Posted in Opinion

Dorian Lessons

Hurricane Dorian hit Nova Scotia on Saturday night. Sunday, driving home from New Glasgow, we listened to Writers and Company on the CBC. It was an interview with Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth: the Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. This connected, for me, with Margaret Atwood’s new release The Testaments plus I received a notice from Lawrencetown Library that George Woodcock’s book on George Orwell had arrived through the services of inter-library loan; The Crystal Spirit: a study of George Orwell.

En route, we noticed a few more municipal slogans. For Pictou County Forward Together and also the town of New Glasgow Flourish.


Towards the end of this week, there are a number of realizations with Hurricane Dorian.

a) the sense of vulnerability when infrastructure fails.
b) the irony of demand for gas, whether for cars or generators and the climate change message.
c) the density of overhead lines in a province that still has a significant number of trees. Some of which, poplar, have a tendency to snap easily.
d)as a province, where do we stand on solar energy?
e) what about putting lines underground?
f) given the inter-dependency of the telephone system, the Internet system and the electricity system is there a better infrastructure/technology solution?
g) do we have the appropriate ‘community information’ easily accessible?

As we head into a federal election, and subsequently provincial and municipal, elections, are there connections to the writing of both Orwell and Atwood?


From Hurricane Dorian, it is apparent that to Flourish we need to Move Forward Together. Interestingly  Forward Together is also the slogan of the Federal Green Party. Thanks to Heather for her observations and our conversations. Edward added the graphics.


Margaret Atwood. 2019. The Testaments. McClelland & Stewart.
Dorian Lynskey. 2019. The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. Doubleday.
George Woodcock.1966. The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell. Little, Brown and Company.

Posted in Book Review

Wandering Home

Last week, at Shelf Life Used Books in Kentville, I picked up Wandering HomebookCover_wanderingHome by Bill McKibben. It is subtitled ‘a long walk across America’s most hopeful landscape. McKibben walked from Vermont to the Adirondacks in New York State, often accompanied by friends or colleagues. The book was originally published in 2005, as part of a series of small books about ‘writers taking walks’. In his afterword (2014) he describes the impact of Hurricane Irene in 2011.

“But the psychological effects linger: each season of weird weather makes it harder to maintain the idea that our local progress will be enough to forestall the press of global decline.”

McKibben is the founder of the environmental organization and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. Other books include The End of Nature, Oil and Honey, Eaarth, and Deep Economy.

His efforts remind me of our effort to walk ‘The Road to Georgetown’. As we hear about changes to the Nova Scotia landscape through forest cutting, one approach is to walk, cycle or paddle through the interior of Nova Scotia, recording our observations along the way … ‘Wandering Home’ in the footsteps of McKibben.

maher_apple_1Meanwhile, at home, we are busy picking up the apple drops in the orchard. We wait for the apples to grow larger on the trees. We also wait for the first batch of Hunter’s brandy at Ironworks Distillery. Interspersed, with walking Patrick’s retired Inuit sled dogs: Uqaliq (rabbit) and Siqsiq (ground squirrel).

This weekend, we are off to New Glasgow for Grandad John’s ninetieth birthday party.
Next week, it is time to check out Extinction Rebellion, Annapolis County.


Heather Stewart, Edward Wedler and Bodhi who shared the Road to Georgetown.


Bill McKibben (2014) Wandering Home. St. Martin’s Griffin. New York.

Posted in Opinion

Municipal slogans etc.

sign_KingsCountyYesterday, I had to go to Kentville for a doctor’s appointment. On my way, I noticed the Kings’ County sign is ‘Orchards, vineyards and tides’ then, as one approaches Kentville on the Highway #101, the sign is ‘A breath of fresh air’.sign_Kentville

At the doctor’s office, we chatted about the fact that the town of Kentville is hosting a party for nine new doctors (including mine), with an invitation list of five hundred. Coming from Annapolis County, this was definitely, a breath of fresh air.


