East Meets West: Leaving Newfoundland

A Woman Waving a New Goodbye to the Old Friends Who Don’t Know Her

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Maybe I’m just really cinematic; we all know that music soothes the savage breast. Maybe I just need to not have silence. Maybe I needed the company while being alone. Maybe. Utmost gratitude and respect to the Canadian bands Whitehorse, Hey! Rosetta and Arcade Fire, if they only knew the company and support they gave me...

“Hold me, I know not who I am, If I'm a woman, you're a creature not a man
the eyes of a lover, they look like any other to me”

One crisp, early September morning I found myself faced with the implosion of my five-year relationship. The next day I moved out before we “officially” broke up, survived a hurricane (who doesn’t love a lil pathetic fallacy, amiright?), and seven days later I was zooming far from the Atlantic ocean back to land-locked Ontario. Even the kids starting school said my week was rougher than theirs was. Neat.

“We’ll get you a plane ticket, you’ll be home soon,” Momma O soothed. Adamantly, atop of Signal Hill (where I always went to think and throw my troubles to the Sea, it was a thing for me) I shrilled at my sweet mother that I needed the drive. I needed the journey, the distance, the road. My Odyssey would take considerably less time than that of the King of Ithaca’s. I had no war to be victorious over. (Unless you counted healing. Can you battle your way into healing? Probably Not).  But how? At that point in my life, I’d never even driven to Toronto from the Tri-Cities on my own. Change was already happening at a rapid pace, so, to quote Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park “Hold onto your butts” (because your first solo road trip is the same as rogue Dinos wanting to chomp on you). It’d be fine, I’m a clever girl.

A visit to Chapters armed me with a book of maps of Eastern Canada. Even if I HAD an iPhone, Siri in her clinically helpful voice wouldn’t have stood a chance against the epic technology thwarter that is “no signal”. The game plan was as follows: seven-hour drive to Corner Brook on day one, a two-hour drive to Port aux Basque to catch the seven-hour ferry to Sydney, Nova Scotia and then buck the schedule. Eat, rest, repeat until I was home (I realize in retrospect that my true downfall was not arming myself with proper road trip nosh. Rookie mistake).

Newfoundland has its own way of doing things, the seasons, the telling of a story, and certainly the roads. Uncomplicated doesn’t necessarily translate into ease  If you look at a map of the province, logically (Ha) you’d think that there would be a road which would simply bisect the province, and tra la la, you’re able to go east to west, or vice versa rather easily. Nope. Hard no.  Travelling from the most eastern point to the most western point requires your vehicle to forge north on the barely paved and oh so humble, mostly single-lane stretch of the Trans Canada Highway. It’s desperately minuscule in comparison to the multilane behemoth, that is the 401 in all its juggernaut-of-a-headache-glory, which can swell to 12 lanes wide at its zenith.

With all my belongings packed to the gills in my faithful little Pontiac Vibe, I took to the road. I would be playing follow the leader to Corner Brook behind a friend who was returning to school. I probably could have handled the drive on my own. If you Google the directions from where I was staying to my destination there was a total of three directional bullet points (and one barely counts as it’s a “follow along” bearing). I still needed the emotional training wheels. Comfort. Yes, I needed the road, but I wasn’t ready to be completely alone. Not just yet. Seven hours and a spectacular sunset, and a feeble attempt at eating pizza, I took to the pull out couch for the rest that wouldn’t come.

“Get your things we’re leaving when the morning birds are singing, are singing We're sailing Cause it’s time to go what's to come only fate can show…”

I got up and left before dawn, I still had two more hours drive ahead of me. I was determined to get on that first ferry of the day. Of course, it was pissing down rain. Of course, there were rock slide warnings and moose caution signs, and pin hair turns and narrow roads and potholes the size of hot tubs. The anxiety and loneliness combined with my chocolate milk Ice Cap had me vibrating out of my skin. And, admittedly, I was really wondering if I had done the wrong thing in not flying back. Why did I just have lived my own Gordon Lightfoot moment and take to the road? Carefree highway this was NOT.

Something to remember about emotions, however, is that they have the capacity to change just as quickly as the weather. Even as rapidly as the Newfoundland weather. I kept going. The gods didn’t hurl a rock or a moose on me (thanks!), the journey curved a bit south and inland, and I was flanked by green grass on either side. The rain stopped. And so it goes; out came the sun and something so much better than that was given to me. When the universe winks at you; pay attention. Stop and give gratitude. Arched perfectly over the road, over the only car for kilometers, over me; the most perfect vivid rainbow I’d ever seen. I pulled over and got out of my car. I lifted my head and heart to the sky, with my palms turned forward to receive, aloud I said, “Thank you”.  I kept going

Fucking right I kept going.  That rainbow renewed me. I made it to the ferry cue, with buckets of time, curled up in the front seat in my makeshift car-fort, and rested. I found the sleep that didn’t happen on that too-short-for-my-5 10 ½ body- pull out couch. A kind young man tapping my window and smiling at my royal purple shag pillow had awakened me. I took to the sea and sailed west, backwards it seemed. Backwards to go forwards.

Truthfully, Nova Scotia was bit of a blur (great pizza though). New Brunswick, at that moment, non-descript. Quebec was maddening: stop and go construction-induced inertia, which deeply squelched my need for momentum.  

And that’s how I woke up in Nova Scotia and went to sleep three provinces away in Ontario.  Stupidly, I did eighteen hours of driving and convinced myself that I could hammer out another three and quarter hours to my childhood home. That unto itself wasn’t straightforward. Divine intervention, as it happened, decided that the back tire of my modest chariot couldn’t take it anymore, and blew. I shiver to think what could’ve happened had I hammered on.

Gananoque is where I finally laid my head. Depleted and desperately empty, in a quiet hotel room, after being turned away from two other hotels which were full due to a late summer convention in town; sleep. And on that third night of travelling, for the first time, I cried.

The final stint of my trip had me white knuckling it. Momma Nature with your skies opening up and your epic quadrupeds, I respect you. You’ve been good to me, I’ve got no beef. How do I feel about that particular day on the 401? Well, let’s just say my editor said I couldn’t put something so explicit here. The only thing more nerve-racking than navigating oceans of high-speed traffic is navigating oceans of traffic with construction. Going from paved to unpaved roads at 120 clicks to keep with the flow of traffic is bad enough, but I was a little jumpy; every bump and thud brought back the idea that my tires were blowing up and there was no friendly rest stop only meters away. My poor ticker, how she didn’t give out I don’t know.

Successfully through Toronto, easing along the farm vistas of Grand River County on roads I’d travelled since a tot, there she was; the Schneiders Meat gal. Her wide smile (and the declaration that “You can taste the difference quality makes”) from that road sign was a reminder from my steadfast dad that I was less than 30 minutes from home. Home.

“In the Suburbs I, I learned to drive, you told me we would never survive…all my old they don’t know me now, all  my old friends staring through my now, all my old friends… ”

The next part of my journey west took a lot longer than three nights and included a year in Ontario and an insurmountable amount of tears. I took a year to regroup, to plan, ignore, rage, numb, heal, hope and dream. Vancouver would still be waiting, and so would I…

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