Batten down the hatches, a nor’easter is coming

I’m hoping the people at NorPen Waste Management in St. Anthony don’t think we’re intentionally littering the landscape with non-biodegradable products, because we’re not.  It’s just that my husband, for all his knowledge about the wind, can’t seem to keep his snow blower covered longer than a week or two.

Here in Newfoundland the direction and velocity of the wind can generate some interesting discussions, but where I grew up, surrounded most of my life by tall buildings, there was no need to understand the weather at all.  There, the most damage the wind ever did was whip my hair into disarray or turn a lawn chair upside down.

Len grew up hearing about the wind on a daily basis; his family relied on the weather for their livelihood.  So, when we moved to Ship Cove a few years ago, he’d say things like, “The wind is westerly today; that means cold, clear weather.”  On another day he’d say, “Batten down the hatches, a nor’easter is coming.”  Wind from the east would likely bring a storm, and a southerly wind would bring mild, wet weather.  No sooner were the words out of his mouth than I had forgotten them; after all, what did the wind have to do with me?

We live close to the shore on the west side of Sacred Bay.  Across the bay lies L’Anse aux Meadows with its great, towering headland and a sand bar jutting into the ocean called Colbourne’s Point.  Len’s sister Eliza and husband, Winston, live on Colbourne’s Point.  One day Len looked at our flag rippling straight out from the pole and said, “The wind is westerly today.”  He put a bag of garbage on the side of the road and went off to work.  An hour later, I found a bag full of Styrofoam in the basement and put it beside the other bag on the side of the road.   A minute later I looked and it was gone.  I looked up the road, I looked down the road, I scoured the beach, and I searched the fields and ditches alongside our property.  Gone!

Winston found the bag of Styrofoam a day later on Colbourne’s  Point.  It had tumbled across the open water to the other side of the bay!

But that’s nothing, sure, compared to what happened to our tarp last winter.  Len parked our snow blower alongside the house when there was a particularly strong westerly wind.  It was Sunday, just after dinner, and the sun was shining and glinting off the pack-ice on the bay.  Len looked out the window and spotted the same sun shining and glinting off our black-and-silver snow blower tarp as it bounced over the ice like a giant bat, headed for Harbour Island.  With an exclamation he picked up the phone and dialled Guy Hurley, who lived just down the road, and in a matter of minutes Len and Guy were on a snowmobile in hot pursuit of the runaway tarp.  A group of Sunday snowmobilers on top of Graveyard Hill spotted the drama and joined the chase.  Amy and I watched from the shoreline while they snaked across the ice but the ski-doos were no match for the pack-ice, or the tarp which tumbled merrily ahead of them, zigzagging between Cape Bauld and Little Sacred Island as if it couldn’t quite make up its mind where to go.  Guy and Len returned without the tarp.

“The way I see it,” said Len, “there’s a harp seal out there using my tarp as a shelter.”

I can’t say how many times this past year have I heard him mutter, “Some harp has my tarp,” while he looked out at Cape Bauld.

Len ordered a new glossy black tarp this year from Sears and tied it on, but it only lasted a week.  At the first big storm, he untied it, folded it, and laid it down on the bridge while he cleared the driveway.  The nor’ east wind swept in and snatched it away.  When he came into the house it was still blowing a gale and the night was awhirl with snow.  He couldn’t even look me in the eye.  “My tarp’s gone,” he said.

Luckily, a Good Samaritan found the tarp and brought it back a week later, but it leaves me wondering—if you can take the boy out of the outport, can you take the outport out of the boy?  I’m beginning to think it’s entirely possible.


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