Posted in Article Review, Opinion

Keeping Healthy

pic_theMindThis week, I reconnected with Cathy Bruce-West. She is a personal trainer. Before COVID-19, I had worked with her to strengthen my knees. So we had two sessions ‘en Plein air’ at Andrew’s studio across the road. The local gymnasiums are still planning their re-opening. After too much sitting, the program is designed to open up the body, through a series of stretches and strengthening exercises.

What impresses me is the knowledge of anatomy – joints, ligaments, muscles, plus the discipline of the session. It does, however, raise an interesting question: what are the equivalent stretches to open up the mind?

Heather has shared with me the Walrus podcast for June 20 ‘Your brain in COVID-19’. Would highly recommend it, especially the contributions from Andrea Soddu and Philip Mai.

The Walrus · Your Brain on COVID-19

Another local non-fiction reference, from Heather this week, Geology of Nova Scotia, a field guide by Martha Hill and Sandra Barr. It provides directions and interpretation to forty-eight sites in the province. The better we appreciate our landscape, perhaps, the less likely we will tolerate its abuse.

This concept resonated with a message that I noticed on the public notice board at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Middleton.

Reading: how to install new software in your brain


Edward sent me the Gizmodo link as an illustration of the contribution of citizen science towards our understanding of nature.


Cathy Bruce-West for her patience and support. Heather for her ‘scientific’ approach to life. Edward for emails and online graphics skills.


Martha Hild and Sandra Barr. 2015. Geology of Nova Scotia: touring through time at 48 scenic sites. Boulder Publications.
The Walrus. June 2020. Carolyn Abraham. Your Brain on COVID-19. It is also available as a Walrus Podcast.
Gizmodo: A ‘viral’ new bird song in Canada causing sparrows to change their tune.

Posted in Article Review, biographical sketch

Notes from Butternut Tree Farm

A few years ago, Roger Mosher gave us a bag of butternuts. We left them in a pot and promptly forgot about them. The end result was a cluster of butternut trees in the front garden.bookCover_3books_rogerDeakin

The blog title comes from Roger Deakin’s Notes from Walnut Tree Farm. Roger was the author of three books. The others are Waterlog and Wildwood. He came to the front of mind this week because of an essay in Emergence Magazine on the History of the Apple. It describes his trip to Kazakhstan, entitled East to Eden, with contribution from Robert MacFarlane.

honeycrispApplesLater in the day, I picked up a bag of Honeycrisp at Graves grocery store in Bridgetown. Grown locally at Inglis Farms in Tupperville. The Honeycrisp variety is a product from the Kentville Research and Development Centre.

Driving to Kentville yesterday, we noticed that the larger orchards in Kings County were burning their prunings. We checked locally with NS Lands and Forests. Our small pocket orchard, with less than one hundred trees, is too close to the woods. No burning. Instead, I had the opportunity to clear around each trunk and apply several scoops of vermiculture (worm castings).

banner_brickyardRedLunnsLater, we received our first online delivery of Brickyard Red beer from Lunn’s Mill. This complemented a couple of episodes of Mother, Father, Son; a BBC2 production, featuring Richard Gere, Helen McRory and Billy Howle, available on GEM. It is set in England and explores the relationship between the press and politics as well as the complexity of family dynamics. A single series with eight episodes.

Today, with snow on the wind, it looks like an indoor day, except for dog walking.


Roger Mosher for his enduring interest in fruit and nut trees. Chantelle at Lunn’s Mill, reminding us about online delivery. Heather for her Spring cleaning efforts in the greenhouse.Edward for his earlier blog and the graphics.

Emergence Magazine, April 5,2020. East to Eden. Roger Deakin with Robert MacFarlane.
Roger Deakin. 1999. Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain. Random House.
Roger Deakin. 2007. Wildwood. A Journey through Trees. Penguin Books
Roger Deakin. 2008. Notes from Walnut Tree Farm. Penguin Books.


Posted in Article Review

On April Fool’s Day

Serendipitously, I noticed in Orion magazine, besides the article on David Quammen, that there was an article on a conversation between Tim DeChristopher and Wendell Berry, To Live and Love with a Dying World. DeChristopher is a Climate Activist, Berry is a writer and poet.deChristopherBerry

From their conversation, I took away Berry’s concern about machine civilization and the role of the state.

