This Is Exactly How It Is

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.

[Thumbnail: natalielucier]

  • November 03 2010

    boy do I feel ya on these thoughts. been there. may still be there. may be the reason I bought myself a plane ticket to Paris today. with money I *technically* don’t have to spend.

  • November 03 2010

    I haven’t traveled a lot… but I didn’t notice differences in things when I got here (except the price of groceries… and the lack of lines on the roads…), and it’s the same whenever I would go to PEI… it’s more when I would go back to Ontario I’d realize the subtle differences.. which is why i always think I belong out east ;)
    (though, when I went to PEI and had a beer, i HUGELY noticed the difference in the bottle. In a missed-my-face kind of way.)

    also, that’s crazy about the dog. poor chicken.

  • November 04 2010

    The world sends you signs you just need to listen to them. The restlessness will likely continue to grow and you’ll be ready for the next step when it comes.

  • November 04 2010

    The restlessness will likely continue to grow and you’ll be ready for the next step when it comes.

  • November 05 2010

    It’s really good that you’re taking time to figure out your next step before taking it. Your home sounds like a good and peaceful place to do this, despite the low cell phone signal and dead chicken ;)

  • November 05 2010

    I agree about opinion Sabina, to taking time about figure out, and it is nice articel too

  • November 06 2010

    Love the passage.. looks like I’m going to have to read that one!
    “how little of the world I had seen” – I think the more you travel the more you realise how big the world is!! Travel-bug-syndrome. Great travel stories, lookin forward to reading some more!

  • November 07 2010

    Having read breif passages I too am now insulted on the books behalf.

  • November 08 2010

    Thanks for your thoughts, ladies! Glad to know I’m not the only one in this boat! Time will tell, for sure.

  • November 09 2010

    I’ve read both the Wayne Johnston books mentioned and I loved them. It’s always a treat when you can pick up a great book for a song in the middle of nowhere – I somehow missed the Dingwall bookstore when I was there – probably suffering from physical exhaustion that day. Anyway – I think he has a new one out.

    I feel your frustration with internet. In Uganda I had 3 days with nothing & when we did have it, it was slow.

    I head back to Canada tomorrow after 2 SOLID weeks of meetings with corporates, ambassadors, students, Rotary, media …as a board member of the KiBO Foundation. I have met countless excited, energized, smart twenty somethings in the past 2 weeks – some survived the Rwanda genocide but still gave back to the community & feel proud and self confident now. They have big dreams and are happy to have a second chance at life. So WHAT DO YOU DREAM OF? Travel – but what else?? What makes you tick Candice? What do you want to accomplish in your twenties? It sounds like you have lots of thinking time which is not a bad thing. You are smart & talented. Something will happen soon – in the meantime perhaps you could inspire the local kids to become writers & readers.

    Sorry if I sound a bit preachy here – but sometimes outward looking instead of inward looking might give you the answer you’re looking for. Or not.

  • November 09 2010

    Ah, the book! Think of all the circumstances that led to going into that little diner, yet you found it…or it found you. Ayngelina is right, the world sends signs. Stay open, stay tuned in. Myself, I still have no idea what’s going on but the universe seems to be conspiring right now for me. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep listening. And keep talking to people, you never know where connections lead to.

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