Friday, January 29, 2016

Still Absent

Just to let you know,
I'm still being held hostage by life!

But I'm okay!
And I'm seeing light
at the end of the tunnel!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Where in the World Is Fundy Blue?

I have hit rock bottom.
I am impossibly behind on blogging.
Well, almost impossibly.

I shall return to posting on Friday.
Meanwhile, I shall be enjoying my favorite pastime:
Catching Up.
Maybe this time I'll figure it out!

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Dad Makes a Life-Changing Decision

During freeze-up in Northern Ontario a half century ago,
people in the scattered and remote communities 
hunkered down and waited for the ice to thicken
on the countless lakes in the land of beautiful waters.

The Stillness of the Remote Northern Ontario Winter

Some wrote letters during this difficult time 
and waited for the day when the ski planes could land 
bringing welcome mail and flying their accumulated letters out.

My father was not writing a stockpile of letters to fly out 
when the first plane broke Lansdowne House's profound isolation.
He was busy dealing with other things.
The loneliness of the subarctic boreal forest,
magnified by the lack of communication with the Outside,
drove my father to a life-changing decision for our family.

My mother and we five children in rural Nova Scotia
had no inkling of what my father was thinking and doing, 
cutoff as we were from all news from the North.

My mother struggled with the same heartache 
and loneliness of separation that my father faced, 
a fact that Mom, being Mom, protected us from.
As late November stretched into December
she calmly sorted through our daily mail
hiding her increasing hope and then increasing disappointment
when Dad's distinctive handwriting didn't appear 
scrawled across an envelope in the pile.

My first tangible clue of what was to come 
arrived in a letter from my father's friend Maureen McRae. 
When it appeared after its long journey from the northern bush,
it shook up our sheltered, ordinary lives
and filled romantic me with excitement.

A Letter from Maureen
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On Friday, December 2, 1960 
Maureen McRae wrote to my mother:

Dear Sara and Family,
Well it sure was nice to get your lovely letter.  
Glad to hear you’re all fine.

My have we ever been busy lately.  
Lord what will I do when I have as many children as you and Don. (I want six).

Everything happened to me today.  
First Duncan and the highchair
took a very graceful fall
to the floor – face down.

Baby Duncan and Maureen
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

After I had got him pacified, I tripped, 
then we had sausages for lunch and Duncan C. can’t stand them.

Then Duncan C. brought the pilot up for coffee, 
and my kitchen looks like we had World War II fought in there.  
Oh well – one of those days you can’t make a penny.  

On top of that my mum’s letter cheered us us immensely –
Duncan’s Uncle Rod had died and another aunt is in the hospital.
So it was rather nice to receive the pictures and your cheery letter.

Well baby Duncan has two teeth now and is starting on his third. 
We sure are pleased with him.  
He is more fun than a picnic.

I know Christmas will seem awfully lonely without Don.  
I understand cause Duncan and I celebrated
our first anniversary about five hundred miles apart.  
I had to go out to Winnipeg to have baby Duncan.

When I was out friends of my mother’s
were constantly saying that I was such a poor dear, 
and so brave being so many miles from civilization.  
But I love it, and I’m sure you will too.

Maureen McRae
Father's Island, Lansdowne House
Roman Catholic Church, Windcharger, and Dad and and Uno's Shack in Background
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

December 6, 1960:
Wash day today, great fun.  
Hi! I got sideyracked for about four days, 
but here I am again.

Don was over yesterday, Sara, and he’s very lonely.  
Not that I blame him.  
I would have been climbing the walls by now if I were him.

Nothing beats having your family with you – your wife especially.
So he said he was writing to ask you
if you and your brood would come up in January.

We certainly would love to see you come up here.
You would be staying in the Forestry house – 
It is small, but I’m sure you could manage.  
You would have a propane stove to cook on, 
and there is lots of cupboard space in the kitchen.

The Forestry House
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Your front room windows would give you a lovely view 
of the lake when spring comes, 
and I’m sure you wouldn’t miss the ocean that much 
when there’s such a lovely lake out front.

Lake Attawapiskat
View from Outside the Forestry House
Lansdowne House, Developed in August 1961
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Now in the way of clothes, 
I brought everything with me except my formals.  
It is so nice to have a good dress to put on to brighten you up.  
For winter as long as the kids have warm boots 
and snow outfits they’ll be warm.

If I were you, I’d bring your personal things, knicknacks, 
an extra tube of lipstck, your iron, lots of clothespins 
(I can’t spell at all today), bedding, linens, and such.  
If you have some scatter rugs, bring them cause 
they sure are nice on these floors.  They’re chilly.

Oh!  You would need curtains for your livingroom windows.  
The Indians have a tendancy of looking in at night.  
If you like, I could send you the measurements 
and you could make them.  
Mine are dark cloth, anything would be fine 
as long as you can’t see through them.

