Top News

One Hundred and One


Sitting in the rocking chair looking up the harbour, my gaze shifted from the whitecaps racing out of the southwest and battering the rocky edge of Burdens Point igniting explosions of spindrift.  

My focus drifted to the corner of the window frame where the wallpaper was beginning to curl.  I can’t remember how long ago Lisa and I hung that wallpaper and how many coats of wallpaper she had hung before that.  I say “she” had hung, because the work was mostly done by Lisa.  She learned wallpapering from Lizzie Mary Dunn who, forty three years ago, sold us this now one hundred and one year old two storey house.  
One day not long ago, Lisa and I calculated that the two of us have called this dwelling home longer than Lizzie Mary did.  My mother who introduced us to the glowing aura of Salvage had written me, living away, to say that a lady named Lizzie Mary had just moved into a new house and was offering her old house for sale.  We should come and take a look.  I knew Salvage from childhood visits here and was ready to return.  Lisa responded immediately to the spell this place casts on so many who happen to fetch up here.  
We were in our twenties then, apartment dwellers in Ottawa.  Lisa was teaching and I was a free-lance cartoonist.  Married just four years, we were discovering each other, and we agreed that discovering together this beautiful house on Burdens Point in Salvage would be, to use the lingo of the day, neat and cool.  Maybe we should give it a whirl.  An adventure.  
It’s a curious thing how unplanned whimsy can become blessèd happenstance and change the course of a lifetime. The house we thought we had purchased had actually taken possession of us.
Looking once again at the corner of the window frame, where the wallpaper was curling just a little, to my surprise I recalled the paper that had covered this wall when we first set foot in Lizzie Mary’s house. It was plain paper with a pale brown texture on a pink background.
Only later, once we had bought the house did we notice a little patch of tiny holes, dozens of them pierced into the paper, right beside the corner of the window frame.
Lizzie Mary’s house was scrupulously neat, clean and tidy.  It seemed out of character that she would allow her kitchen to be defaced, even in such a tiny harmless manner.  One day we asked her about it, phrasing our question carefully to avoid ruffling the feathers of this kindly woman who managed her household with such care and pride.
This, she said, was her favourite window.  It affords a commanding view of the boat traffic coming and going through the narrows.
She, and for years before, her mother-in-law and her daughters had all sat here in the home-made rocking chair whenever they had time to do some  sewing. The south-facing window flooded the kitchen with abundant daylight.
The window was on the left of the rocker; below it was the wood box and straight ahead was the side of the United Nail and Foundry stove, its spotlessly polished enamel panels the colour of cool butter.  The stove’s side contained  a cover that flipped up to allow the person in the rocker to lean forward and slide some slender splits into the firebox and stir the ashes with the poker that hung on the wall.  
Whenever Lizzie Mary had to interrupt sewing in order to bake bread, turn the fish on the flake, take the laundry off the line, make supper or wash the dishes, it was her habit to push the still-threaded needle into the wallpaper at the corner of the window.  Then she laid her sewing on the window sill or woodbox so she’d be all set to resume work when the chance arose.
That, she explained was the source of the tiny holes scattered like freckles on the wallpaper at the corner of the window.  
For years Lisa held to Lizzie Mary’s wallpapering instructions: apply new paper over the old if at a all possible.  Paper stuck best to paper and the multiple layers formed a wind barrier against the strong southwest winds common on Burdens Point.
But eventually there are so many layers of wall paper layered one after another, that the interior of the house starts to shrink noticeably.  Then it’s  time to strip the wallpaper right back to the wood, apply some smooth-surfaced and wind resistant laminate, and start papering again.  As Lisa proceeded to strip, she encountered all the layers she had hung in the thirty one years we have spent here and started in to discover the Lizzie Mary era.  
It was then that she began to feel she was participating in some kind of archaeological dig. She was excavating back into time. These layers of wallpaper were like the annual rings in a tree trunk recording one hundred and one years of this house’s existence.  Each time another layer was added, it covered up the previous set of needle prints.  Then the sewer would sit down to begin piercing a new batch.  These tiny holes are the fingerprints or DNA revealing the activity of Dunn family women for more than a century.

They used all their skills to hold together and build this household for generations to come, all the while seated on the rocking chair beside the wood stove.  In the meantime, below the window, the waves roll against the shore of Burden’s Point as they have done and will do, forever.

