CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

A different kind of spontaneous commitment

August 9, 2010

While peering into the lives of summer home owners, I can’t help but entertain a few real estate fantasies of my own. In the past a PhD salary might cover a little saltbox by the sea, but these days it won’t even get you a rubber dinghy. So, the Arctic Scientist and I choose to make a different kind of spontaneous commitment here in the Cove: we decide to get married.

The first step is to track down Wesley Shirran, 89, who has been doling out local wedding licenses since 1976. Mr. Shirran lives in a baby blue trailer off Bonavista’s main street. A hand-stenciled sign that reads ‘Justice of the Peace’ is nailed to his white picket fence and all business transactions take place in his rose-coloured back office.

1. Justice of the Peace.JPG A hand-stenciled ‘Justice of the Peace’ sign is posted outside Wesley Shirran’s home in Bonavista..

That the Arctic Scientist happens to be in absentia for this legal transaction is no matter for Mr. Shirran. It’s just another day as his wife cooks a cod’s head dinner while I fill out government forms and forge my future husband’s signature.

When the Arctic Scientist returns we meet our officiator, Chester Stone of Munroe ship building lineage, at the Clarenville Inn to sign forms and discuss wedding day plans. We mention the rigorous trail the procession will follow to reach our chosen point of betrothal. Mr. Stone is game, but his wife is leery. Even behind her Blublocker sunglasses I see her eyes fill with apprehension. This is because Mr. Stone, a retired judge of unknown vintage, needs a new knee. I’m filled with similar concern when I watch him limp off to his car after we’ve handed over our important documents.

Upper Amherst Cove.JPGA field book sketch of Upper Amherst Cove as seen from across Blackhead Bay.

With just a few days left until W-day, we visit Harry Wareham, unofficial mayor of Upper Amherst Cove, to ask if we might borrow his three-wheeled ATV.

“I don’t mean to discourage you two,” Harry says. “But, I don’t think you’ll get a retired judge on the back of a one-person trike. It’s not likely that he’ll agree to participate in an illegal activity.”

rentalhouse.JPGA field book entry listing the details of the summer rental home.

He goes on to point out the dangerous nature of the trail, detailing his own gruesome trike accident this winter from which he’s still recovering. Harry lifts himself from his sofa and with the aid of a walker shuffles over to the front window.

“You could try that trail over there,” he points to a wooded area that tumbles out into a rocky outcrop. “It’s shorter and flatter and you won’t need a trike.”

The trailhead happens to cross the land of the newest home buyers in the Cove - a couple from Ontario. After securing the right-of-way, I hit them up for a post-wedding interview.

When the big day arrives, summer home owners and year-round residents wave from their porches as our tiny procession (two sets of parents, bride and groom) passes below.

trinitydaisies.JPGDaisies in Trinity, a summer home enclave and nice place to visit on your honeymoon.

After the ceremony we pose proprietorially outside the rented summer home that we’ll never own before driving off to Port Rexton — now officially Mr. and Mrs. Arctic Scientist — for a one night honeymoon.

Within a day the news trickles down the Coves and we’re met with congratulations from acquaintances and strangers alike. We won’t stake a property claim here in Bonavista Bay, but at least we’ll leave our story behind.

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