Posted in biographical sketch

Down Memory Lane #2

On Sunday, we went to Hampton Beach with Siqsiq to cool off in the Bay of Fundy. This was followed by a downtown walk at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal.

Click interactive map link HERE

On our return, travelling along Highway #201 on a whim, we decided to take the Spurr Road in Round Hill up South Mountain to the West Dalhousie Road.

In 1980, we arrived from Alberta, for me to teach at the Survey School. With two young boys, we rented the Buckler house in West Dalhousie from Bill O’Neill. Each day, I would drive back and forth on Morse Road to Lawrencetown.

This was a new federally funded program at the school to teach Scientific Computer Programming. Each session was forty-eight weeks in length — three sixteen-week semesters, with the final semester dedicated to a co-operative project with industry or government.

Given the success of the intensive program, we went forward to develop new programs in Business Computer Programming, Computer Graphics, Geographic Information Systems. They complemented the Remote Sensing program. The other departments were Surveying and Cartography/Planning.

The success of these new technology programs led to the renaming of the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute (NSLSI) to the College of Geographic Sciences (COGS).

After one year of living in West Dalhousie, we moved down to the Valley and bought a house in Clarence, at the foot of North Mountain.

Eight years of intensive technology teaching, on one-year contracts, took its toll. In 1988, we left for Indonesia as part of Dalhousie University, Environmental Management and Development Indonesia (EMDI) headed up by Arthur Hansen. We did not return to live in Nova Scotia until 2000, to set up the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG).In between, we lived in California, Ontario and British Columbia.

On Sunday, after reaching West Dalhousie, Heather remembered that she used to visit friends, John and Inga’s family on the Thorne Road. From the road atlas, we located the road, found the old house, continued past Paradise Lake, until we joined the Morse Road.

I would not recommend the road, except in a four-wheel-drive truck. Over the last forty years, the road has not been maintained. We were lucky to make it through in our Honda CRV. The other major change has been the loss of forest cover. There has been significant cutting. It was with great relief that we hit the paved surface of the Morse Road.


bookCover_MountainValleyThe afternoon adventure served, once again, to remind us of the two cultures captured by Buckler in ‘The Mountain and the Valley’. Indeed, it may be more extreme now than when he was writing in the post-Second World War era.


Check out my blog on July 1st, 2019 for Down Memory Lane. They complement each other. Different time, different route.


Heather and I were struck by the adventuresome nature of our time in West Dalhousie in 1980. Likewise, the creativity of the new programs at NSLSI.
Edward shared that experience. He was a Remote Sensing instructor at the time.


Ernest Buckler, 1952. The Mountain and the Valley, McClelland and Stewart.

Posted in Opinion

Municipal Elections

We have started to see Municipal election signs appear along the roadside.map_AnnapolisCoMunicipalityDistricts In the current issue of The Reader, candidate Alan Parish (District 3) articulated his position. Clearly, time to figure out the councillor candidates for our district.

What are the issues of concern to residents of Annapolis County? My list would include:

  • loss of forested land (aka land use planning)
  • waste management
  • health services
  • internet services

Some of these issues include both municipal and provincial politics. Given there are no political parties at the municipal level, it’s hard to understand whether there is a slate of candidates who share a common platform or whether each district beats to its own drum. I suspect the latter is the case.

Let me unpack each of my four concerns.

banner_healthyForestCoalitionforest land use.
Within the county, there are citizen groups concerned about the remaining forest cover. The county has produced a forestry report. However, decisions and practices appear to be under the control of the provincial government. Check out the Healthy Forest Coalition newsletter for an update.

banner_wasteManagementwaste management
This is portrayed as a financial matter. What we know is that we have waste management sites outside of Lawrencetown, on the Arlington Road, and now in West Paradise. Is this all necessary? What is the financial context for these decisions?

banner_NShealthAuthorityhealth services
The provision of health services is a provincial matter. However, the lack of services in our county impacts the quality of living in Annapolis County. We see new infrastructure in Middleton and Lawrencetown, but will it improve access to a family doctor?

banner_annapolisCountyInternetinternet services
There is a multitude of different providers in the county. What are the costs and quality of these services? Again, what is the relationship between municipal and provincial strategies? How complete is the coverage?

