My author’s (b)log, August 4, 2014 at 11:41am. My spirit has almost caught up to my physical being after only being back to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland for a little over 24 hours. The invisible part of me still remains in my home province, while my body sits listlessly on my living room sofa. I am happy to be back in my own bed but I still miss the part of myself that will forever stay on my magical island, perfectly situated in Notre Dame Bay. How could I not bring the Sisters of Avalon there first? Technically they arrived in Corner Brook first to a couple of kindred spirits that were on my way from the ferry. But my aunts on Long Island got theirs before most, that is the place where I was “reared up” or “knit” by my mother’s family. These terms will be easily recognized by those that nurtured me during my formative years.
With only a couple of days of laying in strange beds behind me, I moved on to Grand Falls Windsor. I had planned a reading ahead of time with Madonna Crant from the public library in the town where my father grew up. My dad’s family would get to share in the “official” launch of my first novel. I wanted to share the love all around. There were also several members from my Long Island family in attendance as well. What a treat it was to have my second cousin Faith, visiting from Alberta, open up for me by reading a children’s story to all that were in attendance. I felt honoured to have her share the day with me.
My boys were off getting into mischief with their other cousin Liam. My youngest even said to me once, “Mommy I have too many aunts and cousins I cannot remember all their names.” In our family we call this affliction “Daisy Syndrome.” Daisy being my grandmother who gave birth to five boys and five girls and I quote her by saying, “Alma, Gloria, Shirley, Brenda, ahh f@#k it, Dulcie!”
You can probably understand why it was so hard for my Nan to get the correct name at first word. The family soon grew from 10 to about 40 or more as the years quickly passed. I spent most of my time around this lot with many role models to help shape me in to the person I am today. My father’s family lived away from my tiny island and I only saw them mostly on special occasions. But enough to know that they too were a “broody” bunch, my dad being one of a twin with 11 other siblings in tow. Yikes, too many names to name. As I grow older I am getting closer to this lot and I can see clearly now that my “sass” comes from both sides of the fence. I was quite pleased to host my launch in the town of GFW where my dad was born and raised. The “H” in my author initials stands for Hillier but I am beginning to realize that I have a lot of Clarke in my blood. Be that as it may.
I was quite happy with my first launch of the Sisters. A calm surrounded me that day and I was able to live in each moment and enjoy the people who came out to support me. I have an awesome family. Even those that are related to me by marriage feel like my own kin. Carmel, Hope, Lily, and Sylvia thank you for being my family by choice. What amazing souls you are. You made my trip home extra, extra special.
From there I traveled back to Long Island to rest while I waited for my next “official” Long Island launch. The couple of days in between readings gave me time to catch my breath and watch the stillness of the icebergs float by. The sheer number of these ice monsters this year was marked as a phenomenon. They were everywhere and they each told a story of their own. The one just off the tickle from my magical island certainly made its presence known. On the morning of my reading at the Long Island Tea Room it damaged two of the underwater hydro cables rendering the island without power.
I thought for sure the reading would be postponed. But the tea rooms cook and my aunt by marriage, was willing to do her best to keep the day in check. The islands fire chief and municipal council got together and set up two generators to run power to the tea room. What a crew they made. I sold 22 books that day and read to anyone that came out to listen. It was a lot of fun to be honest. Reconnecting with friends and family that you have not seen in long time has some very special power of its own. I long to feel that energy sometimes and was able to bask in its glory that day. What a gift.
The rest of my week on Long Island felt much the same as there were a lot of wonderful people home to participate in Long Island Days; a celebration that happens once a year to help raise money for the volunteer fire department. A very worthy cause. I was given the opportunity to set up a small table on the community grounds on Long Island Day to help promote my book. Again, I sold 22 books that day but I also enjoyed seeing more familiar faces that I had not spoken to in years. A couple of my teachers came by, a couple of friends from my graduating class and even family I had never met before. Some strangers even. I smiled a lot that day and enjoyed watching my boys help with the festivities. They still say Long Island Day was their best day of the trip. Community spirit is alive and well and that gave me great comfort. And the squid rings were pretty awesome that day too.