With time in hand, I visited the Shelf Life Used Books, I picked up a copy of The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers; a collection of short essays by twenty Nova Scotia writers about their father, including Lesley Choyce, Harry Thurston, Alexander Macleod, Joan Baxter and others.

The one that struck a chord was Alexander Macleod’s description of his father’s little house in Broad Cove, looking out over Margaree Island.

‘When he was a younger man, he built himself a little house, a separate connected place, where he could practise his craft without ever really leaving his other home behind’ p22.

As we prepare for the release of Hunter’s brandy, made from apples in our orchard, I am receiving a number of emails of photographs and memories of Raymond Hunter from his sons and family.

Meanwhile, Edward researched the ‘Naturally Connected‘ slogan from Richmond County. It seems that that may have been a community or private sign. The sign exists on Highway #105 between Sydney and the Causeway. However, it is not attributable to Richmond County.

If someone is driving that highway, please let us know which community owns the slogan.

This evening at the MacDonald Museum, the Valley Regional Enterprise Network (VREN) is hosting a public forum in Middleton. They are looking for citizen input ‘to create a brand for the entire Annapolis Valley region’.
Unfortunately, in The Reader, they had the wrong time. It was this morning at 9 am. Oh dear !

It’s an interesting scenario. Middleton is ‘the Heart of the Valley’ and yet neither the County of Annapolis nor the town of Annapolis Royal are members of the VREN. Meanwhile, Valley Waste municipal partners are reportedly suing Annapolis County.

Certainly, it is time for ‘a breath of fresh air’!

A further example can be found in The Grapevine (August 22 -September 5),
Both the Mayors of Kentville and Wolfville welcome students back to their communities. p3 and p15.


Edward for his research commitment. Anne Crossman for fact-checking.


Lesley Choyce and Julia Swan(Ed).2017. The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers. Pottersfield Press.

The Grapevine. Arts, Culture, Community. August 22 – September 5 2019.

Posted in New thinking

Naturally rooted; Hunter’s Brandy

On our way back from Sydney, Cape Breton we drove along the North Shore of the Bras d’Or Lake. Heather noticed a sign: Richmond County – Naturally Connected. This reminded us of a sign on Highway 101, Annapolis County – Naturally Rooted.logo_naturallyRooted We started to reflect on the difference. ‘Connected’ suggests a network of relationships between the elements of our natural environment and the people and culture that lived on the land. ‘Rooted’ suggests more a sense of permanence, with both feet on the ground.

As I tried to understand the subtle difference between these two county slogans, the thought occurred to me that for Nova Scotia, we could map these messages onto the local geography. What would it tell us about the inhabitants of each municipal unit? Would it give insight into the relationship between the local culture and the landscape? What resources would be highlighted for consumption by the travelling public? Would each municipality offer a different story?

A map showing the municipal messages would make an excellent project for a student at COGS. Recognizing that the municipal boundaries do not necessarily correspond to either cultural or natural boundaries.

Today, we headed over to Lunenburg to visit Ironworks Distillery.ironworksDistillery We have been working with them to produce a product, ‘Hunter’s Brandy’. Raymond and Rona Hunter were early organic farmers in the Annapolis Valley. In the late ‘80s, Raymond planted a small orchard in Paradise, less than a hundred trees, primarily NovaMac and MacFree varieties with the occasional Liberty and NovaSpy. We took responsibility for the orchard around 2008. Initially, we would hand-press the apples into sweet cider for sale at the farmers’ markets.boatesFarm More recently, we have reached an agreement with Brian Boates in Woodville to juice the apples and then deliver the liquid to Pierre Guevremont at Ironworks Distillery, Lunenburg. This week, we conducted the final tasting of Hunter’s Brandy. It has been two years in the making. Look out for it at your local farmers’ market or take a drive over the top to Lunenburg on the South Shore.

The organic farming of Raymond and Rona epitomized a certain relationship, and care for the agricultural land. Naturally rooted or Naturally Connected?


Heather noticed the similarity between the two signs. Edward translated our story into graphics.

