Posted in Event Review, Nature

Down Memory Lane

Yesterday, we hosted the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society (EBLES) evening at the Temple in Bridgetown. Highlights included the NFB film by Chuck Lapp Inner Mountains, Inner Valleys starring RH Thompson. cover_InnerMountainsInnerValleysThis set the scene, giving us a biography of Buckler’s life. Later in the program, we listened to readings by Ken Maher, Anne Crossman and a play “A Glance in the Mirror‘, featuring Ken Maher, Gordon Keel and Gloria Saesura.

The Buckler theme was complemented by the works of other writers: John deMont, Whit Fraser ‘from away’ and local authors: Marilyn Jones_Bent, Dianne Hankinson LeGard and Bob Bent. After dinner, we enjoyed the music of Kim Doolittle and Caleb Miles. Altogether, a very full afternoon and evening.

bookCover_LastBestPlaceOne last story, related to the event. On Friday, Heather and I were in Windsor to pick up a couple of rain barrels. We stopped at the Readers’ Haven, a second-hand bookstore in town. I found a copy of John DeMont’s earlier book The Last Best Place (1998). In Part one: Dreams, Legends and the Meaning of Place.

On page 11 from Ernest Buckler:

There was a strange sound of stillness
about it all. As if pine needles and
dead leaves and the grey rocks
and the clean-smelling brook
with the pole bridge they
passed over were all singing
together a quiet song,
like the drowsy hum
of wires or of bees.

This morning, we decided to drive down memory lane. We took the Morse Road from Bridgetown to West Dalhousie. We wanted to see again the Buckler home which we had rented in 1980 from Bill O’Neill. Afterwards, we drove along the old gravel road to Perotte. We stopped at the graveyard by Gibson’s Lake and found the Ernest Buckler headstone. We noticed along the graveyard fence, scratchings in the sand, evidence of turtle nests.map_BridgetownToAnnaRoyal

As we drove to Perotte, we stopped several times to avoid large, adult snapping turtles. This, again, reminded us of last night, and Ernest Buckler.

Once in Annapolis Royal, we stopped at Lola’s for a traditional, full English breakfast. We then completed the loop and returned home on Highway #201.

For the more energetic, you might want to read Kent Thompson’s Getting Out of Town by book or bike. He describes the Buckler circuit as one of the best bicycle rides in the province. Along the way, he reflects on Buckler’s writing and life.

When you take the Morse Road, you may hear the fervent conversations about the loss of forest cover and its impact on the wildlife and birds. It is likely the Extinction Rebellion.


To my fellow EBLES Board members: Jane Borecky, Anne Crossman, John Montgomerie, Nancy Godfrey. To Heather Stewart on turtle watch for CARP. Edward Wedler for his contribution.


EBLES Reading Where We Live: A Celebration of Local Writing. June 29, 2019.
John DeMont. 1998. The Last Best Place: Lost in the Heart of Nova Scotia. Doubleday Canada.
Kent Thompson. 2001. Getting Out of Town by Book and Bike. Gaspereau Press.

Posted in Event Review

The Valley Brand

logo_VRENThursday morning at the Berwick Fire Hall, it was the Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the Valley Regional Enterprise Network (REN). The team presented the accomplishments for the 2018-19 year. The details, including the Annual Report and the Business Plan 2019-20, can be found by contacting staff through the web site.

As a member of the Board until late this Spring, I was interested to hear about future directions. Therefore, the item that attracted my attention was the hiring of Pierre Tabbiner to develop a ‘Valley’ brand to promote the region as a whole.

From a geographic perspective, the physiographic region extends from the Windsor gateway, following the Annapolis River to the Digby Gut, including historic Annapolis Royal. Middleton remains the ‘Heart of the Valley’.map_annapolisValley_satelliteView

From a municipal unit perspective, the Valley REN includes the Municipality of the County of Kings, Municipality of West Hants, the towns of Berwick, Kentville, Middleton, Windsor, Wolfville, and Glooscap First Nation.

