Friday, November 25, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: The Greatest Blessing

On this Thanksgiving weekend I am thinking about all that we are blessed with,
about the peace, opportunity, and material wealth we have as Americans.
But I often wonder why are some so fortunate and why others have it so hard.

The First Thanksgiving ~ by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
circa 1912-1915

Rich or poor, around the world,
there is one blessing that sustains most of us,
and that is family.
The most wonderful, powerful force in my life has been my family:
my parents, my siblings, and of course, 
Terry who has made my life a joy and an adventure.

Terry and I waiting for the Prince Kūhiō Parade
Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, Hawaii
March 13, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Some of My Extended Family
Jake, Roberta (My sister), Natalie, Olivia, Heather
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada  Summer 2016
iPhoto by (Maybe) Sara Heembrock

When we arrived in Lansdowne House, we were already a closely-knit family,
and our experiences in the North bound us more tightly together.
Even today, separated by long distances, we are unusually close.
We love nothing more than to get together,
and this closeness has continued into the next generation.

Some of the Next Generation
Sara, Jake, Heather, Natalie
Jeffrey, Andrew, and Gavin
My sister Donnie and Martin's House
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada  Summer 2016
iPhoto by (Maybe) Donalda MacBeath

As for Terry,
I can’t imagine my life
without his calm, steady
support and love.

Binion's Photo     

It was difficult for my father to be separated from my mother
and his children for almost six lonely months.
He wrote on February 24, 1961 to his extended family:

"It was sure great to see them!!!!  
Everyone knew me except the baby.  
She was quite strange with me
for a while, but she is over it now
and going around saying,
"Hi, Dad” just like a trooper.

She is the most adorable Baby,
but then maybe I am prejudiced.
Gretchen remembered me and just
about went foolish when she saw me.”

Baby Bertie, February 1961
Thanks to my cousin Dawn MacDonald White for this photo

I’ve been badgering my brother to share his memories 
of Lansdowne House with me.
He and I are likely the only white people who lived there then
who are alive now and have detailed memories.
In spite of his challenging job at Kufpec in Kuwait City,
Roy is writing down a few thoughts about Lansdowne House
and sharing them with me.  He prods my memory, and I prod his.

My Brother Roy and Me
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA, July 2016
Photo by Susan MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I am grateful every day
for the incredible parents
I was blessed with,
and this long process of working
with their letters and photos
has lessened the pain of their loss.

Sara and Don, First Christmas Together
With John and Esther (Mom's brother)
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I thought in honor of Thanksgiving and the blessing of my family,
I would share what Roy wrote for me about our parents
in November, this year:

“I was blessed with highly intelligent and loving parents
who cared for their children more than themselves,
and gave everything they had to us.  

They were a hard working and passionate couple with rich personalities,
and with inquisitive and interrogative but also very different outlooks on life.
They were very lucky in that they were, as teachers,
able to share their professional lives with each other.

Life can be kind and it can be cruel.
They were not perfect and definitely had their ups and downs,
as does any couple with spirit and soul.
But regardless, they were the anchor of our lives,
and they passed their values and their attitudes on to their children.  

The five of us siblings shared equally in both their love and their care,
and their constant encouragement to find and live our dreams.
As a nine year old, I idolized them both and felt boundless security in their presence.
As an adult, I look back and understand the blessings they gave us;
and that they are and were the finest people I have ever met in my lifetime.
I know exactly where the courage and confidence to chase my dreams came from.” 

We Five:  Barbie, Me, Bertie, Roy, and Donnie
Lac Seul, Northern Ontario, Canada Summer 1961
Photo likely by John Garrick
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Roy and Susan with Their Daughter Heather
Beautiful Cove, Long Island Nova Scotia  Summer 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Hold your loved ones in your heart every day.
Cherish them, because life is unpredictable,
and you never know when you may lose someone you love.

I wish my American family and friends joy in each other
this Thanksgiving weekend.
When everything is stripped down to the one essential in life,
we find unconditional love.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Point Prim
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Touchdown in the Remote Wilderness

When Lansdowne House appeared on the northern horizon, late in the afternoon
of Monday, February 20, 1961, my family and I were flooded with emotions:  
joy, relief, curiosity, and excitement.

Peninsula and Island
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development 
Library and Archives Canada:  PA-094992

But I was also shocked by the immensity of the wilderness
surrounding the frozen village.  We had been flying
from the small northern town of Nakina for well over an hour,
and we had seen no trace of people.  
The Father’s Island and the tip of the long peninsula
reaching out into ice-bound Lake Attawapiskat were stunningly remote.

Remote is how Lansdowne House is described in almost every reference
I have found.  But remote doesn’t begin to convey how isolated the tiny village is.

