Saturday, July 31, 2010

Campfire stories.

Everyone has a grand campfire story; even those non paddling types. I decided to expand on my repertoire and talk to some of the older members of my family about as much as I could in between kayaking and sleeping (not to mention the many moments my mouth was too full of deep fried/deadly home cooking!).

A visit to my great uncle landed a grand story of how my great-great-great grandfather came to be in Newfoundland.

His father was a Church of England minister and when 14 yr old Henry was on his way to Sunday service he did something that in the eyes of his father was bad. He told young Henry he would be "dealt with" after service.

Promptly after service Henry walked over 30km to the coast in England jumped on a fishing ship bound for Newfoundland working as a galley boy. He landed in Harbour Grace Newfoundland and never returned to his family again.

Not only was it a great little story to tell around the fire; it was inspirational to me in so many ways. How a 14 yr old boy bravely leaving hardship created such a wonderful family of people in conception bay Newfoundland. How he thrived during hardship. Funny thing is no one in my family knew this. My Great uncle is the last of his generation left on that side of the family; I am so glad we had a good yarn and can now keep a verbal history alive within our family. Which would have been lost.

Stories from another side of my family have award winning American writers, Hermits living far away from the fishery away from everything and everyone during the early 1700's, you name it! I have found out so much about my family this trip it's truly amazing.
Even stories of the free spirits my father hung out with during summer months in a field outside of Calgary. These "anti establishment" guys lived in a huge TeePee with a beautiful firepit built inside. And when the snow fell they packed up their TeePee and all possessions into a old pickup and moved south. Something that was a mere 40 years ago I could sit around a campfire and romanticize.
Currently sitting in a ferry terminal with my vacation just about wrapped up I have so much to think about. From the free spirits in a large TeePee, my great great great uncle John Pollett living in a small cabin miles inland to Young Henry Greenland jumping on that ship and hitting the reset button on his life at such a young age.
Campfire stories are very important to me. Almost primal in a sense. After all this wonderful North Atlantic paddling here in Newfoundland and the yarns had with the elders in my family I now have a few more.
I'm asking everyone to look at the elders in their families, and if you find yourself BEING the elder have a yarn with someone. Pass on the stories.
Speaking of stories; I'll have some Newfoundland posts up early this week.
What a absolutely inspirational trip. It's been years since I've felt this refreshed.


  1. You make a very important point, Lee. Our "stories" are, indeed, so important. It is our shared reflections that engage us to our past and connect us to one another, both in families, and in the wider context of our human relationships. The sharing of personal history and experience strengthens family bonds and creates new connections. As they say, "it's all good". You do sound refreshed and renewed from your time away. Keep a good grasp on that gift.


  2. Thanks Duncan for the perspective.
    I think stories are great learning tool for us all as well. From days of old where the story of someone dying eating a certain plant to stories of banking blunders today etc.