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.  He can be reached at: pickersgill@mac.com 

My focus drifted to the corner of the window frame where the wallpaper was beginning to curl.  I can’t remember how long ago Lisa and I hung that wallpaper and how many coats of wallpaper she had hung before that.  I say “she” had hung, because the work was mostly done by Lisa.  She learned wallpapering from Lizzie Mary Dunn who, forty three years ago, sold us this now one hundred and one year old two storey house.  
One day not long ago, Lisa and I calculated that the two of us have called this dwelling home longer than Lizzie Mary did.  My mother who introduced us to the glowing aura of Salvage had written me, living away, to say that a lady named Lizzie Mary had just moved into a new house and was offering her old house for sale.  We should come and take a look.  I knew Salvage from childhood visits here and was ready to return.  Lisa responded immediately to the spell this place casts on so many who happen to fetch up here.  
We were in our twenties then, apartment dwellers in Ottawa.  Lisa was teaching and I was a free-lance cartoonist.  Married just four years, we were discovering each other, and we agreed that discovering together this beautiful house on Burdens Point in Salvage would be, to use the lingo of the day, neat and cool.  Maybe we should give it a whirl.  An adventure.  
It’s a curious thing how unplanned whimsy can become blessèd happenstance and change the course of a lifetime. The house we thought we had purchased had actually taken possession of us.
Looking once again at the corner of the window frame, where the wallpaper was curling just a little, to my surprise I recalled the paper that had covered this wall when we first set foot in Lizzie Mary’s house. It was plain paper with a pale brown texture on a pink background.
Only later, once we had bought the house did we notice a little patch of tiny holes, dozens of them pierced into the paper, right beside the corner of the window frame.
Lizzie Mary’s house was scrupulously neat, clean and tidy.  It seemed out of character that she would allow her kitchen to be defaced, even in such a tiny harmless manner.  One day we asked her about it, phrasing our question carefully to avoid ruffling the feathers of this kindly woman who managed her household with such care and pride.
This, she said, was her favourite window.  It affords a commanding view of the boat traffic coming and going through the narrows.
She, and for years before, her mother-in-law and her daughters had all sat here in the home-made rocking chair whenever they had time to do some  sewing. The south-facing window flooded the kitchen with abundant daylight.
The window was on the left of the rocker; below it was the wood box and straight ahead was the side of the United Nail and Foundry stove, its spotlessly polished enamel panels the colour of cool butter.  The stove’s side contained  a cover that flipped up to allow the person in the rocker to lean forward and slide some slender splits into the firebox and stir the ashes with the poker that hung on the wall.  
Whenever Lizzie Mary had to interrupt sewing in order to bake bread, turn the fish on the flake, take the laundry off the line, make supper or wash the dishes, it was her habit to push the still-threaded needle into the wallpaper at the corner of the window.  Then she laid her sewing on the window sill or woodbox so she’d be all set to resume work when the chance arose.
That, she explained was the source of the tiny holes scattered like freckles on the wallpaper at the corner of the window.  
For years Lisa held to Lizzie Mary’s wallpapering instructions: apply new paper over the old if at a all possible.  Paper stuck best to paper and the multiple layers formed a wind barrier against the strong southwest winds common on Burdens Point.
But eventually there are so many layers of wall paper layered one after another, that the interior of the house starts to shrink noticeably.  Then it’s  time to strip the wallpaper right back to the wood, apply some smooth-surfaced and wind resistant laminate, and start papering again.  As Lisa proceeded to strip, she encountered all the layers she had hung in the thirty one years we have spent here and started in to discover the Lizzie Mary era.  
It was then that she began to feel she was participating in some kind of archaeological dig. She was excavating back into time. These layers of wallpaper were like the annual rings in a tree trunk recording one hundred and one years of this house’s existence.  Each time another layer was added, it covered up the previous set of needle prints.  Then the sewer would sit down to begin piercing a new batch.  These tiny holes are the fingerprints or DNA revealing the activity of Dunn family women for more than a century.

They used all their skills to hold together and build this household for generations to come, all the while seated on the rocking chair beside the wood stove.  In the meantime, below the window, the waves roll against the shore of Burden’s Point as they have done and will do, forever.

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.  He can be reached at: pickersgill@mac.com 

Recent Stories