Posted in biographical sketch

Ikigai: a reason for being

This week, I listened to a Zoom presentation on Redefining Retirement by Joel Stoddart, Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre.

It was an overview of a set of three hour workshops to be offered in February. Afterwards I decided that I could pursue my retirement activities without the Zoom workshops. But I did learn about the Japanese concept of Ikigai, that means ‘ reason for being’.

Meanwhile, I dropped off a thumb drive to Integrity Printing in Bridgetown. It contains the text of my blogs for 2020. In total, one hundred and five. Some of which were contributed by Edward Wedler.

I wanted to ensure that all was not lost, if for some reason, we suffered an electronic meltdown. The year, 2020 constituted Volume 5. Volume 1 contains blogs for Go-Geomatics before 2017; Volume 2, 2017, Volume 3, 2018, and Volume 4, 2019.

Over a week ago, I was in the Odd Book store in Wolfville. When there, I often look for publications by Gaspereau Press. In the past, I have picked up the writing of Peter Sanger, Harry Thurston and Soren Bondrup-Nielsen. This time, no luck. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong part of the store.

Next time I am in Kentville, I should go to the source: 47, Church Avenue. Meanwhile from their online catalogue, I noted the following:

Harry Thurston 2020, Lost River: the Waters of Remembrance. A Memoir.
Aldo Leopold, 2020, Wherefore Wildlife Ecology? An Essay.
Wendell Berry, 2020, Notes: Unspecializing Poetry. An Essay.

This week saw the return of the Bridgetown Reader after their Christmas break. It includes updates on the relationship between the municipality and Gordonstoun, as well as a report on the Public Health Care Clinic in Middleton.

Health care in rural Nova Scotia remains a topic worthy of comment. For example, see Ralph Surette’s column in the weekend Chronicle Herald. ‘COVID crisis papers over Health bureaucracy fiasco“.

In conclusion, he quotes MacKenzie King in 1927:

‘Where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government, which sooner or later becomes autocratic government’
‘Sounds like us’ !

(my exclamation mark) Right on, Ralph.


Ralph Surette, Chronicle Herald. January 23, 2021.


Check out the latest from Emergence Magazine
Counter Mapping. Emergence Magazine. January 24, 2021.

Image taken by Andrew this weekend, up north.


Edward Wedler for his support and collaboration in this adventure. Heather for sharing the journey.

Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Life Ahead

The Sea among the Rocks is a quotation from Evelyn Richardson, used as the title for Harry Thurston’s book of travels in Atlantic Canada.

“Though Morrill holds title to the Island of Bon Portage, who could sell or buy the sea among the rocks, the wind rippling the fields of grass, the moon’s lustrous path across the surging water, or the star-studded bowl of the night sky? They are without price, and priceless, and will be here for those who follow us. Then the work of our hands, those insignificant scratches on the face of the earth, may serve to remind others of our passing…”. p.255

I have just finished reading Thurston’s book. The writer has collected together a series of articles written between 1980-2000 in Atlantic Insight, Equinox, Harrowsmith and elsewhere. In all cases, they concern the use of the land and sea : farming, forestry, mining and fishing.

Examples include:

Prest’s Last Stand Mooseland, Nova Scotia
The Enemy Above Millstream, New Brunswick
The Fat of the Land Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
North of Nain Cut Throat Island, Labrador

As we enter 2021, it would be worthwhile to revisit Murray Prest and the use of forests in Nova Scotia or the issue of aerial spraying (The Enemy Above).

Perhaps, is it time for Harry Thurston or the next generation of writers to document our relationship with the landscape; whether fishing, farming, forestry, mining in 2020?

This week, I received a notice from the province about an online survey to collect input directly from private woodland owners.


My blog title, Life Ahead, is taken from the new Netflix movie starring Sophia Loren. Highly recommend.


John forwarded the link to woodland owner survey. Heather shared the movie night. Edward added his artistic touch.


Harry Thurston, 2002, The Sea among the Rocks, Pottersfield Press.
Where my roots go deep: the collected writing of Evelyn Richardson, 1996, Nimbus.
The Life Ahead, 2020, Netflix, starring Sophia Loren.

Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Redefining Retirement

This weekend, we plan to send a care package to Iqaluit. It will include pairs of knitted socks, as well as a book illustrated by local artist, Geoff Butler “The Illustrated Ode to Labrador“.

The book was picked up months ago in Annapolis Royal. It tells the story of the Ode to Labrador. Besides the Art work, it contains lyrics by Harry Paddon and additional text by Robin McGrath.

I am sending it North for Andrew and the grandchildren to read. It brings back memories of my first field season in Labrador in 1964. I was based at the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Station in Schefferville, and developed a love for the Northern landscape.

