Cycles, Change & Continuity; Coming Home

Standing here amid nature’s embrace
in what was such a busy place
things become more a part of what nature has reclaimed.
Tools, boats, gear, everything;
the time way back when cod was king,
a reminder of the fact that nothing ever stays the same.

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And I’m back in a different time
when, as a boy, in your truck I’d climb
sitting, thinking, and listening to the radio along the way.
Both of us thinking of what we had to do,
this silent determined crew of two,
we’d put the gear in the boat and spend the day out on the bay.

In our way, using line and hook
another could replace each fish we took
but too much greed and technology meant soon the stock was strained.
We could see it more and more.
“We’ll handle it,” the crowd in Ottawa swore.
Dissent was silenced and greed reigned strong ‘til nothing much remained.

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There arrived a new reality.
Closing the fishery –just a formality.
So with nothing left for me here I prepared to move away.
I could stay for low-paid work at best
but there was steady employment out west.
The last time when I got up in your truck the trip was just one-way.

Now time has passed, and it’s me that’s “Dad,”
but I’m “Son” when I think of times we had.
You’ve passed on, though you will always live on in my mind.
Today, home at last; first time in years
my mind flashes back; I brush away the tears
standing here amid what’s become of what I left behind.

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Still I see how new grass grows among the old
and I know what happens next can’t be foretold.
The fish came, were gone, and you never know, may be back again.
So, too, with me as I take the oil out from the sand
I know one day it will be gone from that land
but, we will remain and  something from all of us surely will remain.

To my children, home is our place out west
but when I’m here I consider myself blessed.
I’m not sad; no regrets. I just do what I have to do.
I will work for them; fate’s not to blame
and I hope my children will do the same.
Maybe someday they’ll be as proud of me and I am of you.

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Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are no strangers to working far from home and to the ever-present possibility of having to emigrate in order to find employment. The collapse, in the 1990’s, of the cod fishery was matched by the rise in employment out west as the Athabasca oil sands ramped up production. As a consequence, many, many NL’r’s moved there and put down roots in a new place.

This time of the year it’s not unusual to find many of them coming home to reunite with friends and family. The visits are by no means sad. On the contrary, they are joyous times punctuated by parties, and, always, always music and laughter.

Our expats are of this place too and, while they may have not wanted to leave they also accept the fact that one must do what one must; no regrets. They have built happy, prosperous lives elsewhere. Sometimes, though, when they get to enjoy the quiet moments alone they cannot but wonder of how life might had been…

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in Canada, family, Newfoundland and Labrador, poetry/songs, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Cycles, Change & Continuity; Coming Home

  1. Mary says:

    Enjoyed the poem and photos but sad to see the boat decaying like that. Look forward to some stories/ poems and photos from Erie in the upcoming weeks

    • Still everything comes in cycles. I fully expect to live that spot (Come By Chance, by the way) to have a lively flourishing fishery again. The phoenix will rise; of that I am sure.

  2. Nice, very nice. First, the poem and story (for they are certainly both) are, at the same time, melancholy and written from a realistic frame-of-reference. Melancholy, to be sure, for the loss of a way-of-life that, certainly in retrospect, was something very special. How terrible to have driven the fishery to such a state; first, for the fish, but also for those with a livelihood associated with it. But realistic as well. Nothing (because of human greed, I suppose) lasts forever, and being able to ‘shift-gears,’ start fresh, and make a happy, productive life for yourself and your family is an effort that should be applauded. Your story could be told in other places, and at other times … simply replace the ‘cod fishery’ with some harvested commodity of your choice. Also, you may have been aware that I’ve been having ‘difficulty’ with my photographic art lately. Long, long, story. I’ve been lamenting that I don’t seem to be able to play with the ‘big kids’ out there in photo-blog-land. Two folks have, independently suggested that it’s not the technique that is is holding me back, or the processing, but rather the subject matter that I have access to here in central PA! And, you know, I’ve thought about that quiet a lot. And, to some extent at least, I think they’re right. If you look at a sight like 500px the best photos there are taken in some of the most exotic venues on the globe. Ok … where am I going with this? What I’m saying is that each of the photos you posted here … given a dramatic sunset, or sunrise … and a neutral density filter … and a very long exposure … and an FX 24 MP sensor … and a nice Nikon lens could easily generate a ‘total winner.’ I’m soooooooo envious of your landscape up there. I never want to hear you complain again! OK, I’ve had my say. Now, I’ll go back to looking out the window at my oh-so-boring PA countryside.

