I walked into the hotel room and went straight to the window. Gazing over the harbour the flurry of the seagulls drew my eyes to The Narrows. Immediately, I whispered to myself, “I mus
t call Dad and tell him where I am. He will be so thrilled.” But no. I could not do that. I can’t call him anymore to share such moments. Yet somehow, it was comforting to know that were I able to do so, it would have brought him joy. He would love to know that the land he loved so well brings me warm thoughts of him.
I am back in St. John’s, the place of my birth. Although the city is recognisable from what is was like in those days, the topography does not change. As I look out my window, Signal Hill still stands guard over the city as it has from the time of the earliest town settlers. The narrow harbour entrance still keeps the vessels safe from the raging seas beyond.
No wonder they call the island The Rock. Not only must the vegetation be able to
survive in the few inches of soil piled on top of rock in many places. There are many bays where the rocks are worn smooth by the constant onslaught of wave upon wave, year after year. It has the permanence of rock that remains fixed with all of the changing landscape.
I found out today that not only the house that I was brought home from the hospital to live in is gone. So is the hospital where I was born. In the steady march of urban development they have been removed to make room for new homes and business and new health care facilities. I am reminded again that there are few things in our lives that escape the advancing tide of change.
Yet there it is, that narrow harbour opening, not significantly altered from when my father first came to watch the fishing vessels from the Grand Banks come through it with their catch. Now the port is populated by large container ships. As my little friend, three year old Will ate supper with me last evening his eyes grew wide watching the tall cranes extracting the containers from the ship.
Many of the rows of frame houses rising from the harbour are gone. The old stores with exotic names like London, New York and Paris, or Ayers and Sons, or Bowrings are no longer found along Water Street. Come to think of it, it seems like the only stores that remain downtown are boutiques. There are mostly restaurants, coffee shops and bars, and of course there is the large hockey arena.
As I observe all of the changes in the city and the harbour, I ask myself how I feel a
bout all this transformation. Would I prefer that it remained as it was? I don’t think so. The memories evoke a certain nostalgia, but I rather enjoy being able to come to this city and find the same stores and coffee shops and restaurants that I find no matter where I am in the country. I like finding the familiar everywhere. I also enjoy the uniqueness of the place – The Narrows that marks this as being a place unlike any other.