Around the bay is where it's at

Courtney Pellegrin Howell
Courtney Pellegrin Howell is the co-owner of Grates Cove Studios in Grates Cove.

My daughter has been hiking the trails surrounding Grates Cove since she started walking. A couple of days ago, she, my mother, and I were blueberry picking on one of these trails. When I hopped onto a large bolder, she said, "Mommy! You found my rock!"

That rock is where she plays and visits rollie pollies, which is what she calls carpenters. I love that she knows this rock. She knows her community. She has a relationship with the ground she is growing up on. She is free to explore it at will at the age of four.

And, although she already knows how to use an iPad, she is content to put it aside, run outside and invite herself to play with kids who stroll by.

I like that my neighbours seem to have taken to my rambunctious child, and that more than one mother has told me that when she runs away from home, they'll call me before she gets to Bay de Verde.

Making rural Newfoundland our home was no accident. My future husband and I pondered our idea in 2004 at Pyong Chung Sa temple in South Korea. There, we played with the idea of starting an artist-based business in rural Newfoundland.

We started planning for this goal starting in 2005, during our four-year detour in my hometown of Chauvin, Louisiana, where our daughter was born.

In 2009, we packed up our goals and our belongings and made the move back to my husband's home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where Grates Cove found us.

Before moving to Grates Cove, I had the opportunity to live in three large cities - Denver, Colorado, New Orleans, Louisiana and Ulsan, South Korea. I had exciting experiences there that I sometimes still crave. However, after a year or two in each city, I was ready to return to what comes naturally to me.

I can choose the rural way of life for myself and my family because we have the same basic, essential services and conveniences that people have in St. John's or Conception Bay South. The elementary and high schools, as well as the cottage hospital, are 15-minute drives from my home. Although we don't have cell phone coverage - really, this is no heartbreak for me - we have reliable high-speed internet.

That means I can maintain my part-time job doing grant writing and development with a non-profit group in Louisiana and promote our business.

As for our business, - Grates Cove Studios and its fine craft and design shop - there is opportunity for it to grow. Grates Cove has a majestic, raw quality that that makes it an ideal place for artists to create. Our hometown may seem like it is on a road less travelled, but it's the end point of the Baccalieu Trail - a scenic drive explored by many tourists.

And, my weekend getaway cabin, also known as the city of St. John's, is only a two-hour drive away! There, I can go see that play at LSPU Hall, meet up with friends at The Ship, and enjoy getting lost in a crowd.

When I grew up in Chauvin, which is a rural, isolated community, I had no way to connect to the arts. I imagine if I had grown up in a city or a suburb, I would have been drawn to art-based workshops and the like. I see that same kind of energy and need in my child.

Fortunately for her, our business is the arts and what rural life may lack, we can create. That stage in the old school house we purchased to grow our business is named after her. I am really looking forward to seeing what she makes out of that - and out of her life growing up around the bay.

Courtney Pellegrin Howell is the co-owner of Grates Cove Studios in Grates Cove.

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