For an update on Ironworks Distillery, go to
For more on the products from Brian Boates, go to

Posted in Book Review

Lessons from Haida Gwaii: part three.

On the ferry between Vancouver and Nanaimo, I noted The Nature of Canada in the gift shop.bookCover_NatureOfCanada Subsequently, I picked up a copy at Munro’s Books in Victoria. It was categorized as a “Read Local BC Selection”; edited by Colin Coates and Graeme Wynn, published by UBC Press. Both Coates and Wynn are environmental historians.

The book included sixteen essays. Five authored or co-authored by Wynn, and one authored by Coates.

From Wynn:
Nature and Nation
Painting the Map Red
Eldorado North? (with Stephen Hornsby)
Nature we cannot see
Advocates and Activists (with Jennifer Bonnell)

From Coates:
Back to the Land

The book was purchased before my visit to Haida Gwaii; and only back in Nova Scotia did I have the time to reflect on its content.

What surprised me in this third reading was the distinction of Lessons from Haida Gwaii. Weiss, in Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii, talks at length about care for the land. Davidson and Davidson, in Potlatch as Pedagogy, describe a very different relationship to the land.

Coates comments:

‘The hippies’ back-to-Nature dreams involved a certain degree of self-sufficiency which usually entailed small scale farming. In ways that they might not have appreciated – though many may have read Thoreau’s Walden (1854) for inspiration – agrarian independence had been a long-standing dream of many migrants to North America from the seventeenth century on.’

The one essay that did capture the indigenous perspective was Julie Cruikshank ‘Listening to Different Stories’.

“A story is different. It does not expand itself. It preserves and concentrates its energy and is capable of releasing it after a long time’ — quote from philosopher Walter Benjamin. The enchantment that pervades a universe inhabited by a community of beings in constant communication and exchange offers a hopeful (and possibly necessary) vision. It deserves more space in our modern world” p.97.

Or returning to Potlatch as Pedagogy:

“They lived the culture and it was common knowledge in my (Tsinii’s) time period. Like they knew the land, they knew the water, they knew the weather. I remember when Dad was looking at a tree, Tsinii said ‘There’s a tree at this….” and he would name the spot at Naden Harbour and describe the location. So they had a visual map of where the different trees were because their life relied on it. Being a canoe maker,(Tsinii) would know where the trees are. He would have a mental map.”


Heather, my travelling companion. Edward for his graphics contribution.


Colin Coates and Graeme Wynn. (eds.) 2019. The Nature of Canada. UBC Press.
Joseph Weiss. 2018. Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond Settler Colonialism. UBC Press.
Sara Davidson and Robert Davidson. 2018. Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning through Ceremony. Portage and Main Press.

Posted in Book Review

Lessons from Haida Gwaii: part two

At the Book Stop in Sitka Studio, Tlell, I picked up a copy of Potlatch as Pedagogy, co-authored by Sara and Robert Davidson. Robert is a Haida artist and his daughter Sara is an Indigenous educator. They have produced a remarkable collaboration.bookCover_potlachPedagogy

“ This story is being shared to support us, as educators, to continue to move forward in honour of my father’s belief that the sharing of knowledge helps us grow.” p.6

“The Haida word for “teach” is sk’ad’ada and the base of the word “teach” is sk’ad’a which means “learn”. The connection between these two words reflects my own understanding of teaching – that it is impossible to teach without learning.” p.13.

There are nine sk’ad’a principles that teach us from where learning emerges, how learning occurs, and what learning honours.


1) Learning emerges from Strong Relationships
2) Learning emerges from Authentic Experience.
3) Learning emerges from Curiosity.
4) Learning occurs through Observations.
5) Learning occurs through Contribution.
6) Learning occurs Recognizing and Encouraging Strengths.
7) Learning honours the Power of the Mind.
8) Learning honours History and Story.
9) Learning honours Aspects of Spirituality and Protocol.

Chapter 3, ‘We were once silenced’, talks about the implications
of the Potlatch ban.

