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3 Lessons I Learned From a Very Large Rock.

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My husband and I just returned from a trip of a lifetime to the spectacular Canadian Province of Newfoundland & Labrador. Similar to our trip to Croatia last year, when we would tell people our travel plans, we would invariably be met with quizzical expressions and the question, “Why did you choose to go there?”

And I must say, even Newfoundlanders wondered why we would choose to spend our vacation days on an island so far in the North Atlantic that we found it difficult to find stars (because the sky was only completely dark between midnight and 3:00 AM).

Newfoundland has become close to our hearts through the music of Great Big Sea. And through that same music and a certain little dancing video, the locals seem to have embraced me as the unofficial ambassador of happiness and cheer in the face of chaos, sadness and despair. I have received tons of messages and emails and notes from Canadians (many from NFLD) who were following my story from afar. I have made friends with some good people there. Seemed like a perfect opportunity to visit such good people in person.

Rick and I also love exploring places neither of us has been before. And if we are the only Americans for miles? Even better. We love to mix with the locals. Be charmed by the brogue of their accents. Ask about favorite restaurants and attractions. Learn the local history.

We stayed in a charming fishing community called Petty Harbour (just South of St. John’s). We read, we relaxed, we hiked, we zip-lined, we iceberg-hunted, we bird watched (saw my first Puffin and 5000 of his closest friends), we whale watched (from the SHORE no less), we were “screeched in” (a ceremony involving black rum and kissing a codfish). . .

Newfoundlanders call people from out of town “come-from-aways.” Although Rick and I do indeed come from a ways away, we now truly feel connected to NFLD and now consider ourselves unofficial locals.

Newfoundland is called “The Rock.” For good reason. It’s an island consisting entirely of rock formations, some created from volcanic eruptions half a billion years ago, others left behind from landmasses clashing during continental drifts. As a result, Newfoundland has some of the oldest rocks in the world. And some of the most spectacular scenery you will ever witness. It’s a geologist’s dream and a nature lover’s paradise.

But I’ve been thinking more and more about those rocks these days since returning home — and I think we can learn a lot from them.

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Much of Newfoundland originated as a volcanic eruption under the sea somewhere south of the equator, and over millions of years floated Northward to its landing spot today at the Easternmost point of North America. We learned that the island’s movement is slow: the same rate as growth of our fingernails.

Now, I know I don’t have millions or thousands or even hundreds of years to accomplish all of my goals. But when I think about how I push myself to complete something before it is (or I am) ready, or stress over the big picture, incapable of making a decision or any movement because the task seems way too big or insurmountable, I need only remind myself that great things take time. One step at a time — even if that step is only the length of a fingernail — is all that is needed for today. It’s motion forward, not backward.   And it will lead to great things. Perhaps not according to my preferred timeline. But great things will come nonetheless.

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Newfoundland is the result of volcanic eruptions and storm surges and tidal waves and collisions of continents and divisions of landmasses. Its terrain is scarred and battered and beaten by glaciers and ocean currents. And it is stunning. Captivating. Breathtaking.  Smooth in some places, jagged in others. Covered in moss and wild flowers. A mosaic of greens and blues and browns and greys. Wild and unkempt and clean and crisp.

The best parts of me, the most beautiful parts of me, are the result of tragedy and loss and pain and heartache. Chaos leads to beauty. Jaw-dropping, show-stopping, heart-rate-inducing beauty. I have been scarred both emotionally and physically. I have had my extreme highs and my intensely depressed lows. I have been explosive. I have been implosive. And the result? Beauty. Raw and real beauty.

And my beauty may not be everybody’s taste. That’s okay.  And you may be so close to your own beauty that you are not able to see it or appreciate it. But trust me . . . it’s there. Embrace it and share it with everyone around you. The world will be a more vibrant place for it.

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Newfoundland continues to move Northward. Very slowly of course (again, at the rate our fingernails grow); but each year it changes.  The raging Atlantic Ocean changes the coastline by dumping huge boulders or dragging old ones away. We visited a tiny cove that had massive boulders that been delivered by the ocean just this winter. 10-ton rocks that were picked up and placed on the shore as if they were pebbles. And erosion from wind and storm and snow breaks down the landscape and smooths the rough edges of the cliffs, and the relentless tide continues to polish the small stones that wash up on the beach.

