Sunday, September 18, 2011 | Categories: Michael's Essays
The village has one Stop sign and one Yield sign; neither gets used very much.
What little traffic there is consists mostly of pickups driving to and from the fish plant.
The restaurant, the Killick, has been closed for more than a year now, but the Ocean Breeze, the pub is still open, with the best crab sandwiches in the province on offer.
The only grocery store closed years ago.
There are perhaps 170 people year-round in the village, a few more summer people from away.
Most of the families hereabouts live or die economically by the sea; have done for hundreds of years.
If the fish are running, there will be work at the plant and on the boats. If not, not. At the summer's end, the captains were waiting for the mackerel to come in.
Some people put a second mortgage on their homes to buy the fishing boats. If there is no work on the water, they risk losing their homes.
But the scenery, the harbor, the narrows, the high hills and the bay, make you stop and stare. This summer there was an iceberg in Bonavista Bay. In August.
To the outsider, who come from away, life in the village is almost serene. The rhythms of the day all seem the same; you can't tell a Tuesday from a Sunday.
It is the possibility of some respite from the world that brings people here from the big cities of the mainland.
It is, however, a feckless endeavor. The world will always intrude; a terrorist attack in southern Israel, more countries on the verge of economic extirpation, wild and threatening weather, rising prices, falling job options, disappearing industries, personal debt at historic levels, a myriad of crises foreign and domestic. Our media keep us informed.
You can feel the tension even in the quietude of the village.
At a kitchen party a man from away backs a journalist into a corner.
What is going on with the world, he wants to know. Everything is going to hell in a hand basket. Nobody seems to know anything. Nobody seems to know what's going to happen five, ten years from now. He wants to know what you think is going to happen.
Asking a reporter for answers to these questions is like asking a tree surgeon why you keep getting these headaches.
But the guy at the party may be right; the old standby institutions of understanding seem to be in free-fall and nobody knows what to do about it.
Then again maybe it's nothing new. Maybe it is simply human history writ again and again.
In his wonderful 19th-century novel The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins has one of his characters say, despondently; "THROUGH ALL THE WAYS OF OUR UNINTELLIGBLE WORLD, THE TRIVIAL AND THE TERRIBLE WALK HAND IN HAND TOGETHER."
The country, the world seems stressed almost beyond repair.
In Louisville, Kentucky, doctors have stopped prescribing Xanax, the anti-anxiety drug because so many people are taking so much of it.
The current issue of Financial Post Magazine offers advice to middle-aged managers and business people in crisis.
Big problems, big issues, perhaps too big to deal with emotionally, too much to focus on all at once.
Maybe in the coming year or years, we will start focusing on the small but important things in our lives. Making time, for example. Making time for friends, making time to read and think and just be quiet for a while.
Not necessarily in a small idyllic fishing village but on a bus or in an airport or a supermarket.
Maybe we have to start thinking smaller. And slower.
There is a slow food movement which is gaining in popularity, maybe we need a slow life movement where for some moments in our day, we bring down the tempo. Just a bit.
Maybe randy old H.G. Wells was on to something when he wrote: WHEN I SEE AN ADULT RIDING A BICYCLE I DO NOT DESPAIR FOR THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN RACE."