Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A village where the women carried the men to the boats...and strength of spirit.

Auchmithie's former harbour...
where the women carried the men to the boats. 
Returning to Vancouver Island, by way of the dramatic flooding in southern Alberta, we witnessed first-hand the immense power of nature. Landing in Calgary, on the first day of the evacuations, the Bow River had become an endless, fast-flowing lake - with angry, brown, Class 4 rapids. It was taking everything in its path with it. We had lived in Calgary for eleven years and our morning run in Fish Creek Provincial Park would take us on the trails along the majestic Bow. It was always a peaceful and calming presence. The river was no longer recognizable.

Surpassing the power of the moving water, however, has been the immense power and resilience of the human spirit. In the two weeks since, Canada (whose 146th birthday we celebrated yesterday) has been deeply touched by the strength and courage of the people of Calgary, High River, Canmore and the many other communities whose collective lives have been turned inside out by this event. The media images of neighbours, working alongside emergency personnel, assisting and supporting one another in the midst of such difficult circumstances touches and warms the heart.

Strength of spirit is deeply inspiring. Sometimes, it is evident in dramatic events. Most often, however, it is at work quietly, in everyday moments and experiences.

Just before leaving Scotland, we did a coastal hike along the sandstone cliffs that face the North Sea to visit a tiny village. Auchmithie perches bravely atop the 120 foot cliffs. It was once an important fishing center and it is where the hot smoked haddock, known around the world as the Arbroath Smokie, originated.

The harbour sea walls, now eroded by the waves and tides.
As in all of the world's oceans, fishing in the North Sea is a dangerous vocation. In past days it was hard and exhausting work onshore as well. When the men returned from the sea, it was the women who carried the heavy catch, on their backs, up the steep path to the village.

The women also had another job.

There was no jetty, and to ensure that the men began their long day at sea with dry clothing, the women would carry the men to the boats. I was touched when I heard that story. It is about the strength of spirit  that enriches each and every one of us when we are able to courageously acknowledge our need for one another - and then offer generous and selfless assistance and support.

To the courageous folks of southern Alberta, and the men and women of old Auchmithie, your example is deeply inspiring.


  1. It is always heart warming to see communities come together in times of tragedies...we just have to learn how to do it each and every day.
    And D, well I hate to tell you this but us, women have been "carrying" men for centuries...maybe not physically but in many other ways.LOL Very neat story!

  2. It is, indeed, heart-warming to experience the care and compassion that so many express at such times. As for your theory, I think you make a very good point. I am one such man who has been "carried" many times - and I'm not afraid to admit it. :) Duncan.

  3. In all honesty it goes both ways and I have to admit that the story of the women carrying their men out to the boats, is very moving, it touches ones heart.

  4. Yes, it does go both ways, L. But part of what I found inspiring about the story was the courage of the men. I would hope I would not choose to begin my day, on the unforgiving and stormy North sea, wet and cold. At a time when there were none of our Goretex dry suits or full on immersion survival suits, misplaced "pride" would have been deadly. It's a story that may challenge some "traditional" thinking. D.

  5. Beautiful Blog Duncan and Joan!
    The people here and all over have been amazing. It has been overwhelming to say the least. I hope Jeff is doing well!

  6. Thank you, Jen, you're very kind. So many have been touched by the strength and spirit shown by southern Albertans and the way that the community has continued to pull together these past weeks. I know that the same compassion will be shared in Quebec at this extraordinarily difficult time there. Bless you. Duncan.

  7. Thank you for your comment, Indira. Yes it sure is. I found the story very moving...and instructive. Best wishes and thanks for coming by. Duncan.