The bottom line is that every resident lives in a specific district. If you want to choose between candidates, you need to know what they stand for, what is their position on the above issues? Do they share their position with other councillors? Do they understand the provincial view on these same issues?

Given the recent appointment of Larry Powell, as public relations/press office to the Municipality, it would be exceedingly timely if there was transparency on these and other issues. Given municipal politics does not follow party lines, it is important to see if there is an alternative to the status quo.

Perhaps there could be a public debate between current councillors standing for re-election and those seeking election. Meanwhile, Larry could provide an objective factual report on previous decisions and their costs.

logo_VRENFrom previous blogs, I have had useful conversations with Brian Arnott in Lunenburg about ‘communities of place’ and ‘communities of interest’. I was on the board of the Valley Regional Enterprise Network (VREN) but found that neither the County nor the town of Annapolis Royal supported the organization. It proved to be very Kings County centric.

Ultimately, we must understand that we live within a nested series of geographies. My civic address places me in a specific district within Annapolis County, within the physiographic region called the Annapolis Valley. This is part of Southwest Nova Scotia, etc. I believe that we live in District 7, our current representative is Warden, Timothy Habinski.

This sunflower adorns our front yard.

In terms of my personal interest, this lies within education. What is happening at the Centre of Geographic Sciences, a sub-campus of the NSCC? What is happening to the Gordonstoun project? How do these initiatives fit within the municipal and provincial agenda? Will it improve the quality of education for everyone in Annapolis County? Are there sustainable economic development opportunities?

Municipality County of Annapolis, 2018. Forestry Report.


Much appreciation to those friends and acquaintances who respond on occasion to my blog. Heather for our discussions on a ‘sense of place’. Edward for his artistic contributions.

Posted in Art

Back in Time

With the latest spell of hot, humid weather, we have been taking Siqsiq on a fairly regular basis for an afternoon swim at Sand Lake. Sand Lake lies perched on the top of North Mountain, just above Central Clarence.

On Blue Sky Lane, I noticed an old gas station, from a previous era.place_sandyLakeGarage I shared the photograph with Edward. He replied that he had completed a watercolour sketch of the same building, several years ago.place_sandyLakeGarage_sketch

Coincidence or serendipity?

Looks like we will have more dog paddle in August if the weather stays this way.


BTW. We had a lovely lunch at the Beavercreek Winery Café today. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 am – 3 pm. Highly recommended.

Posted in Event Review

A Box of Delights

Before COVID, on Friday evenings I would meet with Roger Mosher at the End of the Line pub.place_EndOfTheLinePub Today, rumour has it that the End of the Line Pub has been purchased by the Lunn’s Mill Beer Co. team. Perhaps, in the Fall, we can anticipate drinking local beers at the renovated End of the Line pub in Bridgetown. Hopefully, we will still be able to drink a beer at Lunn’s Mill.

On Friday, Roger hosted a gathering at his house in Centrelea. He gave us a tour of his ‘forest garden’. Bill Crossman arrived with two boxes of books that he had read in recent years.

bookcovers_humankindUpheavalHeather picked out:
Jared Diamond’s Upheaval: Turning points for Nations in Crisis.
Roger Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History.

Three books caught my attention.
Randall Fuller’s The Book that changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation.
J.B.MacKinnon’s The Once and Future World: nature as it was, as it is, as it could be.
Jonathan Manthorpe’s Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s campaign of influence and intimidation in Canada.bookCovers_AmericaWorldPanda

To date, I have just started Fuller’s book. It opens with a description of a New Years Eve dinner party in Concord, Massachusetts in 1860. Attendees are Sanborn, Brace, Alcott and Thoreau. The four men discuss Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’.

“The copy of ‘On the Origin of Species‘ that Brace brought with him, belonged to his cousin, Asa Gray’.

From Thoreau’s journal:

“To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise.’

“A man receives only what he is ready to receive………We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.” p.12.

