Posted in Opinion

Bring back Coastlands

As we readied the house for Christmas, it was time to sort out a stack of old magazines for recycling or garbage. The pile included Haida Laas from Haida Gwaii, as well as Northword from Northern BC. From Nova Scotia, it contained the Nova Scotia Policy Review. Politics, culture and justice and its successor, Coastlands. the 
Maritimes Policy Review. My last issue was Volume 4, Number 1. Spring 2011. Feast to Famine. Why our food system is in decay. Coastlands was published and edited by Rachel Brighton from Bridgetown.

On Wednesday, I caught up with Rachel at Bistro 300 in Middleton. I wanted to know what had happened to Coastlands. The answer – while policy issues remain a passion for her – the magazine subscriptions  were hardly paying the bills. She moved on, to other roles, and work environments.

As we come to the end of 2018, with local conversations about climate change, ‘coastlands’ are very much on the table. Part of my engagement is that I enjoy seeing the use of simple, provocative, geographic language.

Seven years have passed. These days, I receive the Guardian Weekly to obtain a global perspective. The Walrus gives me a Canadian view. What is available at the local, provincial level to give me a critical perspective ? What has happened in terms of rural Nova Scotia and its development ?

If I look at the last issue of Coastlands, I find feature articles on Community Economics, Ecology, Food and Agriculture, Health, Politics and Culture, Energy and Environment, Justice. There is a book review of a biography on David Adams Richards. Coastlands included cartoons by Janet Larkman, as well as the editorial talent of Rachel Brighton.

Here are but two examples. Rachel writes a column called Orwell Answers.

“A jolly good fallow.


Where have you been ? We’ve all been wondering, what’s become of George ? I missed your replies and battling thoughts back and forth. I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits even in these dreary days when all anyone hears about is this famine or that flood or that assassin. I would like to hear some words of wisdom and encouragement, but find none.

Wistfully, Frank.

Dear Frank,

I thought to lie fallow for a year. To be honest though, I was beginning to find the periodical that publishes these exchanges a little depressing and perhaps tiresome. We have so many pamphleteers and so little peace. I hope I can be of some encouragement to your readers, especially you.

Write soon with some good news,

George ”


The second example is a Vesper. The Marinade of Time.

“Let us think of quietly enlarging our stock of true and fresh ideas, and not, as soon as we get an idea or half an idea, be running out with it into the street, and trying to make it rule there. Our idea will, in the end, shape the world all the better for maturing a little.”

Matthew Arnold 1914.’The Function of Criticism” in Essays. Oxford University Press.

This speaks directly to my impatient, blogging self.

After seven years, it may be time for Coastlands to resurface. Perhaps an online version. There has been a lot of water splashing up on our shores, without a critical policy review or any evidence-based analysis.


Thanks to Rachel Brighton for her insights into the concerns of rural Nova Scotians.

Sorry, no graphics. Edward is still afloat somewhere down South in warmer climes.


Haida Laas is the newsletter of the Council of the Haida Nation.

Northword Magazine is a regional magazine for northern BC, published in Smithers. Northwood Magazine

The Nova Scotia Policy Review and Coastlands were published between 2007-2011.

Posted in Event Review

Gordonstoun Nova Scotia

Congratulations to our hard-working councillors for their procurement of this opportunity. In my terms, it speaks volumes for ‘place-based education’ in Nova Scotia. I had every intention of being at the announcement. There were swirling rumours about a new Cannabis operation at the Britex plant in Centrelea, as well as the Gordonstoun connection.

Saturday, Heather Stewart decided to attend the workshop at Mersey Tobeatic Research Institure (MTRI) for woodlot owners on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Being car-less, I walked down to the Lawrencetown library to retrieve David Quammen’s The Tangled Tree. This is a revision of Darwin’s tree of life. Afterwards, I did not have the energy to walk into Bridgetown from East Paradise for the announcement.

In the Annapolis County Spectator, Tim Habinski makes an interesting observation.

“If there’s a point I really want people to know about the school, and about why this project, it is this: when we went to Gordonstoun, I presented specifically on the values and culture of Annapolis County. I wanted them to know what kind of county it was.”

This is our collective challenge ‘what are the values and culture of Annapolis County ?”