‘In the past, people lived by a strict code of laws that was defined by public opinion. Since there were no written documents, all changes to the existing order were made at feasts and potlatches, at a time when the public was present. If you accepted a chieftainship, or you raised a memorial pole, or you got married, all activities were recorded in this way.’ p.25

In the final Chapter 7, ‘Potlatch as Pedagogy’, Sara Davidson reflects:

“As I witnessed the gyaa isdlaa, I was able to understand for the first time how the Haida Potlatch was being used as a tool to relearn and reteach ceremony. My father has relearned ceremonial knowledge from the Elders in preparation for the pole raising, and he was now using the Potlatch as a means of sharing what he had learned about our ancestral knowledge with our community.” p.67.

In the remainder of the chapter, Sara Davidson recounts her father’s use of the nine sk’ad’a principles to teach us about Haida ancestral knowledge.

“Based on what I learned from my father about sk’ad’a and ceremony, I believe that our connection to our roots have merely been dormant, and as we honour and bring together the pieces of our ancient knowledge and our history, we will revive that connection once again.” p.74

So, here is the challenge, can we apply these nine sk’ad’a principles in our learning, elsewhere, in other parts of Canada?


To Heather and Edward fellow travellers, and other educators in both England and Canada.


Sara Florence Davidson and Robert Davidson.2018. Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning through Ceremony. Portage and Main Press.

Raising of the Totem Pole Potlatch …

Posted in Book Review

Lessons from Haida Gwaii: part one

When you are travelling it is hard to find time to read (except in the air). Thus it was impossible to provide a meaningful book review earlier. This is the first of my book reviews based on our visit to Haida Gwaii.bookCover_ShapingTheFuture Joseph Weiss, in his book Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond Settler Colonialism, has written an excellent, thoughtful analysis of life beyond settler colonialism. In particular, the relationship between Haida and non-Haida in the future management of the island.

The book is divided into three parts: Pasts and Futures, Home, and Care. He starts with an introduction to Haida future-making in Old Massett, and the everyday temporalities of life in Haida Gwaii. This was particularly poignant since I had purchased the book in a gift shop in Old Massett.oldMassettBC

Under Home, Weiss looks at the Haida departures and returns in the future perfect, followed by a chapter on ‘Of Hippies and Haida: fantasy, future-making and the allure of Haida Gwaii’.

logo_oldMassettVillageCouncilThe third section addresses Care and Governance and the role of the Old Massett Village Council (OMVC) and the Council of Haida Nation (CHN). Again, this resonates, in contrast, to here in rural Nova Scotia.

Weiss concludes with a discussion of ‘unsettling futures’.

To give a sense of the quality of the writing, I have included three quotations from the book.

‘Thinking about the future enables Haida people to address dilemmas of the present, to suggest solutions to issues that seem intractable at the moment. These are not just the problems of indigenous people; rather, we have seen that many rural communities face challenges of mobility and migration, that questions of political accountability resonate across (neo)liberal democracies, and that environmental struggles seek to protect the planet itself’ p.191

The relationship of a nation within a nation is an interesting one. Especially on Haida Gwaii with its unique ‘island geography’. Consider the CHN constitution:

‘The Haida Natilogo_HaidaNationon is the rightful heir to Haida Gwaii. Our culture is born of respect; and intimacy with the land and sea and air around us. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii’ p.175

Finally, on the back cover, Weiss writes:

‘Indigenous peoples are not in any sense ‘out of time’ in our contemporary world. Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii shows how Indigenous peoples in Canada not only continue to have a future, but are at work building many different futures – for themselves and for their non-indigenous neighbours.’


Heather shared the journey. John Broadhead explained some of the current initiatives at the Gowgaia Institute. Edward added graphics.


Joseph Weiss. 2018. Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond settler colonialism.UBC Press.

