Dailies: April 27-28, 2013
We’ve been at it long enough by now to know that a community screening is accompanied by a fair bit of anxiety for us. For one thing, it means the end of our time in a place and that soon the relationships we’ve forged and the integration we’ve managed to eke out within a place will all soon be behind us. The parting of those ways is not lost on us, probably because we’re such big softies. But really, after about two weeks we usually transition from a “visitor” position in a given social order to a “resident” position. All of the places we have visited have started to feel like home at some point, although it does challenge the traditional notion of an insular and protected small town ostracizing outsiders. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we try our best to contribute. Or maybe people are really just much nicer than we think they are!
The other contributor to our anxiety is that we are never quite sure how the screening is going to go. This is true of the whole project, but is especially apparent at the screenings. We’ve been very lucky and fortunate to have voluminous and enthusiastic turnout more or less everywhere we’ve been, but on the day of we can never truly predict what the attendance will be like. In St. Stephen we found this to be exceptionally true because most of the university students who had befriended us and become involved in the project had left for the summer a few days prior. Yet it was with great happiness that we saw that evening fill the screening room and we had yet another terrific crowd. 4/4 ain’t bad!
Our friends Peter and Mary Ellen had offered to take us around and out of town because they saw that we hadn’t been able to spend any time touring during our stay in St. Stephen. So on Sunday afternoon, we hooked up with them and drove out to Todd’s Point Park. The park is a former farm which belonged to member of the chocolate family Whidden Ganong and was sold to the town at a very generous price after his death. It is a beautiful patch of land that stretches into Passamaquoddy Bay – the St. Croix River stretches off to the west and Oak Bay bends up to the northeast. If one looks off down to the south, the St. Croix Island can be seen in the distance. This little rock became the site of the first semi-permanent French or English settlement in North America when Champlain and Du Pont arrived there in the summer of 1604. According to the stories, the animals on the island left when the winter froze the bay, and most of Champlain’s men succumbed to starvation or death by scurvy. But though the Europeans were too afraid of the native population to follow the animals onto the mainland, the area’s Passamaquoddy aboriginal people took pity on the explorers and left them food.
Living in proximity to such a depth of historical events must be quite the experience! It has certainly shaped the communities that we have seen so far in the Atlantic provinces. Later on that day, Peter and Mary Ellen toured us through the St. Stephen’s lovely neighbouring town, St. Andrews. St. Andrews is about a 40 minute drive from St. Stephen in the direction of St. John (or St. George, if you prefer). It was founded in 1783 by, as in the case of many towns in the area, British Loyalists in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. Much of St. Andrews’ heritage is still intact, including the palatial Algonquin Hotel, which, despite burning down in 1913, helped forge St. Andrews’ status as Canada’s first resort town. Minister’s Island is visible nearby in Passamaquoddy Bay, which was at one time the summer home of CPR builder and railway magnate Sir William Van Horne. Like Francis Peninsula/Beaver Island in Pender Harbour, Minister’s Island is accessible by land at low tide and by boat at high tide. Upper class homes continue to populate the area, and it is speculated by some that this may be partially to blame for the federal government’s failure to recognize the Passamaquoddy First Nation although clear evidence exists to show the presence of their people in the area stretching back centuries.
We took the brand new four lane highway back to St. Stephen at the end of the day. Our observations about varying infrastructure across provinces came up, and Peter observed that in fact New Brunswick was overserved in terms of raw infrastructure. On one daytime trip to the airport in St. John (about an hour away), he counted about twenty other cars. The entire province has fewer people than the city of Edmonton, yet the highways are plentiful and well-maintained, the internet is fast, and services seem fairly evenly distributed. It makes us wonder if the Atlantic provinces will come back into their own at some point soon when the boom-bust cycle of the western natural resources industry wears out its welcome and innovative people find that global telecommunications means that it is less and less important where you are when you conduct your business. For now, though, every town out here has lost young men and women to Fort Mac.
So it’s on to a sad task – packing up. At this point it seems like we won’t be leaving until Tuesday.