A Creation Myth to Live By
HB. Essentially Creation Mythology explains how something can be made from nothing. Tell us more about how your daily art is based on making something from nothing.
Making something from nothing is very childlike. I watch children takes bits of paper and glue, lay it together, gather things from the garbage and create something from nothing. Children understand creativity, it is all about the process of making. Getting something, a finished thing, is just a bonus.
Making something from nothing is a transformation. The nothing is no longer identifiable because it is something. I take rags, torn clothing, no good for anything but making rugs. I gather wool that has been warehoused for years as if it was waiting for me. I source out the bits and pieces from woolen mills that do not make up a yard. To me these things are not nothing because I understand their transformative powers. To most people they are not even good as rags.
They are restored because of the energy I put into them. They turn into floor mats, wall hangings, stories, tapestries . There is a beauty is in being able to transform that which might otherwise be useless into art.
Hook Rug Making
Deanne at Soul Food
Contact Hooking Rugs
Deanne Fitzpatrick in the Soul Food Salon
H.B. In his book, Well of Remembrance' Ralph Metzner write "It was a revelation when I heard Marija Gimbutus describe in her Lithuanian accent and calm, deliberate voice, the peaceful matricentric (not matriarchal), egalitarian, artistic, aboriginal Europeans and saw her slides of the almost overwhelming profusion of Goddess figurines that remain of these cultures. Some days later while meditating on what she had related I received this image: a wise, friendly, scholarly woman walks into my house and calmly informs me that underneath the basement of my house is another house, much larger, much older, and much better furnished and appointed than the one in which I lived. This image profoundly altered my sense of my ancestral heritage."
Dip into your well of remembrance and share how your forebears filled you with passion for rughooking.
My life has been one that is about the present, and the future, ever since I was a child. I grew up in a culture that was anxious to rid itself of the past. Newfoundlanders in the 1970's were first generation Canadians for the most part. Newfoundland only became part of Canada in 1949. Before that we were in various ways under the supervision of Britain, first as a colony, later in a series of different types of government. I grew up in a family that had, until my father's generation, eaked out a subsistence living through the fishery in a rough rocky terrain that could only be reached by boat.
In my childhood, there was no talk of culture, I thought we were uncultured because we did not have what the Americans who lived on the American Navy base at Argentina had.
The Premier of the province in my early childhood was Joey Smallwood. He had set up a resettlement program in the 1950's and 60's so that people could leave the outport life and settle in larger centres such as the Placentia Area where I grew up.He tried to steer Newfoundlanders away from the fisheries. My own father had not agreed with this program, but on the other hand he never wanted to fish. Neither did his brothers. They left before resettlement so they could find work that paid real cash. Up to that time, fishers just paid their bills at the local shop that supplied them with their food, supplies, and gear to survive. There was rarely any cash left over. There was nothing romantic about their lives, they wanted to work to earn a real dollar.
So I grew up in a shadow of casting aside what was important about the past. The only thing I had was my fathers stories. Both his parents were dead long before I was born. His mother had died on his wedding day, this was one of my favorite stories. These stories were, and are the house beneath my house. I know I could never have gotten the same opportunities and education had my father not worked as a civilian on the American Military base for thirty five years. There was no politics involved for him. It had been set up during the second world war, it was a job that paid well. All he ever said was get an education so you can do what you want. He had grade ten, my mother had grade eight. She had left her family home to go into service, which meant she became a house keeper in a wealthier home. She had been treated well in the home but eventually moved to work on the base where she met my father in the late forties. They had no interest in cultural activities like rug hooking, those were old fashioned. At that time it seemed nearly everyone felt the same way.
I grew up in a place that was unique, with it's own rich history, and true to form of anyone who is fully immersed in a culture, I did not recognize it. It is only later having left and looking back that I can see it. I have a rich ancestry that was able always to make something out of nothing. When I was fifteen I went back to se the village where my father had grown, and to live there would have been tough. The water, the weather, the lack of good soil would constantly be at battle with you.
I think I look to my father's heritage a little more because he enlivened it with story telling at night. My mother , had been at odds with her father, and she never wanted to talk about her childhood much. I asked but got little respponse as a child.Both my grandmothers were rug hookers and I believe this ability to make rugs is innately inside of me because of my ancestry. Though I never met them, never even seen a picture of my maternal grandmother, I believe their hands have created my hands and that our souls are linked because they came before me.
HB. Take one of your rugs Deanne and tell me a story about Freshwater Newfoundland
When the Women All Wore Dresses
When I was seven I was allowed to go to the beach on my own. My mother could see me from the middle window of the second floor of our house. I suppose she checked on me from that window but I did not know if she ever did. Though I could not see her, I always felt that I was being watched as I wandered among the beach rocks. It was as if I had to be good because if she saw me getting to close to the edge it would be the end of going down there alone. In my own mind, her eyes were following me and this gave me a sense of safety.
