A Time to Remember

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

I’ve spent the past ten days in Newfoundland. A land of contrasts, it is peopled by tenacious, fiercely proud, yet quintessentially kind and generous souls who, to me, represent the very best of Family.
And, as Family,they remember.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

I’ve spent the past ten days in Newfoundland. A land of contrasts, it is peopled by tenacious, fiercely proud, yet quintessentially kind and generous souls who, to me, represent the very best of Family.
And, as Family,they remember.
Not only are the good times recalled, the hard times are acknowledged and never forgotten. The battles with adversity – whether it be the “economics” i.e. survival of
precarious fish stocks – or keening the dead and lost who die or who never return from war, are recognized in their song lyrics, poetry, and art.
Remembrance. The Rock fairly heaves and sighs with it, and so when
I entered the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s, I wasn’t surprised to see an exhibition whose theme is Remembrance of those lost to wars.
Forget Me Not
The title of this exhibit takes its name and inspiration from that beloved
sky-blue blossom with its golden and white centre. Growing here in the Outaouais just as well as in Newfoundland, Ireland, Scotland and Britain, the flower is a potent symbol.
For residents of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), the flower honours those who fought in WW I. More than this, as the Craft Council notes, “2016 is the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beaumont Hamel.” This French village was a
strategically challenging position behind German lines positioned in a Y
formation 300 metres from the Allied trenches. Manned by experienced German troops, according to the NL website (heritage.nf.ca), this ravine was “one of the strongest positions on the entire Somme front.”
The battle, held on July 1, 1916, has become an enduring symbol of war
to the people of this province in particular.  That’s because the Newfoundland Regiment suffered staggering losses. Of more than 800 who fought, only 68 answered the roll call the following morning. More than 700 men were killed, maimed, or missing in action.
Now, we can read about such events on websites. We can go to the War Memorials on November 11 and, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we can pause, remember, and honour our dead not only from WW I, but from all wars, ever, in our human history.
But here in Newfoundland, I was moved by the active remembrance of this Family of Islanders. More than once, people who I chatted and travelled with spoke of July 1 not being celebrated only as Canada Day. No, here the revelries are put on pause, where the good people of NL collectively remember the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.
So as I stood in the Craft Council of NL in St. John’s with my colleague and friend Gillian Power Marx, we gazed at artists’ interpretations of the Forget-Me-Not. I saw Frances Ennis’ statues of soldiers with hooded faces, honouring those who were never found and buried. The sole male artist of the exhibit, Kevin Coates,
produced a wood carving of a lonely widow sitting at a gravesite: the work is
entitled “Forget You Not.”
The art poignantly, strongly reminds us that war divides us, strips us of identity and humanity.
It demands that we reflect upon loss, and that we contemplate love.
I ache for those who’ve suffered wartime losses and who have personally dealt with the depravity of war.
 I ache for those who are troubled with PTSD. I mourn for families who have been split asunder.
And I mourn for each and every one of us. We are a species who are at once full of magnificent compassion, ingenuity and courage – and yet so appallingly, we are also a species who return again and again to war, torture and all the sufferings these entail, as a way to solve our differences.
This Remembrance Day, I will pause to honour the women and men who serve. But I weep. I weep because in 2016 we still cannot collectively find a peaceful way to solve our differences in this, our world village and family of friends