Posted in Art, New thinking

Mapping Plein Air Paint-outs

As an artist, I experimented with Google mapping tools to view the geographic distribution of paint-out sites for the Plain Air Artists Annapolis Valley (PAAAV) and Plein Air Artists HRM (PAAHRM) 2019 season. Members of PAAAV and PAAHRM are artists of all levels, from beginner to professional; painting in oils, acrylics, watercolours, pastels, ink, graphite, and other media. Fifty-two sites are mapped.

Your feedback is welcome. (Click on the map’s top left icon to activate ALL sites — PAAAV and PAAHRM  )icon_PAAmap Click on any numbered site to see details of when paint-out is/was scheduled.

Posted in Book Review

Northern Reflections

We have been in Iqaluit for a week. One of the first stops was the Arctic Ventures store. They have a good collection of Northern literature from Inhabit Media. All week, I have been reading The Hands’ Measure. It is a series of essays honouring Leah Aksaajuk Otak’s contribution to Arctic Science.bookCover_HandsMeasure

”Leah was an oral historian and linguist with the Nunavut Research Institute in Igloolik. Leah’s lifelong advocacy of Inuit culture and language was uniquely expressed in her passionate promotion of traditional sewing skills and clothing-making techniques.

”To measure with the hands” she asserted, was the essential first step in producing a perfectly fitting garment. Aptly this axiom serves as a proxy for Leah’s unwavering certainty about the essential role of tradition in contemporary Inuit society”.

The nineteen essays were edited by John MacDonald and Nancy Wachowich. Of particular note, for myself, were the contributions by Claudio Aporta and Hugh Brody. Claudio teaches at Dalhousie University. Hugh is an anthropologist and filmmaker and holds the Canada Research Chair at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Aporto’s essay ‘Living, Travelling, Sharing. How the Land permeates the Town through Stories’ contained the following quotation.

”The concept of ‘body of knowledge’ only scratches the surface of that complex relationship that Inuit have with their environment. As Tim Ingold (2000) has argued, it is in the unveiling of relationships that people truly learn, through a process that he calls ‘enskilment’. Many books have been written describing this or that aspect of Inuit knowledge, but knowledge separated from skills (and actual performance) has only partial meaning in the Inuit world. This is perhaps true of any knowledge, but in the Inuit approach to learning, knowledge, skills and performance are fundamentally entangled, to the point that separating them is detrimental or nonsensical.”

Or Hugh Brody’s essay on ‘The People’s Land – the Film’

”To write about the film now is to be reminded that… hundreds of others in the North were determined that Inuit history be known, Inuit knowledge respected and the Inuit land – the people’s land – be a continuing source of every kind of nourishment for the Inuit.” The People’s Land was filmed in Pond Inlet in 1974.

Visiting grandchildren in the North, this book raises a number of questions.

For example,
What is the concept of an elder in Western society?
What skills do we have to pass on?
What happens when you remove people (elders) from the land?


John MacDonald and Nancy Wachowich (ed). 2018. The Hands’ Measure. Published by Nunavut Arctic College Media.

Inhabit Education is a Nunavut-based educational publishing company with a mandate to provide educators and parents with educational resources that are infused with authentic Northern perspectives, ways of life and imagery.Inhabit Education






Posted in New thinking

Ageing in Place

Last weekend we visited two different passive solar houses. At Sue and Celes Davar’s new house in the Gaspereau Valley, we were briefed on the passive solar concept, by staff at Passive Design Solutions.solarDesign They mentioned the following objectives:

  • Keeping the day-time living space to the south side and night-time living to the north side
  • Centralize all plumbing layouts
  • Provide for one level living, incorporating ageing-in-place guidelines wherever possible

Between Heather and myself, this triggered several conversations about bedrooms upstairs on the second floor, as well as the physical effort involved in heating our house, primarily through the wood stove.

There are many other ‘place’ considerations. For us, it includes growing your own vegetables, close proximity to the woods and wildlife, and active engagement in an organic orchard.

