It's Sunday afternoon. The quiet blue sky is delicately decorated with streaks of wistful clouds. The meadows that lead from the very edge of the landwash to the knap are velvety green, boasting sunshine yellow pockets of posies. The bay even knows it's Sunday and is gracing Branch with a cool breeze that smells of kelp and salt and sea. Over in the place, the wharf is abuzz as boats get ready to be dispatched to crab land and anyone and everyone who has been given the gift of a restful Sunday is asking Michelle to whip them up a creamy, high fat, high joy custard cone.
It's a slick day.
And on this sparkly Sunday afternoon, my eye is drawn to a quote on the wall that goes something like this "The place where you stand right at this very moment is holy ground." The fact that this is indeed holy ground is not lost on me.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to thoughtfully listen to someone who struggles with that thought a little, with the thought that this community and the many rural dwellers who call these communities home do so deliberately and passionately. This gentleman was interviewed on a local network in a repeat broadcast focusing on rural survival.
The usual elements were inevitably present for this predictable discussion. The person asking the questions lives in St. John's as did the person offering thoughts and solutions. The interview took place in the city. The conversation started with a superficial review of resettlement, edged with a dash of nostalgia, moved towards a statistical overview of population decline and ended with a decidedly poor outlook on the survival of any community outside of St. John's. There it was, the quintessentially boring and unproductive rural survival conversation.
It didn't sound good to me in 1992 and it doesn't sound any better now. Might I offer a new approach?
First, let's ask those who live in rural Newfoundland what they think about the fate of their communities, respecting the fact that they are the ones who live their daily lives here. While we're at it, let's inject some critical thinking into the conversation and ask not only about the future of their communities but about their present realities as well. What's working? What might work better? Why do you choose to live there, besides the fact that you feel a deep and enduring love for a place that offers a safe supportive, inclusive, healthy place to live?
Second, let's add some imagination to what has become a dreary, unproductive topic. Those of us who have chosen to live in rural places worldwide must be be applauded for the ability to think and act colourfully and creatively. Imagination has kept people employed, volunteer groups innovative and people firmly rooted in these communities for centuries.
Finally, lets acknowledge the pluck factor. And boy oh boy, do the crowd here and in rural Newfoundland and Labrador have pluck. People in Branch, Point Lance, on the Cape Shore and in countless communities have drawn on remarkable reserves of courage and spirit through the most challenging of times to guide and anchor them. We are here because we want to be here. (And it doesn't hurt that we live in places so safe that we don't have to lock our doors)!
So on this sunny Sunday, as I'm trying to send light and love to the nay-sayers from that interview, I can plainly hear the gentleman being interviewed sling a quote at the audience focusing on rural decline, "Fifty percent of rural populations will eventually move to cities." I'd like to gently toss a quote back to him courtesy of Mr. John Hennessey, "Do you know who I am?" Now that's pluck. And that's the art of staying.