We’re on our way to Pinchard’s Island. It’s about a four hour drive from our current hometown. Like every other time we’ve made this drive I start to ask Nan about her life. “When were you born?” “When did you leave Pinchard’s Island?” “When did you marry Pop?” Specific questions with specific answers. The distinction of a life before resettlement and a new life after emerges. The questions distract me from the insecurities I have about the project. How can I represent a place that doesn’t exist anymore? Will anyone want to look at images of this place? Does anyone care about resettlement?
We eventually meet the shore and a small fishing boat takes us to the island. It’s so foggy that we can’t see anything in any direction. The captain makes a series of shifts of the motor, guiding us through the fog as though he has a mental map of the sea. After floating in complete silence, the island slowly appears. I feel relieved for a moment that it’s foggy and the skies are grey.
Questions begin to consume me again. Why am I here? Why do we come back to this place? I explore the barren landscape as generations of family trail behind me. There’s no specific path or destination. Details of a previous world emerge from my grandmother and her sisters as their foggy memories of the island reawaken. “This is where the school was.” “Here was our home.” “Can you imagine that we lived here with no trees? The wind! No firewood!” The sisters would agree and then disagreements over specific memories. I’m captivated by the disagreements. I think about the physical landscapes and the landscapes formed in our mind.
The resettled communities I’ve visited have their own energy, but this island is unique. I don’t feel dread, nostalgic, or the echo of Joey Smallwood saying “no great future.” I don’t know if it’s the place that evokes the energy, or if it’s an energy I bring to the place. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter because these places are in me. My heritage, these landscapes, these places have all been passed on to me. I’m more than observing–I am finally in the conversation.