Our sense of place is at risk. Whether it is the rampant clear-cutting of the forests in Nova Scotia or the impact of climate change on the coastal communities. Or it is the changing economic model and its effect on rural Nova Scotia.

One approach to offset these risks or potential risks is to be increasingly informed about ‘place’. This might range from knowledge of landscape ecology to an appreciation of the literary history of a region.

bookCover_UnderRunningLaughterIn an earlier blog post (February 4th) I made reference to a novel by David Manners, Convenient Season set around Centrelea. This week, courtesy of inter-library loan, I received his second novel,  Under Running Laughter. It is set in a mill town in Eastern Ontario, about one hundred years ago. The story remains relevant today. It is about the values of the family that owns the mill and the values of local farmers. and the conflict between those who place a value on the landscape, and those who see things solely in terms of monetary values.

If we intend to adopt ‘ageing-in-place’, we need not only to recognize and understand the ageing process but also need to clarify our values and expectations in relation to ‘place’.

bookCover_WonderWithinYouThe next step in my David Manners research has been to track down his writing, after he moved to California, after the second world war. Fortunately, courtesy of Amazon, I am able to order David Morgan Jones (ed) The Wonder within You: From the Metaphysical Journals of David Manners and  Awakening from the Dream of Me.bookCover_AwakeningTheDreamOfMe Manners died in Santa Barbara, aged ninety-eight in 1998. I hope to find them in my mailbox when we return from Iqaluit.


To Celes and Sue Davar for their open house hospitality. To Edward for his continued artistic and technical support.


Passive Design Solutions Passive Design Solutions

David Manners. 1943. Under Running Laughter. EP Dutton & co. New York


Some days,  you have your head down and so do not notice, so much, the activities around you. I just want to mention the sterling efforts of Edward Wedler. He has recently published a list of plein air art paint-outs for the Annapolis Valley this Summer. Check out the list in this pdf.



Posted in Opinion

Spring forward

Edward Wedler in his postscript (previous blog post) referenced the link between art and science to address public awareness of climate change. This connects well with the work of the Centre for Local Prosperity and their climate change video, as well as installations by Uncommon Common Art in Kings County.

The Ancestral Landscape of Sikniktuk.
The Ancestral Landscape of Sikniktuk. Map by Marcel Morin.

Last week, I turned the page on my Esri Canada calendar, and noticed for March 2019, the map by Marcel Morin, Lost Art Cartography of the ancestral landscape of the Sikniktuk. It shows the dykes and aboiteaux in the Chignecto region, Cumberland County.

If we want to maintain the dykelands of Nova Scotia, we must understand the risk from sea level rise. A recent example was the destruction of an aboiteau outside of Hantsport, leading to flooding of the river valley.

We need to combine the latest science on climate change, with new LiDAR-based topographic maps, combined with the art of cartography to gain a broader understanding of the impact on our landscape.

ebles_1Yesterday, we held a meeting of the Ernest Buckler Literary Events Society (EBLES) board over on the Bay of Fundy shore. In preparation for the program design for June 29th, it was necessary to read some of the related literature.

Barbara Pell’s book A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley offered the following quotations.

“Margaret Atwood told us in 1972:

‘Literature is not only a mirror, it is also a map, a geography of the mind. Our literature is one such map, if we can learn to read it as OUR literature, as the product of who and where we have been.’ p.13

“As contemporary political debates continue to illustrate, regionalism has always been a distinguishing feature of Canadian identity and literature. The Mountain and the Valley joins a long tradition of Maritime fiction that idyllically and elegiacally celebrates rural Atlantic Canada.’ p.14

” in its evocation of geography and history, it touches themes of universal importance. Buckler saw the advantages of his regional setting “In the Nova Scotia country,…… you get the universals more than almost anywhere else”.p.14

This afternoon, Heather and I are heading up to the Gaspereau Valley and Avondale to join a tour by Solar Nova Scotia on alternative designs for solar homes. Perhaps Spring is not far away.