Being a Geographer, with a long-term commitment to the educational institutions in the County, I would argue they are ‘place-based’: the Bay of Fundy, Annapolis Valley, South Mountain (Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area), North Mountain.

Historically, this will takes us from the Mi’kmaq culture, to Samuel Champlain, the Acadians, Black Nova Scotians to Joshua Slocum and then more recently, the writings of Ernest Buckler, and other artists.

Of course, its way too soon for me to recall, digest and reflect on my memories of the United Kingdom, the monarchy and the school system there. Oddly enough, we were watching Prince Philip in an old episode of The Crown on Netflix last night. Its now over fifty years since I made Canada my permanent home.


Edward Wedler is away in the Caribbean, and so we will miss his graphics.


David Quammen. 2018. The Tangled Tree. A Radical New History of Life.  Simon and Schuster.

Annapolis County Spectator December 9, 2018. Annapolis County Spectator

Developer’s interest in vacant Annapolis County schools leads council to Scotland.

Mutual ethos and historic connection – ‘Gordonstoun reflects our values’, says Annapolis County Warden Habinski.

World Class – Top international private boarding school franchise coming to Annapolis County.

Posted in Book Review

Proust and the Squid

On CBC’s The Sunday Edition (December 2nd), Michael Enright interviewed Maryanne Wolf on the subject of the reading brain in the digital world and her new book.readerComeHome  squid


The following day, we went over to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. At Lexicon Books, I purchased a copy of the earlier book Proust and the Squid: the story and science of the Reading Brain.

‘Knowing what reading demands of our brain and knowing how it contributes to our capacity to think, to feel, to infer and to understand other human beings is especially important today, as we make the transition from a reading brain to an increasingly digital one.’ p.4.

Wolf describes the reading brain’s development and evolution – both the personal-intellectual and the biological. She uses Marcel Proust as a metaphor and the squid as an analogy for two different aspects of reading.

Proust saw reading as a kind of ‘intellectual sanctuary’ where human beings have access to thousands of different realities.

‘The study of what the human brain has to do to read is analogous to the study of the squid in earlier neuroscience’.

My interest revolves around the relationship between reading about a landscape and experiencing that landscape. From my blogs, you will have noticed the tendency to link reading of a variety of local authors to our sense of place.

The other dimension relates to our changing digital world (check out the podcast). There is a difference between book-length reading and short blogs. It is increasingly difficult to balance the reading brain between these different formats. However, the challenges presented by Wolf in her books make it all worthwhile.


Kent Thompson describes his search for copies of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as an excuse for getting out of town on his bicycle. Today, I found two volumes of this book at the Thrift store in the village of Lawrencetown.

artOfTravelMy second link relates to Alain de Botton’s book The Art of Travel. He describes the work of John Ruskin on word-painting.

‘The effectiveness of Ruskin’s word-painting derived from his method of not only describing what places looked like but also analyzing their effect on us in psychological language. He recognized that many places strike us as beautiful not on the basis of aesthetic criteria – but on the basis of psychological criteria because they embody a value or mood of importance to us’.

Back to Wolf (in fact Walter Ong)

‘The interaction between morality that all human beings are born into, and the technology of writing, which no one is born into, touches the depth of the psyche.

Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well. It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons. Writing is consciousness-raising’.

Finally, Marcel Proust:

‘I believe that reading, in its original essence, is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.


CBC Sunday Edition. December 2, 2018. Michael Enright. Podcast.  Come Home: the Reading Brain in the Digital World.

Maryanne Wolf. 2008. Proust and the Squid. The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Harper Perennial.

Maryanne Wolf. 2018. Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Harper and Collins.

Alain de Botton.2002. The Art of Travel. Penguin Books.

Posted in Event Review

Climate Change and the Human Prospect: Annapolis Royal

On Wednesday evening, we attended the screening of Climate Change and the Human Prospect in Annapolis Royal. This was a month after we attended a screening at the Municipal building in Kentville (see earlier blog October 25). I want to highlight a number of differences in the context, as well as offer some thoughts on next steps.