Posted in biographical sketch

Exploring Haida Gwaii

We started our exploration on Moresby Island.map_moresbyIsland To obtain an overview of the changes, we joined Moresby Explorers on a four-day trip. With four other couples, we travelled in a Zodiac to the National Park Reserve, Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. We stayed two nights at the Moresby Explorers float camp in Crescent Inlet and one night at Rose Harbour. En route, we stopped at several Haida sites: Cumshewa, Skedans, Tanu, Windy Bay and Ninstints (SGang Gwaay). At each site, the Watchman described the settlement history. En route, we enjoyed a diversity of sitings of marine life: birds, whales as well as bear, racoon and deer.

After the Moresby adventure, we returned to Queen Charlotte to reconnect with Graham Island. On the drive north, we stopped at the Sitka Studio and bookstore in Tlell; we hiked up Tow Hill, and lunched in Masset. Overall, it seemed timeless; although there was a new co-op store in Skidegate.

To catch up with changes in the culture and thinking, I did pick up two new books.bookCover_potlachPedagogy At the Sitka Studio, I found ‘Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning through Ceremony’ by Sara and Robert Davidson. Later in the day, at a gift shop in Old Massett, I found ‘Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life beyond Settler Colonialism’. by Joseph Weiss.

Just from reading the first chapter, with its description of current life in Old Massett, I can imagine varied reactions. Later at the library in Queen Charlotte, I saw a notice of a community presentation by the author to be held this week in Old Massett.bookCover_ShapingTheFuture

On our last day on Haida Gwaii, we visited the Haida Museum in Skidegate. By now, I had filled my bag with stories (books). However, I happened to notice a book by Maria Tippett ‘Made in British Columbia: Eight ways of Making Culture’. It includes eight essays, one is on George Woodcock (1912-1995), entitled ‘Defining the Canon, the self-made man of letters’. Woodcock immigrated to Canada from England in 1949. In 1966, he received the Governor General’s Literary Award for ‘The Crystal Spirit: a study of George Orwell’. Woodcock knew Orwell in England, before the Second World War.bookCover_madeInBC

‘As he wrote in retrospect, Canadian Literature flourished because of the growing number of new critics, and the growing volume of new books, quantitatively and eventually rich’. p.102.

Tippett in her book on eight BC culture producers, besides George Woodcock, includes essays on Emily Carr, Bill Reid and Arthur Erickson.




Ollie at Moresby Explorers was a knowledgeable guide with excellent boating skills. Heather shared the travels down Haida Gwaii memory lane. Edward Wedler added his graphics contribution.


Sara Davidson and Robert Davidson. 2018. Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning through Ceremony. Portage and Main Press.
Joseph Weiss. 2018. Shaping the Future: Life beyond settler colonialism.UBC Press.
Maria Tippett.2015. Made in British Columbia: Eight Ways of Making Culture. Harbour Publishing.

Posted in Book Review

Ground Work

Tim Dee’s collection of thirty-one writings on Places and People is organized in alphabetical order. It includes contributions from Hugh Brody, Richard Holmes and Richard Mabey. Most of the places are found in the British Isles and are as diverse as the personalities of the authors. Nick Davies, Professor of Behavioural Ecology describes the life of the cuckoo in Wicken Fen. Marina Warner talks about the medieval shrine at Binsey in Oxford; its link to Gerald Manley Hopkins and Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. The final contribution by Ken Warpole describes the role of public parks in the British landscape.

“Richmond Park Understorey”, image by Gossipguy, Creative Commons 

This reminds me of the parks near London: Richmond Park and Bushy Park.

He concludes:
“Inequality is on the rise, and London’s socially mixed communities are under continuing pressure from ‘the invisible hand’ of the housing market to segment even further into discrete enclaves of wealth and lifestyle. Yet parks remain among the last places in the city where all users are equal and preferential terms of access or treatment cannot be purchased or parlayed”

One essay by David Matless, ‘Seaview: the anthroposcenic’ struck a personal chord. (Anthroposcenic: landscape emblematic of processes marking the Anthropocene).