    • It’s not often I disagree with you but I have to state emphatically that there’s nothing boring about your subject matter. I think that (1) the crowd who are offering you advice are in search of different goals than you are (you go for depth of understanding; intimacy with the material and I am guessing they go for “hmmmmmm where’s the most expensive destination we can find I wonder” and (2) since you’ve lived in the area since at least 1988 the familiarity you have with the subject matter is such that there’s little in it that you’ve not addressed in one way or the other over the years. Be that as it may to those of us outside PA, your vivid landscapes are as exotic as you find ours.
      Now, that said, why not consider a visit to this place some time in the near future? As you can guess, the best time for a visit is likely around this time of the year when our short summers are underway and when we still have some bergs and the chance to see whales. There are regular flights here from Newark with return fares ranging from $550 to $800 depending on—-oh, my, depending on I don’t know what; the airlines seem to charge random amounts. With enough notice I’d be only too happy to schedule downtime and drag you two around from one photo op to another. You’d need to book in advance as hotels/ B&Bs as well as flights tend to be at full capacity this time of the year, but you could plan and prepare for next year 🙂

      • That’s very kind of you. Joanna and I do try very hard to book ourselves some kind of adventure each year. Sometimes that means a few days at Cape Cod! A trip up (way) North does sound like lots of fun, though I’m not sure we could get our ducks-in-a-row that quickly. My summer is now measured in half-lives, so there is little time for grand adventures. But, having said that, I could really see a ‘crazy’ adventure up your way. Perhaps next summer? Driving wouldn’t be entirely out of the question … would it? Thanks for the offer … you may be surprised to find us on your doorstep in July of 2015. I’ll tell Joanna. D PS: By the way, thanks very much for the nice comments in support of my central PA photo efforts. You are wise beyond your years. D

  3. Tiny says:

    A story of change nicely told in the form of a prose poem and pictures! Enjoyed your memories of times with your father. I’m sure going back makes these memories even more vivid and inevitably one would ask what could’ve been…I actually tried to find the place you describe on the map…

    • Thank you. I have to admit to a little use of fiction here. The piece is of a son’s continuity with his own father but the characters here were actually a juxtaposing of several friends of mine who have had to move away and build lives elsewhere. I consider myself fortunate as I have been able to carve out a life here without having to go away for work. I will admit, though, that the last stanza was a deeply personal one. The time I had with my Mom, Dad & Sister and the moments I have with my own wife, sons and daughter are, to me, priceless
      Since you wondered about the location, it’s Come By Chance, Newfoundland. I just posted some more pictures for you to have a peek. They were taken on the same day. In two of them I .pasted youtube links–an appropriate soundtrack for the viewing.

      • Tiny says:

        Thanks Maurice! I will look at the pictures tonight when I’ll be back home. You have written so much about that area, its history and beautiful nature so I wanted to understand where it was. Thanks again

  4. elkement says:

    Strange coincidence… this (great!) posting reminds me of what comes to my mind often when I am on vacation in my own country.

    Here is it the little farmers who cannot live off their farms any more as their ancestors did, who have to commute to work a day job elsewhere while keeping their farm as a side project, or who now often offer bed&breakfast (called “vacation on a farm”).

    I admit I enjoy that type of vacation, more than staying in a hotel, but yet I feel some regions in Austria have turned to an artifical large-scale Disney Land though. What Nassim Taleb said often about “touristification” comes to my mind – the conscious removal of randomness from life.

    • The end result is a kind of a shadow economy. On the surface, looking at the farms and the fishing boats (despite what I’ve shown, there are still many fishing boats in just about every community by the sea), it looks like a traditional way of life is alive and well. Digging just a bit deeper, though, you see what you just mentioned. I’m not sure whether, in the long haul, this is sustainable. What about the next generation? Will it preserve a more eco friendly way of life, or will all connections to it be eventually lost? I still get comfort in the knowledge that everything comes in cycles. Our current petro-economy us unsustainable and when prices are eventually driven up by scarcity or by ecological damage that must be addressed than these other ways will start to emerge once again.

