Rock Lobster

When Riz Ahmed loses his hearing in the movie The Sound of Metal, he drives his RV to a camp for the newly deaf; a place to learn how to live with silence. In one scene, the counselor sits him alone in a windowed room and tells him to settle into the silence. If he feels like he’s going mad, write down what’s screaming in his head. Just don’t leave the forest, I mean room, until the mind has calmed.

Quiet living in the thick of a forest.

Sheri started a ritual of listening to podcasts about the places we’re going. A recurring theme presented around visiting Newfoundland. Get lost. Do nothing. Listen. Sure, there are icebergs and whales and Vikings to chase, but the essence of the Rock is to slow down and be still. Wander down a trout river. Sit on a rocky beach. Camp in a thick grove of fir. Contemplate stillness before you go home and get busy again.

Peaceful beauty on the side of the road.

Two weeks in, we’ve wandered, sat, walked and contemplated and come to the conclusion that we are not Newfies; we’re Vikings and we need to move. We’re not vibing with the thick forest or rocky beaches. We don’t fish, trap or hunt. We like fresh produce and dislike bugs. We stick out like sore thumbs with our Florida plates, mounted solar panels, iphones and Macbooks, and foreign accents. But we wonder, is it us? Are we so incapable of silence that it’s driving us mad?

Silent contemplation at Back Harbour.

It was not always like this. For five hundred years, the proud folks of Newfoundland had been moving a seemingly never ending supply of cod from the cold Atlantic waters to oak barrels. It was good God fearing work passed from father to son. With each passing generation, the people of Newfoundland got better at it. By the late 19 hundreds, they could clear out a cod breeding ground lickity-split. They loved everything about their cod catching life. Cod was family. They loved that cod so much that they loved it to death.

Prime Berth Museum. An ode to family, fishing, and days of old.

The cod and that way of life are mostly gone. Newfoundland is changing to a tourist destination for Quebecois and Ontarians flocking to the quiet solitude of the Rock in the summer. It won’t be long before NL makes the New York Times Top Ten destinations like Marfa, TX, in 2018. It is hard for the locals to get excited about being a tourist destination. It pays the bills we guess. But, there are no more stories being created of men in boats and angry seas and the loving families waiting on shore for them. It’s meat in a can, boiled root vegetables and moody cold weather 9 months out of the year with tourists poking around for the other three. It is hard to find a lot of hero stories in those circumstances.

A museum of family portraits and unnamed artifacts.

The Story of Cod is one of dozens of home-grown museums on the Rock. Collect artifacts around a subject you are interested in, like how to source, process and sell cod; put it in a shed with story plaques, attach a gift shop full of quilts, crocheted socks and mummer statues; charge a little for admission. They’re all over the island – odes to wooden boats and historical living. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting of cod nostalgia. One guy charges $10 to go inside his house to see his paintings of the coast. You can’t fault people for trying to eke out a living.

There’s nothing a good coat of paint can’t fix.

Back in Twillingate on America’s Independence Day, we found our way to the local lobster joint. Sansomes Lobster Pool is cash only – no VISA. Put your name on the list and wait; walk the pier, inspect the lobsters, feel the locals vibe. A good mile off the main road and 5 miles outside of Twillingate proper, there are no bus charters. Sansomes serves up lobsters caught fresh in the adjacent cove and stored in plastic crates in the big pool in the barn before boiling them in giant pots in the metal shed. Not to be too critical, but it doesn’t look like there is too much to it. The lobster cooks in just a few minutes with basically no preparation except perhaps quick condolences. If you have ever picked a bushel of crabs, cracking a lobster will feel like cheating.

Is lobster the new cod?

Once at the table, we were immediately identified as Americans. Perhaps it was the way Sheri was counting the funny money with pictures of the Queen instead of ole’ Jacksons. Perhaps it was Eric streaming “How To Eat Lobster” on his iPhone. The woman at the adjacent table leaned over to tell us “I knew you people was American. You people really like the 4th of July.” I guess we were “you people.” It felt odd. We don’t feel like “you people” but I guess we are. She was right. We would have traded that lobster for an All American BBQ on the 4th.

Don’t overthink it. Boil water. Put lobster in for 12 minutes.

We’re crab pickers, not lobster crackers. We’re desert dwellers, not forest forgers. We’re fresh produce, not canned goods. We’re charcoal and smoke, not hot oil and deep fry. We’re treasure hunters. On the lookout for experiences that evolve the way we see ourselves and the people and situations around us. We have an unsettled Viking mentality – there’s more out there to discover and slay. I’m sure you people understand.

Turn here.

Rock Lobster