From a literary perspective, e.g. Ernest Buckler ‘The Mountain and the Valley’ the emphasis is upon Bridgetown, Centerlea, West Dalhousie, Annapolis Royal. He talks in terms of different attitudes and values within the region.

Here are some of the questions that I would ask our Councillors in Annapolis County and Annapolis Royal. Given, they have decided not to join the Valley REN how do we ensure that the marketing of the region truly represents the diversity of interests in the Valley? And not only the Valley, but also North and South Mountain and the Bay of Fundy shore? Certainly, tourism does not stop at Middleton.

Current evidence suggests that a different value set exists as we move further west in the region. For example, the independent, activist mindset of citizens engaged in the maintenance of our forest landscape. For example, the Municipality support for land use planning at the local level. The emphasis upon the history of the landscape centred on Annapolis Royal. Is agricultural land use different in Kings County from Annapolis County? What about the Valley REN emphasis upon manufacturing?

My hope is that there is a rich conversation from across the region, and all interests are heard about the ‘Valley’ brand. This may ultimately result in a more inclusive, representative Valley REN. The ball is firmly in the court of our municipal councillors.
The same argument can be made with regards to the status of high-speed Internet services in the region. Or Valley Waste management. Or CleanTech.

paradiseCornerCafeJust stopped for lunch at the Paradise Corner Cafe, chowder and homemade meat pie. Their byline is:
‘Paradise a Place of Community. A Place to Relax, Past and Present’.
Highly recommend.

Saturday, we drove to Great Village to attend the AGM of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia (EBSNS). The agenda included poetry readings by Margo Wheaton and Harry Thurston. Rita Wilson spoke about her children’s book: A Pocket of Time: Elizabeth Bishop’s Poetic Childhood, to be published this Fall.

I noted two lessons for the Ernest Buckler Society (EBLES). As part of the centenary celebration,EBSNS held a writing competition, the contributions were published as Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop (edited by Sandra Barry and Laurie Gunn). EBSNS celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary this year. The second lesson is that a number of the speakers had been Artist in Residence at the Elizabeth Bishop house in Great Village. Perhaps something similar could happen in Centrelea or West Dalhousie.

Final comment.

The quality of the communication materials from the Valley REN is excellent. It is attractive, well-written, and easy to digest. If we could extend these services to meet the needs of all citizens in the Valley region, we would have something of high value and world class.

The existence of both the EBSNS and EBLES shows an intimate appreciation and sense of place. I anticipate that there are other EB’s waiting to be discovered.


To the Valley REN team for their contribution to the AGM. Thanks to Sandra Barry, Secretary of the EBSNS for hosting their AGM. To Edward Wedler for his graphics.To Heather Stewart for sharing the driving.

Posted in Event Review, Opinion

The Pastoral Economy

Last weekend, we went to New Glasgow for Fathers Day.banner_johnnyMilesRunningEvent Besides the celebration, we checked out the chimney swifts at the old school (we estimated over two hundred). Heather participated in the Johnny Miles Running Event (it was started in 1975).

En route to New Glasgow, we connected with Edward in Bedford. We wanted to discuss the involvement of Nova Scotia Plein Air in public events. He had been working with the Halifax Northwest Trails Association. Heather had been working with Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) What are the logistics for engaging artists in the larger landscape?

As part of the information exchange, Edward gave me a copy of a book by Art White. It is a collection of short stories about living in the Valley, around Clementsport.


Returning home, I revisited Ernest Buckler’s “Ox Bells and Fireflies”. In the Introduction, Alan Young has the following description.

” ‘The Mountain and the Valley’, ‘The Cruelest Month’ and ‘Ox Bells and Fireflies’ are indeed ‘regional’ in their conscious attempt to portray the life and character of a recognizable locale within a specific historical and social framework, at the same time all three belong to the much wider literary context known as ‘pastoral’ and partake of a mythology that transcends the bounds of what is merely national or regional.”

This set me thinking about a short story competition. There is a precedent in ‘Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop’, edited by Sandra Bishop and Laurie Gunn.

I came up with two quick candidate titles.TickBobolinks

“Deer Ticks and Bobolinks”

This would describe the impact of changes in climate and agriculture on the Annapolis Valley.