“The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming …”

The venue last night was at King’s Theatre. Janet Larkman spoke well to the role that the theatre plays as an educational hub in the region.  It also allowed for the use of modern technology. We were able to ‘Skype’ with Crystal Chissell in San Francisco. She is Vice-President of Operations and Engagement at Project Drawdown. We had access to a large screen. The viewing of Andrea Vandenboer’s documentary on the Thinkers Retreat was a very different experience. Thirdly, we had the pleasure of Gregory Heming, Centre for Local Prosperity and local Councillor facilitating the evening. Again, this was missing in Kentville. The Centre for Local Prosperity sponsored the making of the documentary and the screening. The audience in Kentville was primarily municipal officials whereas in Annapolis Royal the much larger audience was a diverse group of interested, informed citizens.

Starting with Project Drawdown, solutions were divided into seven sectors: Materials, Electricity Generation, Food, Land Use, Women and Girls, Transport, Building and Cities. These solutions formed the core of the discussion at the retreat. The documentary presented the view from the twenty-four thinkers at the three-day retreat.

After the screening, Gregory hosted a question and answer session with the audience. Some questions addressed specific concerns in Annapolis County, namely forestry practices, sea level rise, as well as the larger issue of citizen engagement.

What can citizens do?

There is a new group in town, Annapolis Climate Change Action Group. Specific questions related to how we can influence politicians and the necessity for place-based education.

There were some missing pieces. In Kentville, all members of the audience were invited to sign up, if they wanted to keep in touch. Unfortunately, the same thought did not arise last night in Annapolis Royal.

assetMapping_2In the documentary, there was a focus on Energize Bridgewater, perhaps Annapolis Royal could play a similar focal role with Land Use. If so, they may seek to collaborate with the Centre of Geographic Sciences, Lawrencetown and develop current maps and statistics on the status of the forest, agriculture and other land use types in the County.

logo_centreForLocalProsperityFrom the audience, the comment was made that ‘we only have twelve years’. How can we organize resources that go beyond the Centre for Local Prosperity and the Municipality of Annapolis County? What can we do to change our institutions: provincial and municipal government, as well as schools and post-secondary education institutions? How do we fully utilize the creative human resources in the region?  Are we taking full advantage of town hall-style meetings? We need to continue to keep looking everywhere for good ideas, innovation, and where appropriate new technology. Conversely, we need to share the special resources that we have locally with other communities. The impossible becomes an opportunity.


Edward Wedler continues to find relevant resources and images on the Internet. Heather Stewart always reminds me of the needs of other non-human species that inhabit our regional landscape, both on the land and in the surrounding waters.


Project Drawdown Project Drawdown

Centre for Local Prosperity Centre for Local Prosperity

Energize Bridgewater Energize Bridgewater




Posted in Book Review

Eccentrics in Paradise

In 1926, William Inglis Morse self-published a limited edition book, Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Besides short descriptions of some of the characters in the village, it also offers a description of the village itself.


‘In the Notes of 1888 (Ticknor and Company, Boston) Paradise is sketched as a ‘pleasantly situated village of about 400 inhabitants, with several sawmills, grist mills and tanneries. The principal exports are lumber and cheese, though there are also large deposits of merchantable granite in the vicinity’. p.8.

With reference to the Mi’kmaq:

‘their habitat was a government grant on the south side of the Annapolis River, at the head of the tide, from which vantage ground they witnessed the passing of the years and the river flowing to the sea.’ p.12

The book’s appeal, besides the title, is the relationship between the author and a specific place. Today, we still have the Morse estate and Burnbrae Farm.

A second example of author and place is between Elizabeth Bishop and Great Village. This week, Sandra Barry gave me a copy of Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-guided Tour. This is a beautiful combination of maps, history and images linked to Bishop’s writing.

‘ Bishop’s childhood in Great Village had a profound effect on her and years later her memories found their way into poems and stories. The village and its people were not merely subjects in Bishop’s work, her experience with them fundamentally shaped her worldview and artistic sensibility’. p 1.

A third example can be found in the writing of Kent Thompson, Getting out of town by book and bike. Thompson describes a bicycle ride from Annapolis Royal to West Dalhousie, and then back to Lequille on the old Dalhousie Road.

” Some 65 kilometres. Great day; one of the great rides in Nova Scotia. I almost hate to tell anyone about it. Might want to keep it a secret” p.98

En route, he visits Ernest Buckler’s gravesite at Gibson’s Lake.

” The graveyard sloped upward on one side, and on the other, the lake lapped softly in the sun, like the breathing of someone asleep”. p 91.

