The story of mummers who screeched us in at the convent!

It has been almost three weeks since we landed in Witless Bay. As time is flying, we are also getting close to our farewell ticket, heading back to St. John’s.

During these last days, all of us are very busy working on our fieldwork. Last night, I was in the chapel, writing my field notes, drowning in my thoughts when all of a sudden Daisy’s calling pulled me back to the world. She said, “Everybody is waiting for you in the kitchen and we want to start the Screeching In ceremony!” Waiting for this moment, I got very excited and ran down the stairs. But when I got to the kitchen, there were just Emma, Sharna and Daisy, no trace of anybody else. Getting suspicious, I remembered I hadn’t seen anyone over the last four hours. Really where were the others at 11 p.m.? We were making guesses, when suddenly, we heard some scary noises from upstairs. We started screaming! These were not ghosts or fairies! Yes, that’s true, there were four mummers coming to the convent!

Mummers in the convent,  Photo taken by: Daisy Hurich

Mummers at the convent, Photo taken by: Daisy Hurich

Our unexpected guests last night! Photo by Daisy

Our unexpected guests last night! Photo by Daisy

The ceremony started with dance and music! While making music with pots and spoons, lovely mummers with their funny clothes and scary masks were dancing with us! I cannot say how much fun it was! While dancing with them, I could easily hear my heart, beating with extreme excitement! Our mummers very artistically disguised themselves and it was not easy to guess their identity!

dancing and playing music with the mummers! Photo by Daisy Hurich

dancing and playing music with the mummers! Photo by Daisy Hurich

Next was screeching time! We all had the honour to get screeched in with one of the mummers who was trying hard to disguise her voice! Haha, mummer Terra, your eyes revealed you!

Mummer Terra starting the Screeching ceremony! Photo: Daisy Hurich

The Screeching ceremony! Photo: Daisy Hurich

Mummer Terra explaining to us what we should do!

Mummer Terra explaining to us what we should do!Look at our faces!

Poor Sharna, she was the first sacrificial screecher who kissed the cod!

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Sharna’s face after kissing the fish! Photo by Daisy

Next was Emma!

Happy Emma after kissing the fish! Photo by: Daisy

Happy Emma after kissing the fish! Photo by: Daisy

And my turn!

Me kissing the fish while I could not stare at its eyes!

Me kissing the fish while I could not stare at its eyes!

Thanks to our lovely mummers, now we all are proud honorary Newfoundlanders!

Three new honorary Newfoundlanders!

Three new honorary Newfoundlanders! Photo by Daisy

Our scary mummers, Terra after revealing her identity! Photo by Daisy

The scary mummer, Terra after revealing her identity! Photo by Daisy

This photo was taken when the mummers were getting ready to surprise us! Photo by Daisy

This photo was taken when the mummers were getting ready to surprise us! Photo by Daisy

Emma, Sharna and I were not only screeched in last night, but also tasted Newfoundland mummering for the first time! It was an unforgettable memory for all of us, that in September 26, 11 pm at the convent in Witless Bay, we experienced two great Newfoundland traditions, mummering and screeching!

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From Mummering to Halloween, From Christmas Tree to Mummers

Traditions are inseparable part of people’s life. They are like holy objects or precious treasures which people keep cautiously in a valuable chest and take them out in some special days in a year to remove the dust of time from them and then put them back till next year. Some of these holy treasures never become valueless even though they change as time elapsed. Mummering is one of this traditions in Newfoundland. Although, nowadays it may not be admired as it was before, its footprint is still traceable in Newfoundlanders’ treasure chest.

A picture of Mummering in the convent, taken by Saeede

A picture of Mummering in the convent, taken by Saeede

Today Claire and I went to Sheila’s house to chat with her about the mummers that I found in her stable while Emma and I were working there to draw the floor plans of the building. Although Sheila could not recall much about Mummering tradition itself, she is still making mummers and put them in her garden as decoration in Christmas time. She told me last year, many people in Witless Bay gather in her garden to celebrate Christmas while sitting with her mummer. She herself has never dressed up as a mummer but she decided to make them as a part of Christmas and Halloween decorations because she found mummers very unique and fascinating to many people in Newfoundland. She also mentioned that she is using miniature mummers on Yule logs.

