Friday, May 13, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: The Space Traveller

During freeze-up in the late fall and early winter of 1960,
our family did not hear from my father in Lansdowne House.
When you lived in an isolated fly-in community 
in the wilderness of Northern Ontario, you were cut off
from the Outside twice a year during freeze-up and break-up.
We all had to wait for news of my father, 
just as he had to wait for news of us.

Winter in Northern Ontario
Flickr ~ J.H.   License

On Saturday, January 7, 1961 
My father wrote to our extended family:

Hi There Everyone:
Well, your favourite northern reporter is back on the job again.
It is nice to be able to relate to you all my adventures,
and in some cases, my misadventures.

It’s been a quiet weekend so far,
so I guess that I will devote most of today’s edition
to telling you about some of the things that happened to me
during the time that I was without a typewriter.

Uno's Typewriter in the Father's Shack
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This is where my father usually typed in the bedroom of the two-room shack that
he and Uno rented from Father Ouimet at the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.

Let’s see now, with the exception of yesterday’s edition,
I have not “gone to press” since the beginning of freeze-up,
so I have an ample supply of adventures on which to draw.
I guess to preserve some sort of continuity,
I’ll start with those things that happened first
and gradually work myself to the present.

Freeze-up was quite an adventure in itself.
It was a rather unique, and I must admit, not all-together
unpleasant experience being cut off from the outside world.

Granted, I was terribly lonely and missed getting my weekly letters from all of you,
but along with being cut off from all news of the outside world,
I was also cut off from all worries having to do with things of the outside world.

It’s strange, but instead of being worked up and worried about
not knowing what was happening to my friends and loved ones,
I was never more relaxed or felt better in my life.

Oh, I could have driven myself crazy with worry and anxiety,
if I had so desired, but I adopted the attitude that whatever happens,
I can’t do anything about it, so why worry about it.

If a terrible disaster struck any of you, I would be notified by wire,
and if it wasn’t important enough to merit a wire,
it would either wait till after freeze-up,
or and which is more probable,
would have solved itself before freeze-up ended.

I hope that you don’t think that I am too heartless or selfish,
but that was my way of dealing with a unique situation.
I found out later, to my great surprise,
that that is precisely how most of the people who spend
prolonged periods alone in the bush react to the situation.

Uno, on the other hand, couldn’t adopt this attitude
and went almost foolish with worry, loneliness, and nerves.

Uno and Dad with Baby Duncan
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, 1960
Photo by Duncan McRae
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

They are sitting on Uno's bed on the other side of the bedroom in the two-room shack 
they rented from Father Ouimet at the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.

As I said before, it is the queerest sensation to realize that you are almost
completely cut off from civilization, except for wireless, which is erratic at the best up here,
and to know that the only way out is a 150-mile trip by dog team.

Flickr ~ Sue Lowndes    license

I have some idea, now, of the feeling that a space traveller might experience
on a prolonged voyage when he could conceivably be cut off
from the world for several weeks or even months.

The Blue Marble


I think that the best way to describe it is to call it a sort of emotional hibernation.
You don’t exactly forget about your loved ones and your responsibilities,
but you cease to actively worry about them
or to be stimulated to worry or anxiety by thoughts of them.

Well, enough about my personal philosophy about living in isolation,
and let’s call a halt to my rambling for today.
I’ll be back at the same old stand tomorrow night,
just as sure as death and taxes.
Till then, I’ll be seeing you all.

All my love, 

I, too, have experienced what it is like to be cut off from the outside world;
but I was a girl, and it was an exciting adventure for me.
I never even thought of the potential dangers.

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

One time during break-up,
in April 1961,
my brother Roy and I decided
to climb a tall wooden tower behind
the Hudson's Bay Company post.

We were having great fun running around on the flat top 
and peering over the open sides until Mike Flaherty, the community nurse, 
came flying out of the nursing station yelling up at us:
"Get down!  Get down right now!
What do you expect me to do if one of you falls and busts yourself up? 
I haven't got enough morphine to stop your pain,  
let alone a plane to fly you out if I can't handle your injuries."

Chastened, we hurriedly climbed down.
Not satisfied that we grasped the gravity of the situation yet,
Mike told us a horror story or two about northern nurses 
having to operate on patients on their kitchen tables during freeze-up or break-up
while following directions from a doctor over a shortwave radio.  
We slunk away.

It was not the first time, nor the last, that Mike chewed us out
for doing stupid kid stuff

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  The Blue Marble:
     This is one of my favorite photographs of the Earth captured on December 7, 1972, by the crew
     of  the Apollo 17 on its way to the Moon at a distance of about 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers).
     The Arabian Peninsula, Africa, and Antarctica are visible in the photograph.

2.  A Personal Note:
      I will be without internet access in the near future.  I have several northern posts written and
      scheduled to post automatically.  If I can get online, I will reply to any comments and try to
      visit as many blogs as I can.  Sorry about that, but at least I've gotten some blog writing done 
      in advance.