“Live so far as you can in opposition. You’ve got to live and love. You’ve got to find the answers in your heart”

And a couple of short poems.

“O when the world’s at peace and every man is free
Then will I go down unto my love.
O and I may go down several times before that.”

“Something better, something better!
Everybody’s talking about something better!
The important thing is to feel good
And be proud of what you got, don’t matter if it ain’t nothin’ but a log pen.”

After my last blog, I asked Andrew for a current photograph from Iqaluit.conditionsUpNorth In the background, you can see the roof of the arena. You can also see that there are not many people around. Social isolation.

For several weeks, I have been burning materials from the hedgerows. Every day, I would check the burn ban website, to see whether burning was permitted between 2 pm and 8 am. Then I noticed in the SaltWire-Spectator that someone was charged for ignoring the burn restrictions in the Village of Lawrencetown. Unbeknown to me, the Minister of Lands and Forests had put out a no-burn order until May.
To free up the Fire Departments in this time of crisis. Oh well, no rush!

Earlier in the week, I contacted Brent Hall at Esri Canada.person_BrentHall My interest was the impact of COVID-19 on teaching GIS in the universities. Brent observed that this pandemic will change the relationship between education and online learning. This caused me to reflect on Wendell Berry’s comment about ‘machine civilization’.


Listening to The Jerry Cans CD, Nunavuttitut , to remind us of life in Iqaluit. Feels good!
And received our first email from grandson, Fraser Root-Maher, he deserves a special mention too. I hope he will become a blogger.


Andrew Maher for the new photograph. Brent Hall, Director, Education and Research at Esri Canada for his perspective on COVID-19 and Education. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution. Heather for her long-distance walking, in the rain.


Orion Magazine. March 2, 2020. To Live and Love with a Dying World.Tim DeChristopher and Wendell Berry.
Nova Scotia Burn Restriction web site.
The Jerry Cans. CD Nunavuttitut.

Posted in Article Review, New thinking

The Language of Place

I have enjoyed the writing of Robert MacFarlane for several years.


This week, I received notice of a new web site: Emergence Magazine. It includes a podcast interview with the author: Speaking the Anthropocene.

RM. “Language and landscape are the two braids that have twined and untwined in my life, and in my writing to this point. I teach in a literature department but really, I think I’m a bit more of a geographer these days.”

EM. “In Landmarks, is the idea that the words assembled in your book are a possibility of how we can re-wild our contemporary language for landscape. You described that as being the hope, so to speak.”

In Landmarks, MacFarlane provides a series of glossaries for different landscapes: flatlands, uplands, waterlands, coastlands, underlands, northlands, edgelands, earthlands, woodlands.

bookCover_SodsSoilSpadesThis discussion of the Language of Place took me back to my bookshelf. For Nova Scotia, I retrieved Sherman Bleakney’s book Sods, Soils and Spades: The Acadians at Grand Pre and their dykeland legacy. The word that triggered this search was aboiteau and its role in dykeland construction.

A second Nova Scotian author was Peter Sanger. In particular, I had enjoyed Spar: words in place ( check my blog Place in Words, October 31, 2018).

From time spent on Haida Gwaii, I found a back copy of Haida Laas, the newsletter of the Haida nation. (December 2015).BookCover_HaidaLassDec2015

Thinking in Haida. With a slip of the tongue describes a Haida language class. The class is studying Massett Songs, a collection of songs and stories recorded by anthropologist John R. Swanson and translated by John Enrico.

“Xaad Kil is highly directional, the language is constantly creating a picture of motion and place. Xaad Kil prioritized things like wind direction, water currents and one’s own relative location to the ocean.

“ Lost in translation.
Xaad Kil (Haida) Sahgwii ltl
Literal English
Upstream- Direction I’m going.
Colloquial English
I’m going up town


To get downtown from Gaaw, you must travel upstream along Gaaw Kaahli (Massett Inlet). That’s why we say uptown and not downtown like city people. Explained by Rev. Lily Bell.”