The last leg of the book launch was scheduled to be in St. John’s at a bakery downtown. The thought of bringing the Sisters to the Avalon made me nervous and I did consider not going at all at one point. But I had to pick up my husband at the airport and after not seeing him for three weeks I was more than happy to go even if it was just to get him. There were for sure more people in that way that I wanted to see but the thought of reading from my book “in town” made my knees knock. The launch would mean something different once the book hit Newfoundland’s capital city. It would soon get real then. The days leading up to my departure felt daunting. I tried not to let it get to me but there were times when it did. The ferry to our island also broke down for two days and if I had been on it when it happened I would have taken it as a sign not to go. But I was safely on the mainland when it did and knew full well that the Sisters would travel to the Avalon regardless of the Long Island ferry situation
The seven hour drive in from Green Bay to “Sin John’s” was one I made with Bonnie Tyler, ABBA, Joel Plaskett and Conway Twitty playing over and over again until my voice was hoarse from singing along. I sang my way across the province trying not to think of my “bad nerves.” I stopped only for coffee and gas making it to my Uncle Rob’s house in time for beer o’clock. That was the best bud light lime beer I had ever tasted. The night proceeded with good food, great company and many glasses of wine. When my head hit the pillow I slept better than any night previous on the island and boy, did my body need it. I would have my partner in crime back in my arms the very next day and that great night of sleep got me even closer to him.
Once my husband was with me to help take some of the heavy load off my shoulders, I was able to enjoy the big city even more. We took in the sights, visited friends, ate pub food and he helped reassure me that my reading would go just fine. The Rocket Bakery and Cafe at 272 Water Street was a perfect spot. Even though my nerves were still a wee big gone, I held it together well enough to get myself through it. I got some great feedback afterwards that I will put to good use for next time and I took solace in knowing that I could really let go and enjoy what was left of my last week in Newfoundland.
After thanking everyone for coming out and getting more than my fair share of hugs, a gang of us headed up to George Street. My husband had never been there before and even though we heard many warnings that it is not what it use to be, we went any ways. First stop O’Reilly’s Pub. It was also our last stop because we managed to anchor ourselves in a little nook and cranny. A fine spot for slinging a brew while we listened to the Irish Descendants. Yes you heard me, the Descendants. If I had planned the night to go that way it would have never have worked out as great as it did. We had the luck of the Irish on our side as we danced a jig and sang merry a tune. The last time I had seen the Descendants could be a short story all of its own. It happened many moons ago in Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen Street. A co-worker of mine at the time, from just down the street at the Black Bull Tavern, introduced me to the boys after a gig. It just so happened that her father was one of their producers and she gave me tickets to attend the concert and introduced me to them afterwards. I however, had one too many “sociables” that night and could not remember a thing about partying with the Descendants. I did however, have a friend with me who was far more sensible than I and she got me home safe and reassured me that I did indeed have a good time. Sorry for rubbing your belly so many times though D’Arcy, what can I say, I must have thought that it would bring me good luck.
Seeing the band almost 15 years later was very different. D’Arcy is no longer part of the band and the name should really be the Irish Descendants, The Next Generation but it did not matter. We still had a fabulous time and I can actually remember it all on my own as my new version of a “sociable” is to actually be sociable and not rub a strange man’s belly for good luck. But no regrets right.
The day after George Street was spent driving only half way back to my island while we recuperated a little at my aunt and uncle’s cabin in Lewistporte. I sold most of what was left of my books that night to my family members that wanted copies for Christmas presents. I was overwhelmed and taken by surprise at their generosity and eagerness to share my book. I wish I had not been so tired. I crashed before the cabin crowd came to sing the night away. I tried to stay awake but the fatigue of the trip had set in hard. They understood but I still wished I could have enjoyed it more.
A few more days were spent on Long Island before having to say my summer farewells. Saying good-bye to those that I hold near and dear will never get easier no matter how many times I visit. It seems like every time I go back there are a few more residents that are not around any more. There was a lot of sadness in the air this summer along with all the joy. To reflect on it makes me ache. I did my very best to not go there in my mind, even if it will never truly escape me. I tried my hardest to choose love, forgiveness and happiness as the theme for the Summer of 2014. I moved passed some old wounds while others were split wide open in front of me at times. But as I sit here and wait for my spirit to settle back in to the Nova Scotia time zone I know one thing for sure, I will always go back for more.
Thank you to everyone who helped make my trip home more memorable than I could actually write about. There were side trips and suppers that were not included in this tale but that does not mean that they are not tucked away for safe keeping. And they are for sure appreciated as much as the rest. My pants are a little tighter from all the good grub but my heart is even bigger than it ever was before. Until we meet again.
R.H. Downs a.k.a by the Queen herself as H.R. Downs (Wink, wink, Aunt D)