It was a wonderful act of generosity for Bill to bring the two boxes to our gathering in Centrelea.


From Emergence Magazine, a conversation with David Abram. The Ecology of Perception.

“Falling in love with the local earth is the deepest medicine”

banner_healthyBodiesThis weekend, Heather and I managed to get away to Kejimkujik National Park for a canoe on the lake. Sunday, we challenged ourselves with a bicycle ride to Middleton and back. Finally, from my fitness session with Cathy at Healthy Bodies, I am practising the art of ‘walking backwards’ to strengthen my left hip joint.


Roger for his hospitality. Bill for access to the boxes of books. Heather for sharing the weekend activities. Edward for the graphics.


Randall Fuller, 2017. The Book that Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation. PenguinRandomHouse.
J.B. MacKinnon. 2014. The Once and Future World: nature as it was, as it is, as it could be. PenguinRandomHouse.
Jonathan Manthorpe, 2019. Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s campaign of influence and intimidation in Canada. Cormorant Books.
Jared Diamond, 2019. Upheaval: Turning points for Nations in Crisis. Little Brown & Company.
Rutger Bregman, 2019. Humankind: A Hopeful History. Little Brown & Company.

Posted in Event Review

Local Knowledge

This week, I received in the mail from Guernica Editions a copy of Nina Newington’s forthcoming book, Cardinal Divide.bookCover_cardinalDivide Nina has asked me if I would write a review. That is my current homework. This encouraged me to do some background research. I read an interview in Nina Newington on Canada, Uncertainty and her newest book.

I also discovered that there is a Forest Garden Walkabout and Workshop this Saturday, August 1st.

Meanwhile, Heather and I had been trying to meet up with Rick Ketcheson and his wife, Kathy. We had been interested in the properties of biochar. On Thursday, we enjoyed a tour of their amazing garden on St.James Street in Annapolis Royal. Later on our walk to the Elm Tree Cafe at the Historic Gardens, we discussed a wide range of topics from food sustainability, community gardens, two-eyed seeing to the writing of Wendell Berry.

bookCover_wellGardenedMindAfterwards, in the afternoon, I stopped at the Lawrencetown library. Jaki informed me that once again we can request books through inter-library loan.
It was obvious that I should request The Well-gardened Mind, in the spirit of both Nina and Rick.

In answer to one of Rick’s questions about bringing about change, my somewhat facetitious answer was ‘fungal networks’. To appreciate our local geography, we must recognize the richness that exists or has been attracted to this part of rural Nova Scotia.

Meanwhile, a footnote from Peter Pula in Axiom News ‘What piano and social procurement have in common’.



Rick Ketcheson for the walkabout in Annapolis Royal. Nina Newington for the review request. Heather for her interest in garden improvement. Edwards for his graphics contribution.


Nina Newington, 2020. Cardinal Divide, Guernica Editions. (Forthcoming in September)
Forest Garden Walkabout and Workshop. August 1, 2020.
Raven Wood Biochar
Sue Stuart-Smith, 2020. The Well-gardened Mind: the restorative power of Nature.
Axiom News, July 30th. What piano and social procurement have in common.


Posted in Article Review

Canadian Geographic

While in New Glasgow this weekend, I had the chance to browse the latest issue of Canadian Geographic. Alex Trebek, Honorary President of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, has launched an appeal in support of geographic literacy and education.

In these turbulent times, it is important that we change our level of understanding of the Earth’s geography: globally, nationally, provincially and at the local level.

In response to Trebek’s appeal, I contacted Mike Goodchild( in Seattle) and Brent Hall (in New Zealand), both with a deep understanding of both GIS technology and Geographic Information Science.

Michael Goodchild, U of California Santa Barbara (left) and  Brent Hall, ESRI Canada (right)

My question: what are geographers doing in these new times?

They both responded quickly on the weekend, in particular, related to the pandemic. In Brent’s words:

“So, I agree with Mike – the pandemic has provided an unprecedented window of opportunity for data analysts to realize that much of what they are analyzing is inherently geographic or spatial in nature”.

