DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Oscar Peterson: Beloved Canadian Jazzman

A week ago Oscar Peterson died, at age 82. He was a world renouned jazz pianist, one could argue the best ever. He is a Canadian, born in Montreal, and for many years a resident of my home town, Mississauga.

It took Canada a long time to fully embrace him and revere his great talent and acknowledge his love of Country and his contributions to the wider community. Canadians seem to be like this slow to embrace the great among us and only doing so after the rest of the World have done so.

In the last 20 years of his life Oscar Peterson received all the awards and honours Canada and Canadians can bestow upon a person.

This is a picture of the stamp the Government of Canada issued in honour of Oscar Peterson, he is the oly living person, other than royality, so honoured. But he was royalty in the Jazz community, called "the Maharaja of the keyboard." by Duke Ellington.

Oscar Peterson has left the World a wonderful legacy of his piano playing and music composition.
He will be particularly missed by the pupils of the Oscar Peterson Elementary School in Mississauga, with whom he seemed to have a special affection in the last years of his life.

One of the nice occasions this past week was to hear Diana Krall speak about her friend , Oscar.

Canada's lovely jazz singer got to know Oscar and became great friends.

Here are some web sites to visit to read, and hear, a little about the life of this remarkable man.

Wikipedia for an over view

An obituary in the Guardian,,2232131,00.html

From the CBC Archives a revealing half hour interview with Peter Gzowski

And for Youtube fans, Dueling pianos with Herbie Hancock

The background music is one of Oscar Peterson pieces. For a treat find some of his music, among your own records or on the Internet and just listen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Day

Two day before Christmas my son, Parker and two of his three childrens showed up in the rain to cut a Christmas tree for their house. It was a pleasant surprise as I did not expect to see him at all over Christmas. We traditionally cut a tree together earlier in the month of December and that date had past.

He invited me to his house for Christmas dinner, so I accepted.

Here is their tree. Not bad for a wild tree, just the right size for the space they wanted to put it in. Parker lives in a very well appointed middle class suburban type house, which his wife Sandra always decorates for whatever occasion comes up. They are, unlike me, a sociable pair. This meal was their third Chrsitmas event. They hosted the office party of the staff of Sandra's work, The Children's Aid Society, about a dozen or so. They then hosted the staff of Parker's school, about 60 souls, for their staff party. Now they are hosting me and Sandra's mother and two of her aunts. Normally there would be about ten others but this was a small group this year.

It was a typical Christmas meal: turkey, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, stuffing, rollls, garnishings and pecan pie for dessert. I got the leftovers , from the 28 pound turkey, (about 12 pounds,to take home . There will be lots of turkey sandwiches for a few days.

The bones are busy now preparing a broth for soup, "Waste not want not!" one of the many aphorism I was raised on.

For the kids, skating was the order of the day.

This is their backyard rink. Every self respecting Canadian father, if possible makes a rink for his kids. This is a good one with improvements made every year. The boards around the rink are new this year and their is floodlighting for night skating. We had a two day warm spell with rain and our snow was reduced by about half. It seems they had enough ice made to not have is all melt. It won't be long before we get more snow until a bank of snow will suround the rink.

I remember, when we returned to Canada from living in the US, I made a rink in the backyard of my fsther's house so Parker could learn to skate. He was a little behind in his skill level with the other kids, but he soon caught up. I was the "zamboni man" clearing and flooding the ice nightly.When we moved to the farm I made a rink directly behind the house, and did so after Parker went off to school for a couple of young friends who spent a lot of time at my house.

I am one of the few Canadians who cannot skate. My father never made us a rink. I embarassed myself on skates once and when we went to skate on the 2 mile long rink on the Credit river, I could not stand the cold and the pain in my ankle. Those are my three reasons for not skating. So far they haven't rescinded my citizenship.

There have been attempts to learn over the years.. When I was 18, my mother bought me skates for one last effort to get me skating again. They hang in my basement becoming antiques without almost never having been worn. When living in Boston I even tried myself by sneaking out a couple of nights to try unseen skating on a local pond. The pain, oh! the pain, I couldn't get the skates off fast enough. I resist trying once again on Parker's rink, although I wistfully think what fun it would be to glide and swirl about the ice. . . . . .then I remember the pain! So I watch the kids enjoying themselves.

Here is Parker tightening up Olivia skate. She went out to skate and shoot hockey pucks three time in the short time I was there. She and the boys have all played organized hockey. Dylan and her were on the same team for a couple of years. She didn't play this year as she was involved with the swim club but she is talking about doing hockey again next year.