Last Friday, we finished watching the BBC production of Victor Hugo, Les Miserables on Gem. While a gripping eight part series, it was hard to watch the turmoil of the French Revolution, as we endure the present COVID political uncertainties.

Same day, we had to pick up a book in Annapolis Royal. After enjoying the French Basin trail, dog walk with Siqsiq, we stopped for a morning coffee at Lola’s Café. This led to a brief stop at the Library. Here, I found an early Harry Thurston book (2002), “The Sea among the Rocks“. It is a collection of short pieces describing familiar places in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and other parts of Atlantic Canada. In most cases, he writes from an environmental perspective.

‘Thurston writes passionately about the region’s bounty, the environmental destruction and the attempts to protect what’s left of our natural heritage. He shows how these concerns for the environment are inseparable from the spheres of community and culture’.

On returning home, I found an email from the Retired Teachers Organization (RTO) on a five part workshop, facilitated by the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre. These online sessions address the topic of ‘redefining retirement’.

My questions are simple.

‘What can I do in 2021, to guarantee that there will be a Centre of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown for my grandchildren, should they decide to follow my career path — that means, the opportunity to study Cartography, Geographic Information Science, Remote Sensing and Surveying, ten years from now?

Retirement from an educational institution does not mean retirement from one’s life time academic and research interests. Most post-secondary institutions understand this point. How about the Nova Scotia Community College?


We publish rural Nova Scotia. Check out Moose House Publications founded by Brenda Thompson in 2019.


Both Edward and Heather share many of the same interests. Friday evening, we had an excellent supper at The Station with Anne, Bill and Roger. Earlier, John shared his thoughts on the ‘state of the environment’.


Geoff Butler, 2016, The Illustrated Ode to Labrador, Breakwater Books.

Harry Thurston, 2002, The Sea among the Rocks: Travels in Atlantic Canada, Pottersfield Press.

Posted in Photo Essay

Changing Rural Communities: Lawrencetown

As we begin 2021, it seems timely to document some of the changes in the village of Lawrencetown.

On the positive side, signage for the new Lawrencetown Community Health Centre and Pharmacy  have been installed this week. At the Nova Scotia Community College (COGS) they have installed a field of solar panels and are completing a new residential training wing.

On the “negative” side, we see FOR SALE signs at the BeaverCreek Winery and the Winemakers Tavern. Plus Shakes on Main remains closed because of COVID.

The Thrift Store, the post office, gas station, and recycling centre all operate under the management of Carleton Road Industries Association (CRIA). On Carleton Road (Hwy #201) Lunn’s Mill Beer Company is open for retail. Before Christmas, this consortium purchased the End of the Line Pub in Bridgetown (now called The Station) serving food, beer and entertainment.

What are the lessons?

Small rural communities in Nova Scotia can reinvent themselves, even in the most difficult of times.

We look forward to more detailed plans.

a) how the Health Centre will help address the shortfall of family physicians in this part of Annapolis County?

b) what will be the impact of the residential training centre at COGS on the surrounding community?

c) will the new solar field at COGS help move the province towards greater use of alternative energy?


Thank you to Edward for organizing the photographs and for the Zoom coaching.

Posted in Article Review, Nature

Solace and Druids

After the events of this week, it was a pleasure to receive the link to Orion Magazine from Sandra Barry. The issue included a number of tributes honouring the life of Barry Lopez;
in particular, those by John Luther Adams, Margaret Atwood and David Quammen.

Photo: Barry Lopez on the McKenzie River, 1997 (Robert Kaiser) Oregonian/OregonLive

It brought back memories of driving the Alaska Highway to Homer from the Canadian Rockies in 1970. Over fifty years ago.

That, in turn, reminded me of time in California at Esri in Redlands. The creative contribution of a team of Americans to the technology of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). That would be in the 1980’s. We will need the contributions of all these creative individuals, as we attempt to address the global environmental challenges.

To complement these tributes, I happened to read the essay by Lucy Jones, The Druid Renaissance in this week’s issue of Emergence Magazine.

Photo by Rhonda Lashley Lopez

At the end of the afternoon (Sunday), there was still sufficient light to cross-country ski, down through the woods, to the Annapolis River.


To Sandra Barry for forwarding the link to the latest issue of Orion magazine. Heather shared the cross-country ski explorations. Edward put together the graphics and links.


Orion Magazine, January 8, 2021, Authors and Artists on the Life of Barry Lopez.

Emergence Magazine, January 10, 2021, Lucy Jones. The Druid Renaissance.

Posted in biographical sketch

Deadly Things

With the bird feeder in the backyard we attract flocks of mourning doves. Last week, we found feathers and blood on the snow. Obviously, the predators find opportunity too.

