Posted in Book Review, Opinion

Two landscapes

bookCover_worldendingFireIn his essay ‘Two Minds’, Wendell Berry talks in terms of the Rational Mind and the Sympathetic Mind.

“We humans necessarily make pictures in our minds of our places and our world….. we live in two landscapes, one superimposed upon the other” p.177

“First there is the cultural landscape made up of our knowledge of where we are, of landmarks and memories, of patterns of use and travel.”

“And then there is the actual landscape, which we can never fully know, which is always going to be to some degree a mystery, from time to time surprising us.”
“These two landscapes are necessarily and irremediably different from each other.”

“If the cultural landscape becomes too different from the actual landscape, then we will make practical errors that will be destructive of the actual landscape or of ourselves or both” p178.

“And so conservationists have not done enough when they conserve wilderness or biological diversity. They also must conserve the possibilities of peace and good work, and to do that they must help to make a good economy.”p200.

Elsewhere, in the essay ‘In Defense of Literacy’.

“I am saying, then, that literacy – the mastery of language and the knowledge of books – is not an ornament, but a necessity. It is impractical only by the standards of quick profit and easy power” p295.

And so, I am facing two landscapes: the landscape of rural Nova Scotia and the landscape of suburban Greater Vancouver.
The landscape of rural Nova Scotia I can find described in the writing of Ernest Buckler or the recent column by John DeMont in the Chronicle Herald. Perhaps in the weeks ahead, I will find equivalent descriptions in British Columbia.

In the meantime, I shall enjoy the other essays in ‘The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry’.


To Anne Crossman for the Buckler and DeMont links. To John Rostron for early insights into BC living. To Edward Wedler for his graphics.

Wendell Berry. 2017. The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry. Selected and with Introduction by Paul Kingsnorth. Counterpoint Press.
John DeMont. Chronicle Herald July 16,2019. Most of Nova Scotia is Empty, Thank Goodness for That.
Ernest Buckler. Maclean’s. June 1,1949. Last Stop before Paradise.

Postscript ‘Praise for Wendell Berry’
“He writes at least as well as George Orwell and has an urgent message for modern industrial capitalism…..Nobody can risk ignoring him”. Andrew Marr, New Statesman.

This is chalkboard on the stairs in my daughter’s house.

Posted in biographical sketch

Heading West

Last week, it was the Esri User Conference in San Diego. For those of us unable to attend, it was possible to watch videos of the plenary session. Of particular interest, was the conversation between Jack Dangermond and Jane Goodall and EO Wilson. The emphasis was on citizen science and biodiversity. The same message could be found in the collaboration between Esri and National Geographic.

bookCover_LastBestPlaceBefore heading to Langley, BC via Calgary and Vancouver airport, there was time for some retrospective homework. On the plane, I had the time to read John DeMont The Last Best Place. John was a speaker at the EBLES event. The book provided a ‘Farewell to Nova Scotia’ experience.

Stepping out into the Vancouver traffic, I reminded myself of the need for street address systems. For example, in Langley, where is the intersection of 211 Street and 92 Avenue? Our minds have to adjust, from reading the landscape to an abstract coordinate system.

At Vancouver airport, out of the blue, I was contacted by John Rostron. It was about twenty years ago, when I was working at Royal Roads University, that John contacted me about establishing a new program at BIOTROP in Indonesia.logo_biotrop This resulted in a link between COGS and BIOTROP. We designed a program linking Information Technology to Resource Management. Canadian graduates were hired to effect the technology transfer of GIS and other software. I look forward to receiving an update, after two decades. Will the programs mirror the conversations on citizen science described at the Esri User Conference?


Brent Hall for the Esri video links. John Rostron for making the BIOTROP connection. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution. Nic and Laurel for their hospitality in Langley.


Esri User Conference 2019. Plenary videos
BIOTROP web site.
John DeMont. 1998. The Last Best Place: Lost in the Heart of Nova Scotia. Doubleday Canada

Posted in New thinking

The Maine Line

banner_fourSeasonsfarmMaineThis week, between Canada Day and Independence Day, we went down to Brooksville, Maine to visit Andrew, Julia and family at Julia’s Mothers house. Besides the kayaking, sailing and beach access we discovered a part of ‘the back to the land’ history.

The first revelation was Eliot Coleman and Four Seasons Farm. Coleman is an American Organic Farmer elder. He has published several definitive books on the topic. After we toured his farm, talked to the next generation apprentices, we had a second revelation. Just a few miles down the road was The Good Life Center, established by Scott and Helen Nearing. Coleman was a friend and student of the Nearings.map_goodLifeCenterMaine

At The Good Life Center, we walked the Fairy Trail; we peeked into the Meditation Yurts, built by William Coperthwaite.

That evening, we went to supper in Stonington. Afterwards, attended a juggling performance by Shane Miclon at Opera House.

What a splendid day!

pic_bobHeatherMaine_1For those interested, check out the following web site or Google Eliot Coleman. On the web site, there are several videos of talks at The Good Life Centre. Or you can pull down one of the books off the shelf.

” Life is enriched by aspiration and effort, rather than by acquisition and accumulation” Poverty and Riches. S. Nearing. 1916.

pic_bobHeatherMaine_2To get there is very simple. Take the Digby-St John ferry, drive to the Canada/US border at St Stephen/Calais. Take the Airliner, Route #9 towards Bangor. About two thirds along head south on #179 to Brooksville. Specifically, both The Good Life Centre and Four Season Farm are at Harborside.