This is Dylan's bedroom. He is a sports buff , like his father, these days with a particular interest in baseball. He is a Toronto Blue Jay fan. The poster above the bed is one of two I purchased from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is oldtime players sports card, including (Shoeless ) Joe Jackson, of the Chicago Blacksocks sandal, "Tell us it isn't so, Joe! Sadly it was and now the scandal is Steroid use, "Tell us it isn't so . . .Barry!"
It was a pleasant eveningPosted by Picasa

Monday, December 24, 2007


To celebrate Christmas I share will all the "Huron Carol". It is Canada's first Christmas Carol written by Father Jean de Brebeuf, a Jesuit among the Hurons, in 1645. It was written in the Wendat language of the Hurons and set to he music of a French folk tune.

The You Tube presentation below is sung in Wendat, French and English. Enjoy!

(To turn the background music off go to the Sonific widget in the sidebar)

Iesous Ahatonnia (ee-sus a-ha-ton-nyah= Jesus, he is born)

Estennia,on de tson8e Ies8s ahatonniaeh-sten-nyah-yon deh tson-weh ee-sus a-ha-ton-nyah
Have courage, you who are humans, Jesus, he is born

Onn'a8ate8a d'oki n'on,8andask8aentakon-nah-wah-teh-wah do-kee non-ywah-ndah-skwa-en-tak
Behold, the spirit who had us as prisoners has fled

Ennonchien sk8atrihotat n'on,8andi,onrachathaen-non-shyen skwah-tree-hotat non-ywa-ndee-yon-rah-shah-thah
Do not listen to it, as it corrupts our minds

Iesus ahatonnia

A,oki onkinnhache eronhia,eronnonayo-kee on-kee-nhah-sheh eh-ron-hya-yeh-ron-non
They are spirits, coming with a message for us, the sky people

iontonk ontatiande ndio sen tsatonnharonnionyon-tonk on-tah-tya-ndeh ndyo sen tsah-ton-nha-ron-nyon
they are coming to say, "Rejoice" (ie., be on top of life)

8arie onna8ak8eton ndio sen tsatonnharonnionwah-ree on-nah-wah-kweh-ton ndyo sen tsah ton-nha-ron-nyon
"Marie, she has just given birth. Rejoice."

Ies8s ahatonnia

Achink ontahonrask8a d'hatirih8annensa-shien-k on-tah-hon-rah-skwah dhah-tee-ree-hwan-nens
Three have left for such a place, those who are elders

Tichion ha,onniondetha onh8a achia ahatrentee-shyon ha-yon-nyon-deh-tha on-hwah a-shya ah-hah-tren
A star that has just appeared over the horizon leads them there

Ondaiete hahahak8a tichion ha,onniondethaon-dee teh-hah-hah-hah-kwah tee-shyon ha-yon-nyon-deh-tha
He will seize the path, he who leads them there

Ies8s ahatonnia

Tho ichien stahation tethotondi Ies8sthoh ee-shyen stah-hah-tyon teh-tho-ton-ndee ee-sus
As they arrived there, where he was born, Jesus

ahoatatende tichion stan chi teha8ennionah-ho-a-tah-ten-nde tyee-shyon stan shee teh-hah-wen-nyon
the star was at the point of stopping, he was not far past it

Aha,onatorenten iatonk atsion skena-hah-yon-ah-to-ren-ten yah-tonk ah-tsyon sken
Having found someone for them, he says, "Come here"

Ies8s ahatonnia

Onne ontahation chiahona,en Ies8son-nen on-tah-hah-tyon shyah-hon-ah-yen ee-sus
Behold, they have arrived there and have seen Jesus

Ahatichiennonniannon kahachia handia,onah-hah-tee-shyen-non-nyan-non kah-hah-shyah hah-ndyah-yon
They praised (made a name) many times, saying "Hurray, he is good in nature"

Te honannonronk8annnion ihontonk oerisenteh-hon-an-non-ron-kwan-nyon ee-hon-tonk o-eh-ree-sen
They greeted him with reverence (i.e., greased his scalp many times), saying "Hurray"

Iesus ahatonnia

Te hek8atatennonten ahek8achiendaenteh-heh-kwah-tah-ten-non-ten ah-heh-kwah-shyen-ndah-en
"We will give to him praise for his name"

Te hek8annonronk8annion de son,8entenrandeteh-heh-kwan-non-ron-kwan-nyon deh son-ywen-ten-ran-ndeh
"Let us show reverence for him as he comes to be compassionate to us."