This morning (Thursday) we watched, online, the funeral service for my sister, Maureen. She passed away on December 12th. from complications associated with COVID in the UK. She had been in a long-term care facility in Sandhurst, Berkshire. The technology performed flawlessly.

(This photo of Maureen was taken when she was in her youth. See Postcard to Maureen.)

Recent image of Maureen, as painted by my artistic brother Peter Maher

Meanwhile, south of the border, we have insurrection, generated by Donald Trump. What difficult times.


Thank you to the care givers at Arch House. Heather and family for sharing these moments. Edward for his support.

Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Borealis and Back to the Land

After weeks of Netflix and CBC Gem, it was refreshing to rediscover National Film Board (NFB) documentaries. For those seeking to change society’s perception of our forests, I would recommend the film, Borealis.

It describes the intrinsic values of the Boreal forest, especially in these times of climate change. Made me wonder whether there should be a similar film made on the Acadian forest.

For dessert, we watched the NFB (1992) documentary on The Northern Lights.

This has been a particularly long weekend. I just hope the snow stays around for a cross-country ski tomorrow (Sunday).

Over the Christmas holiday, I had the chance to read Paul Colville’s memoir, “Back to the Land”. It was an early draft that describes the journey of Paul and Ruth from the United States to Mosher’s Corner on North Mountain, and life thereafter.

Google satellite View around Mosher’s Corner, Nova Scotia

Each chapter looks at a decade of living, as part of the rural economy in Nova Scotia. It is planned for publication in 2021 (publisher to be determined). I look forward to the final version. No pressure, Paul.

Time to shovel the snow, and put on the skis.


Just back from skiing. For the local reader, we parked at Lunn’s Mill. Skied through the Lawrencetown tree nursery to the Annapolis River. Along the river to Andrew’s property and up to our house. Turn round, and reverse the trip to Lunn’s Mill. Wish they were open on a Sunday, could do with a beer. Oh well, we have a growler of Brickyard Red at home.


Paul Colville, for the good times that go back to the Chimney Sweeping days. Heather for sharing the journey. Edward for his editorial insights.


National Film Board (NFB), 2020, Kevin McMahon, Borealis.
Explore how the plants and animals of Canada’s Boreal forest communicate and survive in this unique cinematic documentary’.

National Film Board (NFB), 1992, Alan Booth, The Northern Lights

Paul Colville, 2021, Back to the Land. Publisher, TBD.

Posted in New thinking

Local Geography

Yesterday (Wednesday) Heather and I participated in the Winter Bird Count, coordinated by David Colville.

Mourning Dove

This gave us the opportunity to walk down to the Annapolis River in the morning. In the afternoon, we went up through the property to the Inglisville Road. Besides the exercise, on a cool day, -10 degrees, we observed mourning doves, chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays, crows, woodpeckers and juncos. The great majority preferring the easy pickings at our bird feeder.

The traverse from the river to the top of South Mountain brought memories of our local geography.

What would we learn if we made the traverse, once a month? Or four times per year?

This led, naturally to questions of citizen science. Previously, when employed at AGRG, we had climate stations on the property. What would we learn, if we had say, 4-6 stations in a transect from the river bank to the southern edge of our property on the mountain? What is the temperature and humidity profile along the transect? At different times of the year?

Let’s take it a step further. When I was at AGRG (NSCC) we had a network throughout the Annapolis Valley. Could we create a community based organization that would maintain this type of network? Could we find a group of landowners between Digby and Kentville who would be interested and willing to monitor a series of transects from the Bay of Fundy to North Mountain to the Annapolis River valley up onto South Mountain?

If we maintained the network, we would be able to monitor climate change in the region.

As a citizen scientist I would welcome the opportunity to participate in developing our understanding of the local climate, it’s relationship to the landscape, and to the other species which share this landscape.

As a citizen scientist I would welcome the opportunity to participate in developing our understanding of the local climate, it’s relationship to the landscape, and to the other species which share this landscape.

A note sent to me from Orion Magazine on the loss of contributing editor, Barry Lopez.

Orion Magazine: Photography by David Littschwager

 the world is losing a lot of light. Let us hope others will take it up and shine it brightly in 2021



To David Colville for including us in the bird count. Heather for sharing the forest walk. Sandra Barry for forwarding the note on Barry Lopez. Edward for his magic touch.


Mary Ellen Hannibal, 2016, Citizen Scientist: Searching for heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction. The Experiment.

Article on Barry Lopez (1945-2020) in Orion Magazine, December 31, 2020.

