Resettlement: Fractured yet Whole

“Oh, poor old Red Island,” dad would intone in a voice heavy with regret. He’s been gone almost thirty-five years but I can see him now, hunched forward in the old wooden rocking chair, the same one his mother and grandmother used, but in a place and time far removed. His head, downturned, face cupped in his frail hands and his shoulders slumped. There was no mistaking the grief, the heartache, the loss felt for a time that was but would never return.

And my mother’s quiet demeanour; she, too, seated, knitting probably, in a rocking chair but of a much more recent vintage. Try as I might, I cannot recall reading the same grief from her. But, yet, who knows? It’s also been such a very a long time–almost thirty years now–since I was able to share those by now precious and rare moments of her quiet wisdom.

They were so different in so many ways. He, though well-travelled, was born in that small remote place he longed to return to. He’d left home at an early age to attend St. Bon’s in far-away St. John’s and then attended the Normal School in that same city. Following that he’d taught school in Mount Carmel and Lawn for a while. In the mid thirties he’d spent five years in Boston to a) work in a Western Electric radio factory or b) support his sibling’s education by assisting his dad with some rum running. Believe whichever version you want. Once the family was squared away he returned and resumed his career in Corner Brook. Following the construction of the Argentia Naval base, however, forces–the church in particular–conspired to bring him home to reestablish some sense and order in his by-then chaotic hometown. There he settled until, for whatever reason, in 1958, by then in his mid fifties the desire to start a family took over.

She, too, had quite a story. Born in Cork, she’d been raised in Dublin and had lived her life there. Like him, she had also traveled extensively, but never once wavered in her desire to remain at home. …Until that personals ad in the Winnipeg Free Press–a story I’ll save for another time–changed all of it. Long story short, at the age of thirty five the erudite city-dweller married a bayman nineteen years her senior and left the rich culture of Dublin for what must have been the alien landscape of remote, rural Canada.

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They had a daughter, and then a son.

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Then came resettlement. I would have been in kindergarten but there was none of that in Red Island. As such I was too young to understand at all what was happening. Still, there are memories, whether they are real or have been constructed after the fact I do not know. I know them well though; fragments, joined into some sort of a rag-tag whole. Talk of moving. Angry voices of the men and women who lived there. Word of a place called Southern Harbour. Boxes everywhere. Our tom cat, Malcom, in a one of them with a net on the top. The Glenda Denty and a long trip over water. Malcolm’s pitiful mews as he endured what must have been a terrifying ordeal. A whole new place. Alex Best, his family, and his wharf. A new house, just barely finished and the beautiful smell of fresh-cut spruce lumber everywhere. Starting school.

The years passed. The old school was too small. Another was built. When it became over crowded, another, constructed from the bunkhouses that had been used while constructing the phosphorus refining plant at Long Harbour, joined it. Yet another–a high school–was built and then added on to. All the while the people kept coming. Some, like my Dad, built new; our three-story house in Red Island was too big, too old to be moved. Most, however  brought their dwellings in on a float. The sight of a house in the beach at Whiffen’s Cove–a thing that would be wondrously unexpected today–was commonplace. So, too, was the activity that would inevitably follow. A tractor, huge logs for rollers, and swarms of willing, helping hands. The noise, the smell of diesel, the shouts of men as they coordinated the move, all just part of so many days. And the mud–mud everywhere. What else could you expect from dragging houses over a hastily constructed dirt road, one that just a year previously had been little more than a path? Wooden cribbing was, as often as not, the base and the scraping of the tractor and the logs exposed it time and again, revealing the underlying muck and bog, stuff that found its way everywhere.

Electricity–sort of. It failed often and, in the winter, the oil lamp was all we had to read–or knit–by. Running water–again sort of. In the winter the pipes would freeze so dad and I would have to fetch water from the well each day. “At least we had running water and electricity in Red Island,” Mom would mutter.