8to,eti sk8annonh8e ichierhe akennonhonstha u-to-yeh-teeskwan-non-hweh ee-shyeh-rheh ah-keh-non-hon-sthah
"It is providential that you love us and wish, "I should adopt them."

Ies8s ahatonnia

To hear the "Huron Carol" sung in the Mi'kmaw language go here,

I think this native language of the original inhabitants of Eastern Canada is very musical.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"The Hockey Sweater"

Roch Carrier's quintessential Canadian/Canadien story is not really a Christmas story , but it could be. It is a seasonal story. It has become a Canadian classic. I share it here with my non- Canadians readers. If you are a Canadian and don't know this charming story. . . shame on you.

I was thinking about this topic when I got an email from my Venezuealan email pal , Elsa, so I sent it along to her with this explanation,

"I have been thinking about writing a blog entry about Roch Carrier's classic Canadian story, "The Hockey Sweater." It is so very Canadian. First it is about hockey and our obsession with this game. It is about young boys , and now girls, playing on outdoor rinks. Before the expansion of the professional league there were only two Canadian teams, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens. The rivalry was intense and Saturday Night was" Hockey Night in Canada" around the radio or later TV. The story is set in rural Quebec with the dominance of the Catholic Church and the family . For years, the mail order catalogue of Easton's department store sold everything across the country to rural people, by mail. There was always a very personal and trusting relationship between the store and it's clients. It was a great institution; sadly, no longer with us. The catalogue's last use was often to start the wood stove or as toilet paper in the outhouse. Children in families of modest means used the catalogue, stuffed in their hockey socks as hockey protective shin pads. The great French Canadian player back in my youth was "Maurice Richard", The Rocket.,the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games. He was much admired in English Canada but in French Canada he was the symbol of French nationalism and pride, who regularly out played "the English". Once when he was penalized it caused the imfamous Richard Riot in Montréal.. (In those days, virtually all the Montréal players were French from Quebec.)"

All of this Canadian cultural texture is captured in Roch Carrier's story "The Hockey Sweater". Here is a version of it
in the form of an animated film by the National Film Board Play films - Focus on Animation - ONF It is Rock Carrier narrating the story, in his charming French Canadien accent.

I hope you take the time to watch the animated film and get in the Winter spirit.

In the spirit of hockey these words of encouragement for the new year, "Keep your sticks on the ice!" and "Finish the check!" (Like baseball, hockey is a metaphor for Life)

Maurice "The Rocket" Richard with Lord Stanley's cup

Friday, December 21, 2007

Water: Good news . . . .Bad news

The water came back on, over night, in the shed. That is the good news. The shed is flooded! Bad news.

My waterline in the shed froze last week somewhere below the floor level. This in spite of the tracing cable I installed and the light bulb in the insulated cabinet where it enters the building. Last fall I even piled some old hay on the ground on the other side of the wall. I never used to get this problem when I piled snquare baled hay there.

I have worked on it on and off all week. I installed a second 100 watt bulb right at the floor level. I went and bought a Vidal Sassoon hair dryer to work on it. (My house mate, June tried to take over this farm tool to dry her hair. Some days, I have to put my foot down and retain control of my stuff!!!!)

I had pretty well given up on getting the water back and I began to face the prospect of hauling water all Winter.This morning when I turned the tap on in the kitchen and the water pressure was not as good as it should be , I suspected something was amuck! (You see I have had this experience many times before over the years)

The flood was not too bad . I turned the cows and sows loose for a while so I can practice the "zen of manure shoveling". It was time anyway. I was just waiting for the warm weather this weekend. (above freezing) I should be in good shape for a nap the afternoon!

Yesterday was a lovely sunny day. I guess the cows got tired of waiting for some water. They showed up at the front door. I watered them good and they went back to the hay.

This is what the road in front of my house looks like. It is plowed wide and gets little traffic. Two miles up this road it enters the bush. Thirty miles on the unplowed bush road and you reach Baie Jeanne, the most southern bay of Lake Temagami. Anyone for an ice fishing trek.

Actually, Denis and I are planning on taking Dave and Denis' Grandfather, the two octagenarians ice fishing next week. We will rent a ice hut on Lake Nipissing, to which we can drive, so the old timers won't have to walk far to catch some fish. I get to go as they need a designated sober driver to get back.