It exists in a vast tract of Canadian wilderness, 
stretching over 3,100 miles (almost 5,000 kilometers)
from the wild coasts of Labrador to the border of Alaska.
It spills outside the confines of Canada, east to Greenland,
north to the pole, and west to the Bering Sea:  
a desolate expanse of tundra, forest, muskeg, and water.

Landsdowne House is located where the subarctic boreal forest
straggles into the empty wastes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands.
Even today, this land of stunted spruce and tamarack, bogs, rivers, and lakes
is one of the least-populated and least-explored areas in the world.
Even before fur traders and missionaries pushed into the area,
the land was largely uninhabited by Aboriginals
because of the harsh environment and the scarcity of food.

As the tiny plane banked and came in for a landing,
we were relived that the cold, noisy flight was over
and overjoyed at being reunited with our father after six long months.
We were curious about our new home and community,
and we were excited about meeting the mysterious Ojibway people.  
Roy and I were thrilled about landing in a Norseman on skis.

I clutched Gretchen with one hand and braced with the other,
as the plane slowed and glided, the ice rushing toward us.
The landing gear, consisting of two main skis and a taildragger third,
felt small and fragile, collapsible, unequal to the task.
With a sudden bump, bump, bump,
we bounced along the ice and coasted to a stop near the DOT dock.

Lansdowne House
The Department of Transport dock was just beyond the middle left of the photograph.
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My father wrote of our arrival on Friday, February 24, 1961:  
“Sara and the family, including Gretchen, came winging over the southern horizon
about 4:45 Monday afternoon, just as I had given them up for the day.
The train was over two hours late at Nakina.
It was good that they got in Monday,
because the weather deteriorated right after they got in,
and there hasn’t been a plane in since. ... 

The children and Sara survived the trip
without too many ill effects.
Actually the only casualty was Donnie.
She threw up, just as they touched down
on the ice at Lansdowne House.
I think that it was excitement
more than anything else."

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

I climbed stiffly out of the Norseman unto the ice and into my father's bearhug.
Then I walked into a parting wall of black eyes staring out of fur-lined parkas.
Contrary to what we expected, the Indians were curious and happy to see us,
the first white children many of them had ever seen.
They crowded around us smiling shyly as we trudged across the ice to the dock.  

The men stepped forward, some in olive green Hudson Bay parkas,
others in black leather jackets, all in blue jeans and boots,
while the women stood quietly in the background, children by their sides,
babies laced in tikanogans on their backs.
The women looked very strange in their long colorful skirts, parkas, and mukluks,
knee-high moccasins made of moosehide and decorated with bright felt and tiny beads.

Meeting a Summer Plane at the Hudson's Bay Dock
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo (Transparency) by John Macfie 
Reference Code: C 330-14-0-0-95 
Archives of Ontario, I0012712

They were as taken with us as we were with them.
Certainly Barbie's blonde hair, Donnie's long curls,
and Gretchen bounding beside me on stubby legs were novel sights.

Dachshund in Snow
You tube ~ adventurejess

I was overcome with shyness at all the attention 
as I floundered up the hill in the squeaky, sparkling snow,
and I escaped into the warm haven of the McRae home with gratitude.  

Suddenly very tired, I was overwhelmed by the unbroken bush surrounding us
and by the alien sights of the tiny, ice-locked, Ojibway village in Lake Attawapiskat.  

The evening passed in a warm blurr of McRae hospitality,
but the one thing I’ll never forget about our arrival in Lansdowne House
is the kind welcome of the Ojibway people when they met our plane.

A Norseman on Skis
"Taildragger" at the Back
Flickr ~ NOAA:  Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren   License 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House
Known Today as Neskantaga

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

Lansdowne House
Sketch by M. Louise Barbour

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: So Far North

Can anything be more thrilling as a child than to go
on a long trip to an unimaginable place?

Looking back after a lifetime spent exploring the world,
my brother Roy wrote:
"Imagine what I felt when my mother told me 
that we were leaving our cloistered existence in rural Nova Scotia
to go to northern Ontario and live with our father
in the great northern wilderness with the Indians.  
There was even a name for it:  we were going to live in the "bush",
hundreds of miles from any town of any size - in Indian Country.  
I knew all about Indian Country from watching Rin Tin Tin and Fort Apache.
My scalp tingled.  I instinctively moved a bit closer to my mother.  
The enormity of the change that I was to experience,
as that cloistered nine year old, is almost impossible, even for me, to fathom."

I, myself, was almost sick with excitement as we drove
to the ferry terminal at the wharf in Digby.
The familiar, comfortable places in Smith’s Cove passed by in a blur
from Kinsman’s Store to Great Grammie’s
to the Hedley House and Mountain Gap Inn. 
Digby, with its basin-side buildings raised on piles over the shore, soon followed.

