I’m about to head to Newfoundland for ten days of cruising and exploring the southwest coast there. I just ran across this older photograph of mine and it has about it something of the spirit and feel that I anticipate finding up north there.
I came across these abandoned pediments on a small island not too far from here. Like so many other islands along the coast, it was once a thriving quarry island, home to hundreds of stonecutters and their families.
The granite business was once huge here, certainly throughout the 19th century. The stone itself was – and still is – renowned as particularly fine, and the schooners that took the cut stone to parts south could sail right up to the bold island shores for loading. Maine granite built many of the great edifices of Portland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and many cities in-between.
In the early twentieth century, when architects became enamored of the new possibilities inherent in concrete, they stopped building with granite and overnight – literally in many cases – the quarries were abandoned.
On this and other islands, one can still occasionally find tools, not to mention the debris and machinery left by the abruptly departing swarms of quarriers. To this day the quarry islands exude an air of abandonment, of a culture and way of life that disappeared overnight.
And this has me thinking of Newfoundland, where the centuries-old culture that was built on their legendary bounty of cod saw that resource collapse almost overnight. It has been several decades now since Newfoundland men could fish for cod…the fishery is closed…gone. Entire fishing villages, outports, were forcibly evacuated. The fishing culture went on life support where, as I understand it, it remains today.
I soon have much to learn there in Newfoundland, but what I do know is that there is a lesson in all of this. We humans have an appetite that too often exceeds our grasp; no matter what resource we crave, time and “progress” imperils so much of the natural world we inhabit. We foul our nest and once we’ve picked clean whatever bones remain, we move onto the next resource to be had.
And Big Business, there at the top of the food chain, always seems to survive. “Little people” and their communities are scarcely even pawns in the larger game. I guess that’s simply the natural order of things, but we are ever well advised to be keenly aware of the way we treat our island-earth and of how truly small we, the little-people, are.
As was once said, “To make God smile, create a plan.” We, the ants, can make our plans, hold all of our meetings, create power-points and flow-charts and quantify our goals – and so on and so on – yet, in the end, it can all just flicker away in an instant.
So, I guess this line of thought sounds somewhat morbid…but that’s not how I feel at all. It’s simply the way it is, so we must, each of us, live each day like it’s our last, and do all the good we can while we can.
Fundamentally, that’s the only plan I have.