boat, took my place in the bow and glided into the fjord’s entrance that I suddenly realized I was looking at the very same vista that took hold of me every time I saw that tourism ad on TV.

Western Brook Pond, still in Gros Morne National Park, a fresh water fjord with 2000 foot rock walls, fed by Stag Brook at the far eastern end and waterfalls along both its sides.  That day, the water like glass, mirroring the emerald green tree-faced cliffs and white cloud formations.  Silently gliding deeper into this magnificence, I was overtaken by the grandeur situated within Newfoundland’s Long Range Mountains, and with learning this was the northern most section of the Appalachians, an ancient mountain range close to my original homeland.

Later, when I tried to paint what I actually saw, I quickly surrendered to a rule of spontaneous expression, gave way to my felt impressions, saved realism for the camera.

V

Wood Brook Pond, Gros Morne

June 22, 2015

 At last.

That long awaited landscape.

The one I first saw on TV.

You know, the one that grabbed my Heart and fired my Imagination.

The one with the cliffs.

“I’d like to go there one day.”

So what fired the Imagination of those ancient mariners?

The ones whose fjords evoke the very one I’m travelling down

right now?

Newfoundland…preambling along

I wrote last time about how my layover in Halifax, en route to a week touring Newfoundland, helped me recognize and claim it as my “heart place” for claiming and crossing thresholds.  Newfoundland, the raison d’etre, my threshold-crossing birthday gift ]to myself, was a remarkable adventure, another one of those realized dreams, the seed of which first planted several years ago as I sat enthralled watching one of several TV commericials from Newfoundland-Labrador Tourism’s campaign Beautiful ads showing rugged coastlines, hikers looking over cliff-faced fjords, the first European settlement in North America, ice bergs, fishing villages with lobster traps, cod stakes, dorries, and the multi-coloured saltbox houses perched on steep rocky landscapes and, too on the urban streets of St. John’s, its capital and North America’s oldest city.  When I last visited Halifax, in the fall of 2012, to attend a movement workshop with one of my Halifax “sisters,” I spoke aloud my wish to visit The Rock one day.

Fast forward to this spring when the Canadian tour company Wild Women Expeditions sent an email announcing one space left in their July departure for their Newfoundland hiking-kayaking-art tour.  Perfect.  I hiked, kayaked once in the ponds outside of Halifax, and love the arts.  Quick negotiations with The Scientist to rejig celebrations for our 35th anniversary, and I was booked.  Then kismet worked on our behalf with space on a mid-June date, even more perfect.

P1000042So with the advice of friends who’ve Perspectives with Panache, 2015visited the island, I flew into St. John’s for a few days, stayed in the historic Rendell-Shea Manor bed and breakfast, to see those iconic “Matchless Paint Company” houses, go to the province’s Craft Council shop and spend a day at The Rooms, the provincial gallery, museum and archives, and where I knew I’d enjoy a delicious meal in their café (a lesson learned travelling in Chicago, Vancouver, and Europe). The weather was perfect, as it poured buckets after I took photos of the houses, walked Duckworth and Water Streets, and headed over to the galleries, passing the Basilica.  I got my delicious lunch – a seafood au gratin with roasted carrots, a smooth chardonnay, and warm sticky toffee pudding and cream for dessert.  And for a bit of star quality, saw Mark Critch, from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, sitting across from me (much smaller in stature and younger than on TV.)  The exhibitions were elegant and evocative: a retrospective of Newfoundland’s renowned Christopher Pratt, and my favourite, “Truth or Myth?,” vignettes from the gallery’s permanent collection, curated in response to questions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ social, cultural and political identity.  I was especially captivated by the corresponding Haiku-like poems by local actor-writer, Andy Jones.

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

From Corner Brook Viewpoint

After a couple of days, I was itching to get on with it, and boarded the provincial DRL bus for the “milk run” day trip across the province to Deer Lake, the tour rendezvous.  Thinking this would be a great way to see the province, I did, even though the landscape was consistent, mile after mile, over ten hours, with spring green leaved trees, sparkling ponds, azure sky and billowy white clouds, interrupted only by the ten or so small town and gas station stops, and the Gander Airport.  I’d been warned that Deer Lake isn’t much to see; fast food and Chinese buffets predominate the Trans Canada and hotels and bed and breakfasts cater to travellers “en route.”  So I arranged with three women on the tour, each of whom was arriving a day early, to share a car rental and drive to Corner Brook for a few hours before meeting the other women and our guides.  (Later, I’d affectionately name us “The Singlets”, in contrast to our companions, “The Quartet” of four close friends, and “The Two Sisters.”)

Perspectives with Panache, 2015

Woody Point, NL with Gros Morne in the background

By mid-Friday afternoon, our group set off, five each in pretty swanky vans driven by our mother-daughter guide-hosts, bound for Unesco World Heritage site, Gros Morne National Park, and the village of Woody Point, where we’d spend the next three days getting to know each other as we hiked, kayaked, visited local art and craft shops and enjoyed fine local food and hospitality.