To Anne Crossman for her storehouse of Buckler books. To Edward Wedler for his enthusiastic championing of science-meets-art. To Jane Borecky for hosting the EBLES board meeting.


Barbara Pell 1995. A Portrait of the Artist: Ernest Buckler’s The Mountain and the Valley. ECW Press.

Marcel Morin, Lost Art Cartography. Contribution to the Esri Canada 2019 calendar March.

Posted in Art, Nature, New thinking

Viewing vs Interpreting the Landscape

Last fall, I drove through New Brunswick on my way to/from Québec and Ontario with my wife, Anne. The roads have improved immeasurably from a couple of decades ago, so we actually had time to savour the landscape and talk about what we saw. As we travelled, I noticed something strange about our conversation.

We increasingly saw the landscape as artists.

mixPaintsThe sky wasn’t just overcast or sunny. The sky was a mix of Burnt Sienna with a touch of French Ultramarine Blue or was a variegated wash from Cerulean Blue to Cadmium Yellow. We were not just engulfed in fall foliage of colours. Hills became brushstrokes of Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Gold (I love that colour) and Prussian Blue.

foreMidBackgroundWe divided the landscape into zones (foregrounds, mid-grounds, and backgrounds) and described how we would paint aerial perspective, “treat edges” and change tonal contrasts, to give a sense of distance.

POIMany times we would identify a focal point in the landscape (almost with “eye-spy-with-my-little-eye enthusiasm) and would suggest ways to direct viewers’ eyes to that point. Would it be the slope of the hills, the line of our winding road, edges of forest stands or the illumination of light breaking through the clouds? How would our favourite artists, or The Group Of Seven treat that focal point?

IMG_6235pairAs we drove, we unpacked our landscape NOT in terms of “things” (such as houses, fence rows, barns, silos or cows) but in terms of shape, line, colour, patterns, gradation and composition. We became exhilarated, as artists, to not only view the landscape but to offer ways to interpret the landscape — whether it be as a realist, impressionist or abstract artist — in oils, acrylics, watercolours or inks.

Anne and I enjoyed kilometres (miles) of child-like revelations and “aha” moments on what could have been just an ordinary road trip through New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario (although the scenery was spectacular). We did not just see the landscape. We interpreted the landscape.047_BlueBarnsBaieStPaul_Sep17_90dpi

Great to be an artist!

Edward Wedler website:
Anne Wedler website:


Bob Maher brought to my attention an article where art and science meet to bring the issue of rising sea levels to the public’s attention in dramatic fashion (that helps connect my left brain and right brain).

Posted in New thinking

On the Map: point, line and polygon

One of the benefits of relatives in foreign countries is that you receive input from other places. This week, my brother sent me the link to a podcast series, On the Map from BBC Radio 4.banner_BBConTheMap
It was prepared by Mike Parker. Of the ten episodes, two caught my attention. Podcast #8 described the current thinking at the UK Ordnance Survey with regards to digital mapping. The second, Podcast #9, described the role of StreetMap in updating these maps. Throughout the series, Parker raises the question: Whose Map is it Anyway?

We can apply these concepts and the related technology to mapping in Canada, and particularly Nova Scotia. For example, here in the Annapolis Valley, who has the responsibility for updating the civic address file, or adding new roads and trails? who maps changes in land use in Annapolis County?

In the world of GIS, features on a map are defined in terms of point, line, polygon. I can imagine the following mapping needs.

The Winemakers Inn is scheduled to open in downtown Lawrencetown in 2019. How will the attributes of this business be attached to the civic address?

In the Book, Waterfalls of Nova Scotia, there are a couple of pages dedicated to Eel Weir Falls. Who will GPS the trail from the parking lot to the Upper Falls?

The Municipality of Annapolis has expressed concern about the changes in our forest cover as the result of intensive harvesting. Who will map the extent of the cuts? Similarly with agriculture, who is mapping the new vineyards and orchards?