Community, a word we so casually toss around without hardly a thought to the riches that lie within it. Southern Harbour had existed before resettlement and already had well established families; Bests, Whiffens and Leonards had lived there for generations. Now they were joined by so many more. More names, and more places of origin. At first, a community as rag-tag and as scattered as my memories of that time. Turf wars, suspicion, old rivalries–at least those seemed to be the dominant things. It was rough. Fights and conflict of all kinds were the order of the day. Through it all, though, a community emerged. Compromises were made, families intermarried, new, lasting friendships were formed and old wounds started to heal. The electricity became dependable, a municipal water and sewer system was constructed, the roads were paved and, the year after I graduated from school, a gym was finally built. Thanks to all of that as well as a decent fishery and a brand-new oil refinery the community started to flourish.

I left.

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I was sixteen and done with high school. Like my sister had done the previous year I left to attend University at St. John’s–a thing my Dad had done himself when he’d been about that same age. My sister never came back, except for the scattered visit.

I returned.

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I finished my bachelor’s degrees the year grade 12 was implemented in this province. My former school needed a math / science teacher and I was given the nod. For the next nine years I learned my craft, taught school, volunteered my time, started a family and, thoroughly enjoyed my rural way of life. Then something changed. It was probably not any one thing, not *solely* the decline of the fishery, the dwindling student population, the fact that many of my friends and colleagues were moving on, the reality of my own growing family. Regardless, from somewhere there grew an overall restlessness, a growing emptiness, a sense that, somehow, I was ready to move on.

I left again.

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A new resettlement, this time one that was not so much overtly a product of forces from the outside  This time the force was tacit, a thing that existed just beneath the surface of my consciousness. It was just as powerful, though, and it carried me away to a wonderful, exciting new job, back to the city, a place I continue to live in to this day, some twenty-five years later.

Looking back, it’s clear now that the choice to leave had nothing to do with the quality of the personal life I led. Sure, it was a small community with only a few amenities. It had a powerful, defiant spirit, though. Besides, shopping, healthcare and such, while not truly local, were only a relatively short drive away in Clarenville. No, it was more about the work, or rather the career that I saw. Enrollments were steadily declining. In the mid 1970s, when I was of school age, classes ran about 30 per grade level. In 1992, my last year there, only 4 students were registered for kindergarten. It has not changed much since. In the local area, there are five communities, and there were once six schools. Now there is one centrally located k-12 school.

And now, here I am, beyond middle age, more or less settled, at least physically and wondering just where is home. Is it the place I have lived in for this past quarter century, this smallish house, in a tiny building lot tucked away in an obscure cul-de-sac in Mount Pearl? A community that, on the one hand proudly boasts of the services and such it can offer, and how they’re so much better than those provided in nearby St. John’s, while, at the same time, enjoying the protection and added services afforded by its much larger neighbour.

Or, as some would offer, is it “where the heart is?”

If so, that brings up an even harder question, just where is that heart? Is it here with me all this time. After all, I’ve been married for almost thirty years and have raised four children who are, at least in this very moment, right here with me–a thing that gladdens me greatly.

So why the other house, then? You see, when I left Southern Harbour I hung on to my house. It was the family home Dad had built after resettlement and I’d done a major upgrade on it just before getting married. After I left, I rented it for a time and, when I was able to get some extra work freelance writing, I was able to use it as a summer home. That ended, though. Vandals did considerable damage to it and, with a growing family, I found myself financially unable to get it back in repair. Logic dictated that I should sell it, but I’ve stubbornly hung on, even though, frankly, I’m unable to do what is needed to put it into usable shape.

So why then? It’s not that I’m normally given to irrational acts. This, I suppose, is just one of those times when I ditch common sense, for whatever reason. I find myself unable to let it go even though it would be the most sensible way to go. I could laugh it off, assert that I’m Irish, after all, and, as such, well used to living a life where not everything adds up. It’s true, at some level, but, admittedly that’s just ducking the hard question. The answer has more to do with being whole than it does with ignoring inconsistency. In the same way that Dad left a part of his …spirit? …heart? *whatever* in Red Island, so, too did I when I left Southern Harbour. As long as the house remains, though fractured I am more-or-less whole.