The original quote is from The Mountain and the Valley p. 89. For the full context, read Thompson, Chapter 6 Secret Road to the Lost Village. p. 83-98.

There, we have three very different examples of the relationship between literature and geography. I am not sure whether the self-guided tour format produced by Sandra Barry for the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia could be transferred to a self-guided bicycle tour of West Dalhousie for the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society. What is evident, is that there are ‘eccentrics’ in many small rural communities. Their observations on rural life continue to sustain us, or in Sandra Barry’s words:

” Great Village is a place where roads converge. Each road (each travelled by Bishop) is followed to the edge of the village with hints of what lies beyond’ p. 1.

or Kent Thompson:

‘You can even capture passing time, a way of life with all its implements and terms, which is escaping. And is gone to the eye, now. Not a farm left on this road.” p.98.

The last word is with David Canaan (aka Ernest Buckler)

‘Suddenly he knew how to surmount everything….. (And all that time the key to freedom had been lying in these lines, this book) There was only one way to possess anything: to say it exactly. Then it would be outside you, captured and conquered.” MV p.195.

Discussions with Edward Wedler reveals that economic development has sprung from connecting literature/film to place (including Nova Scotia), as noted in his blog post “What do the Films Outlander, Titanic and Def-Con 4 have in Common?”


Thanks to Edward Wedler, Sandra Barry and Heather Stewart.


There is a screening of Climate Change and the Human Prospect on Wednesday, November 28th at Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal at 7:30 pm. It will be followed by a Question and Answer session with Timothy Habinski, Gregory Heming and Robert Cervelli.


Willam Inglis Morse. 1926. Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Nathan Sawyer, Boston.

Sandra Barry 2005. Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-Guided Tour. Gaspereau Press.

Kent Thompson. 2001. Getting out of town by book and bike. Gaspereau Press.

Ernest Buckler. 1952. The Mountain and the Valley. McClelland and Stewart.(MV)


Posted in Video Review

BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal ?

Last Sunday, there was a screening of the documentary film BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal? at the United Church in Annapolis Royal.

The film was provided by the Ecology Action Centre. A full room watched the film. It was followed by a mediated discussion on the state of forestry in Nova Scotia.

The film showed the cutting of forests, primarily in the Southeast United States, their conversion into wood chips, and the shipping to European markets … BURNED.

‘The film tells the story of how woody biomass has become the fossil fuel industry’s renewable green saviour to climate change. Power plants in the UK and elsewhere have replaced coal with woody biomass. This allowed these countries, ostensibly, to meet their commitments to the Paris Accord on climate change.’

After the movie, Donna Crossland made a short presentation on the situation in Nova Scotia. This included the biomass plants in Pictou and Port Hawkesbury, the shipping of wood chips from Sheet Harbour. She also showed the extent of forest removal since 2000. This led to an audience discussion on the types of citizen action possible in Southwest Nova Scotia. When will the recommendations of the Lahey report be implemented ? What is the current level of cutting on crown land ? Randy Fredericks circulated a petition to save Hardwood Hill, a 30-40 hectare woodlot near Tupperville, Annapolis County (see Chronicle Herald p. A3, November 19,2018).

What can we do?

i) hold our elected representatives accountable?
ii) engage in citizen science?
iii) change the conversation away from resource economics? Treating the landscape as a commodity.

The next opportunity for accountability at the municipal level is November 28. Climate Change and the Human Prospect at Kings Theatre 7:30 pm. Both Warden, Timothy Habinski, and Councillor Gregory Heming will be available to answer questions.

According to the Department of Lands and Forestry, the online harvest plan map viewer lets the public know about potential future harvests on crown land, and people who sign up for direct notification will get an email each time a proposed harvest is posted (CH Nov 19 A3).

In BURNED, members of the Dogwood Alliance monitored the number of trucks, their load as they entered the biomass plants. The movement of wood products throughout Nova Scotia is a ‘geographic problem’. We know the sources. We know the possible destinations. Can we track the movements?

Before stands are harvested, we can use drones to fly over the stands. Can we conduct bio-blitz? That is an inventory of species. If the stands are harvested, we can monitor the quality of the work.

