Ed is all about tying ropes and the size of the opening in his crab trap, while David is creating gigantic panels that are inspired on Mahler’s 5th Symphony. On Fogo Island Newfoundland, the artisan and the artsy co-exist.
Out here, cod was the only currency up until the mid-sixties. There was no money. Just a collection of picturesque toy like inlets without roads or electricity.
Behind this allure lays a world of hardship and perseverance. Of toughness. Seven seasons of which the summer is the pleasant one. The other six are a continuous battle against the elements.
Icebergs float by, powered by the Labrador Current from Greenland. There is so much cod that you can catch an 8-pounder within 30 seconds, using just a piece of clothesline and a hook without bait.
This is where I am now, with my friend Marja. We are passers-by. The Newfoundlanders that seemed gruff at first are embracing us. We are most impressed by their flexibility. Their youthful joy when we are deeply touched by the island where their roots lay. By how they open up and start seeing through our eyes and feeling our joy with us.
We are asking lots of questions, something that these doers aren’t used to. Our fishing guide Ed, who is 70 years old, has been angling since he was 14 and handled millions of cods. Not once has he given it any thought why a cod has some kind of feeler at the chin. “Don’t know.” We win him over by getting out of our heads and help pulling yards of fish line onto the boat with our soft, bare hands.
Especially moving are the Little Fogo Islands. The archipelago that looks like the remnants of the crater of a volcano is a paradise for thousands of puffins. A black and white bird with a colorful beak that has a clownish effect. An almost mythical experience to be the only boat there, surrounded by a flock of these incredible birds.
In the distance an iceberg. As Ed puts it in a soft singsong voice “very very far always”. That is Fogo Island for you, a paradox of hard and soft!