At least for now.

Just next month my first born, now twenty seven will be leaving this province to take up residence in Rossland, BC. He’s educated as a professional engineer but, sadly, the province he loves so well does not love him back. Like so many before him he’s uprooting and heading west for lack of suitable work here. My second born, now twenty five, with a completed Commerce Degree, and also unable to find work, is planning to make a similar move in the near future.

The cycle continues and I imagine, sometime in the not too distant future, they’ll be relating the next chapters of this same story of resettlement.

For now, this one is complete. After I upload this post I figure I will sit here on the couch, cup my face in my palms like Dad used to and ponder how everything changes yet manages to retain those all too familiar themes of loss, regret and a longing for something I cannot ever have.

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Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Frosty

Yesterday evening the snow began, gently falling, falling, falling all night long. At length I turned on the Christmas lights even though I’d not planned to do so until Friday. Sometimes you just go with what you see before you.

We sat on the couch and watched “Frosty the Snowman,” each of us remembering the many times we watched it, or, rather, chuckled while little pairs of eyes, perched all around us, lit up with delight at the familiar tale of magic, perseverance and, maybe, forgiveness.

Today the snow has tapered ff, a thin quiet blanked has settled over the hilltop where I live. I can hear the neighbor’s kids playing outside–they’re now about the age mine were when Frosty would bring such great delight, time after time.

The sun is starting to break through.

Sometimes we wonder, when we find ourselves deep in the many struggles that life visits upon us, whether it’s ever possible to catch a break. But then, from time to time, the clouds just open, the sun shines through, and hope is renewed once again. Yes, of course you know that more obstacles lie ahead but through that window of fair weather you can see, even if momentarily, that the journey ahead as navigable and that it’s all been worth it.

Posted in family | Tagged | 2 Comments

Raking the Shaggin’ Leaves

Doesn’t seem that long ago the tree was strong and leaves were green.
But with each day,  more bare spots appeared where leaves were once to be seen.
Now in these short November days they’ve gone from green, to rust, to brown.
Fallen leaves like memories of summer passed are scattered all around.

For all my life, my true calendar has been built around the new school year.
But I’m not too stunned to see the irony growing from the sight of trees so bare.
I start anew with September’s promise, plans for the next year all arrayed.
So just how can one feel a sense of life renewed as the summer’s colours fade?

I’ll readily admit I’ve never been concerned about being all that conformist.
Friends, in fact, often ask me why I so often come at things arse-foremost.
Frankly it doesn’t bother me and, to act in my own defense,
point out I’m Irish, and as such, used to a life where not everything makes sense.

The cool wind whips the leaves along as through the mess I traipse
admiring what I see all around, the myriad of shapes.
Some perfect, pressed just right, others less than that may be.
Still others torn and battered, ugly as sin and sorry sights to see.

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Can’t help but to compare each leaf to memories of the year gone by,
realizing each can be associated with times of sorrow, stress and, yes, even joy.
I stop my raking, lean on ‘er like a highway worker on this day so calm and placid
thankful the kids are nowhere near, lest they think I’d be dropping acid

Last year was often a time of joy, I saw new things, made new friends.
Managed to screw a few things up, but for some, then made amends.
Said goodbye to some who were dear to me, some of them forever.
Experienced success and failures too in my sometimes ill-advised endeavours.

At length I find myself back in the yard, rake in hand, out of my inner space
Less grumpy over the leaves, even the ones that blew in from my neighbour’s place.
And left thinking if these represent the memories, just lying chaotically arrayed
then why the hell am I bagging them up to molder and decay?

After all, confined that way they’ll not transform nor to the ground and air rejoin.
Perhaps a compost heap is just the thing, besides, it’ll save little coin.
And so, too with those memories, I should ruminate less, and, instead
just let them transform and integrate naturally with what’s already in my head.

Posted in poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , | 4 Comments

And on it Goes…

All our moments are filled with richness;
a wealth that can be constantly tapped into;
a means for transformation.
The senses, should we choose to acknowledge them,
surround us with fragments from the current place and time in which we dwell.

