You can blame Andrea Dorfman for this post, and a Facebook friend, Bryce Tyson, for posting Andrea’s video on how to be alone, which in turn led me down the rabbit hole of all things Andrea and to this video (which is narrated by Tanya Davis, the same gal who performed both on-camera and spoke the words to the being alone video). Besides… I consider it my duty to plug Canadian artists when I can, seeing that I am one myself. 🙂
I was born and raised in Quebec, living there for more than half my life. Quebec is really but a stone’s throw away from PEI. Growing up, my mom would always scope out the potatoes that came from the red dirted island, usually russets, which she proclaimed were superior to those coming from any other place. My mother knew her potatoes, and maybe farming was different then, back in the seventies. Food tasted different, and I’m sure it was cheaper, dollar for dollar, than it is now, wages not having kept up with inflation. I’m sure this is what each generation says to the ones which precede it – my parents said much the same thing to me – how food tasted different from what they remembered, less vibrant and flavourful. I wonder if it’s a matter of our tastebuds dulling over time, or whether it truly is the produce, or the soil in which it is grown.
At any rate, my first (and only) time in PEI was due to my being on a very long motorcycle ride with one of the boyfriends of my youth. In some box or bag somewhere, I still have photos of it. We were on a several week journey which initially had intended to head down the U.S. eastern seaboard to Florida but instead skittered briefly below the border through Vermont and Maine and then back into Canada through New Brunswick. A good part of the first week was spent in the rain, which I was ill prepared for (hence I wore garbage bags over my feet before shoving them back into wet leather boots, to keep the damp at bay).
It was a weird trip (for reasons I won’t be getting into) but one of the memories that I still hold fondly of it includes riding along the Cabot Trail as well as the brief time spent in PEI. I remember having the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had, cooked in a large pot over an open fire, right by the seashore where we had set up camp. I had decided that despite the water being really, really cold, I wanted to at least dunk in because it was there and I loved the salty goodness of the ocean. It was so cold it knocked the breath right out of me, but if the evening outside was cool after that, it didn’t bother me half as much because it still felt warmer in comparison. Lupines bloomed everywhere and I was enchanted by their colourful blossoms. I had made a mental note to someday return to it again for a visit, but I never have.
All this to bring me back to something else. Farming, and land. Growing up my mom kept a tiny patch of a garden in our back yard, reflective of the tiny outdoor growing season in Quebec and the crappy clay soil that our back yard was built upon. She mostly grew hungarian peppers, planted from seed that my aunt would send from Hungary, and perhaps some wax or green beans, maybe a handful of tomatoes, and kohlrabi, whose leaves would sometimes get decimated by cabbage butterfly larvae before it grew to a size that would ensure its survival. Gardening frustrated my mother, mostly, so she stuck to annual flowers.
I always had a fascination with growing things, starting from very young. When we lived in our first house our next door neighbour used to grow beautiful flowers in her yard. One year she had tulips coming up and caught me about to filch a handful of them to take home to my mom as an offering. I was used to picking flowers along the sidewalks, growing wild. Weeds, mostly, I suspect – buttercups and dandelions and tiny little purple flowered brachial stalks whose name I don’t know. I’d bring them by the handful to my mom as offerings, which she would trim and duly put into a little bud vase which now sits on my windowsill.
The home I rent a portion of is owned by a couple who garden every year. They save the deposit returns from our recycling and it supplements the veggie garden fund. We moved in last year at the height of growing season, and I had the opportunity to dig my hands in a bit of dirt for the first time in a over a decade. I had never planted vegetables while we lived in California, but I had a couple of fruit trees on our first property and the apricot tree bore a few fruit just before we sold it. The second house had already been landscaped and frankly I was mostly out of steam by then and only planted things in the front of the house.
In any case, I have a profound worry in relation to the growing of things. I worry that what we are doing to the soil and the seeds from which we reap the foods from which we draw lifeblood are being altered to such degree that they will no longer be able to sustain us. So seeing this movie made my heart glow, because it is important – this is important. Maybe it’s too late to turn everything around. Maybe we can’t undo the harm that has been done. Maybe, though, we can find a way to salvage things, at least in part. Maybe this is how.