When Parker was young we played on the road. Street hockey or me pulling him on a tobaggan behind my old farmall tractor. Those were good days.

I might get a dogsled harnass for Gage and he can pull me along the road on skis. Mush you husky!

Gage is keeping a eye on the cows. I haven't told him yet that I may put him to work hauling me around. he might actually like it.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gage. . . . . the Weather!

I can't resist posting a couple of more pictures of my new dog, Gage. He continues to be a delight, a constant companion, well behaved, affectionate, loyal, comes when called, likes to be with me. ( I would add wonderful to lie in bed with for a nap, . . . .BUT, a man has to have a few sectrets.) Gee, all the qualities I look for in a woman and have never been able to find in a complete package! (smile. . .I am just kidding)

Here is Gage lying on his bed at the foot of mine. This is where is sleeps and lies when I am in my room diddling with the computer. He is a strong silent type, with a doleful look.

He isn't perfect!!! Really! I put my gloves down to take a picture and he grabbed on to carry around in his mouth and jump around like a rabbit, dropping it and picking it up again. This was not a "one of". Later in the day he mouthed a glove and stood at the door to go out and play with it. I wonder where he picked up this habit. If this is his only bad habit, it is easy to del with. Iwill keep several pairs of gloves around so I can find a pair when I need them.

Peggy! I am resisting putting fake antlers on Gage. It is hard. More than once I have looked at him at a distance and thought he looked like a deer as he not only runs, he also bounds and hops in and out of the deep snow.

Here is a nicely sculpted drift off the end of the wood pile. It is about four feet deep. Where I walk through it , just out of the picture is is up to my mid-thigh. Wind does wonderful things with snow.

After the storm we had the wind died down the sky cleared and the temperature rose a little.
Great days to be outside.

Not quite as graceful as Mother Nature but striking in their own way are the piles of snow plowed up in town. ( Aren't you just tempted to dig a snow cave in it to sleep in overnight!) This is in front of the car at the Caisse Populaire. ( For the Americans, this is our local credit union, a French Canadian institution. Like many rural institutions it is a members owned cooperative. )Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hard to Believe

It is hard to believe in Santa Claus when there are so many imposters around.

Bah Humbug!

When I found this picture I was tempted to try to answer the questions, "Where is Santa (Waldo) Claus!
I have not got into the Christmas spirit yet It is hard. I am among those many people, either old or poor or both, who are deserted by family and friends at Christmas. I just hope I might get a couple of books as gifts to help the day to pass. (I do have one so far, my sister who always sends me a book has send me the new biography of Pierre Elliot Trudeau., "Citizen of the World, the Life of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Vol. one."
We will have a turkey meal here but three old people and a drunk is not much fun. Gee I am sounding a little sorry for myself! Je le regrete! ( I am not as "down in the mouth " as I sound. But it may get worse before it gets better.)
There was a time when as the minister of a church , I was in the midst of all the activities of the season. Life deals you many hands and the one I have now is quite different.
Hopefully lightning will strike and I will find a little joy of the season.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Last Dog Post. . . . I Promise

This is my last post about my dog drama for a while. I thought I would write this because so many people seen interested in it. I thank you for your kind comments on the death of my Ben and your encouraging remarks of my choice of another dog.

Gage is all I could ever expect to want in a dog. My reservations were unfounded. At 18 month he is just a big pup. To the credit of his former owners he is well behaved, loyal, quiet, comfortable with people and the other dogs and cats in the house. He also has a full compliment of tricks. "shake, sit, lie down, give me a hug, catch the ball, fetch the ball, and more I expect to discover.

He seems to have chosen a particular cat to befriend. I look forward to the day when he is lying down and one of more of the cats joins him, "And the lamb shall lie down with the lion."

The initial day he was a little hyper exploring his new environment and getting to know everyone. And seemed to want to be very reassuringly close to me where he got lots of petting. This morning he is relaxed and comfortable enough to just lie quietly by himself.

We went outside many times. At first I took him out on his lease but I soon set him free and he galloped up and down the snow packed road in great long lopping strides occasionally jumping into the snow in the ditch completely disappearing from view only to explode out and again and shake all the snow off. He is one happy dogI His first time he must have run a mile full out as he went back and forth across my 1/4 mile frontage on the road. He seemed to know where the boundaries are (wishfull thinking on my part.) I think he wanted to stay within view of me.