If Annapolis County is our main focus, we could request the engagement of faculty and students at the Centre of Geographic Sciences in this urgent ‘geographic problem’

From the documentary, the task is clearly beyond the local political arena. There are major vested business interests. We have to change the language: different voices, different skills, different values. Each of us, individually, and in community groups, must live and demonstrate the alternative. Can Annapolis County be the start of a movement for real change in Nova Scotia?

Looking for help and hope, I went to my bookshelves. I can recommend the writings of Stan Rowe and Doug Aberley in Canada, Mitchell Thomashow and Gary Snyder in the United States. They should be available through the wonderful services of inter-library loan, or from friends.


Edward Wedler for his remote technology expertise and contribution on graphics. Heather Stewart for her ecological insights and encouragement.


Lahey Report

Healthy Forest Coalition

Harvest Plan Map Viewer

Stan Rowe. 1990. Home Place. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press

Stan Rowe. 2006. Earth Alive. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press.

Doug Aberley (ed) 1993. Boundaries of Home. New Society Publishers

Mitchell Thomashow  1996. Ecological Identity. Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist. MIT Press.

Gary Snyder.1990. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press.

Paul  Ebenkamp (ed). 2010 The Etiquette of Freedom. Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison. The Practice of the Wild. Counterpoint. Includes DVD.

Posted in Event Review

Coppicing and Charcoal-making

This weekend, we supported Alex and Selene Cole from Little Foot Yurts, Gaspereau with their annual November workshop on coppicing and charcoal-making. For the last eight years, Alex has been coppicing red maple on Andrew’s property across the road. The red maple is found on the floodplain above the Annapolis River. Coppicing is the practice of cutting the tree so that new shoots grow up from the main stem.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is an annual cycle. After eight years, we have poles, two inches in diameter suitable for yurt construction. A second product from the residual branches is the making of charcoal. For this purpose, the branches are cut into lengths and packed into an airtight container. In our case, a recycled milk condenser. By burning, excluding the oxygen, the wood converts to charcoal. Both of these practices are traditional woodland skills from Europe.

Other by-products of the coppicing cycle are firewood to heat the home. Also wood for the creation of corduroy woods roads. These practices together offer an alternative model of small woodlot management, where you have mixed deciduous woodland.

For more information on the workshop and yurt construction contact little foot yurts.

Last week, as part of our research into landscape change in Cumberland County. We went to GeoNova, the Geomatics Centre in Amherst. Our interest was to obtain aerial photography for Heather’s family property at Hansford. We were able to purchase images at ten-year intervals from 1965 to 2015. This will allow us to map the end of farming, forest regrowth, and later-cutting. We envisage undertaking a similar analysis for our property in Annapolis County.

Harry Thurston. Gaspereau Press

Visiting Amherst, Oxford, Pugwash and Truro we are able to make comparisons of small towns in rural Nova Scotia: the cycle of service centre, decay and re-invention. At the Dayles Grand Market in Amherst, I  picked up a book by local author, Harry Thurston entitled Keeping watch at the End of the World. This book of poetry from Gaspereau Press is described on the back cover in the following terms.

“Harry Thurston explores ways in which poetry stands sentinel at the edge-places where known and unknown meet. Whether that frontier lies between land and sea, present and past, health and illness, or youth and ageing”

Thurston lives at Tidnish Bridge. With prompting from Sandra Barry, I subsequently revisited his 1990 book. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.with photographs by Stephen Homer.

Another find at the GeoNova office was Nova Scotia Nature Map published in 1993. It was based on the book, Natural History of Nova Scotia.

Given the assault on our forested and marine landscape, perhaps it is time to revisit these 1990’s publications, to update them, and make them available to the schools.

Returning home, and stopping at the post office in Bridgetown, I found that they too have second-hand books. I picked up Thomas Merton, The True Solitude. Two passages in this small book caught my attention.

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them‘. p.33
and p.36, in relation to poetry,
The poet enters into himself in order to create. The contemplative enters into God in order to be created“.

Merton was both a monk and a poet.


On November 28th at 7:30 pm at Kings Theatre, there will be a screening of Andrea Vandenboer video on Climate Change and the Human Prospect. The film documents the retreat at the Thinker’s Lodge in Pugwash, October 2017. Both Timothy Habinski and Gregory Heming attended the retreat and will be on hand to answer questions on the implications for the Municipality of Annapolis County.


