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Friday, 7 March 2014

Ridiculous and sublime

Due to technical difficulties today I had to suspend the story of my grandfather and post another story I've written.

If you're a Newfoundlander, you've lived with the reality of the environment, the rocky soil, the outcrop or erratics deposited by melting glaciers. If you're a visitor, you too have seen the rugged coastline, thrust upward by the moving mantle eons ago, with the thin layer of soil which has managed to cling to the windswept landscape.

Our ancestors toiled long and hard to establish soil rich enough to grow vegetables in most parts of the island. I watched my grandfather use seaweed and manure to bolster the thin soil in Maddox Cove. Dig a shovel into the soil and you quickly dig your way to rocks of all shapes and sizes, small enough to extract if you're lucky. Large boulders or bedrock could also be the find however. Not so easy to manipulate!  The beaches of my youth weren't sandy but covered with sea-sculpted beach rocks of various sizes. We live on 'The Rock' for sure. 

Port aux Basques epitomizes 'The Rock' to me. Approaching the town by car or ferry you see the outcrop covered with thin soil. The road to the ferry is blasted through an impressive wall of rock. It's rugged but so beautiful in its way!

You could call Newfoundland ridiculous for rock. 

We lived on 'The Rock' for over fifty-five years. We are from a people who forged a community and a livelihood on this rock, the rock which played a huge part in our formation as a people. Surviving in that craggy, rock strewn environment created a self reliant, practical people. (The weather is another issue entirely.) The starkly beautiful environment is our ancestral home; the roots are deep though the soil is thin. They are wrapped around the rock for anchor. It is an incredible place to live and raise a family.

Then in 2010 we moved to Prince Edward Island. It was difficult to leave Newfoundland. It's as if a part of me is still attached by the root around that rock. However, this move was the best thing we could have done. To live near our family finally is a gift we give ourselves every day.

The year after we moved here, Rick and I, 'old school' as we are, wanted a clothes line in our back yard. We proceeded to dig the hole for the pole and were shocked after a lifetime of rocks, not to find one. We could dig forever it seemed and not a rock was to be found. (So that's how they grow all those potatoes!) After we filled in the hole again, we couldn't find any small rocks to place by the side of the pole to stabilize it and discourage the dog from digging there. There wasn't a rock to be found in the neighborhood and four years later, there still isn't. Some people actually buy rocks!

A trip to many beaches here is an experience of miles of red sand. The shoreline in many places may look like layers of sandstone but isn't compressed enough to be rock. Drop a piece of this 'rock' and it crumbles to sand.

Prince Edward Island is sublime for its lack of rock.

However, like many things in life, rock or the lack of it each has its place. After all, while a rock-free vegetable patch is ideal, it's important to have a good rock when you need it!

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