Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Terra Nova

Newfoundland -- first mapped as "Terra Nova" -- and Labrador, named for a Portuguese sailor, meaning "landowner" -- look cool on the map of North America, and because they're huge, mostly roadless, difficult to access, and nobody I know has been there, and I was seeking myself because I'd lost myself--that much I knew, but not how or when--after four years of yearning to do it I chose to spend 12 days in the province in northeastern Canada that seemed to mirror me.

Towns such as L'ans Amor ("Love Cove"; formerly named L'ans a Mort, "Cove of Death," but I'm told tourists like sweeter names), with a population of 6, are common. The words for this land are "pristine" and "extreme." The green and blue ocean is clear to its bottom; icebergs and whales swan by. Winters are abrupt, long, and bitter; no fruits, vegetables, or grains grow there; except for fish there's no farming or processing; all other products must be shipped in. You eat seafood and potatoes, and pay $2.50 for an orange. Polar bears ride into tiny towns on icebergs from Greenland and ransack houses. Jacques Cartier called it "the land that God gave Cain." Yet in June, July, and August pointed black and white fir trees cover the coasts, and lakes, rivers, mountains, and wildflowers; just now the wild irises are blooming. In Labrador it was 55 degrees and fleece was my best friend.

The road in the photo, in western Newfoundland near the Gros Morne ("Big Sad One") National Park, looks nice, but half of it is under construction, impossible at any other time of year. We didn't get to Blow Me Down Provincial Park on the west side of the island. The roads in Labrador, on the other hand, are terrible, all of them, every inch, period; the partially paved Trans-Labrador Highway breaks the suspensions and axles of buses. Awesome. Extreme. With trackless sea and stone and fjords and icebergs and timber you get a sense of the entire planet. And I got a sense of my place in it and that there might be more to the story of my life.

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