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.
So with the advice of friends who’ve visited 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.
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.”)
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.