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario


  1. I love maps, and follow yours with great interest. And now with blog friends all over, I have printed out maps of Canada, US, Japan, and naturally our own NZ. You might find a little pinpoint where you are. Isolation is what you make of it, being alone or being lonely are so different. Take care Louise, and no internet is another kind of isolation too, or is it deprivation??

    1. Hi, Jean! I love maps, too! Lately I've taken to making and posting my own because of copyright constrictions, using Wikimedia bases. I've been alone lots in my life, but rarely lonely. No internet is marching orders from my husband who says there is no room to lug my computer around in my tiny suitcase when we're hopping planes, trains, buses, boats, maybe a ferry. We will be moving fast and light. Sending hugs and best wishes to you and Hugh!

  2. It would be weird to be cut off. It would take a load off - you wouldn't know to worry about things. Like your father did, you just wouldn't worry.
    I'm sure you kids tempted fate many times...

    1. Hi, Alex! When I think of the things we did as kids, I wonder that we actually survived childhood. There were times our lives were threatened! I've got a very small piece scheduled for IWSG day on June 1st ~ don't want to get dropped! LOL I'll have lots of stories to share when I get back online. Take care! You do so much for so many people!

  3. I have been without contact many times for a week or two in wilderness trips while backpacking or canoeing. Sadly, now, with cell phones and other such gadgets, you are no longer so cut off from the world. I'd be with you, climbing that tower! Enjoy your travels.

    1. Thanks, Sage! I live to travel! Terry lives to travel on a low budget and very lightly. When we got married, I didn't know where in the world we were going on our honeymoon, and I could only bring a carryon. I should have realized then what my future would be like. LOL

  4. So you're going to be isolated without internet access? See you when you're back in the blogosphere!

    1. Thanks, Debra! I'll have adventures to share when I can get back online! Take care!

  5. Great to see another post from you, dear Louise, and I look forward to having you back, my cherished friend. Love and hugs to you. :)

    1. I'm feeling the love, Linda! I'll be back before I know it. Thanks goodness for your travel tips! I've been putting them to good use! I have a small carryon ~ NO computer. :( It was interesting around here this morning when Terry told me I needed to take the small carryon that fits under the seat not the bigger carryon that goes in the overhead bin. LOL I'll have stories to tell! Take care my dear friend! Big hugs to you!

  6. Being that isolated you'd have nothing much to worry about except maybe the unknown. It may be peaceful for a while, but if crap hits the fan, you'd be rather screwed trying to get out of there.

    1. Yeah, there was the ever present threat of what happens if crap hits the fan! LOL Have a good one!

  7. It's amazing to think of being cut off like that! Your father had a good pragmatic attitude to it though. I think you have to or otherwise you go mad like UNo!x

    1. Hi, Kezzie! I've been the worst respondent! Thanks, dear friend, for hanging in with me when I have been so absent! Life will hopefully settle down soon!

  8. I remain about as cut off from the world as possible because I'm sick of Donald Trump and don't want to hear about him.


    1. I hear you, Janie! Trump ~ OMG! I'm off, and when I come back, I'll catch up with everyone! Take care! I'm gong to be computerless!

  9. Oh boy, I am glad that you made it through your childhood! I am the same but I wasn't in as an exotic location as you! :-)
    Your Dad's letters are fascinating. xx

  10. Wow - this was one fascinating post! What an interesting life you all led. It does always amaze me that kids survive childhood with all the risks that they take, but I guess it's just a necessary part of growing up. Looking forward to checking out more of your blog and your father's letters.

    Cheers - Ellen

  11. What an isolated experience. These are fabulous memories. I can't remember if I've asked before, but are you preparing a memoir or personal history?

  12. Hey Fundy! I still have a scar on my forehead where nurse Mike stitched me up after a flash light misadventure in Lansdowne. Hugs your sister Barb

  13. Another great letter home. The photos are so good. Helps me to imagine that I am there.

  14. I know that relaxing feeling of isolation too. Two years ago I lived in an isolated area with little cell phone signal and next to no internet connection.

    For the first two months, it was the most relaxed I'd been in years. But by the third, I was starting to go stir crazy.

    Nice to meet you, by the way!

    1. Nice to meet you too, Misha! Sorry I'm just answering now. I've been traveling. I enjoy that kind of isolation in small doses too! Take care!

  15. I know that feeling. My grandparents have a cabin up in the top of the mountains, a good hour away from any kind of civilization. Going there was like that. No neighbors, no vehicles, no electronics. Just us and nature. It was freeing, but I still like being connected.

  16. Do you suppose we could say that not having access to the Internet is our version of being cut off from everyone? In some ways I do feel isolated when I can't follow links and find out what is happening "out there". I can't imagine living so far away, as your dad did. And I am always amazed at the chatty tone in his letters.


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.