The final stop on the Train of Thought: Rock Barra, P.E.I.

Eliza StarChild Knockwood, who is Mi’kmaq/Lnu has been a grounding presence for us since we left Vancouver. All along the journey she has been ceremoniously filling tiny glass bottles with water from the waterways in the places we’ve visited. When I came from Victoria, I brought her a little bottle of water I’d collected from the Pacific Ocean. Her intention has been to offer all these waters to the Atlantic Ocean in a ceremony once we arrived at her home: the Abegweit First Nation, which means “cradled by the sea.” Her people are glad to see her when we arrive. In their big hall, her family and the chief and others are there to greet us all. There is drumming and song and speeches and a feast of freshly caught lobster. After the meal we head up the hill to see Eliza’s house in progress. She has been building an “earthship” to live in with her daughter—a passive-heated structure made from used tires, stacked into walls with their hollows filled with the red earth of this place. Eliza dreams big and she makes things happen. She hopes to have the walls completed and the roof on by autumn.

It is Eliza who has arranged for us to stay at Rock Barra, a musician/artist retreat on the north coast of PEI. We walk inside to find a marvelous and magical place overlooking the ocean. There is a big woodstove surrounded by comfy chairs, a kitchen, and beds upstairs. There are small cabins nearby and also trailers, so plenty of room for everyone. Some of the group are leaving tomorrow, others will stay a few days longer. I’ll be the first to leave in the morning so I savour the evening, drinking in as many good conversations as I can until it is past midnight. I have offered to sleep on the couch near the woodstove so I can get up every hour or so to tend the fire and make sure it is still burning by morning. I feel is an honour to take this job. I am up by 6am and after making a cup of coffee with water boiled on the stove, I take it with me on a long walk on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. While living in Victoria it has become a ritual for me in recent years to get up early and go on a morning walk. I’ve not had a lot of opportunities to do it on this trip and I have missed it. Now, as I walk in the morning air, I feel that I am on my way back to my life as I know it. And yet, I have been deeply affected by these weeks on the road in the company of these good people. I will miss them all.

Before I put my bags in the rental car to drive to the airport in Charlottetown, Ruth invites me to say a few parting words to the group. Here’s what I tell them:

All along our journey we have been revelling in these little utopias wherever we go. It’s been a vision of what it might be like to live in a country where there is an intention for settler and First Nations people to live side by side, with honour and respect, humour and creativity. I think all of us know that now, as we return to our lives and our work, we’re going to come up against realities that are less than utopian. The release of the Truth and Reconciliation report is going to push us forward as a nation toward building better relationships, but there is inevitably going to be a swell of resistance coming out of deeply embedded colonial thinking and, frankly, racism throughout Canada. I encourage all of us to keep this experience of Train of Thought close in our hearts and draw on the love and care and vision for the future that we felt all along the way. Let’s be sure to remain in contact with each other and turn to each other for support in the months and years ahead. The tide has turned but there is still a whole lot of work for us ahead. To paraphrase the poet Robert Frost—

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But we have promises to keep,
And miles to go before we sleep

And so, my friends—Onward!


To all the readers of this blog, thank you for following me on my journey. It has been a joy to write knowing that I was writing for you. If you would like to learn more about my fellow and sister travellers, take a look at this page from the Train of Thought website. What a remarkable group of people they are and what a privilege it has been to take this journey with them:

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