August 26, 2011

Newfoundland, Wild Soul Place

I just returned from a summer vacation in Newfoundland, where I took a road trip with my husband and his cousins on a quest for their ancestral roots. The human history was very interesting, and I took many notes about the goings on of both the staid and the less staid members of the family. But the highlights of the trip, for me, were the connections made with the untamed spirit of this island which extends the easternmost reach of North America into the Atlantic Ocean.

Along its coasts, Newfoundland has a really wild feel. While we were there, the weather was uncharacteristically cold, never reaching above 55F, and the rain varied from a “mauzy” drizzling rain to a “misky” fine rain nearly the whole time.  Salmon Cove (pronounced SAmmincove as one word, with the emphasis on the first syllable) is a small cove off Conception Bay in the Avalon Peninsula, on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. During a misky rain I hiked along its rocky shore near the beach of black sands, watched the gulls and crows soar and glide as they screeched into the blustering wind, and connected with a particular small rock. Even this small rock carries the untamed energy of the place within it: a swirl of white entwines itself with a swirl of black, just as the white caps, collapsing on the black sands, create whorls. Holding it, I can still feel my soul’s connection with Salmon Cove.

We hiked up the steep path to the top of the cove’s southern bluff. I took my time, taking many photos of the native flowers and plants: Indian Pipe, bunchberries, ferns, and many others, including wild roses – which absolutely covered the hills and gave off an intoxicatingly gorgeous scent. I had no idea that wild roses could be so red, so large, and so prolific in such a wild place. Many fairies crept among the greenscape.

As did the elves creep among the rockscape. The cliffside views along the way were outstanding! The large rock in the middle of Salmon Cove was once called the Fishing Rock by the children who grew up here in the early 20th century. They would swim or boat out and set up for a day of fishing and swimming in the cove, scrambling over the rock. From our high up perch, we could see rushing waters crashing 15 to 20 feet up the steep, rocky cliffs of the bluff, trailing white foam. Another boulder out in the bay with a large hole through the center of it, called the “Cave,” has sent a siren call through the generations to children and teenagers: “Boat out! Come visit me!” And there was, of course, the seemingly limitless ocean before us, blending into the skyline, demanding our respect on this windy, rainy day. I felt the power of the place and the presence of Spirit, in her divine and earthly forms, all around me. It was so strong that our human energies were simply puny in comparison, a part of the background noise. But the invitation to join the wild dance was unmistakable.

Later in the trip, on the western coast, we explored a bit of Gros Morne National Park, a face of Beauty made manifest in the Long Range mountains, the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains. Gros Morne is a World Heritage Site, a designation conferred by UNESCO. There are such designated sites in many countries of the Earth that “exemplify the beauty and richness of our planet.” Gros Morne is considered such a site because it illustrates so well the plate tectonics that occurred when two continents collided, creating the Appalachian Mountains. Glaciers have also had a significant effect on the landscape of Gros Morne, exposing rocks and slicing off the tops of mountains to form the Table Lands.

We spent an afternoon on a boat tour of a fjord in Western Brook Pond, a deep and very cold glacial lake. Because the water is so cold, the soils on its rocky cliffs so thin, and human impact so low, the water is extremely clear. Our boat carried us into a narrow fjord between 2000 foot high cliffs, down which cascaded numerous slender waterfalls, including Pissing Mare Falls. They have interesting names, these waterfalls.

The energy here, in the fjord, felt very different from the wild ecstasy of the seashore at Salmon Cove. The fjord energy was also powerful. But it was quiet, large, and alien. The cliffs had their own life – what greenscape there was clung to the rock without any assurance of continuity. The clouds hung low that day, hiding the tops of the mountains. Occasionally, a table top was visible, or a hanging valley, or an upper plateau on which the caribou would graze in the spring. But the mists of the rain clouds and waterfalls intermittently obscured our views of the heights, and highlighted the otherworldliness of the place.

I could see faces in the cliffs. One face has been seen by many others, and is called the Tin Man by the local population because of its resemblance to the character in the Wizard of Oz. It has a friendly, watchman energy to it. But there are many other faces in the rock, some stern, some warrior-like, some elfin; and they are more impervious to our human presence. They live their long, slow lives without much awareness of mere mortals. There was no invitation here to join a wild dance; rather a blunt and indifferent tolerance of our presence. In spite of their indifference, I long to return.

I don’t know when I shall make another journey to Newfoundland. But make it I must. In spite of the cold and wet. In spite of the weather’s difficult effect on my autoimmune system. In spite of the distance, the expense, and the advancing age of my physical body. I was not born there. I have no blood relatives there. The blood of Newfoundlanders does not flow in my veins. But the Light of its wild places fills my soul.
Blessed be.