Ah, domesticity. It’s a love/hate relationship for this lady on literature. One the one hand, I am a true Cancerian, lover of home and family, baker of cakes. On the other, I am passionate about travel, enjoy change, and yearn for adventure…and I absolutely detest the drudgery of housework. Maybe that makes me a hermit crab? I tuck myself inside my shell sometimes, refusing to come out, safe in the warm embrace of my house, but I can just as easily drop the burden of that covering and scuttle free across the sand in search of waves and a brighter shell with white cabinets and modern chandeliers. Sigh.
I’ve been thinking about how much “home” defines women. Of course there are exceptions, but most of the women I know feel quite connected to the physical space they call “home” and deeply connected to the people they share it with. Still, who doesn’t wrestle with the pull of the house versus the call of the wild! For most, life is more often than not, a juggling act of taking care of kids and husbands and dogs and parents and laundry, along with careers and friends and fitness; you know. But for a woman living in remote coastal Labrador (“pure land” on the edge of Canada’s North Atlantic Ocean)
domesticity isn’t a choice; it’s survival. Distractions like shopping, the gym, and lattes with the girls are laughable. The men hunt for food, the women cook it up. The men chop wood, the women keep the fires burning. It’s all very sensible and often very suffocating to St. John’s raised, Jacinta, who yearns for the sights and sounds of the city.
Annabel, is not only captivating in content, it’s pure poetry in language and as I read the first few chapters, I found myself wanting to highlight passages constantly. Maybe because I was trying to mix tuna with mayo while loading the dishwasher while switching over laundry while my daughter reminded me to schedule an appointment while my cell phone rang and my husband ran out the door and my son came back inside saying he’d just missed his bus, the following resonated with me:
“Women did not get many moments like this in their lives, sun beating on their eyelids in a hidden corner and no one asking them for anything. No one asking them to find the salt or wait for a man…Women of Croydon Harbour knew what was expected of them at all times, and they did it..” And these excerpts from page 39:
“Men of the cove generally were kings outside their houses–kings of grounds and sheds and fences–and the women were queens of inner rooms and painted sills and pelmets and carpet cleaners.”
“Thomasina had a grain of sense, men of the cove said, and she walked about in brown cardigans with her hair tidy but not styled. She did not own a pair of shoes in which she could not walk ten miles over rough ground.”
Clearly life in Labrador is not for the girl with a shoe fetish. I will confess right here: I LOVE shoes. And I’m short. Those two factors show up in rows of high heels lining my closet. So today I am not going to complain that my house is a mess and the dog needs a walk and the Christmas decor is still in boxes in the basement. When my husband ran out the door, he was running to a good job; the appointment my daughter asked me to make was to reserve a stationary bike at the gym so she and I could do a spin class together, and because I was able to throw on a pair of pants and a tank top (minus the bra, mind you) and drive faster than I should through our icy neighborhood, I managed to catch the school bus, so my son got on and the day was salvaged. And here I sit, no sunlight on my lids, but hot coffee in my hands, words on my screen, and appreciation for home–and a little time alone–in my heart.