Then suddenly there she was:  S.S. The Princess Helene,
the ferry that would carry us through Digby Gut out of the Annapolis Basin
and onto the treacherous Bay of Fundy waters.

Pre-1963 Postcard of The Digby Scallop Fleet 
with the S.S. Princess Helene Docked at the Wharf
(gold and black smokestack)
Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada

Roy and I were veterans at crossing between Maritime provinces by ferry
and came prepared for the voyage with “lucky pebbles” stuffed in our pockets
to drop to the bottom of the bay halfway between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Mom shepherded my three younger sisters, Donnie, Barbie, and Bertie
to the railing on deck where they could wave good-bye to our uncles and aunts.
Roy and I hung over the railing above the opening to the cargo bay.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw Gretchen being loaded on the ferry.
Our poor dachshund traveled all the way to Nakina, Ontario
by boat and train in a large, dark-green toy box.  
“Gretchen, Gretchen,” we shrieked as we watched her travel
up the gangway and disappear into the hold.  
We wouldn’t see her again until we caught our flight north five days later.  

Roy and I were supposed to watch our younger sisters,
but we escaped to run around the decks
and up and down every set of stairs we could find.  
It was a thrill to pass through the Gut, a gap Roy and I were convinced
had been blown open by an exploding volcano.
The familiar Victoria Beach and Point Prim on opposite shores of the Gut raced by.  

Out on the water we searched for returning fishing boats 
with their streamers of screaming seagulls
and spotted porpoises and dolphins following our boat.
It was windy, cold, and grey, but we didn’t care.
Let Mom and our three sisters stay inside,
we had a vessel and an ocean to explore.

A Fishing Boat Heads for the Gut and Home
Bay of Fundy near Point Prim, Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

About an hour out on the Bay of Fundy,
we dropped our pebbles overboard
and argued over whose would reach the ocean floor first.
I have no idea how we came up with the idea 
that this was a “lucky” thing to do, 
but it was our “secret” ferry tradition.
To this day, I drop a pebble overboard on a ferry crossing
honoring the memory of the adventure-loving boy and girl Roy and I were.

Then with our faces and hands burning from the cold,
we dashed inside to warm up, have something to eat,
and give our mother a break by watching our younger sisters.
I’m sure my mother was relieved to have a quiet cup of coffee and a cigarette.

Our baby sister Bertie loved the ferry rocking on the swells,
and  she raced up and down the passenger lounge on her unsteady feet.
I’m also sure my mother was delighted with that,
because she wanted Bertie to sleep on the train overnight.

In St. John we boarded a Canadian Pacific Railway train bound for Montreal.
A Red Cap carried our luggage to our compartment,
and a gregarious black porter made up our beds
while we had dinner in the train’s dining car.

Over and over Roy and I raced from car to car,
stopping to rock in the jerky connections between cars,
our laughter as loud as the roaring wind and the clacking wheels on the track.

Donnie and I slept up top in one overhead bunk,
Roy and Barbie shared a second,
while Mom and Bertie slept below.   
Roy and I hung over the edges of our bunks watching the night country fly by
until the rhythmic clickety-clack of the train lulled Roy to sleep.
But I lay awake for long hours,
afraid that the bunk would snap shut, 
quick as a clam in the mud.

A Train Porter
Flickr ~ antefixus21   License

Uncle John and his new son-in-law Art met us 
in a cloud of steam at the frigid Montreal station.  
Uncle John took everyone to his home to see Auntie Esther,
our married cousin Dawn,
and our three younger cousins, Faye, Sandy, and Baby Joanie.  

Our three-night stay in Montreal flew by in a whirlwind 
of shopping, sight-seeing, and a birthday party for Donnie.
I alone got to spend the nights at Dawn and Art’s.
Dawn and baby Randy went to bed early,
but Art and I stayed up late watching scary movies like the “Invisible Man.”
Art was the coolest of cool, pre-dating The Fonz by a decade or more.  
We left after feasting on Auntie Esther's turkey dinner
with the whole family seeing us off at the station.

Baby Randy and Baby Bertie
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Thanks to My Cousin Dawn MacDonald White for This Photo

We met Dad’s cousin Barbara on a platform along the way
and spent a second night sleeping on a train.  
Bertie found her train legs and kept trying to escape from our compartment,
while Roy and I followed a new and friendly porter around,
badgering him with questions about how everything worked.  
Again Roy and I sat up late watching the moon-lit,
snow-covered country pass by like a dream.
We had told anyone who would listen that we were going so far north
that when we got to Nakina the train had to turn around
because it couldn’t go north anymore.

