Building a cabin is easy — building a political movement, not so much.
For the former, basic carpentry skills like measuring, cutting and hammering are fairly simple to learn and practise. Mistakes will be made, but a carpenter learns that wood is a forgiving medium. As long as care is taken to observe basic construction rules (laws determined by physics) then almost anyone can build a strong and enduring hut.
Any kind of structure, including a permanent wilderness shelter, must begin with a solid foundation, and to make one builders require solid, long-lasting materials.
In Labrador, where it is not always practical to transport heavy concrete blocks to remote locations (sometimes they have to be flown in, boated in or even walked in), the best available wood for a foundation is from a tree locally called the juniper, although it is more commonly known as the tamarack larch in other parts of the continent.
Noteworthy for being a conifer that loses its needles every fall like a deciduous tree, the Labrador juniper grows a dense wood that withstands rot better than the most state-of-the-art, chemically saturated, pressure-treated product. Whether you set log cribs onto firm ground, or even if you need to bury a timber raft to give your building solid footing on boggy terrain, the juniper’s tough wood will insure your cabin has a sound and level foundation for decades to come.
The next step is to build a floor that sits flush on the foundation and provides the platform upon which the framework of the building rises, giving form to the
ideal cabin held in the builder’s imagination. Ultimately the form will be complete for all to see and appreciate, the space enclosed beneath a roof and within at least four walls.
Properly built, each part of a structure lends strength and stability to the portions that were constructed before it and to those that come afterward, but it all needs good foundations made of the finest materials. If rot ever sets in to decay the base, the whole creation could collapse into dust and splinters.
Fortunately, since juniper is relatively plentiful in Labrador’s forest, it’s not too difficult to give a cabin a good foundation. However, if you’re building something less concrete, so to speak, like a political movement or party, properly sound materials might not be as easy to find.
Power of people
It is not, as some say, bricks and mortar that make a party, but people, and not everyone is as solid as tamarack. Without men and women able and willing to act upon the conviction of their ideals, a movement lacks materials and becomes only a memory.
Unfortunately, the sturdiest materials — those people with the quality to make the finest, most enduring foundations — are not always easy to come by. Except, perhaps, in Mary’s Harbour, Labrador.
In many ways, the Honourable Yvonne Jones has shown herself to be as sound as juniper — her regretful need to resign her party’s leadership notwithstanding. The foundation she has laid to give Labrador an equal platform in the provincial capital — to provide her region with a voice on a level with Newfoundland — will continue to strengthen while she sits in the House of Assembly. And it will assuredly endure long afterward, even if she never assumes another leading role.
As mayor of Mary’s Harbour, as a four-term MHA set to run again, as minister responsible for the status of women, as minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and for several years now as the leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador (not bad for someone who once defied her party by winning as an independent against the Liberals’ favoured candidate), Jones has made and will continue to make a difference for Labradorians.
She has shown that it is indeed possible for someone from north of the Strait of Belle Isle to come within reach of filling the premier’s office. Because of her, there is now a place for others to stand and speak to power. In reaching so ably for the highest office in the province, Jones has helped to ensure that whatever is built on her foundation will endure for a good, long while.
Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.