Here is my thesis: the language of Place is shaped by the specific geography, e.g. Nova Scotia or British Columbia. It is also shaped by the rules of the language, in this case, either Haida or English.

Regardless of the language, we need to understand the underlying processes, i.e. landscape ecology. In Nova Scotia, we are influenced by our position on the North American continent; the different air masses and ocean currents. These influences are changing within the context of the climate crisis.

I would love to believe that changing our language would help. In practice, we have to deepen our understanding of the landscape, it’s history, ecology and the associated processes.


Edward Wedler and Heather Stewart for their thoughtful conversations.


Emergence Magazine.
J.Sherman Bleakney. 2004. Sods, soil and spades. McGill Queens Press.
Haida Laas.Newsletter of the Council of the Haida Nation. December 2015. p.8
Peter Sanger. 2002. Spar: words in place. Gaspereau Press
Robert Maher. ernestblairexperiment blog. October 31, 2018. Place in words.

Posted in Article Review, Book Review

Somewhere/ Anywhere

This weekend, we spent Thanksgiving in New Glasgow. While there, I had the chance to browse a book by Tim Marshall, The Age of Walls.brexitWalls This is his third book in the Politics of Place series. It includes chapters on walls in China, the United States, Israel and Palestine, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Europe and the United Kingdom. Of particular interest was the chapter on the UK and its relationship to the Brexit vote. Looking at the map of voters who want to stay in the European Union and those who want to leave. Scotland, Northern Ireland, some of the cities in England want to stay whereas ‘rural’ England want to leave the EU.

bookCover_roadToSomewhereMarshall quotes from the book by David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere. According to Goodhart, there are ‘people who see the world from anywhere’ and ‘ people who see the world from somewhere’. It seems that it is that part of the population who see the world from somewhere who want to leave the EU.

Another Marshall quotation is taken from George Orwell’s essay The Lion and the Unicorn, written in the early ’40s.

“England is perhaps the only great country where the intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality”.

Given the absence of Conservative and Liberal candidates at our local climate change debate last week, it was fortuitous that the Saturday, Chronicle Herald had a full page on the candidates from West Nova: Chris d’Entremont (Conservative), Jason Deveau (Liberal), Matthew Dubois (NDP) and Judy Green (Green).

For West Nova, the ‘somewhere’ in this case, the bottom line expressed by the candidates.
Conservative: resource industries and rural jobs
Liberal: health care, international trade in lobster
NDP: climate change
Green: poverty

Note. Gloria Cook, Veterans Coalition did not provide a profile.

Let me try to ‘join the dots’. If in Marshall’s words, we are ‘prisoners of Geography’. What can we say about West Nova in terms of the impact of place? Do we agree with our federal candidates? In Nova Scotia rural communities what is the balance between somewhere and anywhere? Are we talking about nested scales of geographic viewpoint?


John Stewart for access to his library book The Age of Walls.John DeMont for his column ‘NDPer running without much hope’ in Chronicle Herald, Saturday, October 12th. p. A13. Edward for adding the graphics.


Tim Marshall. 2018. The Age of Walls: How barriers between nations are changing the world. Scribner.
Chronicle Herald. Saturday, October 12, 2019. page A13.

Posted in Article Review, Book Review

Two magazines and a book

One of the additional pleasures of visiting my father-in-law in New Glasgow is the opportunity to catch up on the current magazines. This time, it included Canadian Geographic and Saltscapes.

In the latest issue of Canadian Geographic, Michael Palin talks about his new book, Erebus.

” I already knew a lot about Canada, as it was a country beloved by British Geography masters, being friendly and coloured pink, and because all maps were on a Mercator’s projection, it looked absolutely colossal.” p.69.

This reminded me of my Geography teacher at Chiswick Grammar School in England. Howard (Hank) Williams would draw maps of the world on the blackboard with coloured chalk. Our task was to identify all the numbered cities and rivers on the map. It seemed that we had these tests every couple of weeks (1958-61).

saltscapesCover_AugSep2018In the latest issue of Saltscapes, two articles caught my attention. Jodi DeLong reviewed  Sandra Phinney’s book ‘Waking up in my own backyard. Explorations in Southwest Nova Scotia. Or as DeLong titled her article ‘ Celebrating our own spaces’

The second article was by Suzanne Robicheau describing an alternative approach to rural economic development, where a group of Annapolis Royal artists put their faith in a brick and mortar marketplace. She describes how “after reading the Ivany report, Jane Nicholson cashed a bond and invested in her community by establishing a private economic development firm called Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity (AIRO)”.

