Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Human Refuse 1 Revisited ~ The Very Beginning



Another journey begins today:  November 27, 2012
A long journey that I have carried in my heart for over fifty years.

I am going to tell my story of my sojourn in the North.
It changed my life forever.

It is not just my story, but the story of my family.
I have been the keeper of my father's letters for 35 or 40 years.
It was always understood
that I would be the writer who told the story.

I've done scribbles and scratches of writing about this time over the years.
I've even done bits of research.
I have a lot to uncover and process.

On the third day of my retirement,
I decided that I would walk to St. Anthony, Newfoundland - on a map.
I promised myself I'd walk the last ten miles for real.
Yesterday I passed the 289 mile mark, which puts me just a few miles west of WaKeeney, Kansas.
I have been walking every day for 171 days, through sickness and in health,
and I know that I can do it, one step at a time.

I also know that somehow I will tell this northern story.
I have faith that I can do it,
one word at a time.

This is the cast of  family characters:



My mother, Sara Margaret MacDonald MacBeath
My father, Donald Blair MacBeath
The photo is probably taken at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia circa fall, 1947 or 1948.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

We five in the fall of 1960 just a few months before we went north.
Louise (me) with Bertie, 
Barbie, 
Roy, holding his science project bean plant, 
and Donnie with our dachshund Gretchen
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







So, I'll start here, with me, 
at the beginning of February, 1961,  
but I'll make no promises to stick to a strict chronology.
I will be going back and forth in time.



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






Human Refuse 1

     Our flight from Nakina to Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, was a corridor through which I passed from the safe, secure world of my childhood into an alien world; a world of starvation, sickness, and hopelessness; a harsh world of discrimination and exploitation.  I sat next to Chicago Bill, the pilot of the Norseman, watching the shadow of our tiny bush plane skim over the ground below.  The trees and lakes were locked in ice; no sign of life could I see in the frozen wilderness which stretched to every horizon.  The winter had drained all color from the land leaving only the stark black of the brittle trees and the dazzling white of the deep snow.  The sky glowed an electric blue. It assaulted my eyes with its clear brilliance.  My breath hung in the frigid air like smoke on a still day.  My fingers and toes tingled in spite of my thermal underwear, woollen socks and mittens, warm clothes and parka.  Gretchen, our dachshund, huddled on my lap, shivering in the subzero temperatures; her tiny boots and coat, sewn out of a cast-off jacket, were useless against the bitter cold.

     When Lansdowne House appeared on the horizon, a tiny cluster of buildings at the end of a long peninsula reaching out into an ice-bound lake, we were both relieved and appalled; relieved that the long cold flight was over, appalled at the immensity of the wilderness surrounding the frozen village.  I didn't realize it at the time, but this tiny village alone in a vast wilderness of ice and snow would have a profound effect on the rest of my life.



Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Hudson Bay Post and Dock   
Winter 1961
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



     My experiences in this community and in Lac Suel and Sioux Lookout during the next three years would radically change my outlook on life.  Before coming to Lansdowne House I was a typical Nova Scotian girl, ten years old and secure.  I came from a happy family and had never lacked anything I needed.  After Lansdowne House I could never again capture the carefree innocence of my earlier childhood.  Starvation, disease, and death had become harsh realities.


 

Roy, Donnie, Bertie, and I
Lac Seul, Summer 2012

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









Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


     

20 comments:

  1. It's wonderful that you have these photos from so long ago, and memories as vivid as if it was yesterday. Lives can change for all sorts of reasons, and your story telling through your Dad's letters has captivated me so much . retirement... Haha, I work or seem to work more than ever, maybe the years take a toll, and it takes longer to do less. Happy writing.

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    1. Hi Jean!
      Thanks for your kind comment! Your words encourage me to keep going! Retirement for me certainly hasn't been rocking on the verandah. Thank God.

      I finally have internet contact! Right now we're at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. We have just completed the Alaskan portion of our trip.

      I appreciate your continuing to visit my blog when I've been unable to visit yours and others. Internet time was very expensive and maddenly slow and unreliable on the Inside Passage of Canada and Alaska, and in Denali National Park so many internet desperate people were trying to get online in the hotel lobby that I couldn't get in.

      Hopefully this evening I'll be able to visit your blog. Sending you and Hugh my best wishes.

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  2. It's really fascinating to read that, and the photos are really lovely.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Blogoratti. Now that I have internet contact again, I hope to visit your blog shortly!

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  3. I'm enjoying your walk back...

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    1. Hi Jackiesue! Thanks for continuing to visit when I've been absent! Hope all is well with you!

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  4. That must've been a sight to see, especially for a young child.
    I really hope you can put all of this together into a book.

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    1. Hi Alex! I'm working on it, slowly! I'm back in contact again, at least while we're at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia. What a trip we have been having! Hope all is well with you!

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  5. Can imagine seeing all of that up there as a kid would sure give one new views indeed

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    1. Hey Pat! It was very different from rural Nova Scotia, let me tell you! Thanks for being such a faithful reader, especially while I have been cut off from the internet. Take care!

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  6. Dear Louise, what a great post, and I love all your photos. It would be great to see a book from all your efforts!

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    1. Thank you, Linda! Really, truly, I'm working on a book, although we've been traveling in Alaska, and now we are in Victoria, B.C. Internet, yes!!! It's a rainy late afternoon, and so I'm hoping to get around to everyone's blogs. I hope all is well with you!

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  7. This is fascinating material, and you recount it so well. Sincere compliments and admiration. More please.

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    1. Thank you, Geo! More is coming. Sorry about my absence on your blog. We have been driving, sailing, flying throughout the west, and in most places I have been without internet. But what a trip! I've always longed to go to Alaska, and it was as wonderful as I had imagined. Take care ~ I'll be popping by soon!

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  8. A life-changing experience indeed. No wonder you're recall is so clear. I agree with other bloggers who have commented - your writing would translate into a fascinating read as a book.

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    1. Thank you, Linda! I'm working on the book, although not during these past few weeks while we've been traveling up the Inside Passage to Alaska and beyond. Wow, what magnificent country! I hope things are going well for you and yours!

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    2. Oops - reading back that should have read 'your' not 'you're' but I guess you knew it was a slip in concentration. Looking forward reading more of your journal soon. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. We are well and looking forward to going to Italy for a month in the autumn.

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    3. Oh lucky, lucky you! I long to visit Italy!

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  9. I am so intrigued and can't wait to read the rest! I am always amazed at how many photos you have. I can't wait to read and see more!!!

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    1. t's always so good to see you, Audrey! You'd probably groan if you saw how many photos I really have! I've gotten completely out of control with digital! I hope all is well with you, Alain, and the boys! Thanks for faithfully visiting! Hugs!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.