If an island the size of New York State is never done with its self-work, then why do we ever think we will be? Why do we long for a day when we will be perfect; when we will be finished with that diet; when we have gathered all the information we need in life? We are never done. Never. We are a work in progress. Change is normal. Change is healthy. Change is awesome.  Change should be welcome.

And when we are pummeled with life’s storms and tidal surges, we are being invited to become everything we are supposed to be.

I love rocks and stones. I always have.  But I never knew I had so much to learn from them. Thank you to “The Rock,” for showing me the way.

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37 Responses to 3 Lessons I Learned From a Very Large Rock.

    • Hi Christine! You do not know me, as your blog came to me, “across” my facebook. I love what you have to say about my beautiful home, Newfoundland. You have a refreshing perspective and I’m honored to know that, not only have you graced our beautiful “rock” with your presence, but have also taken some of the “rock” into the development of your own presence, that you get to share with soo many others :).

      • Wait, I’m new to following blogs lol. I meant the above post for Tiffany, you, and not Christine ( as lovely as I’m sure you are). Oh my! haha

    • I lived in Newfoundland for 37 years. It is HOME to me!! I love ‘The Rock” !! Your description of it is beautifully written. You made me think about home, ‘the rock’ and now I feel even more solid and grounded than ever before… thank you for that!!

  1. What a great reminder about the beauty in all of us. It’s so easy to focus on the negative/ugly. Thanks!

  2. Welcome back to this important work of yours, Tiffany! – inspiring us all on our own healing journeys!!
    Lessons are everywhere! Thanks for reminding us!! I love and appreciate you so much!

  3. Well said. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to visit Newfoundland! It is indeed a unique and beautiful province with wonderful people!

  4. Absolutely wonderful Tiff! It is a gorgeous land. I completely understand your wanting to go there. I read a great book that took place in Newfoundland and it totally made me want to see it someday. So glad you guys are able to go out on your ventures! SO important to explore this world and expand ourselves. Luv you tons!

  5. I loved reading this. I found out about you through Jellybean Row’s Facebook page, and your story is really inspiring. I’m a transplanted Newfoundlander living almost next door to you (Buffalo). I’m so glad that you had a fabulous trip to my home province. It is indeed an incredibly beautiful, wild and spirited place. Wishing you continued good health, Tiffany – hope you can make a return visit someday!

  6. Beautiful I live in newfoundland and no matter were I go in life I’m proud to say I’m a newfie and love the beautiful landscapes we have

  7. Beauty is all around us if we have eyes to see it, and you have extraordinary vision! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They made my day!

  8. Such a beautiful story Tiffany, Keep all those good thoughts going, so happy you enjoyed our beautiful province, we are so happy to be living here again. It is an amazing place. I hope both you and your husband found peace and tranquilly, as well as beauty here and are feeling renewed. Good luck and good health on the rest of life’s journey.

  9. Lovely to read your story and feeling so happy for you to have a opportunity to see a beautiful part of Canada. Thank you for opening your heart with us all.


    I lived in Newfoundland from 1979 to 1984 (less six months backpacking through Europe) and I heard this story in a kitchen at a house party about half way through my time there…I’ve never forgotten it, but this is the first time I have written it down…

    ”Many years ago, a medical student moved to Newfoundland to complete his internship. He was placed in a small bay community of a few hundred people, and after his six-month internship had completed, he decided to stay on to carry on serving the medical needs of the community and the neighboring villages. Over the years he saw to the births of all of the infants in almost a hundred mile radius, often travelling to see patients in outlying villages by snowmobile in the winters and by coastal boat in the summers. Not infrequently, grateful families named their children after him, and he was never short of baked goods that his patients brought by in order to show their thanks.