For myself, what can I do, here in Nova Scotia? In the Annapolis Valley. We have the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown. They have access to the same technologies for application in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes. I forwarded the responses from Mike and Brent to COGS’ Dave Colville and Dave MacLean.

But what can I do? I can try to encourage a much higher level of Geographic literacy at the College, in the schools, and in the community. This is what I attempt through my blog.

Here are three new examples.banner_myMothersHands

from Emergence Magazine, read the essay by Gina Rae La Cerva My Mother’s Hands.

go back to the video link from the BC Knowledge Network and watch The Art of Japanese Life, Episode 2: Cities.

from Divisions of the Heart, read the essay by Brian Robinson ‘Bridging a Divided Place’, p.77-90. Brian is a geographer interested in the relationship between geography and literature.

Footnote from Robinson, p.89. For a review of how Heidegger has influenced humanistic geography’s concern for place, see Pickles, especially Chapter 9 on Human Spatiality (p.154-170).

“If you were wondering about this year’s harvest”


Mike Goodchild and Brent Hall for their detailed responses to my question. Heather, my travel companion this week, to Pictou and New Glasgow. Edward for his graphics.


Alex Trebek appeal in support of Geographic literacy and education. Canadian Geographic, July 2020.
Emergence Magazine, July 26,2020, Wild Medicine and the Gap between Worlds.
BC Knowledge Network, The Art of Japanese Life.
Barry, Davies, Sanger (Ed.) 2001, Divisions of the Heart. Gaspereau Press.
Brian Robinson, Bridging a Divided Place, p.77-90. in Divisions of the Heart.
John Pickles.1985.Phenomenology: Science and Geography, Spatiality and the Human Sciences.Cambridge University Press.

Posted in New thinking, Opinion

The Art of Memory and Place

This week, we returned to Pictou Lodge.

Checkers anyone? (Pictou Lodge)

It has been the location for our family reunions since 2014. The lodge was built in 1926. Well-known visitors have included King George V and Princess Juliana of Holland during the Second World War. More recently, Brian Mulroney (1983), Condoleezza Rice(2006) and Jamie Oliver (2015). No reunion this year, cancelled by COVID-19.

divisionsOfTheHeart_CoverFor light reading, I brought along Divisions of the Heart, and Elizabeth Bishop: Nova Scotia’s ‘home-made’ poet. I thought that we might stop at the Balmoral Grist Mill. The cover of Sandra Barry’s book shows Bishop at this location in 1976.Elizabeth Bishop

At the lodge, I discovered a copy of At Home on the North Shore: The Summer 2020 special edition is sponsored by Healthy Pictou County. It contains an article Best Practices, by Crystal Murray, that describes the formation of a Citizens for Healthy Pictou County who agreed ‘that a collaborative effort was needed to institute transformational change to the local health care system’. Given the state of health care in Annapolis County, it begs the question: how can this model be deployed elsewhere?

‘A grassroots movement is part of the ethos of Pictou County and has been the key to the success of many community assets in the region’ p.12.

I noted too (p.44) the new challenge: Pictou County badge.banner_pictouCountyBadge

‘Hike in beautiful Pictou County known for its sandy beaches, warm community spirit and a fascinating industrial history. To qualify you must hike just over 30 km. along the trails and old rails in the region’

How about an Annapolis County badge?

The Divisions of the Heart, Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place includes a keynote address by Anne Stevenson. Her essay is entitled ‘The Geographical Mirror’.

‘Bishop has always been a difficult writer to ‘place’. She found self-placement, both geographical and psychological, so difficult that it is tempting to read the entire body of her work as an extended ‘Questions of Travel‘.

‘Who am I ?‘ and ‘Where do I belong? ‘ p.21.

For myself, through Heather who is from Pictou County, returning to Pictou Lodge raises similar questions. Or in Sandra Barry’s words.

“The book-end essays comprising ‘Her own Prodigal’ and ‘Borderlands’ speak to elements of self – the poetic and the political – which held Bishop’s attention her entire life. They situate Bishop in two fundamental dimensions of place: the imagination and the nation”. p.14.