“High Tech Haven”

This would be based on the location of a new secondary school in the Annapolis Valley, equipped with the latest technology (e.g a combination of Gordonstoun Nova Scotia and an expanded COGS.

Meanwhile, as a result of citizen pressure, there has been an adjustment in the forest cutting above Bridgetown, with respect to nesting migrant bird species.

If we are to invent a ‘new rural society’, it will be imperative to monitor changes in the climate, the landscape and the economic practices. This could be achieved by a ‘community information utility’, managed at the municipal level.

elizabethBishopAndHouseNext weekend, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia (EBSNS) is hosting their AGM in Great Village, on Saturday June 22nd. Guest speaker is Harry Thurston, poet and naturalist, living in Tidnish. Check out his book from Gaspereau Press, “Keeping Watch at the End of the World“.


Edward Wedler for his artwork and sharing his experiences. Sandra Barry for her connection to EBSNS. Extinction Rebellion for their citizen engagement with the Department of Forestry.


Art White, 1994. From Away, Here to Stay. Stories from the Valley. Pen Pal Publishing.
Ernest Buckler, 1968. Ox Bells and Fireflies. McClelland and Stewart. Introduction by Alan Young. 1974.
Sandra Barry and Laurie Gunn (ed), 2013. Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop. Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition. Published by EBSNS.
Harry Thurston.2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.

Posted in Event Review

The Green Interview: Margaret Atwood

This blog follows closely on the heels of the previous one on ‘Writing v. Reporting’. It could be considered a postscript.

logo_theGreenInterviewAnne Crossman sent me the link to a ‘green interview’ by Silver Donald Cameron with the author, Margaret Atwood. Cameron has just been appointed to the Farley Mowat Chair of the Environment at Cape Breton University (CBU). Graham Gibson (Atwood’s partner) received an Honorary Doctorate at CBU for his contribution to literature and environmental activism. Cameron has conducted over one hundred ‘green interviews’ since 2009.

Atwood considers herself a writer of ‘speculative fiction’, in the tradition of Jules Verne and George Orwell. Her interview with Cameron was framed in the context of ‘celebrating literature and the environment’. She is a knowledgeable writer on the state of the environment and climate change. Interview topics included Project Drawdown, plastics in the ocean, sea level rise, the extinction revolution and planting trees. In her words, if we are seeking hope, we must begin at the micro-level.

logo_futureLibraryOne of Atwood’s action has been to contribute to the ‘Future Library of Norway‘, a concept developed by Katie Patterson. She submitted a manuscript which will not be read for one hundred years.

This link ties in well with today’s Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. It includes the illustrated story of Wangari Maathai ‘ Planting Trees as Resistance and Empowerment’.


CBU green interview.
Future Library of Norway
Brain Pickings June 9th.

To Anne Crossman for joining the dots between Silver Donald Cameron and Margaret Atwood. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.

Posted in Event Review

SwiftWatch and AIRO’s birthday

This week, Heather has been participating in Maritimes SwiftWatch.logo_martimesSwiftWatch

MTRI (Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute) and CARP (Clean Annapolis River project Society) are monitoring the roosting behaviour of chimney swifts at the new chimney at the old Bridgetown High School site. Every evening at dusk the chimney swifts circle and then dive into the chimney to roost for the night. On a clear Summer evening, this natural phenomenon attracts considerable interest from the residents of Bridgetown. It could be considered a tourist attraction. It is certainly an example of citizen science.

logo_localLogicAIROTo catch up with the activities at AIRO (Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity), I arranged to meet with Jane Nicholson. I had not realized that it was their third birthday. In their latest newsletter, they describe the types of businesses that they have supported, in line with their 2017 report: Local Logic: how to get there from here. Examples include restaurants, brewery, marina, trades, experiential tourism, retail and many others. There is considerable interest in the AIRO model from other jurisdictions. Jane was also kind enough to loan me a new book by Michael von Hausen,  Small is Big: making the next great small to mid-size downtowns.

logo_writersAndCompanyOn CBC Writers and Company, Annie Proulx was Eleanor Wachtel’s guest. Proulx is best known for her books, The Shipping News and Barkskins. In the interview, she talks about ‘geographic determinism”.