Sandra Barry for encouraging me to pull Tidal Life off the bookshelves. Alex and Selene Cole for their consistent enthusiasm for sustainable forestry and traditional house structures.  Heather Stewart for her support and companionship. Edward Wedler for his graphic contributions.


Harry Thurston. 2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.

Harry Thurston. 1990. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.Nimbus Press.

Derek Davis. 1993. Nova Scotia Nature Map. LRIS Amherst.

M.Simmons, D.Davis, L. Griffiths and A. Muecke. 1984. Natural History of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Departments of Education and Lands and Forests.

Thomas Merton. 1969. The True Solitude. Selections from the Writings of Thomas Merton. Hallmark Editions.

Little Foot Yurts  .little foot yurts


I loved the title of this poem by Harry Thurston in his 2015 book. Dedicated to Sandra Barry.

Geography: on first discovering Elizabeth Bishop in a used bookstore in Manhattan.


Posted in New thinking

A Heritage River ?

In response to my last blog, Jane Nicholson mentioned that the region was unable to meet the criteria of Heritage River status because of the tidal power pilot project in Annapolis Royal. This caused me to reflect on the issue.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recall from the 1980’s the efforts of Diane Legard and Stephen Hawboldt to seek this designation. Indeed, I believe that the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) was established as a non-government organization (NGO) to address questions related to water quality and pollution. This included the volunteer River Guardian network.

Since that time, we have seen new infrastructure on the river. The latest evidence is the boat ramp by the Lawrencetown bridge.

To achieve heritage river status for the Annapolis River, the community would have to agree on the following actions:

a) removal of the tidal power pilot and dam. This would allow fish species to migrate up and down the Annapolis River, without human impediment.

b) collaboration throughout the watershed to guarantee water quality. This means municipal governments working together e.g. Annapolis County and Kings County.

CARPThe concept of CARP was as a ‘project’. Reaching the goal of heritage river, would allow us to take it off the project, ‘to do ‘ list. Of course, the quality of the water depends on the activities in the Annapolis watershed. This means the removal of forest cover would need to managed, with these criteria in mind.

In the spirit of harmonious active living within the landscape, travelling up the Annapolis River by canoe/kayak would offer a quality experience. This could be complemented by hiking, biking or ATV along the Harvest Moon trail on the repurposed rail line. Although, we still need B & B and other accommodation for those travelling from Grand Pre to Annapolis Royal.

A third option, which would allow us to monitor the watershed, would be to create a hiking trail that follows the height of land along North and South Mountain.

Between these three types of travel, residents and visitors would develop an intimate understanding of both ‘the Mountain and the Valley’. There would be the opportunity to share common values: community, landscape and heritage integrity and respect. The CARP project would meet its goal, and we, collectively, would leave a legacy for the future inhabitants. Perhaps, sightings of sturgeon and other marine species would become commonplace in Bridgetown and higher up the river.


Jane Nicholson for her comment. Heather Stewart as CARP Board member for our conversations, and Edward Wedler for adding graphics and links from Florida.

Canadian Heritage Rivers System

CARP, Clean Annapolis River project video

Posted in Creative writing

Tidal Bore and Tidal Lore

Sanger in his essay, Groundmass, describes the tidal bore on the Shubenacadie River from the diaries of Charles Lyell and William Dawson (p.83). He also links the phenomena to the Elizabeth Bishop’s poem The Moose p.84.

Last week, we attended a meeting of the Paradise Historical Society. Aaron Taylor gave a presentation on ‘Where did the First People live before the Europeans came? What patterns can be found that might predict these locations in our area?” Aaron described the results of his archaeological research on Paradise riverside land. In particular on the properties of Jack Pearle and David Whitman.

Much of the discussion concerned the location of the tide head on the river. This brings fish species on the tide up into the river valley. Today, of course, we have the tidal power dam on the river at Annapolis Royal. Imagine if we had the same natural conditions today between the Annapolis Basin (Bay of Fundy) and the Annapolis River.

This week, I was able to pick up three books by William Inglis Morse from the Frank Morse library in Lawrencetown. In Acadian Lays and other verse, the poem The Call of the Marsh Hen (p.8)

In creaking flight the marsh-hen flies
Along the old French road, where the vale of Paradise
And gently down from the ancient hills a rippling stream
Doth wend its way to song and Acadian dream”.