    After a number of years, he met a Newfoundland girl who he fell in love with, and married in a big “down-home” wedding that the bay community threw for him. The doctor and his wife had four children, all of whom chose to stay on, once they were grown, to live and work in the same community in which they grew up in. The doctor’s children eventually married and had their own children, and the doctor and his family lived happily until he reached the age of 96, at which point he collapsed while helping an injured fisherman who he had known for decades.

    The bay community, grateful for his love of their community and his selfless service for almost seventy years, gathered for his funeral in the local cemetery, which was o located on a rocky promontory overlooking the village the doctor had loved and adopted as his own so many years before. The waves rolled in to the gravel and rock-strewn beach far below, and a chilly fog drifted in from the north Atlantic as the funeral drew to a close. As the mourners slowly walked back down the hill to the village, one old man was overheard speaking to his wife in a voice lowered out of respect for the doctor’s passing. He said, ‘Lar tundrin’ Jaysus, missus…sure an’ the ole doc will be missed. He was a good’un, he was.” His wife softly replied, ‘Yes he was…almost like a fadder to me, he was…the proper kind. He was almost one of us…’”

    • thank you for sharing that story! perfect in detail (including a bit of that wonderful local dialect)!

  11. I stumbled upon this on facebook and couldn’t help but read it as I was born and raised in Newfoundland but took my daughter to ON to live 13 yrs ago. I never appreciated the beauty of the island and the people until leaving home. Now, i’m waiting for my daughter to find a job here and get settled, as she just graduated college, and once she’s settled i’m heading back to NL. Growing up, my dad worked in a hotel in our small town and we were never surprised when a stranger from “away’ turned up at our dinner table as dad always felt bad for the working men especially away from home and having to eat hotel food instead of a good home cooked meal. Over the years we had fellow newfoundlanders from other parts of NL at our dinner table, ppl from ON, portueguese, Italians, Americans and so on eat jiggs dinner (salt beef, cabbage, carrot, turnip and potatoe boiled in a pot with a molasses raisin pudding), cod fish, or whatever other newfie dish dad could think of to feed these poor souls. He made lifelong friends and when I move to ON, the portuguese gentlemen came and picked me up to bring me to his home for Portuguese thanksgiving with his family as well so it was a friendship of give and take. Myself, following in my dads footsteps would also bring exchange students home for dinner..had an girl from Mexico and a girl from Japan and my mom said between the both of us she never knew who was going to be at the supper table. You would be hardpressed to find a newfie pass you on the street if you were broke down, or who wouldn’t offer you a meal if you were in the area. The people as well as the beauty of the island are unique and alot of ppl that i’ve met over the years have said that they have travelled the world and have never met anyone more kind hearted, friendly, helpful, and hard workers as they have in NL. I miss the ocean the most. The sound of the waves as they hit off the rocks especially on a bit of a stormy night. I’m proud to call NL my home and am so glad you had the opportunity to partake in some of the beauty and history of the island.

    • A perfect description of the generosity of spirit of your people, Bernadine! Such warm and wonderful individuals! thank you for sharing!


  13. This is such a beautiful story! God bless you! I live on Petty Harbour Road, wished I had a chance to meet you! You are a true inspiration!

  14. hi! just discovered your blog on FB – good luck with your diagnosis and treatment hon. i am also originally from NL and lived in Rocky Harbour (part of Gros Morne) – not sure if you got to get up “that way”. it’s a wonderfully humbling and beautiful place in the world, and i certainly didnt appreciate it until i moved away. it’s great that you took the time to go!

  15. I enjoyed and loved reading all the positive comments about the ROCK. I came to work here since 1976 and I, too, am a CFA..,Come From Away. Away is Philippines. Yes, a Filipina who love this province as I feel /felt so grounded here. When most of my other friends have moved to bigger places like Los Angeles, New York City, Vancouver, Toronto; I choose to be here for I love the caring and genuine friendship of the Newfoundlanders. Our daughter’s god parents are true blue Newfoundlanders from Bonavista! I love it here for the crispness and freshness of the air, I love it here because this is the place where I got married and where our daughter was born . I love it here for its people , the surroundings and circumstances that help me grow and mold me for who I am now.. Thank you Newfoundland! Thank you my fellow Newfoundlanders! As the locals would say (and I take pride in saying this)…’I dies’ at ‘ya, B’y!”

