Driving up the road that hugged the sea, we stopped atop the ridge that overlooked the scattering of quaint homes that dot this part of Newfoundland – the great rock lying off Canada’s Atlantic coast. Having reached Trinity Bay, we took it in as one would view a picture postcard.
Against the background of an azure blue sky, the white gulls soared and screamed above the pastoral scene, as they’ve done long before Vikings’ times – like watching maritime history unfold in slow motion.
“Well I’ve never been to heaven / But I’ve been to Oklahoma” – Never Been to Spain by Three Dog Night
We deliberately drove through this way because, back home, a neighbour told us to drop by and visit his relatives – but now we weren’t too sure. I mean, looking at the small homes and our sizable family of five, wouldn’t it be imposing ourselves on some complete strangers’ hospitality – maybe beyond their capacity to give? And, wasn’t it just our neighbour’s way – half a continent away, now – of being nice… not really meaning us to literary take him at his word, right? Yet, as our car crept through the village, with all the dories bobbing away in the cove, I had this sinking feeling we were violating some sort of code: like we had ended up at heaven’s gate only to decide on opting for something better.
I didn’t know for certain until we arrived back home a couple of weeks later.
Our neighbour was dismayed to find out that we had actually visited his relative’s fishing village and had not taken him up on his offer to drop in. He said his family and friends had been expecting us: arranging for shared accommodations, a planned lobster fishing excursion, and even a family evening beach party and grand feast in our honour. Everyone was expecting to attend. Suddenly, our reasons for not stopping seemed like lame excuses. As for honour… ?
Of course, I might have remembered the generosity and warm-heartedness of the people of Newfoundland, during the “911” attacks of September 11, 2001, when all America bound flights were re-directed to Canada. Inundated, the people in Maritime cities and towns like Gander volunteered to lodge, feed and entertain thousands of stranded and weary travelers for up to three days, or more. Collectively, that’s just who they are: rock of ages. One American visitor in her 80s wrote of her treatment, “… it restored my faith … there still is good people lifting our world.”
So, when a Newfoundlander casually mentions to drop by… best not be late for your own party. They’ll forgive you if you don’t show, but will you forgive yourself?
“… so much love to make up everywhere you turn / Love we have wasted on the way”
– Wasted On the Way by Crosby, Stills and Nash
Looking back, could they have put up with five wayfaring visitors like us? I can assure you, it’s a shame if you have to ask.