There is a footnote. ‘The location of the old French road is near the confluence of the Annapolis River and the Paradise Brook, Nova Scotia,. The tides, freshets and the lapse of time have practically obliterated this way, leaving only a few traces across the interval of marshy land’.

in Genealogie (p.24) we find a photograph of Burn Brae. It is still recognizable as the house on the Morse Estate.

From his poem, ‘Acadia’ p9.

Land of the dark forest and mountain
And tides that surging flow,
Land of the murmuring pine tree
And the romance of long ago.

Evidence suggests that both the Mi’kmaq and the French Acadians were intimately familiar with the relationship between the Fundy tides and the river systems of Nova Scotia. They located their settlements, permanent or seasonal, to take advantage of the concentration of the fish stocks in the rivers.


To John Wightman for sharing his copy of William Inglis Morse Limited Edition book.

Thanks to Edward Wedler for finding the video of the tidal bore on the Shubenacadie River.


Peter Sanger.2002. Spar: Words in Place. Gaspereau Press.

Elizabeth Bishop. 1983. The Complete Poems. p 169

William Inglis Morse 1908.Acadian Lays and other verse. William Briggs, Toronto

William Inglis Morse (ed). 1925. Genealogiae or data concerning the families of Morse, Chipman, Phinney, Ensign and Whiting. Nathan Sawyer, Boston. Limited Edition 200 copies.

Posted in Creative writing, Nature

Place in words

Through the services of Inter-library loan, I received a copy of Peter Sanger’s book, Spar: words in place, published by Gaspereau Press in 2002.

It includes four essays: Biorachan Road, The Crooked Knife, Keeping: the Cameron Yard and Groundmass.

From his Foreword, “this collection speaks a word for Nature and that it does so in the spirit of sauntering“.

I was surprised to find the first essay ‘Biorachan Road’ covered part of the geography near Earltown. Heather and I had walked this section a few years ago, as part of our ‘Road to Georgetown ‘ project.

In the fourth essay, ‘Groundmass’, Sanger links a silvery-white translucent, vitreous, laminated rock that he found in a shed on his farm in South Maitland to the earlier science of Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, William Dawson and to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop ‘Crusoe in England‘. Sanger named the rock ‘spar’ from the Anglo-Saxon “spare” or “spaeren” meaning gypsum. There is much more to this essay, but for now, it gives an explanation of the title for this elegant, small collection of essays.

Cover_gettingOutOfTownIn Annapolis Royal at Bainton’s bookstore, I picked up Kent Thompson’s book Getting out of town by book and bike. It is an entertaining read, including the idea: “every now and again, I get on my bike and ride to a small town public library to look for Anna Karenina“. Thompson visits both the towns and writing of Ernest Buckler (Centrelea, West Dalhousie) and Elizabeth Bishop (Great Village). Writing of both EBs is of interest to me, and likely, to Nova Scotia.

cover_waterfallsOfNovaScotiaIn this same spirit, Heather was reading Waterfalls of Nova Scotia. It describes one hundred waterfalls. Number #19 is Eel Weir Brook Falls up behind Lawrencetown on South Mountain. While a short hike, it gave us an excuse to ‘get out of town’.

We can take this concept of ‘place in words’ a couple of steps further. If we fully appreciated the landscape, in terms of its geology, botany, zoology would we be quite so willing to remove the forest cover, to mine the bedrock? Perhaps, its time to resurrect, the works of Albert E. Roland. He made a significant contribution to our understanding of the geology, physiography and botany of this province. Would these words speak for Nature?


To Heather Stewart for the suggested waterfall hike. Also for access to her library, that includes the books by Albert Roland. Edward Wedler is on his way south to Florida yet we caught his graphics contribution.


Peter Sanger. 2002. Spar: words in place. Gaspereau Press.

Kent Thompson. 2001. Getting out of town by book and bike. Gaspeareau Press.

Benoit Lalonde. 2018. Waterfalls of Nova Scotia. A Guide. Goose Lane Editions.

Albert E. Roland.1982. Geological Background and Physiography of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Institute of Science.

Albert E. Roland and E.C. Smith. 1969. The Flora of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Museum.