  5. jennypellett says:

    A lovely reminisce with an interesting message as always Maurice.

  6. Marie says:

    I always admire the texture of sentiment balanced equally between your imagery and prose.

  7. M. Hatzel says:

    Beautiful post, and so thoughtful. I am struck again of the similarities between our two provincial cultures, and how evocative the details of your insights are for me, feeling the relatedness here in Saskatchewan.

    • I think the connection between the two provinces is very real, despite the obvious physical differences. We are working on a resource-based economy and in conditions that are far from ideal. As a result we are used to lives filled with difficult choices. Through it all, though, we’ve learned to persevere and will continue to do so 🙂

  8. johnlmalone says:

    a moving poem, Maurice. a pleasure to read. a sad tribute to the bounteous times such fisheries once enjoyed

  9. johnlmalone says:

    reminds me a similar thing is happening here with the imminent closures of the big automotive industries which kept manufacturing here humming for some seventy or more years

  10. How very true–nothing ever stays the same. Not even my mood for an evening. I popped over here to tell you thank you for the Taleb tip.

    I’m delighting in the stimulation of reading Black Swan, frequently laughing out loud and saying “YES!” (I haven’t yet gotten far enough to find out where I disagree with him, I’m only on page 26). And I’m thinking that I finally have an answer to the stupid question people ask about which three living-or-dead-people would you invite to a dinner party.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb; you; and my husband. I’ll cook (really, really good food) and enjoy the conversation and laugh.

    That’s what I was thinking, before I read your poem, which totally changed my mood.

    And then, just now, my husband came home from his weekly meeting with the Greek business men in our neighborhood (not about business; about eating and talking politics), and my mood is back where I started.

    Nothing ever stays the same.

    I’ll have to come back and read your poem again, when I’m more contemplative. I like it, a lot.

    • Thank you. I always draw comfort and grounding from the fact that everything changes–good and bad. As long as we keep that in mind we’ll always manage to keep chugging along 🙂

      • So wise — and so simple, but not always easy to remember. Whatever we’re feeling at the moment, will change. We don’t need to remember that during bursts of positive feelings (joy, love, hope…) but we DO need to remember that truth during bursts of negative emotions (depression, enmity, hopelessness).

        That is exactly how we keep chugging along, waiting for the change… Good words!

  11. artsmonkey says:

    Hello Maurice. I’ve just returned from our annual camping trip in South Devon and picked up a copy of “Song of Salcombe” by Virginia Murch in which she tells the story of Salcombe, an old Devon Fishing Port and Sailing Harbour through the eyes of her family. I was surprised by a chapter on the local Devon fisherman in the late 1800’s, who sailed as far as Newfoundland to fish cod and carry limestone out. Many of them settled there. We also visited nearby Burgh Island and the ‘Hewer’s Lookout’ (sp?) where a local would sit looking for shoals of Pilchard until one day the shoals stopped coming. Salcombe now catches crab and sends it out to China. It’s a wonder that the lessons of the oceans don’t teach us to be more cautious with our ‘consumerism’ or perhaps it does but we are too weak-willed to be more mindful of it. and NB. See what an impact your poetry has had on us all !

    • LOL! Someday soon I would like very much to visit Devon. It has been VERY influential on the Newfoundland culture, matched only by the influence of Waterford. In fact, most of us here on the island (myself included) speak a dialect of English that is a rough juxtaposition of both places. Imagine Hagrid trying to sound Irish 🙂

  12. Hi Maurice have not been over for awhile but glad I did. Enjoyed your poem and the cycle of life continues. Thanks for stopping by my place I don’t know how but I must have ditched your blog follow when I was cleaning up all the ones I follow by accident. I have so many to read these days I need a secretary. Happy days to you. Following you again.

    • LOL–I know how it feels. While you’ve been suffering through winter we’ve been enjoying quite a nice summer and I’ve found myself constantly out and on the go. As a result I’ve not spent a whole big amount of time online. That will change, of course, as fall sets in here (and as you move to spring).

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