‘I think that where you live dictates who you are, what you do, who you marry, your work, what you eat, how you die, what happens to you afterwards. It’s all place.’

bookCover_biography1984Another item that crossed my desk was from May 24, 2019, The Guardian Weekly. It includes an extract from The Ministry of Truth: a biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey. The following two quotations caught my attention.

‘Orwell felt that he lived in cursed times. He fantasized about another life in which he could spend his days gardening and writing fiction instead of being ‘forced into becoming a pamphleteer’.

‘Central to his honesty was his commitment to constantly working out what he thought and why he thought it and never ceasing to reassess these opinions. To quote Christopher Hitchens, one of Orwell’s most eloquent admirers ‘It matters not what you think, but how you think’.


To Heather Stewart for sharing her swift monitoring duties. To Jane Nicholson for sharing the AIRO story. To Edward Wedler for the graphics.


Bird Studies Canada. Maritimes SwiftWatch. Check web site

AIRO Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunities

Michael A. von Hausen. 2018. Small is Big. Making the next great Small to Mid-Size Downtowns. VIU Press.

CBC Writers and Company. From The Shipping News to BrokeBack Mountain, Annie Proulx on the importance of place in her fiction.

The Guardian Weekly. 24 May 2019. The Clock struck 13. p54-57. Extract from The Ministry of Truth: a Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. by Dorian Lynskey


Chronicle Herald. June 1, 2019 Page D2. Don Mills. ‘Regional hubs could cure rural malaise’. An alternative view on rural communities in Nova Scotia.

Posted in Event Review, New thinking

COGS celebration and reflections

Last Friday, I attended the 17th Annual COGS Student Success celebration at the Lawrencetown Fire Hall. Approximately fifty awards were handed out to students in the Geographic Sciences. COGSawardsThis included GIS, Remote Sensing, Marine Geomatics, Survey Technology and Technician, Community Planning and Information Technology. Today, the student population is around one hundred and fifty.  In my day (1980-88), we had similar student numbers, divided into three departments: Surveying, Computer Programming, and Cartography/Planning. It will be interesting to speculate on the numbers and disciplinary interests over the next thirty years.

Konrad Dramowicz and Kathleen Stewart, both announced their retirement from the NSCC. We wish them well in the third age.

bookCover_ArtisticApproachesToCulturalMappingA couple of conversations caught my attention. The first was a chat about the conversion of a LiDAR-derived topographic landscape into a hooked rug. This resonated with a new book that I had signed out from the COGS library. Artistic Approaches to Cultural Mapping: activating imaginaries and means of knowing. The second conversation, with Ed Symons, related to my experience at the walk-in clinic in Berwick, looking for a doctor. There, I had picked up a brochure describing the process for 811 registration. Here was my question: why not allow communities to actively engage in the doctor shortage issue. Can we not map citizens who do not have a family doctor from the registry?  Can we not map the communities where doctors are retiring? This would allow individual communities, without government oversight and control, to be more proactive.

logo_WWSCYesterday, Heather and I joined a group of about thirty woodlot owners for a field trip organized by the Western Woodlot Services Cooperative (WWSC) to North Range, Digby County. It started at the Forest Products Mill outside of Barton. Our host was Harold Alexander who has been managing woodlots in the area for over forty years. It was a joy to spend the time in the woods with a knowledgeable person and to appreciate the complexity of the decision process behind woodlot management and to understand the potential for a better alternative through citizen collaboration.

bookCover_UnderlandThis week, I received emails, from my brother and Frank Fox, about the new book by Robert MacFarlane, Underland. On BBC Radio 4 at 9:45 am, each day there was a short podcast from a different chapter. The book looks at landscape features below the ground, especially caves, mines, sewer systems throughout Europe. It reminded me of two occasions in my own life. While at the University of Birmingham, we hitch-hiked to the west coast of Ireland to go caving near Lisdoonvarna and the Burren. A few years later (1970) I joined Derek Ford, Michael Goodchild and others to explore Castleguard Cave in the Canadian Rockies, beneath the Columbia Icefields. Both are a classic example of physical geography in action.

