A Tuckamore Tangent

I've been looking deep into my digital photo archives lately, and sharing some of the images I've collected.  Last week I posted an old picture of  tuckamore on Instagram, and it started me thinking.


Tuckamore are stunted, gnarled evergreen trees that, due to prevailing high winds, grow close to ground. They can be found throughout Newfoundland on barrens and exposed coast.

Tuckamore, can cling to rock, survive where there is little-to-no soil and manage to hang on in a merciless gale. And not only do they hang on, they grow.  They are not so much beaten by the storm as shaped by it.  They cling low to the ground and twist their bodies to survive the strong coastal winds until, after years of growth they hardly resemble their forest counterparts... and that’s fantastic.

They survive the onslaught by by embracing the reality of it, by growing to meet the challenge.  They are not beaten down by their tricky place in the world, they shape themselves to meet the challenge. That's something to admire. 

I want to live like every battle is shaping me to win the war. I'm not there yet.

This has been a challenging year and it's turning into an increasingly challenging winter.  In my weaker moments, I've started to pine for 2020 and the naive days of the first lockdown when an episode of Tiger King seemed to make it better.  It's harder this time around.  I'm angry this time around and that's making this a bit of different storm to weather.

But I am weathering it.

One of my ways of coping is to carve out some moments of escape.  Somedays that's an extra-long play session with my dogs in the backyard.  Other days it's fantasizing about charging into the woods and surviving off the land.  The later has been fuelled by Youtube.  I've fallen deeply into Justin Barbour’s NL Explorer series, which, incidentally features plenty of tuckamore.  I’ve been working through his YouTube channel and reading his book about his 68 day trek across Newfoundland.  It's pretty engrossing.

NL Explorer: Man and Dog

68 Days Across The Newfoundland Wild chronicles Justin Barbour's 2017 trek across Newfoundland through the wilderness.  The trip took place through spring/summer and is fascinating from a man v. nature perspective plus there's plenty of amazing Newfoundland scenery and wildlife to check out. 

I think, one of the things that I find interesting about Barbour's work is the self-sufficiency he demonstrates.  There's something inspiring about watching someone who has the knowledge, courage and self-confidence to plunge out on their own, with limited support from the outside world.  He rolls with punches and does it with optimism. It's engaging stuff.  Plus he has a cute dog, which doesn't hurt.

And, because it’s a strangely well-ordered universe, my tuckamore/wilderness journey doesn't end there.  I happened to cross paths with a tuckamore-mentioning, getting-lost-in-the-woods musical gem last week as well

I've been building a Newfoundland Throwback Mixtape  and wanted to add some old Hey Rosetta!  One of the first songs I came across was Old Crow Black Night Stand Still. I loved that song when it came out in 2011 and, I think, my fondness has only intensified over the years.  

Old Crow Black Night Stand Still    Hey Rosetta!'s Old Crow Black Night Stand Still was released in 2011 as part of CBC's Great Canadian Song Quest. It was inspired by Gros Morne and contains numerous references to the park.

Old Crow Black Night Stand Still starts slow, almost quietly, almost plaintively but it builds into high-energy resistance, rising to the lines ‘I will stand like a mountain, I will stand like a tuckamore stuck in the wind’.  

That's a sentiment I can get behind, or at least aspire to, as I 'holdfast' and shape my life to weather lockdown 2.0.


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