Yes, there are those who do not take notice of the here and now
and choose, instead, to make the journey, blinkered, race-horse fashion,
and racing toward a destination set by others–their loss, but I digress…

Over this rich tapestry of the moments at hand,
our own consciousness layers in memories and values;
a context,
no,
a scaffold
on which to attach the present to the past.

That sense of self, though, is such a fickle, fleeting thing.
That which on one day seems so clear, so solid, so real
may drift away,
subsumed, perhaps by either new events
or pushed aside by the ever-changing array of needs and wants;
the ebb and flow of daily life that often just carries us along…

Posted in family, poetry/songs, Society and Culture | 2 Comments

Respect for Richard Gillett

With all of the celebrations and hype leading to the 150th anniversary of the founding of that thing we call Canada pride in our fair country is at something of a high. Evidence of it is everywhere and if you don’t believe me, just use retail capitalism as your wetted finger held to the wind. Take a stroll to your local dollar store and notice that the merchants have already placed, for sale, baubles and items of all types; mugs, shirts, even socks, all proudly wearing the maple leaf in our distinctive red and white.  Yay Canada and our so-non-populist-buffoon-leader ways! For me, though, trust and respect for the political leadership in Ottawa is at an all-time low.

And I lived through Brian Mulrooney AND Stephen Harper’s “Ottawa knows best” administrations. Good lord.

I am so very disappointed. In October 2015 when I joined the wave of those who were thoroughly pissed with the Conservatives and their seeming indifference towards all things east coast, cast my ballot accordingly, and awoke to the news of a Liberal majority I earnestly believed there was some cause for hope. Sure, the Liberal economic platform was shaky at best and the funk, both social and economic, that the previous administration had left us in was not one that could easily be escaped from but, by Da Dynes, it did seem like we’d turned some sort of a corner. The lineup of those we’d elected was so impressive: doctors, a war hero, scientists, economist even (and I’m taking this from something I saw online a year ago) “a @!&$#@& Astronaut!” — reason for hope.

Richard Gillett. I learned of him a few years back when he was first featured on Cold Water Cowboys; a brash, burly larger-than-life fish harvesting captain out of Twillingate. Rough, tough and very determined; the type of person that Ted Russell would write recitations about if he was still around to do it. The type of person Ron Hynes would sing of if he, too, was still around.

Not just determined, but principled too, and totally rotted with the current state of fisheries management, so much that around two weeks back he resolved to do something about it. He brought a cot, some plastic & such, and set up shop just outside the DFO in St. John’s—a hunger strike. He’s been joined, on and off, by supporters, some who even staged a protest on-site last Friday, slowing the egress of the workers heading home for the weekend. At least that got some news coverage.

Now what, you might ask, has been the result? What, indeed has been the response from that fine socially and environmentally conscious group of leaders in Ottawa in response to the one who most assuredly speaks right from the minds, mouths and hearts of the many, many NL’r’s who know all too well just what a struggle it’s always been to wrest a living from this cold unforgiving place we, for whatever reason, so dearly love? Just what has been the response from that finely tuned group of leaders in whom we have placed our trust and, more importantly, our hope?

A $@&%# phone call from the Minister of Fisheries offering a vague suggestion of a meeting a few weeks down the road, that’s what. Oh, and that the Minister of Fisheries was put out because the DFO employees were having trouble getting to work.

So what is it that Mr. Gillett has been asking for? Just what unreasonable demands were being put forward that required the standard negotiating tactic of stalling and testing resolve? Is he looking for unfettered access to the fish stocks? Does he want his taxes dropped to zero? A handout of cash, perhaps?

No, he wants the science behind fisheries management reviewed and he wants the relationship between the Federal Department of Fisheries and the current Fisheries union investigated.