He had to learn to climb stairs. It took all day to encourage him but by the time I went to bed he got his courage up. The only time he barked was when my friend June grabed his collar and tried to pull him up. (June has control issues with animals). I put a quick end to that knowing he would come when he was ready. And he did!

I have spread his bed out in a corner of the kitchen but he chose to sleep on the rug beside my bed. He woke me up by climbing on the bed to lie along my back. Cute, but not a good habit. I think we have bonded!!! If he doesn't use his bed in the kitchen he may be giving it up to the cats.

He also had to learn to come into the shed (barn) where the bigger animals are. He now is willing to follow me in and wants to come with me every time I go to take care of things there. I don't think I am going to go anywhere without him wanting to come along.

I think Gage and I are going to have some great times together. I wonder if he will like canoeing?
I don't remember who; but, someone asked me what farrowing is. Well it is swine giving birth. My two sows will farrow in late January, early February. The gestation period for pigs is three months, three week, and three days. (Now I have told you more than you need to know unless you are on a trivia game show.)
Today, I will just enjoy the snow storm. It seems we are getting more of the storm than I expected. These days are beautiful and a good excuse not to join the crazy ones who think their business is more important than Mother Mature's, thinking they must go places in their cars and trucks.
I think I will go make a hot chocolate and feed Gage a few doggy treats.Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 14, 2007

A New Dog: An Adventure!

Meet "Gage" my new dog.

I have decided to bring this dog into my home and life, in spite of some reservations. He needs a home and my home and farm are well suited to him. But.!!! He is not as I imagined when I read he was part Gread Dane and part Doberman. I thought he would be more the former than the latter, which would have made him larger. I have never owned such a short haired muscular dog so this is new for me. I will have to protect him from the cold, which probably will mean I will have to go outside with him in the Winter. (A good way to resist "cabin fever"and get a little more exercise.
Initially, I was anxious he might be an agressive dog which needed a firm hand. (I am not a firm hand kind of guy) Or, he might have been one of those one person dogs. But neither is true. He is quiet and gentle and a little shy. (so they tell me) Tomorrow I will learn the reality for myself.
He is a big dog that will need to run and get exercise. That is no problem. He will have to learn about some farm animals. which at first will probably intimidate him.
He comes with some collars. leads, toys including a pillow to sleep on. He has been well cared for and dealt with gently.
I am told he is good in the house and manages to gracefully move about without upsetting things. I am told he will tolerate the two little lap dogs in the house that live with my friend David. He also will accept the dozen cats.
I am excited that we will get to learn about each other together and bond. Perhaps, he will learn to play the "toss the ball" game and next summer learn to enjoy the water in the river.
I am told he doesn't bark much and doesn't chase cars . Both good behaviours in my book.
I have had better luck living with animals than with people so I shouldn't be nervous . . . .but, I am a little.
Tomorrow I get to meet and embrace a new pal, the gentle giant I was looking for.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Loss of a Loyal Pal

My dog died yesterday, . . . sadly, a violent death. Ben was killed by the neighbour's bull terrier.

I found his frozen body in the snow down a steep bank off the road. He must have been pursued there by the other dog, who once before tried to kill him six month ago, from which I managed to rescue him. as his attacker, gripping him by the neck, was dragging him into the middle of a field. But not this time! I was not there to protect him.

Ben was not my choice of a dog. He was given to me by a friend who got him as a pup with the understanding he was part weiner dog and would not grow very big. Well it was all a lie. He kept growing to be too big and too active for an apartment. Ben became a Benji type dog of medium size.

Ben grew on me and was a constant companion. He spent a lot of time outside but came in often to remind me of his need for food or water. He was quiet in the house and often lay at my feet while I read of tinkered with the computer. If he wanted affection he would come and place his
head in my lap to which I always responded with some petting of his face and head until he was satisfied, either to lay down again or to go to the door to go outside. On cold nights he slept under my bed. One of the few rules I managed to enforce was that he could not sleep on top of the bed. A curt, "Under the bed. Ben", usual saw him crawl under. If I got up in the night , he got up and followed me and returned back to bed when I did. In the morning he would not go out until he was ready to go out. Often I made several offers by opening the door but he had to be ready or he would decline.