It is only a four-hour drive from the ferry to Brooksville.

Another observation. Notice the quality of the forest cover in Maine and compare it with the devastation that has been allowed in Nova Scotia.

Safe driving or happy reading, especially for those Nova Scotians who left the United States but brought with them the ‘back to the land’ ethic of the Nearings and Coleman.


Thanks to Janis for her generous hospitality. To Andrew and Julia for encouraging us to make the drive. Quinn and Isla Rose, such good company. To Heather for her appreciation of the ‘good life’. Edward for his graphics contribution. This blog is for Paul and Ruth Colville.


The Good Life Centre.
The Yurt Foundation. William Coperthwaite, Machiasport, ME 04655
Eliot Coleman. The Four Season Farm.

” It is opportunity that is rare. Not ability. The idea of equal opportunity is one of the most brilliant dreams that ever came into human consciousness.”
Poverty and Riches. S. Nearing .1916.

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 Creative writing

See you in the movies

This week, we binge-watched Season 2 of Trapped.logo_NETFLIX It is a dark, detective story, set and filmed in Iceland. Part of the attraction was landscape photography. This somewhat coincided with another Netflix offering Leave No Trace, a film set in the Pacific Coast rainforests of Oregon. Again, a unique landscape backdrop.

So here is the question: if you wanted to promote Nova Scotia, what type of movie might you make to depict the landscape, lifestyle and values of this province?

bookCover_casualVacancyOne idea came from a quick read of the first few chapters of the novel, “The Casual Vacancy” by JK Rowling. It is set in the small town of Pagford in England and describes the unfolding of events after the sudden death of one of the Town Councillors. Along the way, it unmasks the various values within society.

Other titles that come to mind, that could fit our geography: “The Constant Gardener” or “The Inconvenient Truth”.

Or we could talk about real events. For example, the Gordonstoun project and its Royal connection. Certainly, Annapolis Royal has a rich history that could provide a Pagford backdrop. We certainly have a large number of ‘constant gardeners’ and we are all fearful of the ‘inconvenient truth’.

Meanwhile, this Saturday, Centrelea Community Hall is the venue for ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. The film was first released fifty years ago in 1969.

See you at the movies …

David Manners set a precedent, starting from Centrelea.

P.S. Whatever did happen to the Nova Scotia Film fund?
Should we undertake this project, before the forests have been completely ravaged?

(see Annapolis Spectator, June 12.2019. Turned down – Forestry minister Rankin rejects Annapolis County bid to preserve the older-growth forest.)


To Frank Fox for the suggestion to watch Trapped. To Heather Stewart who purchased The Casual Vacancy at the Thrift Store in Lawrencetown for seventy-five cents. To Nancy Godfrey for Saturday Night at the movies in Centrelea. Edward Wedler for his graphics talent, his artistic eye, and a link to his blog post, “What do the films “Outlander”, “Titanic” and “Dev-Con 4″ have in common?”


JK Rowling. 2012. The Casual Vacancy. Little Brown and Co.
Check online for the economic value of Rowling’s books.

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 Opinion

Writing v. Reporting

bookCover_LastTimeISawAliceIn preparation for the EBLES event on June 29th, we have been assembling a representative list of local books. This includes the work of Bob Bent, Marilyn Jones-Bent and Dianne Legard who are part of the Panel Discussion. It is truly remarkable the number of writers living in this part of Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, we are connecting with our invited guests: Whit Fraser and John DeMont.

One question that has been troubling me is the distinction between ‘writing and reporting’. Both Fraser and DeMont have had careers as reporters before their book writing.

I have noticed that in these days of social media, changes in the content and quality of our newspapers: the Chronicle Herald and the Annapolis Spectator.
For example, I was surprised to see a notice from the Municipality of Annapolis County on the status of high-speed Internet service in The Reader. I would have expected a critical review in the Annapolis Spectator (perhaps I missed it).

This leads to another question.tablet_reader With the increased use of social media, how is that impacting the quality of the reporting in the traditional media? At what point, do we stop purchasing the newspaper? If all your information arrives electronically, then you are subjected to a barrage of advertisements and other material that matches your ‘electronic profile’.

Of course, books are not resistant to technological change. We can now avail ourselves of electronic books or audio-books.

On a more positive note, in response to one of my blogs, I did receive the following link from Gregory Heming: An ode to the countryside in response to Don Mills’ neoliberal mantra

Last week, too,  I received this photograph from my brother.picFromPeterMaherToBob It is from another place and another time. We both grew up at 39 Hazel Close, Whitton (a suburb of London, UK). The photograph shows the damage caused by a flying bomb that hit #51 in the Second World War, shortly after my brother was born. That’s a long way from Paradise, Annapolis County.


Thanks to the EBLES team, augmented by Nancy Godfrey, Centrelea Design(Designed for Real Life).

Gregory Heming for his essay. To Peter Maher for his research into our old neighbourhood. Edward Wedler for his continued support. Frank Fox and Paul Colville for our lunch conversations at the End of the Line pub in Bridgetown.


Bob Bent.2018. The Last Time I saw Alice. Self-published.
Marilyn(Musial) Jones. 2017. Growing Up in Cape Breton. Self-published.
Dianne Hankinson Legard. 2019. The Lost Voices of WWII RAF/RCAF Greenwood. Gaspereau Press.
Chronicle Herald June 4th Opinion. Gregory Heming
History of Whitton

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.