Sheila Ryan and me in her house, Photo taken by Claire McDougall

Sheila Ryan and me in her house, Photo taken by Claire McDougall

Sheila Ryan and her mummers, taken by Saeede

Sheila Ryan and her mummers, taken by Saeede

Sheila Ryan, photo by Saeede

Sheila Ryan with her mummers, photo by Saeede

Sheila’s Mummers are Mummering’s footprint in her life. She removed dust from her mummers when she opens her chest of traditions and takes them out at Halloween and Christmas.

House Measuring: Measuring Hospitality

It has been three days since Emma and I started working on Sheila and Mike Ryan’s house, measuring their properties and trying to draw plans of their buildings as a part of our fieldwork in Witless Bay. Exactly from the first, both of us have this feeling that nobody is luckier than us spending time with so lovely Sheila and Mike in their house. On the first day, Sheila welcomed us with home-made toutons.  Sitting around the table in the kitchen and sniffing the pleasant smell of bread, we did really enjoy our hot tea with the warmth and sweetness of these people.

Sheila making toutons for us, taken by Saeede

Sheila making toutons for us in her kitchen, taken by Saeede

Emma working on our plan, taken by Saeede

Emma working hard on our plan in the Ryans’ yard , taken by Saeede 

On the third day, Sheila was not in the house but very generously, she left the key with a sweet letter for us. Thoughtfully and kindly, she also put different kinds of snack in the kitchen for us.

Sheila left a letter and key for us,taken by Emma

Sheila left a letter and key for us,taken by Emma

This three day experience reminds me of Dr. Jerry Pocius told us that “houses are the first entrance to people’s life”. While being focused on drawing plans, it provides me the opportunity to listen more carefully to the unheard voices of the place. The Ryans’ house is just honest as them; simplicity and beauty are interwoven together in every single object. The careful selection of ornaments and furniture is saying out loud of Sheila’s creativity and passion for art. The yellow walls in the kitchen bring testimony to the warm hearted nature of the owners and the blue walls of the other rooms match with their patience and kindness toward guests. Being blessed with their warm hospitality, not even for a split second in these three days, I felt like a foreigner in their cozy house. Thanks to Ryans, now I have this unforgettable experience and wonderful memory which I cannot wait to share with my friends and family in Iran that once upon a time there was a white house in Witless Bay with an amazing couple where I felt like home…

Quilting Memories: Patchwork of Life

Art needs patient and creative students. To be a creative student, your eyes must be equipped with unique lenses sensitive enough to discover beauty from ordinary. To embody that beauty, you must be imaginative and patient to try different ways that might or not lead to your goal.

Being born in the U.S, growing up in Newfoundland, moving to Ontario and now living in Witless Bay, Sis is a professional quilt maker and creative ornament designer. I had the privilege of meeting her in Craft night in the Rec center of Witless Bay.  While showing me her indescribable art works, with her consistent smile, she generously shared very intriguing stories of her rich life. Missing her father at young age and being responsible for her big family, she stared working in a company designing interiors of planes when she was a very young girl. Although it was her first encounter with art as a profession, her entrance to this world as an artist is another interesting story. She told me once she broke her ankle in a hockey game and had to take time off. Being frustrated with a broken angle, she went to a flea market and tried to find something to keep herself busy at home. By chance, she bought some kits and crafts and tried to figure them out.  Getting excited with the crafts, she found her passion as an ornament designer and decided to create something new. She remembered clearly the day when she made a small Christmas tree decorated with her made ornaments and brought it to her work. Beyond her expectation, her German colleague insisted she sell the ornaments to him. She told me that at that moment, she was very shocked and did not have any idea of giving the price as she had never thought that other people might be interested in her crafts. After that happening, she decided to sell her art works in craft fairs.