One final reflection. Again beginning with a conversation with Ed Symons,  he gave me the latest issue of Municipal World (May 2019). It includes an article New Uses for Historic Places of Faith. Up near Wolfville, they have converted a church into a local craft brewery. Yesterday I noticed at Plympton, they are deconstructing the church. Only the frame remains standing. What an interesting commentary on society.


Ed Symons for the conversations, before and during at the COGS Award Ceremony. Harold Alexander for his in-depth knowledge of the woods in Southwest Nova Scotia. Peter Maher and Frank Fox for forwarding the reviews of Robert McFarlane’s new book. Edward Wedler for his artistic contribution.


Nancy Duxbury, WF Garrett-Petts and A. Longley. (ed). 2019. Artistic Approaches to Cultural Mapping: activating imaginaries and means of knowing. Routledge Publishing.

Robert MacFarlane. 2019 Underland: a deep time journey. Hamish Hamilton Publishing.


In the Duxbury book, two items caught my eye. There is a reference to Tom van Sant’s  map The Earth – From Space: a Satellite View of the World. Here, right next to my computer, I have a signed copy of this image dated 12-13-90 from my days with Esri, Redlands and meeting Tom at his studio.

The second item is a reference to the work of radical geographer, William Bunge: 1968. Where Detroit’s run over Black Children on the Pointes-Downtown Track map. Bill spent time in the Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.


Posted in Event Review, Opinion

COGS awards night 2019


I have been invited to hand out four awards on Friday, May 3rd at the Lawrencetown Fire Hall to graduates of COGS. They are two CANMAP awards, and two  Roger F. Tomlinson awards for excellence in GIS; one associated with Esri Redlands and the other with CANMAP. Given this unique opportunity, I thought that I would write a blog to share some of the history behind these relationships. If you are interested in more details, go to the web site

We have to go back to 1980.  At that time, COGS was called the Nova Scotia Land Survey Institute (NSLSI). It was one of only a handful of technical institutes training surveyors in Canada. I arrived, with my young family, to establish a new program in Scientific Computer Programming (SCP) with Bruce Peveril. We purchased a Prime mini-computer. During the 1980’s we designed and delivered new programs in Business Computer Programming, Computer Graphics, GIS, and Remote Sensing. After eight years of contract employment, I was exhausted and we headed for Indonesia and later California.

With access to new digital technology, we were looking for application software. From my previous academic career at Memorial University, I was familiar with the mapping software from the Harvard Lab of Computer Graphics. I was also aware that Scott Morehouse had left Harvard to join Jack Dangermond in California at Esri. By chance, the Esri software Arc/Info and Grid ran on Prime computers.

John Wightman was Vice-Principal at NSLSI. John had previously been a Cartography instructor at NSLSI. John and Jim Doig (Principal) recognized the value of this new technology. He formed CANMAP (Centre for Advanced Numerical Mapping Applications) to apply the new technologies to government and industry projects in Nova Scotia. This was really the predecessor to the Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) and the only mechanism to conduct applied research outside of the teaching environment. CANMAP made a profit. The CANMAP awards come from those funds.

In 1986, NSLSI changed its name to the College of Geographic Sciences (COGS) to better reflect the wider range of technologies in Lawrencetown. At that time, besides our industry relationship with Esri and Esri Canada, we had similar relationships with Geobase (Strings), TYDAC (Spans), Dipix and PCI.

When John instigated the name change, he consulted with his friend, and mentor, from Acadia University days, Roger Tomlinson. Roger taught Physical Geography at Acadia and John was his teaching assistant. Roger was running a Consulting Geographers business in Ottawa, called Tomlinson Associates.

Besides Roger’s fundamental role in the Canadian Geographic Information System (CGIS), he advised governments and industry on the implementation of GIS. Associates of Tomlinson included Ray Boyle (inventor of the digitizing table), Michael Goodchild (champion of Geographic Information Science) and myself (instructor at COGS). I worked with Roger on a number of GIS systems implementation for the New Brunswick government, the Nova Scotia government and the City of Ottawa.

