Some things last

Over the last two weeks in Newfoundland, I’ve seen moose, caribou, hares, shooting stars, an iceberg and an old man’s white rump.

What these have in common is their fleeting nature, the idea that I saw them once, briefly, never to be seen again, perhaps by anyone – although given the tendency by some not to lock their shower stalls, I make no guarantee for white-man rump.

This is what draws tourists to Newfoundland, this notion that you can see something you’ve never seen before. Icebergs, for example. We caught what was reportedly the last one of the season, a chunk of ice that by now may be gone. We chased up a hill to get a better look. A piece of ice in the ocean was a highlight of our trip. That’s how it goes with things like icebergs.

We came upon a moose and her calf by the side of the road, stopped and took pictures, even though moose are everywhere in Newfoundland; they were introduced to the island around the turn of the last century, and they have done, as they say, very well. But for us mainlanders, they’re a rarity. And the pair we saw, perhaps no human will see them again.

This is Newfoundland. Geologically, socially, you get the sense that we are living the smallest of moments in time. We’re a blink, like the meteor showers of August, and then history washes us away.

But don’t be depressed; some things last.

We travelled up to L’Anse aux Meadows, at the tip of the Northern Peninsula, site of the only known Viking settlement in North America. It was more of a truck stop than a settlement, and the Vikings only stayed for a decade around the year 1000 before packing it all up and abandoning the joint. A millennium later, all that remains are the humped outlines of their buildings and a few remnants.

A decade is about the amount of time I’ve been at my current job. What will remain of me after I’m gone, besides the box of barely touched business cards that I was issued when I started out and still can’t figure out who would want one?

The Vikings, the Beothuk, the French and English settlers, the outports that the government strong-armed the people into abandoning in the Forties, the death of the cod fishery, the out-migration for mainland jobs – Newfoundland is a history of people come and gone. Far from being beaten down by this, Newfoundlanders seem to feel that you’re a short time here, so you’d best make the most of it.

Newfoundlanders are famous for their friendliness, and I have no evidence to dispute that claim. But there’s more going on here than that. I’ve experienced friendliness often, but as a cynic, I’ve read motives behind that friendliness. Americans are friendly, but they want your money. Nova Scotians? It’s a busybody friendliness. Quebecers? A bit condescending. I heard an Ontario man call his waitress “sweetie,” and my skin nearly crawled out the door.

By contrast, all the ladies in Newfoundland call you “my dear,” and it’s not a tourism industry-mandated policy. It feels sincere.

There’s not just a friendliness to Newfoundlanders; there’s a kindness. I can’t be cynical here.

At Twillingate, we spent the evening enjoying a concert by The Split Peas, a group or retired or soon-to-be retired women who sing traditional songs in Touton House, home of the local Orange Lodge. The group started up over 20 years ago to raise money for the hall, which had fallen into disrepair. Now, two nights a week all summer, every summer, these amateur musicians charm the tourists like pros. No, not pros: hosts.

(Touton, by the way, is a type of fried dough, which the women served at break. “If my mother knew we were charging five dollars for fried dough,” one of the singers said, “she’d be rolling in her grave.”)

So why kindness? Because things come and go – cultures, towns, people, tourists with questionable bathroom skills – but something always remains. Feelings remain, so why not let those feelings be ones of kindness and hospitality? Why not send people on their way with not just souvenirs and selfies but a sense of goodness and a belief that everyone is deserving of a little friendliness.

That’s a pretty good way to live, my dear.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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34 Responses to Some things last

  1. Paul says:

    Eloquent Ross.

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Newfoundland, and after reading this post, I want to go even more. Sounds like the people are as spectacular as the scenery.

    “Feelings remain, so why not let those feelings be ones of kindness and hospitality?”—Love that. Why not, indeed.

  3. I’d very much enjoy seeing a moose and eating Tauton purchased from kind merchants. Sounds like a lovely vacation.

  4. franhunne4u says:

    I miss your cynical self …

  5. Melanie Cutting says:

    Ross, m’luv, as a frequent visitor to NL, home of my older son and his family, I just need to say, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head with your Newfoundland journal over the last three weeks. As I am wont to do, though, I’ll mention a couple of teensy corrections, before someone else does:
    L’Anse aux Meadows and toutons – you do the rest.
    Looking forward to chatting further with you and Deb about your trip!

  6. pinklightsabre says:

    How about being a dick again?

  7. I love Newfoundland and I love this piece. Thanks. You can be cynical next week. 🙂

  8. ksbeth says:

    beautiful in many ways, ross. even the white man’s butt experience. he may have just been mooning you, as a sort of local friendly greeting. i love the genuine kindness the best. and the ice berg.

  9. Were you in a remote place for the Perseid meteor shower? So lucky. I saw one or two but the light pollution ruined everything.

    Fried dough in NYC = zeppole, or, zeps. Toss in a paper bag with some powdered sugar and shake.

    What’s the story with the bottom pic? What’s that in the lower left corner, please? Nice travelogue, pal. You and the Adventures of Pink in Germany. They make me want to wander.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The bottom photo is the former fjords of Western Brook Pond. Absolutely stunning. The bit of pink in the poorly cropped photo is the keel of the boat. We’re standing at the bow in the wind.
      I’ve been offline for much of two weeks and need to catch up on everyone’s business.
      Fried dough, I believe, is universal.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      As for the Perseids, yes, we were in a wide open field the first night. There weren’t a lot when we were up but the sky itself was mesmerizing.

  10. Trent Lewin says:

    Beautifully said, sir – I think the friendliness/kindness thing is a very well made point about our eastern neighbors. I love the Nova Scotians of the world too, though; hell, I love everyone. Even moose.

  11. Liz says:

    Beautiful. And as someone commented above, where’s the cynicism! Perhaps Newfoundland made you a little kinder too ;). But seriously, this is great.

  12. markbialczak says:

    Genuinely heartfelt, Ross. Thanks for sharing your wonder at the place and the people. 🙂

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