The beach was below my house, beyond a dandelion filled meadow, a church yard and a flat top house that was painted dory buff, the traditional colour of Newfoundlandís small inshore fishing boats. It was trimmed with dark green. Sometimes I would take what was known as the back path to the beach. This hill was steep. It was the kind of road that once you started running on it, you could not stop til you hit the flat of it at the bottom. It went by the grave yard, and unlike most roads where I lived there was only houses on one side of the road. On the other side were Ned Griffenís seven black and white cows. They looked out at me over a stick fence from a field that was strewn with lumpy grey granite rocks and buttercups.
There was a family who lived on that road that I was scared of. I rarely saw them unless I went down that road. The father was unshaven and dirty. The mother was bent over in a hunch. The children were often shoeless, with runny noses and matted hair. They were isolated from the rest of us in some way. Most likely it was the isolation of poverty that at the time I did not understand. I think I was afraid of them because they did not say hello, but stared at you as you passed by. I was always afraid the children would throw rocks at me from behind the peeling paint on their picket fence. Rock throwing was common. Children had their own private wars, wars that were not interfered in by parents. There were a few families who lived on the edges of our town who remained unknown to the rest of us in many ways. Their troubles or strife was worn on their sunken faces like the cracks in the cliffs on the beach below them. As a small girl I could identify shame and sorrow because I had seen itsí mask.
Saying hello, or "how are ya" was a ritual even for the smallest of citizens. Greeting someone acknowledged they were alive. No one ever passed you by with out acknowledging you, it just was not done. The only people who did it were considered "backwards" or they were from away, which was, more often than not, considered " forwards". Today I still smile or acknowledge most everyone I pass when I walk down the street. I like to look into their eyes and confirm for us both that we belong. For years my husband would look at me and laugh after we passed by and someone was smiling at me. He would say "You were looking at them werenít you?" I would answer,"How can you not?."He found it an odd thing, I think, that I did this, until he went home with me a few times.
I was old enough to go alone to the beach once I had been fairly warned to stay away from the waters edge. The only people who lived right near the beach were also loners but they were less scary. I was unafraid of them because my next door neighbors, Mrs. Edna and Mr. Bernie were related to them. Mr. Bill Dollimont was a brother to Mr. Bernie, and he lived on a bluff right above the beach. There were no neighbors right there. In a place where houses were built nearly on top of one another, choosing to live away from the others, so close to the beach was considered odd. It was custom to build away from the water with a good view of it. For centuries we had been dependent on the water, keeping an eye on it was common sense. Building to close to it was impractical because itís powerful force was hard on the paint, and the weather tightness of the house.
They also had a daughter , Bernadette , whose eyes were crossed. As a child this added to the mystery the family held for me. I would see them next door. My parents knew them. Bernadette often visited her aunt next door. When she did she would stop by our house for a minute to say hello She was the same age as my next eldest sister, Wilhelmina, but they did not go around together. I would guess that Bernadettesí eyes made her a bit of an outsider. My sister Bissy, as we referred to Wilhelmina, was always "in like flynn." Sometimes around the table she would make us all laugh by twisting her face and crossing her eyes, in imitation of Bernadette. My mother would say, "You better be careful the wind donít change , miss." It was an old saying that if the wind changed while you were making fun of someone your face would be frozen, and you would have to live with the crossed eyes, or twisted mouth, or whatever other nasty form your face was taking. The saying was derived from watching the wind carefully while you out fishing so that you did not get caught in a storm. Of course, now I know it also means that the winds of time can bring great changes to sadden any of us, so we all best be careful of the direction it is blowing. Years later when I was still a girl and Wilhelmina was a young woman, I used to try to get her cross her eyes for me again. She would refuse, feeling badly that she had done it in the first place. Needless to say we are all kinder now.
I spent huge amounts of time on that beach below Bernadette Dollimontís house. The rocks on the beach were pastel shades of roses and blues mixed with a multitude of soft grays. It was often littered with bits of net, or javex bottles that had been used for buoys. It was not pristine but most of the litter was a functional part of life on the water. It is interesting how it seems less like litter when you understand that it got there as part of a livelihood. I noticed this on a beach in Cape Breton lately. The bits of net and buoys seem to add to the beach rather than detract from it. I can see the womanly curve of the water meeting the edge of the shore. As a young girl I sat on that beach with Earl Mc Grath. I can still smell the fresh air off his head, and the oil on his mitts. He would hitch hike from Point Verde to Freshwater after spending the day pumping oil for his father on their oil delivery truck. We would sit on the beach with our arms around each other to ward off the cold wind, and talk about little or nothing.
I also watched the beach from that middle window. I would lean my knees against the back of our big square chair with wide arms. It was the kind that had a slight slant on them, but you could still lay a drink on if you were careful. The arms of that chair were about ten inches wide. They were good chairs for big families because some one would inevitably sit on the arms of the chair when you were all home, or when you had company. They always had big floral fitted slipcovers on them, the kind that saved the upholstery, so that it was still in mint condition long after the springs had worn out.