In the 1980s diploma programs were three sixteen week semesters. The third semester was dedicated to a cooperative project with government or industry. When Alex Miller left MMM and formed Esri Canada he recruited from the SCP program: David Roscoe, John Houwelling and Eric Melanson. Almost all new Esri Canada installations hired COGS graduates to run their systems. David MacLean started his career with Alan Brackley at JD Irving in New Brunswick. We also started to send our graduates down to Redlands, California.

There is still a connection today. Current instructors: David MacLean, David Colville, Jim Verran all followed this pathway from the SCP program. Other graduates include Tim Webster, Kathleen Stewart, Joy Brown and Konrad Dramowicz. Many graduates find their first job with Esri or an Esri Canada customer.


Eventually, COGS became part of the NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) system. It was renamed the Centre of Geographic Sciences.

Today and beyond.

This year, the NSCC has announced a new $9M expansion of the Lawrencetown campus. How will that impact the curriculum, the instructors, the relationship between industry/government and community? Will we see a new relationship with the elders? There are over a dozen ex-COGS instructors living within a one hour drive of the campus. Will we follow Albert Marshall, Mi’kmaq concept and adopt ‘two-eyed seeing’? Will we see the residences used for international students? In the 1980’s we modelled ourselves on the ITC in the Netherlands. We worked with the Environmental Management Development Indonesia (EMDI) program at Dalhousie University. Today, we have a joint Masters degree in Applied Geomatics with Acadia University. There is a program at BIOTROP in Indonesia following the original COGS curriculum. What is their status today? Valerie Thomas and Stephen Rawlinson, both COGS graduates, went there as instructors for a year, to help with the technology transfer.

Will we continue to recruit both local instructors and instructors from the global market? What is the difference between research at AGRG, and research at COGS? What is the new equivalent company to Esri today? Is there a new Roger Tomlinson? Could it be Jon Murphy who is organizing the GeoIgnite conference in Ottawa next month? Jon is a COGS graduate.


Thanks to John Wightman and David MacLean for suggesting my name to present these four awards. I look forward to meeting the next generation of Geographic Scientists. I hope you enjoy this snapshot of history. Ted MacKinnon curates the site on my behalf. Edward Wedler, another ex-COGS instructor brings both his Remote Sensing teaching expertise and graphics skills to this blog. In memory of Pat Castel and Bill Power, both SCP instructors at COGS.




Posted in Event Review

Memory and Place

On Tuesday, I went to hear Wayne Johnston at the Unikkaarvik Visitors Centre in Iqaluit. The Centre also houses the Library. In preparation, I had signed out The Navigator of New York. I was surprised to learn that there are two Wayne Johnstons; same name, same birthdate.bookCover_navigatorOfNewYork

Last night it was Wayne Johnston, performing artist and librarian who showed up. His literary performance was entitled Ten Cities: the past is presentHe selected ten cities where he had lived. He was returning to each city, seeking to understand the effect of memory on place. It was twenty years since he was last in Iqaluit. While in town,  he planned to visit ten different locations that he recalled from the past.

Wayne organized his presentation in alphabetic order, from  A to Z, Accra to Zagreb. In between, we visited Geneva, Kathmandu, London, New York, Ottawa, Toronto. Each city and individual locations triggered recollections, new observations, writing and painting. These memories were organized by place. They included a collage of events that happened over a life span.

After the presentation, I inquired about access to his collection of memories. In time, the memoir will be available in both book form and online.Ten Cities

This format raised a number of interesting questions about how you organize your thoughts in space/time. It reminded me of the work of my brother who had developed a series of videos about his life; in his case, organized chronologically. To organize events by place leads to thoughts about maps and geography. Often, when discussing ideas, I am led to putting things into context: Where were we living there? and when?

Wayne started his presentation with a quotation from Dylan Trigg from The Memory of Place.bookCover_memoryOfPlace

My sense of place for Iqaluit reflects a number of visits over almost eight years. Each time, there is the opportunity to observe the community, changes in a growing family, and changes in myself (with age).