Some of my previous blog post links to Citizen Science:
A Proposal: Crowdsourcing and Citizen Scientists
We are all Geographers
Citizen Scientist…
Community Information Utility: it’s time has come.

Posted in Book Review

Christmas Books

I received two books for Christmas from Patrick; Zena Hitz’ “Lost in Thought” and Lars Mytting’s, “Norwegian Wood”.

Hitz book is subtitled ‘The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life’. From the dust cover:

“Hitz says our intellectual lives are valuable not despite but because of their practical uselessness. And while anyone can have an intellectual life, she encourages academics in particular to get back in touch with the desire to learn for its own sake, and calls on universities to return to person-to-person transmission of the habits of mind and heart that bring out the best in us.”

Lars Mytting’s book is subtitled ‘Chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian Way’. Myttling talks about his neighbour, Ottar.

“For a man who had suffered his way through a long winter, struggling against age and ill health, here at last was a job where things made sense again. Once more he was able to enjoy the feeling of doing something meaningful, and the sense of calm security that comes to the man who knows he is well prepared, he is early, he has time on his side.”

In New Glasgow, John Stewart had two new books on his coffee table.

John Tattrie’s, “Peace by Chocolate”, and Donald Savoie’s “Thanks for the Business”.

Both books are about entrepreneurs. “Peace by Chocolate” describes the incredible journey by the Hadhad family from war-torn Syria to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where they have re-established their chocolate making business. In “Thanks for the Business”, Donald Savoie describes the Irving Oil business in Atlantic Canada. He explains why ‘ I hold the view that Atlantic Canada needs to look to entrepreneurs and the private sector to grow their economy ‘.

Closer to home, in Lawrencetown, Annapolis County, we have another entrepreneurial example of the den Haan family who emigrated from Holland. Today, they are the primary supplier of cucumbers and other salad products in the region. As seen from our home, the night sky is illuminated in the direction of their greenhouses.


Patrick Maher for his online selection of Christmas books. John Stewart for access to his holiday reading. Heather for her photograph of the night sky. Edward for bringing together the graphics.


Zena Hitz, 2020, Lost in Thought: the hidden pleasures of an intellectual life, Princeton University Press.

Lars Mytting, 2020, Norwegian Wood: chopping, stacking and drying wood the Scandinavian way, Abrams Image.

John Tattrie, 2020, Peace by Chocolate: the Hadhad Family’s remarkable journey from Syria to Canada, Goose Lane Editions.

Donald J. Savoie, 2020, Thanks for the Business: KC Irving, Arthur Irving and the Story of Irving Oil, Nimbus Publishing.

Posted in biographical sketch

Seeds of Hope

As we approach the end of 2020, it seems appropriate to look for hopeful signs on the horizon for 2021. Two of the signs were forwarded by Anne Crossman.

  1. Announcement from the Nova Scotia Forestry Innovation Transition Trust.
  2. Hiring of the Founding Principal for Gordonstoun Nova Scotia School

The third sign comes from the quarterly newsletter of Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve.

LINK to Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve website:

The Nova Scotia Forestry Innovation Trust of $50m was announced in February 2020. The NSCC will receive funding for a potentially multi-year project of up to $2m. The Forestry Innovation Voucher program will enable established businesses, new startups, non-profit community groups and Mi’kmaq partners to leverage the college’s infrastructure.

In 2021, we look forward to an official announcement of a Gordonstoun Nova Scotia founding Principal and any opportunity to connect the school’s interests with those at COGS/AGRG.

The Bras d’Or Lake BR newsletter includes a number of articles related to activities in Cape Breton. Specifically, there is information on climate change. Given the challenges in the Southwest Nova BR, this newsletter suggests a path forward.

At COGS/AGRG they have had an established climate network. A newsletter would allow sharing of this information with the local community. The same is also true of sea level rise, species at risk and the status of invasive species.

Rather than complain about the conflict between forestry practices and other values, let’s make sure that all members of the community have the best available information.

These seeds of hope suggest that we can better connect our educational institutions with the community at large, as well as the global community. We can collectively prepare ourselves for changes in our geography: economic, social and physical geography. The values of UNESCO-MAB will stand us in good stead.


In New Glasgow, I have had the chance to re-read Dave Whitman’s book on Stephen McNeil. It offers useful insight into the politics of the Annapolis Valley. At the same time, it illustrates why we need to maintain a global perspective.

A video interview with Richard G. Thorne, Pro Tem Principal for Gordonstoun Nova Scotia, gives some insight to the Gordonstoun School background and mindset.


Anne Crossman for searching of the web. Edward and Heather for their support.


Dave and Paulette Whitman, 2014, Premier Stephen McNeil: a Story of a Nova Scotian Family, Bailey Chase Books