Winter in Tilting
Remember what it was like to be sung to sleep. If you are fortunate, the memory will be more recent than childhood. The repeated lines of words and music are like paths. These paths are circular, and the rings they make are linked together like those of a chain. You walk along these paths and are led by them in circles which lead from one to the other, further and further away. The field upon which you walk and upon which the chain is laid is the song.
— From “Field” in About Looking, by John Berger
❝In the winter of 1988, I was living in the outport of Tilting, Fogo Island, on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, for my initial research on the architecture, material culture, and cultural landscape of the community. Fieldwork from this and subsequent years was published in Tilting: House Launching, Slide Hauling, Potato Trenching, and Other Tales from a Newfoundland Fishing Village. In this new book, I share my memory of a slide hauling trip in the winter of 1988 from Tilting to the south coast of Fogo Island with Andrew and Neil McGrath, their horse Brandy and my Newfoundland dog Sophie. Together, we made our way to the area below Thousand Island Pond so that Neil and Andrew could harvest wood for heating their houses.
We left early in the morning, following one of the slide paths from Tilting across many ridges, heights, barrens, marshes, ponds, and brooks, and through landscape features locally known as drokes, throats, skirts, leads, necks and pinches. The weather was variable, and the light was always changing. At the time, I was not particularly attuned to the subtleties of Newfoundland’s topography and flora, so many places along the slide path looked the same to me at first. Had I been alone on the path during a “whiteout,” a blinding storm of snow and mist and wind, I would likely have become disoriented and lost. Stories abound in Tilting of those who nearly perished in such storms. Only after living in Newfoundland for many years did I begin to appreciate the scale, colours, scents, and sounds of this rugged and at times inhospitable landscape.❞ — from the Introduction
When I first came to Newfoundland—about 60 years ago—I was enchanted with the place. Pure magic! And not a bit like the New Brunswick that I had left behind! But today I read Robert Mellin’s Winter in Tilting: Slide Hauling in a Newfoundland Outport. And I am back in my home province listening to my father and my uncle discussing hauling logs out of the New Brunswick wood lots. And Robert got it right. The conversations lasted for hours. This book is full of the love of people, land and craft. His paintings illuminate this little place called Tilting that Robert has so taken to his heart. And as I first saw Newfoundland—Magic!—Mary Pratt*