There was no wharf in Freshwater when I was a little girl. The people who fished in Freshwater tied up their boats at the dock in Jerseyside, right next to the fish plant. Though my father had set aside fishing long before, this angered him to no end. What good was a nice cove with out a place to tie up your boats. Once when he was off work for back surgery, he started a petition. He went door to door, with me at his side, some of the time, to get signatures supporting the idea of a government wharf. He used Hilroy exercise note books, one yellow, one orange, and one green, like the ones I used in school, to collect the signatures. He would stand at each door talking about the need for a wharf so that people could fish right out of Freshwater. Most people were welcoming and supported the idea, but wondered why he was bothering. A few argued with him, saying it was not needed. Following my father door to door was my first lesson in social responsibility. I remember looking up at him getting clean shaven and dressed, ready to hit the road for the wharf. He wore a dark suit that had a tiny bit of metallic blue going through and peg leg pants. He carried himself nicely, with his chin slightly lifted so that he appeared taller than his five foot ten frame. He had a bald head with a bit of grey hair on the front that he swept back over the crown of his head with a ten cent pocket comb. I bought him one of these combs each Christmas. I find I am still tempted to pick one up when I see them on a store counter. It is as if in buying one I could bring back a time, or a feeling of a place. He always had one of these black combs, a pen, a notebook, and a pocket knife on him no matter where he went. I would wonder why he bothered with the idea of a wharf because he did not even have a boat. In all my time on that hill no one else ever came to our door about any issue. It was the one and only petition I remember circulating in our town. Years later on a dark wet night, a man came to my door with a petition to keep the street lights on at night on our county road. Though he lived only a mile away I had never seen him before. I had no strong opinion on the street lights but I eagerly signed his petition because he so reminded me of my own dad, taking it upon himself, door to door, to make things right. I think I would have signed up for anything because some times memory is a stronger force than good sense.
I watched who went up and down the hill, and when I could where they went. One of my favorite characters from the hill was Pete Smith, who at seventy had not cut his hair for twenty years. He walked to church on Sunday with his long gray hair blowing down his straight back. He always wore a suit jacket with patch pockets in the front where he kept his hands. My father scoffed at him as he did at a lot of things. My father though so weak in many ways was a pious man. I on the other hand, was charmed by him by Pete Smith. I liked that he did what he liked, and held himself up so straight.
As it is in small places, there were stories told behind my back as I sat in the window. My mother and older sisters would be recounting tales of the hill walkers. I could watch the walkers freely and quietly with running commentaries on them in the background. I knew the quiet secrets of people on the hill. The things that were never said in company, or outsides the confines on oneís own door. There were those who "cracked up from the pressure," Those who had "nervous breakdowns," and of course those who had "gotten in trouble".Gotten in trouble was Irish Catholic code for having gotten pregnant before you were married, and was considered by my family a mortal sin. Such thoughts needed to be instilled in a family of seven girls, no brothers to look out for them.
Directly out the middle window, straight ahead was The Lafontaine Club, which was essentially a tavern run by the parish. The proceeds of the drinking that went on there went back to the Catholic Church that ran our parish. I was able to see who came and went, how long they stayed. I would yell to my mother, "Heís down in front of the club" when my father parked there. Sometimes I would see him turn left to park hi car in behind the club so that we could not see that he was there. I was in the window much to often for this trick to have much effect. After he was there for an hour my mother would have me call down to get the bartender to tell him to come home for supper. Sometimes he came right way, sometimes he stayed as long as he wanted. He did what he felt like. Our monitoring had no effect on him first, nor last.
From that window, I saw the water turn from its deepest blue to a shade I would have to call briny green when a North eastern wind blew in. The calm flat water with it lolling waves would turn from a peace loving mother to a youngster in a temper tantrum in a matter of minutes at times. It excited me to watch the waves charge at the black rocks that I knew to be covered in little white barnacles from the safety of my second story window. On a good day I would pry at the barnacles with my fingers thinking how could something as big as me not be able to take something as small as that white shell off of a rock. After a storm I like to see what had washed up on the shore. There would be small pools of water in the bowls on the rocks with snails, where snails and shells would be caught. In a storm I was happy to know that there were bluebells growing on the small bit of field that rested above those dark rocks. The little violets were so amazingly delicate, almost hidden amongst the blades of green grass on the small meadow. Finding a flower in the rugged terrain that was Freshwater was a sweet miracle. You felt like one of the blessed little saints that the nuns were constantly praising when you came upon such a rarity.
This beach, the characters that climbed our hill, and my perch in the middle window made me. That time in my life has formed and shaped me. It is an indelible part of who I am. I still continue to watch the world as if I am in the middle window. I have become a constant observer, and my perch has become my rug hooking frame.