They say dogs take on the characteristics of their owners. I think that was true of Ben. He was intensely loyal and friendly to only a few people. He did not welcome company but after a while would accept them. He was not particularly well behaved and didn't follow all the rules. He need to be free and his own self. Several times, I stared down the animal control officer, or the police, as a result of my dog running free. "I did not own 366 acres so my dog can live at the end of a chain," I would tell them. It occasionally got be a fine but usually just the admonition, "Dogs must be kept on a leash" . He lived free risking the hazhards while enjoying the world around him. Freedom is a risky way to live. ! I thought he should be free to be a dog and not an object for me to control. Ben was not a well kept dog. His fur was disheveled and often knotted. He resisted improvements and would growl in a threatening manner if you tried to make him over.Ben was happy to be alone but when his one dog friend, Blackie came by he was pleased to hang out. He was happy most of the time to just be with me and me with him.

Ben's favourite game was chasing his ball. I would toss it and he would chase it and bring it back and drop it within my reach, often laying down as in the picture above, patiently waiting for me to pick it up. When he tired of this he would take his ball and go and lie down in a favourite spot.
I will miss him, but I understand that part of he bond between him and me had a terminus. Pets usually die before we do. Their time with us is a gift, an act of Grace, just as our bond with each other is.
He is gone. I will feel the loss for some time. But, I am thinking of getting another dog already. Perhaps, a dog more to my liking, a large dog, a gentle giant.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Canadaville and Katrina

In the wake of the destruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of the US, Frank Stonach, a very wealthy Canadian Industrialist was moved to respond as an individual and through his corporation, Magna International, to do something directly and immediately. He began buy moving a group of refugees from the New Orleans area to his racetrack property in Florida, which had buildings that had just been finished to house staff there.

Next Mr Stonach decided to develop some housing for some of the people in need. Without the aid or constraints of government he purchased 900 acres of land 150 miles north of New Orleans, near Simmesport, La., and in the period of four months he built a small community of fifty modular homes.

Stonach has a vision, one might even say a utopian vision, that people could recover from the trauma of Katrina and with some help could rebuild their lives and even improve upon their previous life. His idea was to build housing on a large tract of land to form a community. The heart of the community would be to use the agricultural land for market gardening and the raising of small animals. Those who were accepted for this housing would live free of charge for five years. They must adhere to certain community rules: they must work or go to school, they must volunteer several hours a week to the community, They must participate in the government of the community and they must not use drugs. There are a couple of video's available on Canadaville. The best is on the Magna International Webside. I encourage you to watch it to get a good understanding of what Stronach has accomplished.

For the local rural community Stronach did some things to ease the acceptance of the people of Canadaville. He bought the town new police cars and paid the salaries of three additional policemen. He also built a local community center which could be used a shelter in an emergency.

Canadaville, Louisiana

I recently watched a TV program on Canadaville. it appears to have been a success for the most part. For some it is a place to live as they hope to return to New Orleans and for other it is new place and way to life.

While I read about I was remind of other social experiments. In 19C American there were several utopian community experiments, Brook Farm, Hopedale, Shaker communities, the Amana Community to name a few.
In the 20th Century, there has been the Bruderhof, a recreation of a Reformation Anababtist group, and Solheimar, Iceland, the eco and therapeutic community.

One that has long fastinated me is the Elgin Settlement in Ontario. It was founded by William King, a Presbyterian Minster, who inherited slaves through his wife. His story is recorded in the book "Look to the North Star", by William Ullman. He brought his 15 slaves to Canada and freed them and helped them settle in the Elgin Settlement, paid for by the Prebyterian Church. It was a community of farmers and their were stricted rules,( as only a Scots Presbyterian could dream up.) They ran from not being able to sell their farms to whites for at least 10 years to every house having to have a white picket fence in front.

It had many successes. The first integrated school in Canada was in the Elgin Settlement when the local people in the area closed their while school to send their children to the black school because it was better. The settlement, (now known as North Buxton, ) thrived for many years with farms and a brick works. The first generation of children of former slaves went on to become doctors, ministers and teachers. After the civil war, in which many of the men of the Elgin Settlement fought for the Union in a Michigan regiment, two Freedman's hospitals were founded my former residences of the community. One even beame a legislator in a southern state. Many Elgin residence returned to the US to find family and with the hope that life would be better for them after the civil war.

The Elgin settlement for me always represented an alternative model that could have been used in the US for reconstruction. Rather then "forty acres and a mule" there could have been a form of "black power" in which individuals were empowered with land , training, support and protection from exploitation.