The alphabetic organization, A-Z, perhaps reflects the influence of Wayne’s career as a librarian. The painting and the writing showed us the performance artist.

My final thought relates to identity. Unless you are there, at the same time and place, you will not know who shows up. Or you can be there, at the same time and place, and still, you do not show up.


Wayne Johnston for his presence in Iqaluit. Jane Borecky who asked me to forward a note to Wayne Johnston.

Dylan Trigg. The Memory of Place
Wayne Johnston. The Navigator of New York
Wayne Johnston. Ten Cities: the past is present. Presentation on April 16, 2019.
Peter Maher. The DAD videos. produced by Jason Maher.







Posted in Book Review, Event Review

Profit of the Wilderness



The Inside Story in Greenwood (previously owned by Edward and Anne Wedler) maintains a good collection of books by local authors. I picked up Allison Mitcham’s Prophet of the Wilderness . It is a biography of Abraham Gesner (1797-1864). Gesner is perhaps best known for the invention of a new fuel ‘kerosene’. He also wrote the first treatise on the geology and mineralogy of Nova Scotia. From Mitcham’s title, Gesner was a prophet about the future of the wilderness, in this case, Nova Scotia. Although he also conducted significant field research in New Brunswick. My blog title is a wordplay on how we can profit from this landscape.

On Friday, I arranged for a meeting with Celes Davar (Earth Rhythms) and Ed Symons (Community Mapping at COGS). The broad topic was experiential tourism and the different methods for telling our stories. What is the role that maps and mapping can play?

This sent me off in a slightly different direction. I am less interested in telling stories that can be consumed by the visitor, but rather the stories which we share between residents of this landscape.

For example, I have been checking the writing and life of David Manners. Yesterday, I received a note from the library that soon I will be able to read his second book, Under Running Laughter.

poster_dracula1931Last night at the Centrelea Cinema, there was a showing of Dracula (1931), featuring the actors Bela Lugosi and David Manners. It was wonderful to be in a community hall, being served popcorn, and able to watch an actor who had spent time, here in the community in the ’20s.

But the real story is as follows. Not only had a small group of citizens arranged the film series, with Dracula as the kick-off event, but they had arranged for the technology and the movies to be available. AND, before the main feature, there was a screen welcome to the Centrelea Cinema and a short cartoon. How does that happen? How do those skills reside in Centrelea? What other skills reside in this empty space or ‘wilderness’ called ‘rural Nova Scotia’?


To Ed Symons and Celes Davar for a fruitful conversation. Please check earthrhythms and codsounds web sites. To Anne Crossman and Nancy Godfrey for the movie night in Centrelea. Edward Wedler for editorial and graphics skills.


From Henry Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

‘In my short experience of human life, the outward obstacles, if there were any such, have not been living men, but the institutions of the dead. It is grateful to make one’s way through this latest generation as through dewy grass. Men are as innocent as the morning to the unsuspicious… I love mankind, but hate the institutions of the dead un-kind’.

See Brain Pickings February 24,2019 for the larger context.


Allison Mitcham. 2018. Prophet of the Wilderness. Nimbus Press.

Brain Pickings. February 24,2019

Posted in Event Review

A Blast from the Past

This was a tumultuous week. First, I persuaded COGS to allow me to attend their two-day conference on Sensors in return for writing a review on the GoGeomatics web site (see link under GoGeomatics). My thoughts on the COGS conference are available on the online GoGeomatics blog. Second, I attended a one-day MashUp in Annapolis Royal looking at the potential for new businesses in the region. Between these two events, I received the photograph below from David Hildebrand of the first GIS class at NSLSI (now COGS) (1985-86).scan-130919-0016_600w90dpi

As a backdrop, I finished reading George Orwell Illustrated, before moving on to David Manners Convenient Season and Kate Raworth Doughnut Economics. At the end of the week, I picked up David Adams Richards novel Principles to Live By at the new Annapolis Royal library.

