Saturday, September 19, 2009

Newfoundland Part 2 - Where d'you belong?

All across Newfoundland we've been asked, "S'where you visiting from?" Here, as in Quebec, it's obvious at a glance that we are not from here. So when a man asked me a question that I couldn't decipher, it took a few tries to get beyond the accent and discover he had asked, "Where do you belong?"

It's just another way of saying "where are you from?" but the implications are different. Implied, obviously, is that I don't belong here, and by extension, he does. "Where do you belong" is a good question. I’ve been reading a book called, 'Leaving Newfoundland' that discusses the out-migration that is happening, and that has always happened, here in Newfoundland. The thesis of the book is that settling here has always brought with it the need to go 'Away' in order to make a living.

Ironically, for a population that has been so migratory and readily pulled Away for income, the people are more rooted to this place than anywhere else we’ve been in Canada. The word 'Away' in Newfoundland needs to be capitalized, since the notion of being away has become a place in itself. In Alaska, anywhere outside of Alaska is called, 'Outside.' In Newfoundland, anywhere outside of Newfoundland is 'Away.' Both indicate that there is a place to return, and that there is a home waiting for that return.

We are now in the town of Tilting on Fogo Island. It is a place with Irish roots. VERY Irish roots. I had first thought my eyes were tricking me when I saw the flags flying. The Newfoundland flag (republic of, not official provincial) is vertical stripes of green, white and pink. Here the flags were green, white and orange. Later, I learned this is the flag of Ireland.

Our timing was good since we lucked onto the Tilting Feile. This Feile is a weekend of workshops and celebration that has included bringing over people from Ireland and sending locals to Ireland. They have even set up a local radio station in the Church Hall for 5 days, and are encouraging the locals to come in and sing, read poetry or share stories. I'm sitting in the church hall now. It's warmer than the van, especially as the rain pelts down and the wind comes in off the ocean. It smells better too, as yeasty and chowdery smells float in from the kitchen.

I am listening to the rookie DJ read an email from a Newfoundlander who now resides in Florida. A part of the email reads, of course, “but Tilting will always be my home.”

So I am left asking myself, where do I belong? I belong here in Newfoundland for now. I belong in the van, such as it is. In the long term I believe I belong in Victoria, and definitely with Jack. But I was born in Virginia, grew up in Colorado, moved to Vancouver and then to Vancouver Island. Most of the people I know in Victoria are from somewhere else. I have a dual citizenship which implies my ambivalence about where I belong, and leaves open my choices of where I might live in the future. It even leaves open the idea that someday I might find myself living in Newfoundland.

Martin Foley - dries fish for the winter:

Bonavista Peninsula:

Tilting- sea on all sides:

The only mean Newfoundlander we've met:

Didn't the bears used to do this in Yellowstone?:

No comments:

Post a Comment