  16. Tiffany, I stumbled upon this post via Facebook. It is a wonderful, inspiring reminder to see beauty in life, despite the hurdles. The pictures are awesome, too.

  17. Hi I live in the beautiful Newfoundland, and I am always glad too hear about all kinds of stories of visitors coming and seeing our beautiful province. I have been too Toronto, Quebec , and a few ,more places in this country and was very shocked that when people passed you by, on the street or a park they would never say hello. Here in Newfoundland that’s not the case, in a store, park, street, or just driving on the streets of Newfoundland , someone is bound to wave, shake your hand , or even say “Hey how’s she goin”, which means how’s everything.

    While growing up in Newfoundland , in an outport community people from there would say ” think I’m goin to Florida dis summer”, but my dad would respond, “Put ur money back in yer pocket and travel all of Newfoundland you will never see anything like it, and it will cost ya less”, . By god they did and the pictures, places, and people , and the food were amazing they told us.

    Cape Spear is nice Cabot tower, Middle Cove Beach , Topsail Beach, alllllll awesome, but rural Newfoundland is where it gets even more beautiful, so for all ye fine tourists come see our beautiful province, people, and taste our fine food.

    This fine lady and her husband, has gotten too see some of that and, I can tell you now all are welcomed, we get too ask you guys things about your province and, exchange recipes, learn how you live also, some may even say we are nosy, but the fact is we are curious. There are people old and young, in this province, that have never ever been off this rock.

    Tiffany glad you got too see this great province and may you returned again, it’s nice too see someone as kind and open minded, and full of life visit us. Hope you come back soon!!!

    • Kelly! We got a chance to see some of rural NFLD too! And it was expansive and wild and awe-inspiring! So much more to see and do next time we visit! Thank you for your warm and wonderful thoughts!! XOXO!!

  18. Hello… Love your comment on Change. I agree, we need to embrace change if we wish to grow. I still marvel at the raw beauty of our province and I have lived here 53 years. God certainly knew what he was doing when he made our Island!
    If you come back, please visit the Cape Shore for an experience like no other.

  19. I am a retired Newfoundlander, I moved to Ontario at the age of sixty-nine to live near my family and I miss the Rock dearly. The Flat Earth Society refer to Newfoundland as one off the four corners of the Earth and it certainly is. Thank you for all your kind words and may God Bless you.

  20. Thank you so much for your beautiful words of our little bit of heaven. Although out in the North Atlantic may sound rugged there has to be a reason why we stay here. Its heart and love. During 9-11 there were towns that doubled or tripled in population because of travelers. No one complained We all just pulled up our socks and did what we could. That’s Newfoundlanders everyday. I truly hope you get another chance to visit the rock because it never leaves your heart. There is a saying You will always know a Newfoundlander in heaven .They are the ones that wants to come home God bless

  21. Hi. My son, who has lived in Ontario for 6 years, shared your post on Facebook and I read it. What a beautiful and inspiring story. I have lived on the ” Rock” all my life. When I leave for a vacation, one of the best moments is coming home to Newfoundland. We don’t have the best weather,the cost of living is high, and there is not a lot which would entice someone to live here ….. But it’s home! Like you said, the people are friendly and just about everyone you meet will smile, say hello and offer a hand, even if you don’t ask for it. I am so happy that you had a good tim end wrote such beautiful things about my home. Here’s hoping you get better and better as time goes on. Cheers!

  22. Thank you so much for your blog. You are very inspiring!
    I also traveled to Newfoundland and fell in love with it. I hope to return someday……

  23. Another wonderful, inspiring post! I love getting the updates, especially when they are filled with hope and joy. I love following your travels as well. Newfoundland may not be somewhere that tops many people’s “must-see” lists, but now I’m wondering why! It looks like a beautiful place. So happy you’re doing well!

  24. I grew up on this very large Rock. And it is indeed beautiful, full of wonderful people, wonderful scenery, lots of music, and an incredible amount of creativity. I’m glad you loved it, too.

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