Honest to God, as I type this, I’m just shaking my head from side-to-side, thinking, “he should not have to even ask for that!” Science is, by nature, tentative, which means that any conclusions reached should be considered as the best we can come up with the data and methods we used. As such they should always be open for question; always up for review and, yes, always questioned. It’s only in the light of bitter, passionate, opposition that the best truths will ever emerge.  The back-checks and reviews should be a part of the whole process anyway! As for the relationship between the Ministry and the Union, perhaps, in light of the protestations of the many fish harvesters who have expressed concerns, what’s wrong with taking a deeper look? For the average rank-and-file harvester absolutely no harm can come from it. The worst possible outcome is status quo, after all.

Tomorrow, I’ve been told, that Mr. Gillett will be joined by those who share his concerns. For my part, I imagine I will just make my way quietly to work, as always. I, too have a mound of debt to deal with and bills to pay so absence from work is not much of an option. I know though that it will be with a sense of guilt and not standing up for what’s right and for just letting another mother and father’s child do the job that I lack the resolve to do myself.

My thoughts won’t be far from that brave, tough, NL’r though and I wish him strength for the fight ahead. Perhaps you should too.

Posted in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Gertie

The insistent ring tone broke through,
put my sleep back on suspend.
Josephine, there, with the phone to her ear
hearing words I couldn’t comprehend.
“I’m going down to the hospital,” she said,
in a way that left no doubt.
“Let me take you,” I offered, true,
but not quite believing what this was all about.
But even through her tears
I knew I heard, “Mom’s gone.”
Together we rolled down the road in the cold
and early light of dawn.

“Why couldn’t I have been there?”
she managed through her tears.
“After all, Mom made no fuss about carrying us
through the toughest of our years.”
But nothing came to me by way of reply,
perhaps I wasn’t yet fully awake,
unused to be driving so early,
feeling this unwanted heartache.
The spirit inside of me felt smaller than usual
as I fumbled for a way to fix it or reply
Instead I let my thoughts go flowing into silence, knowing
I really wasn’t ready for goodbye.

It’s funny how in times like this
your thoughts can so crowd around
that in the span of a moment you can
cover so much time and ground.
So we drove in silence for a while
in that winter air and early morning light.
In those moments, though, I had the chance to go
revisit some sounds and sights.
The many, many events that shaped our memories
of the person so important to us all.
Too many to state but perhaps I can try to relate
a few back to you gathered before this pall.

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The past few days I’ve seen a bunch
of pictures taken from way back when
the kids were lighter, and things were tighter
because the house was smaller then.
So, how they did it? You might ask,
“what was the secret spell
that Gertie cast in that time past
so that things turned out so well?”
No, the family wasn’t rich but you could tell
they had all that they did need.
I’ll tell you now, if you’ll allow,
Gertie based her life on giving, not on greed.

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Just think back, one and all. about the times
she helped you out in any way.
She did what she could, without you feeling you should
have a debt you needed to repay.
She understood the gift of self,
something she freely gave to all who asked.
A kindness here, a favour there,
from a friend and champion so quiet yet steadfast
And I’m happy to say, that as is often the way,
it’s a gift that’s taken root
through the kindness shared down through the years
that have come to follow suit.

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Now, lest you think it was all so very serious and pious,
nothing is further from the case.
For it’s quite well known around our home
that a bit of fun she’d always be ready to embrace.
Think of the many times at the dances and such
when she’d get right on the bad.
Along with Alec stay til the first light of day,
just like the youngsters they would gad.
“Come on, let’s go!” and she’d make a show
of dragging you out onto the floor.
And do a waltz or a jig with the flick of the leg,
calling to the band to come back and play some more.

And speaking of gadding about I do recall,
a Christmas knock would never fail to make her grin.
Because in the name of fun Gertie was the one
who’d always let the mummers in.
And upon opening the door, she’d let them know
just who was the one in charge.
Two sips on their drinks and with nods and with winks
out onto the floor she’d barge.
“Now come on b’ys, let’s have a dance,
no need at all for you to feel so shy!”
And she’d give you a chance either a song or a dance,
each mummer would have to try.