If you come, we would be getting the drier right away so that would help.  
We’re seeing about a propane gas one right now.

The girls could sleep on the bunkbeds in one bedroom, 
and Roy could sleep on the davenport in the living room   
I don’t think he’d mind.  My brother did it for years.  
He’d sleep in mum and dad’s bed until company left,
and then Dad would carry or walk him into his bed.

There are good-sized closets in the bedrooms, so that would come in handy.  
The utility room could be used as a combination washroom and bathroom.  
The oil burner would keep the house real warm.

We sure hope you’ll come.  I’m sure you could manage, 
and I’ll gladly give you a hand when you move in if you’d like that.
Oh please come!

Now I’m trying to think of more things to bring that you’ll need.
Oh, a small first aid kit will come in handy.

Also the house was just built a year and a half ago, 
and it’s in good condition.  There’s tiles for the floor too.

I’m sure you’d like this place.  
The women are quite nice (all four of us), 
and we’re all very easy to get along with.
I’ll write again when I think of other things.

Well!  You can imagine the excitement this letter caused!
I had a very different reaction from my mother, I'm sure.
I was headed into the North, into the wilderness!
My siblings and I were going to be the only white children,
except for three small babies.
I was going to go to school with real Indians!
Not that our local Mi'kmaq weren't real Indians,
but they were, well, ordinary Nova Scotians.

My mother was reading between the lines of Maureen's letter:
a tiny house with no electricity or running water,
and the "bathroom" was a chemical toilet 
that had to be dumped daily in the community repository.
Perhaps she hadn't realized what the "bathroom" was yet,
but she certainly understood the challenges of
taking five young children into the northern bush
and of the work required on her part to make it happen.

Some women would have
quailed at the thought,
and perhaps Mom did briefly,
but she had the heart of an adventurer,
and as much as I longed
to experience the North,
she longed to every bit as much and more.

Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A Hint of Things to Come
On the Shores of Lake Attawapiskat
Roy, Gretchen (dachshund), Me (Louise), Mom (Sara) and Bertie
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Beautiful Cove on Long island,
in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Heading for the Winter Traplines

TLL: Lessons with Father Ouimet

1.  The McRaes:  
     Duncan C. worked for the Department of Transport,
     and his duties included running the DOT Weather Station.
     He and his wife Maureen were staunch friends of my father.

2.  Land of Beautiful Waters:
     "Ontario" is a corruption of the Iroquois word Onitariio, meaning beautiful lake,
     or Kanadario, variously translated as beautiful water.
     Ontario has some 250,000 lakes and over 100,000 kilometres (62,000 mi) of rivers.  Wikipedia
     The myriad of lakes in Northern Ontario is the most distinctive feature of the Boreal Shield.
     To me, the area around Lansdowne House seemed more water than land.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Surrounded by Water
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

IWSG: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 ~ Contemplating the Possibilities!

It's the first Wednesday 
of the month ~ 
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and offer their encouragement
and support to other members.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are stepping up to help 
IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are:  L. G. KeltnerDenise CoveySheri LarsenJ. Q. Rose, Chemist Ken and Michelle Wallace.

Visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Happy New Year, Everyone!

How exhilarating it is to look forward
and contemplate the possibilities 2016 brings!
I am grateful to be alive, healthy, happy, 
and blessed with good fortune.

Visiting in Breckenridge During Christmas Week
Colorado, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rghts Reserved

I'm anticipating many good and hopeful things,
and the struggle with writing is one of them:
That stare-at-the-blank-page,
tearing my hair out,
coffee, ginger, and chocolate fueled
fight to wrestle the right words onto the page.
It can be agony, but it makes me feel so alive!

I am excited about where my memoir 
and it's research will take me this year.

Just before Christmas, when I was writing out Christmas cards, 
I was also sorting through a collection of old letters and cards.
I came across one written by Father Ouimet.
Father Ouimet is a key figure in my memoir.

Father Ouimet with My Father, Don MacBeath
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rghts Reserved

I touched his signature at the bottom of his letter,
running my fingers across "With Love, Maurice."
I felt such peace, love, and support flooding my heart, 
as if Father Ouimet were with me
telling me I'm doing the right thing
to persist with this maddening memoir of mine.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rghts Reserved

So far this journey has been a chaos of difficult emotions.
I still have them, but they are bound up with peace and love.
It's a weird and wonderful development that is carrying me forward.

A Path and a Way Forward
Burro Trail, Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rghts Reserved

So this is where I am with my writing as I move into 2016.
My goal is to have a complete first draft by the end of November.

I would enjoy hearing what your thoughts are 
about your writing plans for the year!
Certainly I am looking forward to visiting 
as many of your posts as I can!

I wish each of you, fellow IWSG members,
a fulfilling writing journey this year!

With Thanks to My Ever-Patient Terry
Who Stands by Me and Supports Me Every Step of the Way
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rghts Reserved