There are parallels with Frank Stronach efforts. Like William King he was a benefactor, in his case not a white benefactor as much as an economic benefactor. Both communities, the Elgin Settlement and Canadaville were communities where the induviduals had to agree to some rules of behaviour and participation. Education was important in both. Deliberate efforts were also made to make the community acceptable to the surrounding rural community.. In the case of the Elgin settlement Canada granted them citizenship with all the rights and protections of the law. (They did suffer discrimination but they could legally fight back. The first politicial who tried to use race thye help defeat him at the polls.) This was at the time in the US when the Fugative Slave Act (requiring run away slaves having to be returned to their owners.) was in effect as the law of the land in that country.

For Canadaville, Stronach reassured the local community with policing help and investments in the local community that served all. Both Communities found earned their place by being good citizens and working hard.

Frank Stronach's experimental community like William Kings's Eligin settlement, is a model of another way to respond to the tragedy of Katrina. If there had been more direct action efforts by FEMA rather than the bureaucratic political stuggle that continues to this day, more help would have reached the people most in need. The people of Canadaville seem to have few criticisms of Frank Stronach and his effort He is obviously there for them for the long haul.

I hope you will view the video about Canadaville. With the exception of the self serving remarks of the Governor of Louisiana at the end, it is quite good.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Halifax Disaster and Boston

December 6, 1917 was the day of the infamous Halifax disaster. Two ships in the harbour exploded (one was a munition ship on its way to Europe) and devastated the city. This was the largest manmade explosion ever until the detonation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The statistic tell some of the tale: 2000 people killed. 9000 people injured, including 6000 severely injured. 1600 homes demolished 12,000 damaged.

Halifax harbour is bowl shaped with a narrow opening to the sea. It is one of the great natural harbours of the world. During WW I it was the strategic port on the eastern seaboard where convoys of ships transporting materials to Europe we assembled.

With the explosion, a tsunami was created that ran up over the land. There was also a shock wave that knocked down houses and trees and burning debris set the city on fire. Many people lost their eyesight as the glass windows broke into their faces.

To add insult to injury a blizzard hit the next day.

The plume of the explosion 15 seconds later.

My mother used to tell me about this disaster. Years after it she had worked for a man who was on the train which was about to enter the city before the heroic Vince Coleman returned to the telegraph to warn of the possible explosion and got the message out to stop the train, only to loose his life.

When I was is high school, we studied in literature class Hugh MacKennan's book Barometer Rising, a novel based around the disaster. (Sadly, the torrid bit were expurgated). I am sure because of this my generation knew of the disaster.

In those day, response time to a disaster was slow. Two American ships which had just left for New York turned around and offered aid. And within 48 hours a train from Boston arrived with supplies and medical help.

To this day the people of Nova Scotia send to Boston every year a giant fir tree for the Christmas Tree on the Boston Common as a symbol of appreication of the succor extended to Halifax in the disaster. The search the province for a free standing tree, usually on private property and people gladly give up their tree as an honour.

The years I spent on Boston I remember the tree and I was once again reminded of the Halifax disaster.

Christmas in Boston is a wonderful place to be to enjoy the season. I remember it fondly.

One other Boston tradition I enjoyed was the singing of Christmas Carols in Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill. It was always a lovely occasion, faint by comparison to wassailing or mummering in Newfoundland , but a nice civilized occasion none the less. Newfoundlanders definitely know how to have a good time.

Louisburg Square in Boston, with the island park in the center of the street. The Square is the most prestigeous adress in Boston. The building is the Alcott house.

Over the centuries the two great maritime seaports of Boston and Halifax have had a warm on going relationship like so many Canadian and American cities across the border from one another.

To view the archived CBC shows on the Halifax disaster go to

We Remember

It was on this day in 1989 that Marc Lepine massacred 14 female engineering students at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.

(Click on photo to enlarge)

These young women were in the prime of their lives entering a profession still dominated by men. For their killer it was a hate crime against women.

Canada was changed forever by this mindless crime. Canada, under the leadership of women, redoubled its efforts to bring about effective gun control. To a large degree this has been accomplished with changes in legislation. It certainly has made gun control a widely accepted value in Canada, which contrast with our American neighbours.

If you want to read a little about this crime read Marc Lepine - The Montreal Massacre - The Crime library or École Polytechnique massacre - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Our Recent Storm

Here are some scenes after our recent snow storm.

A nicely sculpted drift along the wood pile

Ben and I stopped on the bridge

Looking down the river from the bridge . Cabin in right.

