Friday, 14 September 2012

Finding Parallels: Fishing and Farming Part II

I'm continuing to find parallels between rural Saskatchewan and rural Newfoundland almost every day, though I've also noticed plenty more differences, too. One key difference is the ownership, or possession, of land. One thing that really stood out to me was how wild is the landscape of Keels. Despite having several centuries of European settlement, the land here seems somehow less corrupted than it does back home. I suppose that is literally true; in Saskatchewan much of the land has been cultivated and put to agricultural use, whereas in Keels the soil is unsuitable for agriculture (you can't grow wheat out of rocks). As Dr. John Mannion put it, in Keels, "the sea is the field." 

A sign proclaiming possession of a patch of waterfront
 property (with Joey Donnelly). Photo: Kristin Catherwood
However, this sense of the land somehow being less "possessed," for lack of a better word, does have some merit to it. Although Saskatchewan has only been settled (or more accurately, colonised) for just over a century, the land is distinctly divided up. Since the land is what produces the livelihood, its ownership is considered very important. In Keels, on the other hand, houses don't generally have deeds, and there is no land ownership, per se. This wasn't a problem in times past. Several branches of one family fished together, and thus what was important was the fishing stage down on the shore, and a house in which to raise a family. This was never a huge problem until recent years with the inundation of "CFAs" (Come-from-aways), also known as "the summer people." These are people who have bought up houses in Keels to make their summer residences. Some "CFAs" have tried to impose land ownership on Keels, a concept which just doesn't really have any relevance in reality. With some cheekiness, a few locals installed a sign on a piece of land proclaiming it as "private property." 

John Ducey at the splitting table on the community fish stage
after bringing in a new catch. Photo: Kristin Catherwood
The differences about land/property ownership aside, I continue to find parallels between farming life and fishing life. We've spent a bit of time with local fisherman John Ducey the past few days. In conversation, the fate of Keels came up. John mentioned that "you can't blame" young people for moving away from Keels, and that he himself probably would, except that, "I just loves fishing too much. It's just in my blood, I guess." This statement reminded me of the reason why many farmers cling on to their family farms even when they're no longer financially rewarding, or even viable. They love what they do, and they feel that this love for their occupation has worked its way into their family genes over the generations. 

When I heard John talking about his love of fishing, or when I think about my own father or brother and their love of farming, I think that maybe they know something about life that many of us have missed. Many of us feel that we have to constantly "move on" or "move up." We feel that we have to go out and explore the world in order to find our niche in it. For some people, that is certainly the path they need to tread. Joseph Campbell said "follow your bliss." But sometimes your bliss is found right in the place where you were born and raised. 

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