And I do recall a few years back
when Gertie and a few of her offspring went out themselves.
Stockings on faces, a bunch of hard cases;
no mistaking them for Christmas elves.
Off they went from house to house
all for a dance some fun and even the scattered sup.
Some folks were traumatized I will have you advises
by that bunch of saucy pups.
Well the word got out on that hardy crew
that was mummering and making a fine Christmas fuss
‘til nobody’d let them in–twas quite a sin,
even made some of Gertie’s daughters cuss.

And the fun outdoors, she couldn’t be held back.
There were times she had poor Alec drove
I’ll have you to know just a few years ago
she even went for a dip up in the Mooring Cove.

And camping, sure it was her great delight
to visit with the crowd down in the park.
And no matter when she’d show you couldn’t get her to go
home til way long after dark.
For you knew full well it’d have to be an emergency
or some situation equally as dire
before you could prod that belle away from her spell
of sitting and gabbing by the fire.

And from fun we must run to the topic
of what gave her the greatest pleasure.
That’s an easy one, her best source of fun
was her family; her greatest treasure.
First her own crowd, then the kids, and then theirs too
and as of now even a brand new generation.
When she was with family even when sick you’d see her eyes blazing thick
with love and with adoration.
I even overheard two St. Clares nurses talking
about how supportive the family that she had.
Sure outside ICU, hundreds stood in a queue for hours–
don’t mind me, I’m just bad.

And when the priest dropped by to offer a blessing
and some hope for to impart
It was all he could do fer to keep with her
cause Gertie knew the prayers all off by heart.
“Slow down Mom, he’s here to bless you, not the other way around!”
her daughters all did say
The priest kept on going, laughed it off knowing,
“I can learn a thing or two from her about how to pray.”
For that self same maid who’s unafraid
to stand right here adorned with a set of bunny ears
also has, by design, her very own direct line
to office of The One that’s upstairs.

And just like that the daydreaming stopped
and there I was back in the car with Josephine.
Just a few seconds had passed leaving me quite aghast
at the memories of things done and seen.
But it was enough for I realized
that she really wasn’t gone.
A part, you see, was still with me
and forever, would live on.
And so, too, for you. You know it’s true.
I’m so sure I’m willing to make a bet
This has kindled thoughts anew in each one of you
in a way you’ll not ever forget.

And for now it’s sad. We must grieve Gertie,
who we all will dearly miss.
How could it not hurt? We’re human I assert
and the pain is a thing we cannot dismiss.
But time will pass, I don’t know how long.
But I do know that a day will come.
When a smile she will bring at the thought of something
we all did together with your mum.
And I’ll be happy to welcome that thought
into a brand new space I’ll be making for her so nice and new.
And that’s the way it should be–to be remembered lovingly
by each and every one of you.

Posted in family, poetry/songs | Tagged , | 12 Comments

The Difference a Day Can Make

It’s funny what a day can mean.
A good night’s rest can restore the sheen
on a life that sometimes leaves you shaking your head in disbelief.
I suppose it’s the stress we put on ourselves
as we channel our inner Santas and elves,
or maybe it’s just old Krampus who loves to hand out some seasonal grief.

Yesterday I should’ve figured out before
I passed in through my work’s front door
that the events of the day would go in a way that was not exactly what I’d planned.
It started when I arrived a bit late,
fumbled the card for the parking gate,
and watched that stick of wood on my car’s hood repeatedly slammed.

With the stick cracked off and my car banged up
I figured I’d calm my nerves with a nice Timmy cup.
I stood in the queue with the dishevelled few who’d just been doing laps over in the pool.
But as I crossed the walk to my work home
a driver heedlessly texting on a cellphone
almost mowed me down and I dropped my Joe on the ground just like a proper fool.

I’d no sooner entered the office and hung up my coat
when a gaggle of malcontents were there at my throat
Saying I marked them too hard & they were thus barred from getting their obligatory A’s.
When I offered that in class they were seldom seen
they took off downstairs to report me to the dean.
My tongue I restrained but I barely refrained from setting the papers on my desk ablaze.

