It’s been a while since I last posted, and quite a bit has happened in that time. The summer of busking at the Hyannis waterfront was fun and a great experience. My 13 year old son, Chris, joined me for the last few Saturdays, which made it even more special for me. Nothing compares to doing a gig with your own child, especially when he’s as talented as Chris is. I was very proud to share the “stage” with him.
At the end of July I made my second trip to Newfoundland, this time alone. I almost felt that I needed to make this trip alone, to find an even deeper connection to my roots there. Again, it felt like I was going home after being away for almost a year. The weather wasn’t great, but I didn’t really care much. I wasn’t there for a tropical vacation, I was there to spend time with family and soak up the music and the scenery. I did plenty of all of that, and honestly, I’ve never felt so happy and relaxed as I did there. I stayed with my cousin Leslie Anne and her family in Bay Bulls where they were more than generous and let me stay for almost two weeks. By the time I left I’d become very attached to all of them, especially little Liam, and I miss them already.
I truly enjoy my Newfoundland family members, and I was lucky enough to meet a few more cousins that I’d not had the opportunity to meet last October. They’re all so warm and welcoming, and really took care of me. I found that we all had things in common besides a family resemblance, which made the connections that much stronger. It was wonderful to see my 93 year old great uncle again, and to see that he is doing well. I always enjoy talking to him, because I learn something new about my family, specifically my Grandfather, every time. I also visited the Petty Harbour Cemetery this time, which I didn’t see last October because it was raining. I saw my great grandparents’ and my grandfather’s headstones, which was very moving for me. I never thought I’d ever be standing at the grave sites of my great grandparents from Newfoundland, proof of my ties to that beautiful place.
It felt surreal to be standing there.
One of the many things that draws me back to Newfoundland, besides my wonderful family, is the music. I’ll write a separate post about my musical experiences during my visit, because they deserve their own post.
On my second day visiting, my cousin took me on a drive down the southern shore to places like Witless Bay (my Grandfather’s place of residence before he passed away) Tors Cove, Brigus South and Ferryland. In Ferryland we stopped at an archeological dig, which was fascinating. Along our drive, whenever I’d see a house for sale I’d wonder what it would be like to live there.
I went to Sunday mass at the Basillica in St. John’s. Last October when I was there, my cousin Rose and her husband Bill brought us there and gave us a tour of the inside. I loved the huge pipe organs and the beautiful stained glass windows. It made an impression on me, and when Christmas rolled around, I wondered what midnight mass must be like there. I decided then that the next time I was in St. John’s I would go to mass at the Basillica. And that is exactly what I did. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not big on going to church. I was raised Catholic and pretty much forced to attend mass on Sundays, which made me rebel against it later in life. I’m finding that as I get older, however, I’m drawn back to it, not necessarily for the doctrines of the Catholic faith, but for the beauty and peace that I find in certain churches. The actual structures themselves are interesting to me, and I am also drawn to tradition. I actually enjoyed attending mass at the Basillica, because the building itself is so beautiful.
One of the things I really enjoyed during my stay was just wandering around downtown St. John’s on my own. I would drive down Water Street, find a parking spot, and just leave the car and walk around the downtown area. I wandered around Gower Street, admiring the colorful rowhouses, taking photos randomly.
I had lunch at the Duke, I visited O’Brien’s music shop on several occasions, to the point where they recognized me when I’d enter. I also shopped at Fred’s Records and had a pleasant surprise. I think it was my third day in Newfoundland and I went into Fred’s to poke around and pick up a couple of cds. To my surprise, when I went to the register to pay, who was working behind the counter–Andrew James O’Brien! I couldn’t believe it. I introduced myself, as he and I had exchanged a few emails over the past several months, and we had a nice chat. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and so talented. I got to speak with him again at the Folk Festival after his fantastic set, while he signed a cd for my cousin. Such a nice guy. I predict big things from him.
On another day when I was off exploring on my own, I went to Petty Harbour, where my family is from. I parked the car, got out, and just sat at the wharf. I just wanted to “be there” and soak it all in. It’s a peaceful place, for me anyway, and I could have sat there all day just looking at the water, the boats, and the hills. On a different day I would meet up with my mom’s cousin who happens to be the Mayor of Petty Harbour, and get more of a guided tour of the area. But on this particular solitary day, I just experienced the harbour on my own, quietly, and thought about what life must have been like there, and what it might have been like to grow up there.
A big event that took place during my stay was the Royal St. John’s Regatta, a rowing tournament at Lake Quidi Vidi. It was cold, drizzly and foggy, as it was for most of my visit, but the regatta went on regardless. Kiosks and tents lined the shores of the lake, with food vendors and games of chance. It was fun to walk around and see so many local people out, showing their community spirit.
I also got to go on a boat tour with my cousin Leslie-Anne and her three year old son, Liam. That was a really fun experience, being out on a boat (one of my favorite things) and seeing humpback whales and puffins. It was cold but I didn’t care, I just love being out on a boat, and seeing wildlife I’d never seen before was amazing.
On one rainy day, I decided to just get in my rental car and drive. I drove to a place called Cupids, and Bay Roberts. Each place I saw had a special beauty of its own, and I enjoyed just driving around and seeing the landscapes and seascapes of each place.
I know I can’t mention every aspect of my visit in this blog post, or it would be volumes and no one would want to read it all. Suffice to say, it was one of the best times of my life and one I’ll never forget. As I drove from Bay Bulls to the St. John’s airport very early on the morning of my departure, I saw the lights of the city as I came over a hill. It brought tears to my eyes knowing that I had to leave and I wasn’t sure when I’d be back. I love Newfoundland, and someday I will live there. I don’t know when or how, but I know that it’s the place I am happiest and most at peace.
Of course some of the biggest parts of my visit were centered around music. Those experiences — The George Street Festival, the nights at the pubs, the Folk Festival– deserve blog posts all their own. It was only one part of my trip, but the music was huge. Just as learning more about my family and strengthening that connection was important to me during this visit, so was the music and my internal, inexplicable connection to it.
PS- to make my trip home a little less painful, I got to share a two hour flight with all of Blue Rodeo-including Jim Cuddy. That story deserves a post all it’s own–coming soon.