The county is fortunate that the Centre of Geographic Sciences lies within its boundaries. This represents a resource for training and trained citizens. It offers the possibility of access to new technologies: LiDAR, UAV and GPS, as well as the related software.

map_touringAnnapolisThere are several examples of positive outcomes from this relationship e.g. MapAnnapolis, as well as local innovations. This week, I received a copy of Touring Annapolis, Venue guide for Artists produced by Annapolis Venues. It includes a reference map of pubs, eateries and community halls (including Centrelea Cinema).

My suggestion is: take a 15-minute break and listen to each BBC Radio 4 podcast. Look at the new map products and ask the question, can we do more; especially, with regard to the changes which are impacting our landscape and the lives of its inhabitants?

bookCover_MovingTargetsOn the Ernest Buckler front, I want to share a couple of books that crossed my desk this week. Margaret Atwood published Moving Targets, Writing with Intent 1982-2004. It includes two essays that struck a chord.

  1. Great Aunts. Atwood describes a visit with her Great Aunts to Ernest Buckler’s house in the early ’70s.
  2. George Orwell: some personal connections. Atwood describes how in 1984 she began writing The Handmaid’s Tale and the influence of Orwell’s books on her writing career.

bookCover_windowOnTheSeaThe second book is Nova Scotia: Window on the Sea. It combines a text by Buckler with photographs by Hans Weber. While the text and photography can stand alone, it would be interesting to see a map of the photo locations. The book was published in 1973 – forty-six years ago. Perhaps we need an updated photographic version for the fiftieth anniversary.


To my brother, Peter, for the link to the BBC Radio 4 podcast series. To Anne Crossman for access to her collection of Ernest Buckler books, To Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.


BBC Radio 4 Podcasts On the Map On the Map

Annapolis Venues Annapolis Venues

Margaret Atwood. 2004. Moving Targets Writing with Intent. 1982-2004.House of Anansi Press.

Ernest Buckler and Hans Weber. 1973. Nova Scotia: Window on the Sea. McClelland and Stewart.

Posted in Book Review

Penguin Comfort

Last week at the Box of Delights bookstore in Wolfville, I noticed a new series of Penguin Books – Great Ideas.bookCovers_Orwell Number #99 was by George Orwell Some Thoughts on the Common Toad. It contained eight essays, including a defence of PG Wodehouse, an examination of Gullivers Travels, and a commentary on Tolstoy and William Shakespeare.

In the Great Ideas series, Orwell also contributed #20 Why I Write and also #57 Books v. Cigarettes. Further online research took me to the Penguin Classics web site.

From Some Thoughts on the Common Toad:

” So long as you are not critically ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or a holiday camp. Spring is still Spring.

The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth still goes around the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it” p.6.

With minus 20 degrees centigrade on the outside thermometer, it was good to stay indoors with a wood stove and the comfort of Penguin books.

bookCover_Thanks for ListeningThe Orwell essays complemented my reading of Ernest Buckler. I had the opportunity to read Glance in the Mirror. This quotation caught my eye.

“They thought that writing was always wonderful, but most of the time it was the loneliest job in the world. That crippling stillness when you sat down to try the first few lines. As if everything you looked at was tensed for you to make a sound and you are tongue-tied, like someone in a nightmare. If that lasted long enough you would sit there then and hear the sound of your own life going by. A lifetime is not forever, and yours was already half gone.”

EBLES hopes to present Glance in the Mirror as a short play on June 29th at the Temple in Bridgetown.

For the last two weeks, we have been dog-sitting Uke and Siqsiq, our son’s twelve-year-old retired sled dogs. As Arctic dogs, they enjoy the cold weather. Cold comfort! Daily walks make us appreciate the wood stove and the books.


Anne Crossman for transcribing Glance in the Mirror. Heather Stewart for help with the dog walking and loading the wood stove. Edward Wedler for the graphics.


