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Ocean art gallery…priceless

There are art galleries in cities with paintings hanging on the walls and some of those pieces of art are said to be almost priceless.

Yet here in northern Newfoundland there are works of art that are not in art galleries: some made by man and some crafted by the Creator. Each is a masterpiece in itself, and priceless.

If you have two good feet and a camera, a walk along the shore at Garden Cove at St. Lunaire-Griquet is worth your time. The old Bussey fishing premises, once an active fishing enterprise, has fallen into ruin. It’s a banquet for the eyes to walk along the grassy path to view crumbling punts; a two-storey bunkhouse; a stage propped up on shores; trap skiffs with peeling paint, their spines broken; old speedboats rotting into the grasslands; rusted piles of trap grapelins; large wooden barrels lying topsy-turvy; and a shed, its lower parts completely eaten away. Weathered picket fences, made of slabs, define a potato garden with a pair of bright orange rubber gloves stuck on the pickets, waving towards the sea; and older picket fences, lichened and scabbed with age, suggest borders for something that no longer exists.

Saturday, June 15th the sun burned through the fog mid-morning and at the St. Lunaire wharf we piled into Scott and Glenda Burden’s 18’ speedboat. Scott navigated past Garden Cove first, then further along to Sleepy Cove where chairs were set up by the shore in orderly rows in preparation for a wedding. In Joe’s Cove old wharves and stages were mute testimony to the bygone days of the fishery and, as a lone occupant of a rowboat emerged from the fog, the sun captured the oars rising from the water and spilling a million droplets. A heavy grey bank of fog threatened at the mouth of the bay, while capricious wisps of mist swirled among pieces of ice.

Scott was determined that 13 year-old Caleb should have his picture taken on an ice pan; Glenda was just as determined that no son of hers was going to attempt anything so dangerous. As we motored through fields of ice admiring ice sculptures, Len and Scott kept up a running commentary on the conditions of the fog, the ice, and historic points of interest. Scott kept a weather eye on the fog, not sure if it was going to hamper our efforts to venture outside St. Lunaire Bay to see a particularly large iceberg.

Every now and then Scott would sidle the boat up alongside a pan of ice, sizing it up, but Glenda was unbending; her son was not stepping out of the boat. Caleb’s 16 year-old sister Jessica snapped pictures and exclaimed that she wasn’t stepping out onto any piece of ice.

There were amazing ice sculptures created by sun, wind and water, suggesting Portobello mushrooms with wide tops and narrow stems; Nefertiti, an ancient Egyptian queen, her crown windblown; a court jester with a beak nose, a blue eye and a floppy hat; space shuttles; sea monsters; islands that appeared to have been cannon-balled; arches, corkscrews, and birds taking to flight. That bay of ice was truly a gallery of art.

Finally Scott brought the boat up alongside a large, flat piece of ice and gave Caleb a nod. Glenda sat in the bow, protesting, “No, Caleb. Don’t you dare get on that ice! I forbid you! Stay in the boat!”

The ice looked sturdy to me, but I wasn’t about to come between a mother bear and her cub. Len suggested, “Here, Caleb, I’ll get out with you.” They stepped out on the ice pan and both began to do stride jumps, demonstrating how sturdy the ice was. They were having such a great time that Jessica and I got out on the ice also.

The photo opportunity was priceless.

Later, Scott motored out to the edge of the bay to see if we could see the monster iceberg but it was obscured by fog and simply too dangerous to risk. We sat in the boat in a no-man’s-land between the sun and the curtain of fog, talking quietly, the swells heaving and rolling beneath us; the primordial cliffs rising like slate-grey giants. Foam was forming in white paisley patterns on the black surface of the ocean—it was like looking at patterned silk rippling in the wind.

There are indoor art galleries, and they have their merits, but I think ice sculptures carved by nature’s hand and the salt-sea air ruffling the silky surface of the sea are works of art in the truest sense. Also, there is also something exhilarating about launching out into the deep or stepping out of the boat to try something new. And, finally, decaying structures such as boats, bunkhouses, fences and wharves remind us that even things that are old, broken and gnarled by time have a surpassing beauty.

In other words…they’re priceless.

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