Here, I will focus on the MashUp event and its relationship to reading. In 2014, Heather, Edward and I walked the Road to Georgetown. At that conference on rural economic development in Atlantic Canada, we met Andrew Button, who lives on the South Shore. Today Andrew organizes and hosts MashUp events. The one, yesterday, in Annapolis Royal was his fourteenth. The concept is to bring together members of the community with ideas for new businesses in the region and to help them articulate their business plan, through coaching, criticism and feedback. At 8 am there were twenty-five citizens at the Annapolis Royal library.

My interest was not necessarily to create a business, but rather to understand how to create a climate where businesses can thrive. Here, I am not going to delve into the details or describe the results. Indeed, once we get into the business economics, my eyes glaze over, and I have little to offer.

This was the process. Everyone selects two words that resonate with their interests. From each table, one person takes three words from the word pool that will be used to drive their thinking. This translates into a collection of potential business ideas. We then go through the usual dot voting process that leads to one business idea per table (seven tables).

Here was my path. My two words were ‘gardening’ and ‘place’. Gardening because I believe that our relationship towards the landscape should be more akin to gardening. Place because, as a Geographer, I think that ‘place’ drives many decisions and ideas.

My issue (or concern) was ‘how can we better connect the creativity which exists in the community with our post-secondary education environment ?’ Not exactly a revenue-generating idea in the short term.

Subsequently, I joined a group of individuals who were interested in the role of writers in rural Nova Scotia (no surprise there). It included Brenda Thompson who had recently published ‘Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses of Nova Scotia’ (see her web site

By 2 pm, I was drained. It was hard for me to focus on the economics of a regional publishing house for rural stories. I will have to check with Andrew to find out the result of the different business plans.

bookcover_georgeorwellillustratedBack home, in my own comfort zone,  I can heartily recommend George Orwell Illustrated. It is very accessible, with cartoons by Mike Mosher. It has two parts: Orwell for Beginners and Planet Orwell. In the second part, there is a human rights manifesto, co-authored by Orwell,  with Bertrand Russell and Arthur Koestler. This returned me to my sixties reading on ‘Beyond Reductionism’, including contributions from Koestler, van Bertalanffy and CH Waddington. Other familiar Koestler titles were The Act of Creation and The Ghost in the Machine.

bookcover_mannersDavid Manners book:

He writes about Centrelea and Bridgetown. Published in 1941. Manners was a Hollywood actor who had an Aunt living in the Annapolis Valley. This was his first novel.  (BTW, I am only on page 68).

Kate Raworth book

Celes Davar sent me a link to her YouTube video. I subsequently received the book through interlibrary loan. I found the video much more accessible than the book.

bookcover_principleslivebyDavid Adams Richards book

Through Sandra Barry, I heard that DAR thought highly of the writing of Ernest Buckler. Since I was at the Annapolis Royal library for the MashUp event, perhaps I could find one of his novels.


Manners describes life in the Annapolis Valley, before the Second World War. Hildebrand is illustrating life at NSLSI in the 1980s. Today, we are holding MashUps which may impact life in the 2020s. Three very different snapshots of rural life. And yet, they could be covered in a single lifetime today (80-100 years).

We can envisage the economics of Kate Raworth and we can reflect on the economics underpinning Brenda Thompson’s book (and the poor houses). This can be placed in the context of the newly discovered human rights manifesto co-authored by Orwell.


Anne Crossman tells me that the movie, Dracula 1931, starring Bela Lugosi and David Manners, is showing at the Centrelea Community Centre on February 23rd at 7 pm.


Thanks to David Hildebrand for the photograph. To Tim Webster and Michael Purcell for the conference opportunity. To Andrew Button for the MashUp event. Technical help from Edward Wedler, Ted McKinnon and Jon Murphy. Anne Crossman, Sandra Barry and Celes Davar for local intelligence.


David Smith. 2018. George Orwell Illustrated. Haymarket Books.

David J. Manners. 1941. Convenient Season. EP Dutton.

Kate Raworth. 2017. Doughnut Economics. Chelsea Green Publishing.

David Adams Richards. 2016. Principles to Live By. Doubleday Canada.

Brenda Thompson. 2018. A Wholesome Horror: Poor Houses of Nova Scotia.  SSP Publications.