Now that said, it would’ve been a good thing to do
as the thermostats ‘round here are set on minus two.
That and and also my wretched window simply refused to close.
I flicked the switch; nar light came on
except the light on my printer that said “toner’s all gone.”
Wonderful! Uploading marks here in the dark with all my fingers froze!

So I went to my computer, but to my chagrin
it was dead as all and I could not log in.
I sat there in a panic, with a problem titanic: how to upload my grades to banner1.
A sensible answer was nowhere to be found
so I figured it’d be best if I was homeward bound.
It seemed like a crime to be wasting my time in this unproductive manner.

I packed up my stuff and back home I went.
My patience all gone and my energy spent.
No Christmas tree, nor greenery could restore my total lack.
I turned off the phone’s notifying wails.
Didn’t even bother checking on my emails,
Traumatized and hoping no-one’d recognize I was nothing but a hack.

So I approached today with some trepidation
remembering the previous days’ vexations.
And, on my depart, I swore in my heart I’d have a better day at work.
And upon opening my office door
I found a note from IT upon the floor, saying,
“your computer is fine & it’ll be that way every time; you forgot to plug it in you jerk!”

And in just a few minutes I had my marks uploaded.
My email came online; not a thing had exploded.
Then the carpenter dropped by, with a glint in his eye, the window and lights he repaired.
And he casually mentioned, he’d just got free
from mending the gate for parking lot three,
where some omadon went and used his card wrong. “Too stunned to work here!” he declared

And I found a card with a thank-you note.
B’ys for a funk there’s no better antidote.
It made up for the fray from the previous day and all of the complaining
So ‘til next year no classes; no D2L2;
just a chance to enjoy this time of Noel.
And my wish for you is you feel the same too, and make the most of the holidays remaining.

Of course you realize this (mostly) fiction and is all in fun.

1Banner is the grades reporting system used at Memorial University.
2D2L is short for Desire2Learn, which is the Learning Management System used at Memorial for online course access.

Posted in Entertainment, poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Lament for Lost Outport Libraries

Half the libraries to close—our rural places take another hit.
I considered it all, just struck in disbelief.
Just another in a slew of bad decisions
and I’m torn; should I be angry or feel grief?

First the financial disaster that is Muskrat Falls,
and the levy—not a tax; more like a fine.
And the nickel and diming, I could even take that,
but this latest move shows that we’ve crossed a line.

Still those in control insist this move will result
in a system that is better for us all.
The rurals can dump their kids to fetch some books
when they drive to town to stock up at the mall.

The plan: drop off your ‘scrip, and go grab a burger
while the library staff diligently minds your kids
then take the hour-long drive back home
on winter roads, avoiding potholes, moose and skids.

Seems all so great ‘til you think about it and realize
that’s not really how libraries are supposed to work.
They’re not dumping grounds where you grab some stuff
and take off while your kids just run berserk.

My thoughts drift back to Southern Harbour
in Placentia Bay, the place that I once called home.
Mild winters, lots of fish, good work but still
nearly always under a misty, thick fog filled dome.

On those many, many days when the weather was too poor
to chase after a puck or smack around a ball
off to the library we’d all head for the afternoon.
Me—the bookworm—I’d figure we had ‘er scalled.

The names that then became my lifelong friends
Adams, King, Archer, LeGuin, Asimov and Dick,
Niven, Clarke, Zelazney, Thompson,
Hinton, Herriot—so many more I could pick.

I’d never have known about their thoughts
and stories of worlds far better than I could dream.
Without them I figure I’d still be stuck in the past
and soaking up the crap from each new political team.

And the sense of community that Bride created
along with the library board—she made it such
that singalongs, story time and celebrations
added to books and reading that special touch.

But now austerity is the only word.
Whatever judged “not needed” has to close.
So outport libraries are seen as waste;
so called “low hanging fruit” one does suppose.

Know what? What frightens me to the core
is the realization that we are now led by
those who fail to see the beyond the moment
and understand the reasons for the outcry.

There’s more to life than working a job to make
enough to pay your taxes and your bills
with just enough left for fast food and perhaps
some meds and other stuff to treat your ills.

