Changes in latitude, changes in attitude

I first read of Labrador in junior high or high school. A book by the wonderful Hammond Inness called, as I have come to appreciate in the past 24 hours, The Land God Gave to Cain. It was an adventure novel of an expedition into the interior of Labrador, and a stray transmission from the long-thought-lost team that was their last communication to the world. Many years late I met a man who told me that the book had been based on a true story, that there was a book about that true story, and that he himself had undertaken a canoe trip tracing the same route, and had also written a book about it. So I arrive in Labrador steeped in stories of the harsh, bug infested, brush-tangled, river-braided interior, hardship, loss, silence. And had in my mind pictured it much like my brief visit to its lower sea edge has revealed it to be — bleak, muted in colors of orange sanded soil and red tinged bushes, dense stands of stubby pines, and a sea draped in fog, sounds muted, dim. The people are short and square and friendly, if amused and rueful about their weather. Their speech is brisk and choppy, with coiled i’s and broad a’s. Beachside barbecue pits, and piles of firewood, and a few colorful kayaks indicate that summer fun is had here, that weather sometimes softens, as well as snow sleds and a tube hill that show some indication of winter life. It’s hard to believe. A white knuckled drive through pothole riddled roads in the deepening fog led us to the tallest lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador, site too of early foghorn technology and an old Marconi station that first brought communication to this edge of the world in 1905. To get to that point we passed a gravesite of a child from 7500 years ago, buried with talismans of her people, communications perhaps to the netherworld, or her ferry toll. The two-blast foghorn was eventually improved in its function so the sound went farther. I think of sailors out in fog like this, listening listening for the sound, as well as the hazardous splash of sea against rocks, the call of gulls signaling shore. The ways in which we communicate with ships at sea to help them to harbor have become incredibly sophisticated (yet still recently two ships collided to loss of lives). (We have not improved our payment for passage into the world of the dead. We are going more and more naked, with less at our sides.) I spend my time trying to make art of communication. And in Labrador I have received yet another rejection from the various milieu in which I try to share my art. I learn this through the mixed blessing of internet technology, of “wifi,” a shortened form of words I can’t remember. The terrain is rubbled, shrub-choked; what seem like rivers soon disappear in thickets or into the waterlogged fen. I feel sorry for myself. Desperate. A hawk swoops low over the brush hunting voles. Up on a hill a waterfall bursts out from a source somewhere back in the interior, hurries to the sea. I’m getting on the next ferry out of here. Labrador, this is my last communication.


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