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Sis showing me her ornaments, photo taken by Saeede

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Sis’s art works

taken by Saeede

Sis. photo taken by Saeede

Sis is not only a gifted artist but also an amazing teacher. With her kindness and patience, she taught me how I can make a quilt. While listening to the story of how her mother taught her how to make quilts, I started picturing her weaving her memories in one quilt. If the quilt could talk, every single part of it would definitely tell a story of Sis’s life.

Sis teaching me how to make a quilt, photo taken by Saeede

Sis teaching me how to make a quilt, photo taken by Saeede

Quilt made by Sis. Photo taken by Saeede

Quilt made by Sis. Photo taken by Saeede

 

The First Smile

Everything starts with firsts: first breath, first step, and first adventure. Friendship is also all about firsts: first hi, first smile and first chat. Today, on the first Saturday of the first week of living here, in my first chance of hiking in Witless Bay, I met my first friend!

It was on my way back from my morning walk when by chance I was passing his brother’s house. I was on the other side of the road, drowning in my thoughts, watching my footsteps when I heard someone is saying hi! Lifting up my head, I saw his smiling face. He was standing on a ladder with a hammer in his hand. Getting excited, I cross the road to see his welcoming face better. His warm smile breaks the ice and there was no need to be creative to start conversation with him. Up the ladder, probably not the best place to chat, he talked about the weather and the lovely morning. After introducing myself as an Iranian student, doing field school in Witless Bay and showing my interest in knowing more about their beautiful life, he gets more excited and gave me a bigger smile! His name was David Ryan, my first friend from Witless Bay!

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David Ryan, taken by Saeede Niktab

While talking with David, his lovely brother, Mike showed up from the house. Not surprisingly, like his brother he was very welcoming and offered his smiles generously. He showed me his “Liars Bench”. Sitting on the liar’s bench, while telling the truth, we had a short but pleasant conversation. He said the idea of making a liar’s bench came to his mind from his neighbour who had one 17 years ago. After his neighbour passed away, Mike decided to build one. He delightedly mentioned that each tourist coming to Witless Bay cannot resist taking photos of his bench. Once he heard from a lady from Ferryland that liar’s bench is for men while “Gossip’s Bench” is for women! After taking photos of him sitting on Liars Bench, David kindly suggested Mike to take a photo of me on Liars Bench. I promised them to say gossip rather than lie! We laughed together as the beginning of our friendship.

Liars Bench, Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Liars Bench, Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Mike Ryne sitting on his Liars Bench, Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Mike Ryan sitting on his Liars Bench, Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Mike and David Ryan, my new lovely friends, make my first Saturday in Witless Bay. Through their warm behavior, they taught me the first rule of making friends in Witless Bay; never underestimate the miracle of a smile here! Thanks to them, now I am not nervous any more to meet the community’s people since I have no doubt they are all friendly and kind.

Saved by Beauty

It has been four days since we arrived in Witless Bay. As every day is passing, I’m getting more astonished while looking through the new window of the beauty of the nature just opened to me: the dark blueness of the infinite ocean in harmony with the light blue sky, the splendid houses like colourful dots decorating the green skirt of the land. Five months ago, back in Tehran, I could not have pictured myself taking the fresh breath from the Atlantic Ocean, feeling the pleasant sea breeze touching my face. But it is not a dream; here I am, stepping in the new world of beauty.

Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

taken by Saeede Niktab

Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

Witless Bay, taken by Saeede Niktab

This morning, as the sun rose and woke Mother Nature, I  started my adventure in wonderland. The first thing grabbed my eyes were the seagulls singing in the ocean.

taken by Jacquey Ryan

taken by Jacquey Ryan

There is a folk belief in Iran that whenever the moon is full, you look at it at midnight and make a wish. No doubt, sooner or later, it comes true. Last night the moon was full, smiling in the middle of the sky and spelling us with its magical light. I wish, as Dostoyevsky promised, the beauty will save our world.

taken by Jacquey Ryan

taken by Jacquey Ryan