Michael Parsons and his wife Georgina may be enjoying the solitude as the only two residents of Little Bay Islands since the power was shut off to the community on Dec. 31, but their online presence is anything but lonely.
The couple’s Facebook page named Kintsugi — which they use as a journal to document daily life as the only remaining residents of the resettled community — is being followed and commented on by countless people.
The couple chose to name the Facebook page “Kintsugi” — which is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold —because, as Michael says on the site, “it is a perfect metaphor for how we feel about Little Bay Islands.”
Not only are the daily Facebook updates drawing the attention of people near and far, but the manner of writing — the descriptions of the tiny isolated town without power or the former level of human activity, the poems, the expression of feelings under a dark, star-filled sky — is as one commenter says “drawing me in by your words.”
“We live close to Shoal Tickle Bridge, which is a wooden bridge that connects the two Islands that make up Little Bay Islands,” Michael writes in a post on Sunday.
“The water in this tickle is fairly shallow and hence there is always a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of tide or undertow that flows back and forth under the bridge. The bridge creates somewhat of a barrier for the tide so at our dock, the movement of water is always perceptible. This morning, the tide was pulling my rowboat back and forth and hence hitting softly against our dock. This thump, thump sound acted a drumbeat to accompany the ocean lullaby.
"In a previous story, I compared infinity to our boundless capacity for love. I realized then and there that my love for this place was also infinite.” — Michael Parsons
“I love our boats (Georgina says we have too many at 8!) but one of my most favourite things in the world to do is go for a row in either my dory or my punt. It brings me back to my childhood when Dad gave me an old, gray dory from his large fishing vessel and that boat became my life for years. Most of my happy memories from childhood revolved around that dory.”
Michael posted a photo of his rowboats at his dock in the darkness of early morning.
“As I gazed down at my rowboats, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. That I was here now. In this place. At this time,” he wrote. “My heart swelled as I looked once again up into the infinity of space. In a previous story, I compared infinity to our boundless capacity for love. I realized then and there that my love for this place was also infinite.”
Parsons had always planned to live his life in solitude when he retired from his job at a California-based software company. But the Little Bay Islands resident back then probably never envisioned being the only man living in his hometown. When the last ferry left the wharf at Little Bay Islands on Dec. 31, the home of Michael and his wife, Georgina, were the only one left occupied.
Everyone left — some on the last ferry out, others in the weeks before.
People packed up their belongings and moved away, in a modern-day resettlement that was more than a few years in the making. Compensation cheques from the province enable them to relocate to the island of Newfoundland, within and closer to larger towns.
Now the Parsons are alone on the island.
“We look at it as an adventure. We’re looking forward to the solitude,” Michael told The Central Voice. “We’ll miss our family and friends, but just the idea of being out here alone, for most people it would be a scary proposition, but for us, it’s not.
“We have zero anxiety or anxiousness about it.”
The pair figure they’ve put $50,000 to ready their home for the solitude, adding solar panels, propane stove, cellular phone signal booster, snowmobile, and a wood stove. They dug a well at the property.
They have supplies they believe will carry them for two years. They're well-prepared to survive any length of time if they can’t get off the island because of sea ice in the harbour or other circumstances.
“We’ve played out the scenarios in our mind and we’ve anticipated what it is going to be like,” said Michael.
Little Bay Islands is a town typical of any found in the inlets, coves and bays around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Built around the fishery, a large wharf represents the epicentre from which the town extends.
There was a time it had three churches, a grocery store and a fire brigade.
When SaltWire reporter Nicholas Mercer visited the community in the days before last residents were readying to leave the community, his description of things he saw told a story in itself.
“A faded Pepsi sign on the front and some boxes of winter boots in a back room are all that remains of the grocery store.
Rock of Ages was the last hymn sung at Faith United Church, which held its deconsecration service more than a year ago. It had been closed for more than four years.
Tablecloths dress the tables in the basement and Bibles sit in the pews.
They aren’t the only items left behind. There are boats abandoned on the shoreline and books left in the library of H.L. Strong Academy, the school closed four years ago.
A pair of sneakers lays in the school foyer as if waiting for the start of the next school day when a young child would swap their outdoor shoes for those crisp runners.
A television, couch, glasses and VHS movies sit in the abandoned home used as a bunkhouse for the workers at the crab plant. In the entryway are notices informing workers of problems with people leaving shift early, not having doctor's notes and other reminders.
The memories of the town live in the items left behind.
“Take the Poacher’s Lounge for instance. Otherwise known as the shed of Michael’s father, it acts as a living memorial to the people of Little Bay Islands.
It was a community gathering spot, sometimes cramming in 60 people for a scuff. There is a fooseball table, stacks of vinyl records of Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys, early pictures of the community and plenty of local artifacts.
There is even a portrait of iconic and divisive Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Joey Smallwood hanging on a wall. It was saved from the local dump by Michael’s father.
And it’s somewhat ironic it would be one of the items to stay, given that Smallwood is considered to be the brainchild behind the original resettlement program of the 1960s.”
Many former residents plan to come back during the summer months to the houses they left behind.
In the meantime, former residents and interested followers can keep track of Little Bay Islands by the photos and writings posted by Michael and Georgina.
— With files from Nicholas Mercer, SaltWire Network
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