Page 187.
“Holidays at East Runton; forty years ago, with predictions of a new ice age, and in newer hotting times. A beach mile from Cromer, rock pools and sand, the wave-cut platform and forest bed. A minute from door to paddle, cliff’s topping to North Sea summer icing; always a chill.”

I remember too Summer holidays in a caravan at East Runton on the Norfolk Coast; an escape from the suburbs of South-west London. Likely over sixty years ago.

Today, I think of the time at Rathtrevor Beach with our grandchildren, escaping from the Greater Vancouver mainland to the coast of Vancouver Island.

“Making footprints on Rathtrevor Beach”, image by Ruth Hartrup on Flickr

Will these memories stay with the next generation, sixty years from now?

As we walk the trails of Walnut Grove BC,  we seek the shade of cedar filled ravines. Will they offer the same respite for the next generation. Playing a similar role to the public parks in the British landscape?


To Heather, Laurel, Nic, Marcus and Owen all great travel companions.
Edward for his graphic contribution.


Tim Dee (Ed.) 2018. GroundWork: Writings on Places and People. Vintage Press.
Hugh Brody. A Story of Arctic Maps. p.44-53.
Richard Holmes. An Elemental Education. p.117-131
Richard Mabey. A Wood over One’s Head. p.140-147.
Nick Davies. From the Old Tower Hide on Wicken Fen. P.77-83.
Marina Warner. Binsey. P.249-259.
Ken Warpole. The Echoing Green. p.260-269.
David Matless. Seaview: the Anthroposcenic. p.185-188.


Posted in biographical sketch

BC Book World

This week, we headed to Vancouver Island.map_southernVancouverIsland Took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. The plan was to spend two nights camping at Parksville and two nights in Victoria. Everything went pretty much according to plan.

Our purpose was to remind ourselves about the joys and limitations of living in BC. We stopped at Duncan, Sooke, Nanaimo and Brentwood. We camped at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville.

bookCover_BCbookWorldSummer2019On the ferry to Vancouver Island, I checked out BC Bookworld. I noted a review of ‘Love of the Salish Sea Islands: new essays, memoirs and poems by 40 Island Writers, by Mona Fertig (ed) and Gail Sjuberg (see page 24). I also noticed a copy of ‘The Nature of Canada’ edited by Colin Coates and Graeme Wynn. I resisted the temptation of purchase because I knew that there would be a time in Victoria to visit Munro’s bookstore, always a must when in the BC capital.

The splendour of the landscape, the BC outdoor lifestyle removed the desire to put my nose in a book. I can save my purchases for another time, another place.


However, at Munro’s, I did find Ground Work: Writings on Places and People, edited by Tim Dee.

“We live in an age where everything is being determined by the activities of just one soft-skinned, warm-blooded, short-lived pedestrian species. How then, should we live in the ruins that we have made? “

“These rich and varied essays bring together voices from diverse backgrounds and geographies.” Guardian.

Back in Walnut Grove, there will be time to savour both the British perspective (Tim Dee) and the Canadian perspective (Coates and Wynn).

“The Nature of Canada will make you think differently not only about Canada and its past but also quite possibly about Canada and its future.”

Wynn is Professor Emeritus at UBC in Geography and Environmental History. Coates teaches Canadian Studies and Environmental History at York University.

We have a week of ‘downtime’ in Walnut Grove: to enjoy family, the walking trails, community recreation centre. Tonight (Friday) we will attend the Jazz Festival at Fort Langley. Next week, we leave for Haida Gwaii. The joys are apparent: landscapes and people. The limitations are all questions of economics.


To Laurel, Nic and their extended family for logistic support. To Glen and Shelley for memories of Edmonton, and Royal Roads University, and advice on knee injuries. Heather for sharing the journey. Edward for his graphics contribution.


BC Bookworld. Volume 33, No. 2. Summer, 2019.
Tim Dee (Ed.) 2018. Ground Work: Writings on Place and People. Vintage Press.
Colin W. Coates and Graeme Wynn. (Eds.) 2019. The Nature of Canada. UBC Press.