Tucked up in the bottom of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, is a little harbour with very shoal water, hence its' name, Shoal Harbour.
Not too far from the seashore, just up from the old railway bed is my husbands' childhood home. Just behind the house is an enormous woodpile, and just to the left of the woodpile is a little shed with a big window in the front overlooking the lilac tree and the land sloping down to the sea, and then a view right out over the water. The same view is seen from the windows at the front of the big house.
Poppy Lowe worked with the railway, known to his friends and family as Abe. But Poppy also had another line of work he enjoyed and is known by many for that work. You see, Poppy was a fine skilled carpenter, working his magic on the wood-always to perfection. From coffins to egg cups, Poppy could make anything with different kinds of wood. His inlaid woodwork is art and most of the family has a piece or two of his wonderful creations. The granddaughters have their jewelery boxes beautifully topped off with an oval of ebony. They are splendid, lined with red velvet with the tiniest of little latches to keep them closed. His work included special twirled candlesticks that grace the altar of the Shoal harbor United Church, along with inlaid collection plates perfectly finished.
His other inlaid work included trays, vases, tables, picture frames, spice racks, and too many other things to list. The shed still holds samples of the woods he ordered from far distant lands, ebony, mahogany, ash, as well as our Newfoundland birch and pine-such smells and sights that it makes you close your eyes and savour it all. Poppy loved to show his wood samples, his tools, and his work. He would rub his weathered hands over the wood lovingly, explaining the way the grain lay and what his plans were for each piece. Yes, Poppys' workshop was the place to be and the place to learn. On a rainy day he would pull the chain of the bare lightbulb over his workbench and set to work. A nice place to be, the children all thought, as they took their places beside Poppy at the workbench, the stove making the shed warm and cozy.
I visited the shed this week, the first time for a while, and watched the bits of sawdust dance in the sunbeams streaming in the windows. The smell is the same, nice clean wood, paint and shellacs. The view of the water, the tool cabinet with an old Fathers' Day card still taped to it is all still there. The bare lightbulb, the sheets of sandpaper and jars of nuts and bolts are all the same as they were twenty years ago. The lathe and bandsaw are quiet today, but the little pile of fresh sawdust, and the cabinets that lie, in the process of being finished, across two work benches tell me it is not always silent in there.
A splash of red on the workbench catches my eye and I know without looking that is the handiwork of my daughter, from a time years ago when Poppy gave her some red paint and a brush, and she painted her initials on the workbench with '1982' beside them. My husband told me he found the childrens' rock people, and a wooden boat roughly nailed together, and many other things that are reminders of our yearly trips back to Shoal Harbour to visit Nanny and Poppy Lowe.
They learned so much in that tiny workshop, probably more than we will ever know. I used to ask them if "Geppeto had Pinnochio made out there yet?"
They would giggle with Poppy but the secrets stayed between them.
Poppy left his workshop and left us in 1982, not long after the red paint was used. Nanny lived by herself in the big house for many years and then she too left, leaving us with a legacy of knowing we were all loved.
But there is another Nanny and Poppy Lowe here now. Our ways are different in some things, much the same in others. The new Poppy Lowe fills the place at the workbench, working his skills on the wood, building cabinets just as painstakingly as his father before him. He walks like his father, has the same self-determination and humour and fills his fathers' shoes just as his father would have wished.
He is Poppy Lowe now, and his family, a son and a daughter, will come to Shoal Harbor to visit us, and they will bring their families in due time. The first little grand child was here this summer, just a year and a half old, and she visited the workshop for the first time. Was the magic still there as it was for her mother who used the red paint, of course it was! The imagination of a child, even so young, can go to far off limits while sharing a place like the shed with a smiling Poppy who loves you so and takes care that you do not get hurt. The little hammers, nails, and the inevitable red paint were all still there, just waiting to be held and played with.
Yes, of course the wonder and the magic are still there, left by a kind Poppy to his son and family. And Poppys' Workshop came alive again with the sound of a childs' laughter as she marveled at the thrill of being in this seemingly awesome place with the kind Poppy who loves her.
The little shed, in the little harbor, our 'round the bay' in Newfoundland-who would ever think what a castle it can be?
Who lives 'up behind the shed'
Shoal Harbour, Newfoundland