Snow on the back porch

It looks like it will be a white Christmas!
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Monday, December 03, 2007

Reasons to Despair

Democratic forms of government are based upon an irrational idea. "We should have faith in the wisdom of the common man" More correctly," faith in the collective wisdom of the common man." Democracy means "rule by the masses". Only in recent times has democracy been viewed in a positive light. Even in the United States, which likes to think of itself these days as the defender and promoter of democracy around the World did not speak much of democracy before the 20th Century. Until then, the best government was thought to be a form of autocaracy or meritocracy, in which only the worthy should rule. At the beginning, of the 20 century this did not include women or most African-Americans. (In Canada, Chinese could not vote until 1948.) Even now, the form of most democracies around the World, have limits, checks and balances , on any "rule by the masses". No wonder the marxist call of Karl Marx. "Workers of the world Unite!" scared the established order in many countries. After all, we all saw what the masses did in the French Revolution.

I am commited to this democratic principle, (in spite of not being able to rationally defend it) upon which congregational polity in my church is based and is still widely practiced in the New England Town Meeting. ( I like to think this is why the wisdom of impeaching Bush and Cheney is being widely promoted in the town meetings of the wonderful New England state of Vermont).

Below is a video made by Australians interviewing American "common man" in the streets.

Canadians would be familiar with Rick Mercer's "Talking to Americans". Somehow the video below is not as light hearted. It left me with of a sense of despair: for America, Americans, Democratic government, the educational system. Luckily, most of the people in this video probably do not care enough to vote. (I hope that is the case). And yet, some of the things I hear American politicians say is not much more enlightened.

(To turn of the music go to the Sonific widget in the sidebar)

Winter has Arrived in Earnest

We have been enjoying a two day Winter storm. Here is the governments Winter Storm Warning

I think this is the one which will see the snow begin to accumulate over the Winter. I enjoy the Winter storms, particularly since I do not have to travel anywhere during them. This one came with some deep cold originally, -27C and some wind that caused drifting. The temperature has moderated to a comfortable -12C but their is still some wind to make it feel colder.

This morning there are some lovely drifts around objects like the buildings and the wood pile. I would need a better camera to photograph the artistic shapes of the drifted snow which are always so graceful and sensuous.

Of course, not all is fun! My water pump froze and it took me a day to thaw it out. After it survived -27C I thought it was good. It froze when the temperature was -20C. I think the wind made the difference. You would think I would learn after 27 years of learning to live with the cold.

A view from the back porch across the side field toward the river and the rock outcroppings beyond.

A view of my yard which I traverse several times a day to tend to the animals and keep the fire going. (Note the smoke) The snow this morning was 18 inches deep in some places.

We are not getting the worst of this storm. As I have written before the weather south and north of here is often much nastier. It creates transportation problems in the urban areas and on the freeways. We seldom have transportation problems here from the snow. I heard the plow rumble by at 5:00AM. We get good service because of the school bus and the logging trucks needing the road. Only once or twice have I ever been snowed in for over a day.

I have been reading about the drought in the United States this past year. I have read people's blogs , over the summer, complaining about it but I never really fathomed the depth of the problem.

If this is a continuing trend big changes will be necessary. The movement of people to the sun belt may decrease. I don't see how growing cities like Las Vegas, Atlanta and Charlotte can continue to allow expansion when water shortage is a chronic problem. Perhaps, industry may return to the north where there is more water security. I am sure industrial states like Michigan, Ohio and New York would welcome the return of their industries. Unfortunately, I suspect the alternative will be the massive transfer of water by pipeline in the future.

Peggy has often commented on my blog how she can't get over how lush and green everything is here. I guess compared to the parched condition of North Carolina it is very striking. Of course, in the Winter everything is wonderfully white. We do have had some moisture problems with a series of Winter droughts. We can thank the beaver for minimizing problems. So far this has not affected local water levels in rivers and wetlands but we do see the great lakes at a low level. There are difficult day ahead of all of us, I fear.

Here is a collection of a series of photographs of the drought across the United States. It is interesing to view these photos some are striking, particularly the dried out land and damage to the trees and grasses.
One photo I found shocking. It is in the California section. It shows a suburban street gutter growing algae because of the continuous runoff off from lawn watering. This in the midst of a serious drought in that state. Such thoughtlessness, selfishness and greed is unacceptable.

They are predicting a colder and snowier Winter here this year. (It is off to a good start). If it were in my power I would gladly send some to friends in the thirsty south. i toss you a symbolic snowball.

Today, I just may go out and make an angel in the snow. Winter is here!

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