Both local, good news stories.

When we drive from the Annapolis Valley to New Glasgow, we often prefer to take the back roads, rather than the 100 series highways. This weekend, we detoured through River John to revisit Sheree Fitch at the Mabel Marple Bookstore. It has one of the best collections of Atlantic Canada books, aside from the wonderful collection of children’s books.

divisionsOfTheHeart_CoverThere, I discovered:
Divisions of the Heart: Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place. Edited by Sandra Barry, Gwendolyn Davies and Peter Sanger.  The book is a collection of twenty-five essays presented at a conference at Acadia University in 1998, as well as forty photographs relating to Bishop’s life.

One essay that caught my attention was by Brian Robinson. He is described  as ‘a Geographer interested in the relationship between Geography and Literature’ p.314

Robinson, in his essay, references a couple of other Geographers which took me back to my graduate residency at the University of Western Ontario (1969-1972).

David Harvey. Between Space and Time: reflections on the Geographical Imagination. AAAG (1990) p. 418-434. and

John Pickles. Phenomenology: Science and Geography, Spatiality and the Human Sciences. Cambridge University Press. 1985.

It is going to take me a while to read all twenty-five essays in the book plus conduct research into the relationship between Geography and Literature.

I wish to acknowledge the graphic contribution of Edward Wedler, and my travel companion, Heather Stewart.


Michael Palin. Life of Erebus. Canadian Geographic. p68-71. September/October 2018.

Jodi DeLong. Celebrating our own spaces.  Saltscapes. p.35 August/September 2018

Suzanne Robicheau. Reinventing the shopping mall. Saltscapes. p.92-94. August/September 2018.

Barry, Davies, Sanger (eds) 2001. Divisions of the Heart: Elizabeth Bishop and the Art of Memory and Place. Gaspereau Press.

Posted in Article Review, Event Review

Encouraging Signs

This week, I received a copy of the Forestry Report 2018 Municipality of Annapolis County. 11Jul18 8-07-16 AMIt was forwarded  to me by Gregory Heming, Chair, Forestry Advisory Committee. It is a summary of their initial research and makes a set of recommendations to council. The primary recommendation is to adopt the ‘Climate Forest’ paradigm.

‘It will lay out the ecological and economic case for curtailing all clear cutting on crown land within the county’.

‘It will summarize the current ecological diversity and overall health of all forested land in the county’.

Collaborators will include Annapolis County, Medway Community Forest Coop, Local Mill operators, DNR, private land owners, Mi’kmaq, Western Woodlot Services Coop, Forest industry.

11Jul18 8-11-57 AM


A second email, forwarded to me by John Wightman, is a notice of a Forestry Research Tour on July 13. This is a collaboration between the Medway Community Forestry Coop and DNR. Unfortunately, prior family commitments will not permit me to attend the event.


After reviewing the Municipal Forestry report, my response to Gregory Heming was that the Municipality of Annapolis County should ensure that they have current maps of ALL the landscape components. If the claim is ‘to make decisions on the best scientific evidence, then we need maps which are maintained to show changes in land use: forestry, agriculture,fisheries. This ‘geographic information’ should be available online to all citizens of Annapolis County. This would assist the County in its planning, and ensure accountability to the residents. Other candidate spatial layers would be hydrology, soils, geology, climate. This would support our efforts at sustainability in a changing climate e.g.late frosts, high Summer temperatures, changing storm tracks.

Our efforts should be regional in scope, from a holistic landscape perspective, deploying the expertise and technology readily available in the county (e.g. COGS and AGRG at NSCC Annapolis Valley campus).


Forestry Report 2018. Municipality of the County of Annapolis. Prepared by Annapolis County Forestry Advisory Committee.

Forestry Research Tour. July 13. at MTRI Kempt 6-8 pm. Collaboration between Medway Community Forest Coop and DNR.