Michael Goodchild recommended Sue Stuart-Smith‘s book ‘The Well-Gardened Mind’ in response to an earlier blog. Looks very promising.


Heather Stewart with her roots and understanding of Pictou County. Sandra Barry for her knowledge of Elizabeth Bishop, her life and poetry. Edward Wedler for his online graphics skills.

From Pictou Lodge, in-room directory. A Step Back in Time.
Sandra Barry, Gwendolyn Davies, Peter Sanger (eds.) 2001, Divisions of the Heart. Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place. Gaspereau Press.
Sandra Barry, 2011, Elizabeth Bishop: Nova Scotia’s ‘Home-made’ Poet. Nimbus Publishing.
At Home on the North Shore, Summer 2020. A Place in the Sun. Vol 5 Edition 3.
Anne Stevenson.The Geographical Mirror, p.21-33, in Divisions of the Heart (2001).

Posted in New thinking

The Art of Nova Scotian Life

From BC’s Knowledge Network, I watched the first episode of the Art of Japanese Life (Nature).banner_artOfJapaneseLife Dr James Fox looks at the Art and history of Japan and learns about brush-painting, block-printing, bonsai-trimming and the Way of Tea. Episode 2 will be available on July 22.

Within the context of Rethinking Tourism, I wondered how we might define ‘the Art of Nova Scotian life’. My starting point was to think in terms of unique voices which describe our landscape, in particular the Annapolis Valley.

bookCover_MountainValleyFor several years, I have been supportive of literary events related to the work of Ernest Buckler. Could we envisage a modern (2020) version of the Mountain and the Valley?

Can we imagine a focus on the Bay of Fundy? Perhaps based on Harry Thurston’s Tidal Life: a Natural history of the Bay of Fundy.

Through my conversations with Sandra Barry, she recommended Elizabeth Bishop’s poem Questions of Travel. This raised the question of a literary focus on the coast around Great Village.

An alternative approach is to consider movement through the landscape. Two books come to mind, both published by Gaspereau Press.

Cover_gettingOutOfTownSoren Bondrup-Nielsen writes Merging: Contemplations on Farming and Ecology from Horseback. Kent Thompson writes Getting out of Town by Book and Bike.

’Thompson investigates the role of the bicycle in books ranging from DH Lawrence and HG Wells to Elizabeth Bishop and Ernest Buckler.’

‘Soren Bondrup-Nielsen catalogues the rich biodiversity of his own backyard, exploring the fields, dyke roads and woodland trails that surround his home in the agricultural heartland of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley’.

Later this month, there will be the opportunity to watch Episode 2 (Cities) and Episode 3 (Home) from the Knowledge Network.

Can we imagine a similar series for Nova Scotia or part of Nova Scotia (the Annapolis Valley)?

My interests tend toward books (and literature). What about a broader definition of art — music, painting, crafts? Or ecosystem science, agriculture?


Celes for starting the conversation. Sandra for her comments. Edward for his artistic talent. Heather for encouraging bicycle rides to Middleton and back.


British Columbia’s Knowledge Network.
Elizabeth Bishop poem. Questions of Travel.
Kent Thompson, 2001. Getting out of Town by Book and Bike, Gaspereau Press.
Soren Bondrup-Nielsen, 2014. Merging: Contemplations on Farming and Ecology from Horseback. Gaspereau Press.
Harry Thurston, 1990. Tidal Life: a natural history Of the Bay of Fundy.

Posted in New thinking

Rethinking Tourism

This week, I received two emails on the subject of rethinking tourism.map_annapolisValley_satelliteView_2

 from Danielle Robinson.
Culturally sustainable wine and food tourism. Key findings from a comparative case study of BC’s South Okanagan Valley and NS’s Annapolis Valley.

from Celes Davar.
Rethinking tourism for the Valley area – a larger more collaborative approach. It’s not about marketing.

Danielle’s key findings offer a summary of her Ph.D thesis research. “The central finding is that food culture as expressed through wine and food tourism is inherent to regional identity and contributes to cultural sustainability in three key ways.

