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Wisdom from Granddad

~ Fox Northstar

By the time your read this, it will be

“Another year shot to hell,” as Granddad

liked to say.  For me, it was a year of

balance, and you know I will explain,

so stay tuned.

As I like to end on positive notes, when

I can, let me get the negative out of the way.  As I’m not aging gracefully (kicking and screaming all the way), I made three trips to emergency rooms on both sides of the border.  I am getting better, but that’s another column dealing with big pharma.  Trust me on this, as I learned so much from my Canadian ER journey---which should be shared.

But getting back to the main vein here, I managed to cross off much on my bucket list this year.  Some were added when I was still in middle school!

Last year, once covid passed (more or less), many of our traveling elders gathered in Ottawa t determine our next summers preferences.  A few years back, I chose the northwest, Arctic and Alaska.  I was not sure it could all be done in one trip, but we did manage to make it work, as many of you know.  This time around, I wanted to go in the other direction, down east, as we call it.

Well, over the winter, the schedule was worked out to meet with others in just that area.  What a blessing! My old traveling buddy wanted the same, so we were paired once again.  As we had fewer gatherings, and more time between, we had more time to explore, so we did.

We traveled into “virgin” country for us both, and amended our buckets lists accordingly.  We began in Ottawa (as always) and headed up the north shore of the St Lawrence.  Along the way, we had a chance to visit with my brother for a weekend.  I hadn’t seen him in five years. So nice.  Then we continued up the north shore, and once we passed Quebec City, it was all “new” country.

At Baie Comeau, we turned north as Labrador was on my friends bucket list.  I thought the Yukon was remote, but that stretch of highway got me to rethink things.  At any rate, we landed in Labrador City for a weekend and I discovered there is a good sized Filipino community there.  I loved the Philippines when I was stationed there, and when in a superette, I thought I heard Tagalog.  So I approached the women, and she told me of the community.  Not only that, she owned a resto-pub. At this point, I was hooked.  We ventured to her place, and got menus.  I spotted LUMPIA, one of my all time favourites, and indulged.  Mind you, I had not had it for decades.  It was great, but distance if time might have biased me.

We left heading for the coast.  I love lighthouses, and we found one. On our way down the coast, we spotted icebergs, which were on both our bucket lists.  Even spending a year in the north Atlantic, I had yet to see one.  We spotted a beauty, so we got in position to take a closer look, and the folks in the closest cottage invited us to join them.  If you think that is special, there is more.  Their family was gathering for a celebration of life as their matriarch had just crossed.  More members arrived, and none seemed surprised to see strangers.  Best of all, there was no sadness, they were truly going to celebrate.  We need to be more human as they are.

Then, off to the Rock.  Newfoundland was on my bucket list as it was the last Canadian province I needed to visit.  Done. First stop, L’Anse Meadows, the oldest Viking settlement, on my bucket list since grade school! (My high school teams are still VIKINGS to this day.)  Traveled through a good part of the island on our way to the first gathering at the Beothuk Interpretation Center in Boyd’s Cove. After a great meeting, we hiked in to the archaeological dig.  Both we enlightening, and all were grateful we had a nice sunny day.

As we had some time to explore before the next gathering, we did just that.  Traveled to Bonavista to see puffins, another thing off the bucket list.  Eventually we wound up in St Johns, close to our next gathering at Cape Spear (eastern most point in North America).
As a big fan of Republic of Doyle (Google it), I thoroughly enjoyed the city ONCE I learned my way around.  Found many of the filming locations, and have the photos to prove it!  One location they used was the Duke of Duckworth.  Of course, we had to go.  We were told they have the best fish and chips in town, but I went with something completely different.  I thought it was “pricey” until our meals were delivered.  I was wrong as I got three meals out of my order!  Yes, I had take way…

Our gathering at Cape Spear was just a prelude to the one coming.  Actually, a nice bridge between the two. Of course, after we toured the site.  My learning curve was fuller after the trip.  Next off was a trip to Avalon, and our last gathering on the rock.

We visited the site of Calvert’s settlement. Had our gathering on a hill the overlooked the bay.  Our cold beverages were chilled with iceberg chunks!  Where else would that happen? On the last day, an elder asked me if we had been SCREECHED IN yet.  We had not, so a few phone calls were made, and a date set.

We had been told, it was bad form to ask, so we did not.  As we found out, that is not the case, but respect won out.  By this time, we had traveled across the Rock, and nearing the end of our visit. While not a major production, it remains a cute little ceremony.  I am not going to spoil it for future visitors…and those who have, know the drill!

I don’t go into details on gatherings for many reasons, but suffice it to say, many things were discussed.  Hopefully, some policy changes (intratribal, intertribal and with the government) can happen.  While I do not have an active role in that, I have been honored for several years now to participate.  Apparently, my teachings and resultant opinions are considered worth listening to. Do I make a difference?  I have no idea, but I like to think I have helped.

We finished our tour of Avalon, but had out first time constraint as we had to catch the ferry back to the mainland.  Most likely, that will be my last trip on blue water, after four years in the Navy long ago. Not a bad thing.

We landed on Cape Breton, and close by was another bucket list item:  The Fortress at Louisbourg!  Reconstructed sixty years ago, and checked off. As my legs were having a bad day, I really couldn’t stroll the grounds as I had hoped, but I made it there nonetheless…and that’s what counts!

We arrived on Cape Breton with plenty of time before the next gathering, so we did the Cabot Trail Loop.  The Highlands National Park is awesome!  I cannot describe how much so, and to find out, go adventuring yourself!

We made our way to Antigonish with a few days to spare, which we again spent touring.  We were in country where Granddad grew up, and took us there when we were small.  I was amazed at how much came back, so I became the guide.

When the gathering happened, I found out how many relatives I had because of Granddad!  As it turned out, the campground we were at was a cousins.  Go figure, but really should not have been a surprise.

As that was our last gathering, and had plenty of summer left, we toured Nova Scotia.  Down the south coast and the Yarmouth loop. We hit a few museums, as always. While in Halifax, we visited the Explosion Memorial, as granddad was a survivor.  Karma kicked in when we found our way to it, as due to construction, we had to find a different path.  Oddly enough, that took us down the street Granddad lived on at the time. I am sure he would not recognize, but it was beautifully rebuilt.

My touring companions asked me to take them to a spot that is sacred to me as my namesake grew nearby and it has a strong, positive energy. After we spent the night there, we found it has become a protected area, and we could have been fined! Once again, disrespect by some ruins it for the rest of us.  Needles to say, I will be looking into that…
We did a mini-loop in Cumberland County and visited Joggins Fossil Cliffs, as my companions wished to see that as well.

The time had come to head home.  Along the way, we stopped at my clans matriarchs home to bring her up to speed on the events of summer and the gatherings. Sadly, as I found out later, I was there when my friend, Russ Letica, passed.  I was in the opposite end of the province, but had I known…

While heading back to Ottawa, we took advantage of routing to visit both my brother and her daughter in Maine.  We ventured to my sisters but realized we were running out of steam, so hot footed it “home.”  Should this turn out to be my last Great Adventure,” so be it.  It would be hard to top!