George Orwell. 2010. Some Thoughts on the Common Toad. Penguin Books. Great Ideas #99

Ernest Buckler. Glance in the Mirror

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 Opinion

Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County

Inspired by Uncommon Common Art in Kings County, I thought it might be useful to propose a list of locations for Uncommon Common Science in Annapolis County. The two would be complementary. Uncommon Common Art has about seventeen stops, plus a few “eye candy” locations. There are related events that extend from June to the end of October.

unCommonCommonScienceACHere is a suggested list of Uncommon Common Science stops in Annapolis County.

  1. Geomatics (Centre of Geographic Sciences: Lawrencetown)
  2. Geomatics (Applied Geomatics Research Group: Middleton)
  3. Dark Sky Preserve (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  4. Blandings Turtle (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  5. Coastal Plain Species (Kejimkujik National Park: Maitland Bridge)
  6. Coastal Geology (Bay of Fundy )
  7. Space Agency (Annapolis Royal)
  8. Mi’kmaq Science (Bear River)
  9. Historical and Graveyard Science (Annapolis Royal)
  10. Bay of Fundy Tides
  11. Bloody Creek meteor crater
  12. CARP, Clean Annapolis River Project (Annapolis Royal)

Can you offer an uncommon common science stop in Annapolis County or Annapolis Valley — some local science worth exploring?

Posted in New thinking

Smart Rural ?

There is considerable discussion about ‘smart cities’, but what is the impact of these technologies on a rural lifestyle?

Could one apply this smart city social map to rural areas?

What needs should be addressed? One need is transportation, another is health care. At what point does technology-access, designed for an urban lifestyle, detract or destroy rural values? In Annapolis Royal, at the Library, we see the reality of an Innovation Lab, as part of a Community Hub. It gives everyone access to a range of modern communication technologies.

2bucklerBooksThis week, courtesy of the Internet, I received George Monbiot article on ‘dark money”. In return, this had me thinking about the money behind the Gordonstoun project. Is the Annapolis Valley ready for this type of colonization?

After our meeting at Burnbrae Farm (Morse Estate), I challenged myself to re-read Buckler’s The Cruelest Month. I think it answered my question. The setting is not likely the Morse Estate in Paradise, but rather Milford House on Highway #8 towards Kejimkujik National Park. What I had forgotten, was the quality of Buckler’s language and style. Now, I am charged to pull Ox Bells and Fireflies off the bookshelf.

banner_flyingApronThe other recent challenge was the French cooking at the Flying  Apron (not really a challenge).

For the record, the menu included Salmon Rillette, Gougers, Coq Au Vin, and Creme Brûlée. All prepared by Chef Chris Velden. Each couple received a handout with the list of ingredients (and measures) and the method for preparation of each dish. Excellent!

Returning home, courtesy of the Internet,  I received a review of Julia Blackburn Time Song: searching for Doggerland. This has prompted a new interlibrary loan request.

bookCover_ruralTraditionIn attempting to understand ‘rural’. I pulled off the bookshelf, The Rural Tradition, written by W J Keith, Professor of English at the University of Toronto.

It is a study of non-fiction prose writers of the English countryside and includes chapters on such notables as Isaac Walton, Gilbert White and William Cobbett.

Keith, in his conclusion, asks the following question:

“Is country writing a thing of the past? In an age that can envisage hermetically sealed monster cities artificially protected from natural phenomena and a polluted atmosphere, that can seriously entertain the possibility that three quarters of the world’s animal species may be extinct by the end of the century, is it feasible to expect the survival of a literature centred upon the countryside and the rural way of life ?” p.258

Keith was writing in 1974.


Thanks to Rosemary Barron for the link to George Monbiot. To Frank Fox for the link to the review of Julia Blackburn’s book, and also for giving me a copy of Keith’s The Rural Tradition. To Heather Stewart for sharing the cooking experience at the Flying Apron. Edward for his graphics skills.


Ernest Buckler. 1963. The Cruelest Month. McClelland and Stewart

Ernest Buckler. 1968.Ox Bells and Fireflies. McClelland and Stewart.

W.J. Keith. 1974. The Rural Tradition. University of Toronto Press.

The Flying Apron website

Burnbrae Farm and Paradise Inn see link