Food- and wine-tourism sustains local food culture.
Food- and wine-tourism sustains local communities.
Transformative food- and wine-tourism supports the development of a more sustainable culture.”

This feeds into the email from Celes, where he asks the question.

“How can we collectively, shape a new direction that is about this region working together, and develop a community economic development strategy that features stories and experiences of agriculture, food and cuisine, the arts and music, different cultures and traditions in relation to the Acadian forest, Annapolis Valley and Bay of Fundy Bioregion? “

Great question. Here are a few preliminary thoughts.

we have to tell the story of this Geography.
we are inclusive in our definition of the Bioregion. It is not about municipalities. It is not about different cultural groups. There is a long history of use and abuse of this landscape. Where are we today? What is the path forward in the unfolding global context?
Celes asks us ‘to conceive of a different direction’. What might this kind of
alternative direction be?
Perhaps, we should move away from the term ‘tourist’ and rather think in terms of residents, part-time residents, and guests. We are indeed all residents at a number of different scales.
As far as possible, emphasize direct experience with the ecological environment – whether walking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking.
Learn as much as possible about the lessons of this landscape. What has been done right? What has proven to be an absolute disaster? What is being done to mitigate previous mistakes?
Understand the connectivity between this bioregion and the larger region i.e. the Eastern Seaboard/ Maritimes.
Engage multiple generations in the process: elders, parents, children, grandchildren.
Be inclusive of all diversity.

My goal is to live as close to the land, and its natural rhythms, as possible in the hope that I can learn to fully appreciate the role of other cultures and other species in this bioregion. I look forward to the ongoing conversation.


Thanks to both Danielle and Celes for striking up the conversation. Heather for her concern for other species in the region. Edward added the graphics.


Danielle Robinson, Culturally sustainable wine and food tourism
Celes Davar, Rethinking tourism for the Valley area – a larger more collaborative approach.

Posted in Book Review

Press Enter To Continue

person_joanFrancuzJoan Francuz is now a resident of Annapolis Royal. She has written and self-published a fascinating memoir of her life as a technical writer, within the context of the history of technological change, or in her terms ‘Scribes from Babylon to Silicon’. Many of us have participated in these technological changes throughout our working lives.

Her research reminds us of the long history of technological change from the earlier industrial revolutions. It offers a sobering moment of reflection, as we experience the current pandemic changes.

Somewhere in her book (I have tried to find the page) she references IDRISI.

Ah! Found it.

“Pockets of knowledge existed even outside the universities. King Roger II of Sicily, for example, gathered scholars at his court, including an Arab Muslim geographer named al-IDRISI (1100-1165) who collected information about the known world. The result was a document whose Arab name can be translated as “The delight of one who wishes to traverse the regions of the world.” The world map and 70 secondary maps that al-IDRISI produced would be the most accurate depicting of our planet for the next 300 years.” p.60.

In my earlier days, teaching the application of GIS technology, there was a software product, developed by Geographers at the University of Edinburgh, of that same name.

pic_roselandTheatreNewGlasgowThis weekend, we went to New Glasgow. We stopped downtown to look at the renovations to the Roseland Theatre. The building has been restored by James MacGillivray. There are murals by Christian Toth commemorating Viola Desmond. Plus artwork by local citizens, including Heather’s sister – Sandra Stewart.
I was impressed by the number of new business developments in the downtown core.

We had the opportunity to walk in the waters of the Northumberland Strait at Melmerby Beach. Stop for Sunday brunch at Pictou Lodge, before driving along the Blue Cycle Route from Pictou to Truro. Then through the Rawdon Hills from Shubenacadie to Windsor, and home.

Last word to Joan Francuz:

“ So what I tell my grandchildren is this: look out for barbarians, build your agricultural surplus, and everything will be all right in the end.” p.155.

I recommend a trip to Endless Shores Books in Bridgetown, and DO pick up a copy of ‘Press Enter to Continue’.


Heather for the companionship on our weekend road trip. Edward for his graphics contribution. Joan Francuz for putting the act of writing into such a rich cultural context.


Joan Francuz, 2018. Press Enter To Continue: Scribes from Babylon to Silicon. 1920 House Press