It’s not just about a few books and “shh.”
it’s even about more than basic literacy.
It’s more than access to internet and government docs.
It’s more than the facts to support curiosity.

No, more than anything libraries are living symbols of the hope;
the feeling that, through knowledge and wisdom we can do much more—
a thing our forebears knew so very well.
Now I fear for what the future might have in store.

Because with those closings that hope won’t shine so bright;
yet another reason to pack it up and leave.
And what of those who still decide to stay
in a place diminished, perhaps for them we’ll grieve.

For myself, and in the here and now
it won’t matter much, my job surrounds me with all I need.
Besides, right now I earn enough
to pay for Internet and the things I choose to read.

But things are cyclical and there will surely come a time
when I find myself in some underfunded private health care home
without the work and responsibility that nurtures me today
family grown and feeling so very much alone.

I will no longer get the refuge I once found
in that place of respect, knowledge, in which I felt secure;
no longer will I find the books and things
like I once did, just a short walk from my door.

But it is what it is, I and I know, it’s true
so often things are decided on a whim
by those who understand and use them the least
and just want their way; only want to win.

Still, the savings are so miniscule against
the deficit that it’s supposed to reduce
and we know the damage that this act will do
and for that stupidity there can be no excuse.

Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, poetry/songs, Society and Culture | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Second Snowstorm in April

Just last week after the last blizzard
I dropped my car off at the shop
figuring I’d seen the last of winter’s blast
the guys gave my winter tires the swap.

Now it’s not because I like the look
of my lovely alloy wheels
and it’s not because I like the way
driving with skinny summer tires feels.

No it’s really because I’ve been a teacher too long
and I’ve a reputation to upkeep.
From those winter tires I’ll get five years
and I don’t care if you call me cheap.

But I feel a little off this morning
with the weather so very wicked
and my car on the lawn up off the road
lest the Pearlie cops give me a ticket.

So what odds I’ll head ‘er out
and crawl my way to work
driving slow with cars backed up behind.
I’ll be that slow coach you think’s a jerk.

But laugh all you want, it’s spring after all
soon the rain and fog will melt it down
and soon enough we’ll get to see again
winter garbage strewn about the town.

So when you drive with your studded tires
all decked off like tracks on a skidoo
ripping ruts in the road as you go along
I’ll be the one who’s cussing you.

Posted in poetry/songs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Day the Dreams all Died

A few years back when oil flowed free
we all bowed down on bended knee
and gave thanks that “have not” was no more.
But now that the oil’s so cheap
there’s no thanksgiving; it’s time to weep
and with no savings the wolf’s back at our doors.

So last fall we turfed the old crowd out.
“A Stronger Future,” we heard the new crowd shout.
“But first let us consult.
You’ll all love the result.”

So we all sat in anticipation;
a brilliant plan our expectation;
solution to our situation;
but now we all sit in agitation
the day all hope just died…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I’m hit with even more HST
and in an province that has low literacy
we’re the first to get taxed on books.
Now insurance is subject to that tax
gas’ll go so high I my vaccy got the axe.
Guess I’ll be buying my ciggies from the crooks.

And as for your kids still in school:
bugger classes will be the rule.
And I hope you’ve got an RESP
‘cause it’s about to cost more for your degree.

And while we hoped for some light ahead,
or some compassion, what we got instead
was told to suck it up—
got handed a bitter empty cup
the day all hope just died

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I just sit and listen to the news.
“Can this get worse?” the mind does muse.
But then I think of that mess called Muskrat Falls.
Barely worth it at 6 now going to 12 billion dollars.
“It’ll make light bills double,” commons sense hollers,
and if the North Spur fails we’ll all have sweet F—all.

And still they’re taking shots in the dark.
it’s started with closing Masonic Park.
Something about money savin’
too bad I don’t believe ‘en.

And perhaps the thing that hurts the most
as I consider heading for the west coast
is that for a time I did believe their boasts…
…but now the hope has died

And I’m singing…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

Perhaps I’ll move the family to Brunei.

 

Posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 15 Comments