I’m not impressed by a lot of Newfoundland literature, but Wayne Johnston’s writing has the kind of dreamy quality to make me envious. It all started with The Navigator of New York, and then I found a battered, water-damaged copy of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams for $2 in the corner of a shady take-out joint in Dingwall, Cape Breton. I was waiting for chowder. The book was between 30 different copies of Nora Roberts, John Grisham and other “used book” favourites. I felt insulted on the book’s behalf.
Almost three months later, I found this passage which sums up everything I felt while I was away from home, especially when I had just set out in Cape Breton. The subtle differences shocked me; I didn’t expect to find them so close.
Here, young Joey Smallwood (the man who brought Newfoundland to Confederation) lands in Cape Breton before making his way to New York City, where he hopes to make a man of himself:
“I exhausted myself trying to take it all in, noting every little variation and departure from how things were supposed to be. My notion of home and everything in it as ideal, archetypal, was being overthrown. It was as though the definitions of all the words in my vocabulary were expanding at once.
Cape Breton was much like Newfoundland, yet everything seemed slightly off. Light, colours, surface textures, dimensions – objects like telegraph poles, fence posts, mail boxes, which you would think would be the same everywhere, were bigger or smaller or wider by a hair than they were back home. That I was able to detect such subtle differences made me realize how circumscribed my life had been, how little of the world I had seen.”
My brain jolted when I read that part, the last bit. Back in August, even if I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time, I knew there was something shifting around in my life…and it all began in Cape Breton.
I’m home in Bay d’Espoir at the moment, researching work abroad opportunities and applying for jobs. Figuring shit out, maybe. I took a walk to film some footage for a competition, and everything smells like autumn and wood smoke burning in people’s stoves. Our electricity had been gone all morning, as well as our water. It took me three infuriating days to learn how to set up a wireless router, and my phone only receives a signal when I’m sitting on the left side of the couch with my hand poised in the air. On my walk back to the house, a woman was standing in her backyard screeching at her dog, “CHICO! CHICO!” and waving her hands. Two men working on the power-lines came and removed the dead chicken from its jaws, feathers all over the place. An argument took place.
So in answer to that post awhile ago about knowing when it’s time to leave? I’m still restless.