June 16, 2009
Herds of sheep and packs of dogs wandered free all over town.
I just returned from 4 days in Branch, Newfoundland -a fishing town of about 200 people. It's where Leah's mom, Carmelita McGrath, is from. We stayed in her childhood home. No phone, tv, etc. I didn't check my watch for the duration of our stay. It felt like we were there for a year, or an hour. Leah said, "I told you, time doesn't exist in Branch."
Now I know how to live forever.
Got drunk-ish Saturday night with Leah, Carm, and a middle-aged couple, Fred and Mary, from across the road. In thick Branch accent Fred proudly told us as many dirty jokes as he could remember. Mary was horrified, punctuating his wit with admonishments.
As our laughter grew the level of vulgarity increased. Eventually Mary was smiling too. By night's end I was gasping for air, holding onto my chair for fear of falling off. The next morning Leah told me she thought she was going to die.
Next day we drove through dense fog along a crumbling highway. Carm told us stories of how residents believed the devil appeared along that stretch of road in the brume -looking like a stranger in need. Legend has it that a young priest once stopped to help a stranger there. When he returned to Branch all his hair was white and he was completely mad. Carm laughed. Leah smiled.
That day, in the midst of the gray rolling vapour -with the barren fields and stunted trees fading all around us, such a tale seemed completely reasonable.
At the end of the road was a town. St. Bride's. Carm told of how it was rumored that in the past, in hard times, inhabitants would take lights out to the cliffs to lure in ships, forcing them to crash against the rocks. They'd rescue the sailors and take the loot. Carm says the stories are exaggerated, but probably based on truth.
Suddenly I remembered Fred from the night before, pulling me into his living room, beer in hand. He pointed at a gorgeous wooden mantelpiece above their fireplace.
"My grandfather got this," he had informed me, "from a shipwreck."