August 7, 2008

Way far away, with whales watching

Still too windy for the Regatta today, though I think most of the province suspects (as I do) that a Friday Regatta would be an incredible thing and didn't really hope for a clear Thursday. We spent near all of today at Cape Spear, the easternmost point on the entire continent of North America, and one of my favourite places on earth, though when I am on Newfoundland I somehow find myself saying that over and over again.


When you are in Cape Spear, Ireland closer than a host of other Canadian cities (not to imply that Cape Spear is a city, far from it. Now that the Lighthouse is automated, I think the population is zero.


The sock. As far east as you can go on the continent without fear of a rogue wave taking you into the sea.

Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary... hell, Vancouver is 5078 km away, but the green coast of Ireland is only 3000 km away over the fact, Cape Spear is closer to Greenland than to my home in Toronto 2112 km away.


This proximity to Ireland explains much of the place, especially the geography and - were you here to listen, the accent of the people. It's a remarkable thing.

Newfoundland is hard edges and blowing wind and grey skies and a big fierceness that is moving to the core of you. Everything here is large and striving and it can kill you if you are a stupid city girl for even a moment, and it's heartbreakingly, achingly beautiful.

Here, my Newfoundlander husband tries clearly to kill our children.. or at least that's how it seemed to me while every internal organ I had cramped up... but I don't even like them to stand too close to the edge of the subway platforms, never mind the cliffs of doom.


Joe's right to let them do these things. Wild hikes, leaning over cliffs, searching for whales....


... even finding whales... a whole pod right off the cape, blowing and breaching in the intermittent sun. While I trail behind, trying hard to let them have an afternoon like his whole childhood, and trying to figure out how he lived.

Cape Spear is still an operating lighthouse, a newer automated tower sitting to the left of the old one,


but the original lighthouse is still there, restored to the way that it was when the only people who lived on Cape Spear were the lighthouse keeper and his family, and they lived in this building together, keeping a light on for ships aiming for St. John's harbour. My friends... it is, like all of Newfoundland... a very knitty place.

There are sweaters draped over chairs and in chests, hanging by hooks near wool pants with garter stitch suspenders.




mittens drying by windows,


socks in the lighthouse keepers boots,


There were knitting needles spied in baskets in the lighthouse sitting room...


big baskets of roving and cards by the window.


Even what Joe thought might be okum, roving of wool - not the typical cotton you would find elsewhere... you can't grow cotton in Newfoundland, waiting to be soaked with wax or tar to chink holes in buildings and ships.


There was even the famous Cape Spear Coverlet, which I have long dreamed of seeing.

There it lay

in all it's glory, and it was worth every minute.


It must have been knit on needles no larger than 2.5mm - maybe 3mm if you wanted to be generous, out of cotton thread that must have been really dear at the time. The dude there to answer questions said that each little shell would have taken at least 45 minutes, and I think he's about right. I don't feel like guessing how many of them are there. It's a testament to the length of the Newfoundland winters... right there.

There's another...


and there's something that makes teens laugh if you take them there.


Sperm WHALE. For the record. (It was used to fuel the light. Git yer minds out of the gutter.)

It was another grand and glorious day, and we loved the whole thing and wish you were here to see it. (More or less. I wouldn't cook for the lot of yee.)


Tomorrow, all of Newfoundland agrees, has to be Regatta day, and since Quidi Vidi Lake is in the backyard, we're sure to have a grand day. Truly.

(PS. Seriously. My hair in that first shot? The smallest it's been in days. Scared straight.)

(PPS: I forgot to tell you. Through a twist of fate that involved rain (there's a shock) I ended up at the Avalon Mall yesterday and wandered into a Coles. They had a bunch of my books so I signed the lot of them. If you were hoping for a signed copy and you live on the rock... there you go.)

Posted by Stephanie at August 7, 2008 11:10 PM