Nakina Train Station
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In Nakina three Austin Airways employees met us
and herded us onto a Norseman for the final leg of our journey.
Gretchen practically wiggled herself inside out when she reunited with us.

We had never seen a plane on skis,
let alone taxied in one to take off on ice.  
Racing down the ice with roosters of snow flying off the skis
was exhilarating and the lift-off stomach-flipping 
as we rose steeply into the air and banked for the wilderness.

A Norseman on Skis
Flickr ~ NOAA:  Rear Admiral Harley D. Nygren   License 

Those were the days of unheated cabins and bone-rattling engines
that made conversation impossible.  
We huddled in the sub-zero temperatures, 
our breath hanging in the air like fog on a still day.

My fingers and toes tingled in spite of my thermal underwear,
woolen socks and mittens, warm clothes and parka.
Gretchen sat on my lap throughout our flight, shivering with anxiety and cold,
her little black forehead wrinkling as she yawned in the thinner air.
Her tiny boots and coat, sewn out of a cast-off jacket, 
were useless against the bitter cold.
I sat by a window and watched the alien landscape slide away,
the shadow of our tiny bush plane skimming over the ground far below.  

Mom wrote of the experience, 
“I never saw so many spruce trees in my life.
They are so close together that their branches go
straight up in the air instead of spreading out.
We flew over miles and miles of desolate country,
lakes and trees.  It is very beautiful.”

And beautiful it was:  
The trees and lakes locked in ice, with no sign of life
in the frozen wilderness which stretched to every horizon.  
The winter had drained all color from the land
leaving only the stark black brittle trees and the dazzling white of the deep snow.  
The sky glowed an electric blue, assaulting my eyes with its clear brilliance.

And then out of nowhere a wide stretch of ice, 
a long peninsula, a small island, a scattering of tiny buildings, 
and ant-like people scurrying for the dock,
shadows long and blue-black in the late, late afternoon. 

The Northern Bush Near Lansdowne House
Google Net News Ledger

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Crossing Petite Passage
Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia
Photo Copy by Roy MacBeath 
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Digby Gut Through Which the S.S. Princess Helene Sailed

Lansdowne House
Map Data:  Google

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 ~ Trying to Let Go

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:
Joylene Novell Butler,  Jen Chandler,  Mary Aalgaard,  Lisa Buie Collard, Tamara Narayan,  Tyrean Martinson,  and Christine Rains.

I hope you have a chance to visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!
~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Happy IWSG Day to everyone making the rounds!
I'm on the move again! 
We drove from Las Vegas to Laughlin this morning,
and I have internet access for the next few hours
(for the first time in almost a week).
So I'm cobbling together a quick post
and planning to visit as many IWSG members as I can.

Photographing at 75 mph
Laughlin Highway, Nevada
November 2, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Writing went well for me in Victoria, British Columbia
and for the eight or night days I was home,
before we hit the road again.

I worked on my memoir and wrote a short story for the IWSG contest,
so I felt the best I have about my writing in a long time.

Entering the IWSG anthology contest made me feel like a real writer.
I hadn't written a short story in way too long,
and it was a project I could complete in two or three weeks,
unlike my memoir which is a metastasizing monster!

Of course, I'd love to earn a spot in the IWSG fantasy anthology,
but if I don't, I'm still a winner because of the creative boost the process gave me.

Beautiful Dreamy Victoria
British Columbia, Canada
The Perfect Place to Write a Fantasy!
October 5, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Along the Edge of Beacon Hill Park
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
October 7, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

November's IWSG question for members is one
that should provide some interesting reading: 
What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Absolutely my favorite aspect of being a writer
is the rush I get, when whatever I'm writing takes over,
and I become nothing more than a recorder,
with words flying from my fingers to my keyboard.

I can be flailing around,
trying to pull together a non-fiction piece, on say,
explaining tax policy for a newspaper article,
and suddenly things gel,
and out flows the article in ways I didn't imagine.

Or, I can be writing fiction,
and suddenly the characters take over,
and out flow their words and actions
taking me in unexpected directions.

The process is a mystery to me,
and it must be something at work in my subconscious,
but the exhilaration I experience at such times is unlike nothing else!

Thunderbird Park
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
October 7, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I have no idea where I'll be or what I'll be doing in the next few weeks.
We're trying to decide if we want to move, and if so, where.
Meanwhile, I'll keep writing as I have a chance
and hopping on the internet whenever I have an onramp.

I'm trying to let go and let things work out,
but it's so hard for someone who likes to be in control.
If I could only do in my life like I do in my writing!

Meanwhile, for the next few days at least,
I'm going to continue enjoying the Las Vegas madness!

Happy writing in November!

Halloween Parade on Fremont Street
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
October 29, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved