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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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

And Yet, Another Snowstorm

Yesterday, we had another snowstorm. In some quaters it was characterized as a blizzard. The snow started falling around midnight and by morning there was a modest accumulation. The temperature had also dropped.

Shortly after I took Heidi out for her morning constitutional the wind started. To my surprise the plow passed. It soon looked like there would be more snow, (driven sideways in the wind) and there were would a great deal of drifting.

It as a good day to stay in and read. Luckily, my son brought the grandchildren by for my birthday and we were able to exchange Christmas gifts. This book, a Christmas gift, the latest and perhaps the last by Farley Mowat so he says as he is quite old now. He is an interesting character who has written a lot of books about the Canadian North. So I began reading as I watched the changing snowy landscape outside.

Today, shovelling the car out will be needed once again. My four foot deep pathway to the wood pile is filled in again and it will have to be excavated by yours truly, the shovel operator.

Under this drift in front of the house is my pickup truck.

This is the snowbank in front of the house that was too much for the snowplow, in the late afternoon, to push back completely. I suspect they will be back with a grader and maybe even a front end loader to get such drifted spots pushed back. It is -25 C this morning. I had started to think we had seen the last of days this cold or colder.

After the plow passed early in the morning the snow began to drift in and close the road. This drift is about four feet deep and growing. This is mid morning so by the late afternoon the road will be drifted across.
Needless to say tramping to the shed to feed the animals was a challenge. The path had drifted in and every step was above my knees. I had put my lined coveralls on as well as my winter coat, knowing it would be cold with the wind blowing and I might have trouble getting back and forth quickly. With the wind blowing I am sure the temperatrure felt the same as -35 C.
Life can be a challenge.
I am starting to think there may be flooding this year. My house is high and dry and built on a gravel bank but flooding can be a problem for others. There was a major flood in 1979, which destroyed much of the town drownstream from here, Field.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

100 Years of Canadian Aviation

Yesterday, February 23, was the 100th Anniversary of Aviation in Canada. 100 years ago at Baddeck, Cape Breton Island, the Silver Dart, took powered flight. It was the first such flight in the British Empire.

The Silver Dart was designed by Alexander Graham Bell, made largely of bamboo and canvas.
It was in front of his summer home at Baddeck that the flight took place.

A group of aviation enthusiasts have built a replica of the Silver Dart to fly on this anniversary. As it worked out the weather was too windy and snowy to do so but the day before it had been flown at Baddeck.

Previously it had been test flown in Hamilton, Ontario where is was built. Below is a video of this excellent test flight.

Over the years, Canada has built many air craft and continues to do so today. The apex of aviation in Canada was reach 30 years ago at Malton, Ontario when A.V. Roe Corporation built the worlds best jet aircraft the AVRO ARROW.

In large part, from pressure from the United States, The Canadian government suddenly scrapped the Arrow, immediately shredded the drawings and cut the finished models up for scrap. It was a sad day for Canadian aviation. While there is some mystery in the reason for destroying this exceptional aircraft, it seems the Conservative government of the day caved in to pressure from the United States. It is odd indeed that they tried to leave no remnant of this plane, as if to erase it existence from history.

The AVRO ARROW was so advanced it would still be rated as an exceptional jet aircraft today.
Many of the team of exceptional engineers, who were laid off, went on to join NASA.

Belows is a short video on this bit of Canadian aviation history.

Of all the aircraft built in Canada, in the sweep of history the bush plane has been most important for Canada. It was the bush plane, that made it possible to open up to exploration and development of the vast Canadian North. With floats, in the summer and skis, in the Winter, these small planes, flown by courageous men by the seat of their pants, established Canada's sovereignty over the North, bringing necessary people and services to this vast frontier.

The bush planes, Canadian built, emblematic of this era are the Beaver and Otter aircraft built by De Havilland. Many are still being flown today. A few years ago they were discontinued but I read recently that they are once again being built by another company with all the latest up to date aviation features. In Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario there is the Bush Plane Heritage Centre.

The era of the basic bush plane, and the men who flew them, is over. This is a remarkable chapter in Canadian history

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Break in the Weather

After a couple of days of snow and high winds, we got a break in the weather with bright blue skies. Unfortunately, the arctic high also brings colder temperatures. While the weather has cleared, I needed to make another trip to the feed mill in Verner.

But first, I the task to dig out the car. I just did it yesterday but with the wind and drifting snow it needs to be done again.

(click on photo to enlarge)

The drift on the right side of the car is about 3 feet deep. On the left side the snow plow has thrown some snow against the car as it passed. What is not shown is the snow packed under the car by the wind. I guess I could use the hour of exercise in the fresh air. -17C.

For readers who live where they are snow deprived. Here is what a snow covered plowed road looks like. This is the road I travel to get to Verner. These roads are nice to travel on, although a sign of Spring coming, frost heaves in the road can surprise you if you do not slow down for them. One of the good things about the road is that if you lose control and go into a skid the snow banks keep you out of the ditch. With careful speed this should not happen. If it does, there is seldom anyone else using the road. Just back out and carry on. (a little digging may be necessary.) When the road begins to get a little icy they come and sprinkle a little sand on the road, to help the traction.

This is a stretch of the road parallel to the Sturgeon River on the approach to the bridge. The snowbank seemed the highest here. It is as high or higher than the roof of the car.

At the mill Heidi enjoyed running up the snowbank at the edge of the parking lot. It is about 12 feet high. She ran about half way up and then turned to check out the view.

Days like today are very nice with the snow white and the sky blue. Everything sparkles and the cool temperatures are bracing. A good day for my birthday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Footnotes to Obama Visit

President Obama's visit seems to have been a big success. Both he and Prime Minister Harper seemed to gain politically with the message they wanted to get out.

Canadians seemed to enjoy the event. I watched quite a bit of the TV coverage on CBC. I peeked in on CNN from time to time and decided; for them, what Hilary Clinton was up to in Asia was more important than President Obama's visit to Canada.

President Obama and Governor General Michaëlle Jean

The President was greeted at the airport by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, Canada's head of State, the Queen's representative. It seems some American bloggers don't understand the place of the Governor General in Canada's political system. She is a stand in for the Queen when she is not present. In Canada's parliamentary system the function of head of state and head of the government are separated. The Prime Minister is the head of the government in power. He is the leader of his party and the first among equals of ministers, who make up the cabinet. The Prime Minister and the ministers manage a program for the running of the government, executive and legislative.

Michaëlle Jean carries out ceremonmial functions for the country. She represents the country at various international gatherings. She also related to Canadians on behalf of the country in non-political ways. Ultimately, she signs off on all legislation put forward by the government. She is also the symbolic Commander in Chief of the Military. It was her that granted the prorogation of parliament to save the Harper government from defeat with a vote of non-confidence.

In the American political system these two functions, head of State and Executive head of government are both part of the function of President.

Canada's system has one advantage I like. One can more easily be against the government of a Prime Minister in power while being supportive of the country, symbolized in the Governor General, a unifying figure. Our American cousins often find harsh criticism of the President, as Executive, bordering on disloyalty to the country, particularly in the area of foreign policy.

I have digressed into my high school civics lessons on comparing the Canadian and US political systems.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean and President Obama seemed to have had a very cordial visit and discussion.

They were shown on TV having a very animated discussion. They have much in common. They are the two first African North Americans to be heads of government in Western Democracies. They have both shown an interest in Africa. One of Michaëlle Jean's first visits overseas was to Africa. They are the same age and both have young children being raised while in very visible political careers. ( Michaëlle Jean has a 12 year old daughter she adopted from Haiti). They both are very affable and hands on kinds of people. Both are very comfortable in public and before the media. Michaëlle Jean was a TV personality in Quebec previously. They both seemed to enjoy each others company and the occasion of the visit. I am sure the President found her more charming than the Prime Minister.

Now for my pet peeeves.

The American TV people could do their homework better. Ms. Whitfield on CNN did not recognise a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in his red serge uniform. Next to the flag the RCMP in dress uniform is the most recognizable symbol of Canada. She mistakenly identified the honour guard at the airport as military . CNN has no excuse as two of their on air personalities are Canadians who have worked in Canada on air: Roberts and Velshi.

On Fox a reporter just could not pronounce "Chargé d'Affaire" and just had to dismiss it as "it's French" as if that is an excuse. I wonder if she knows what the function of a Chargé d'Affaire is .
It is a term used in both English and French.

American broadcasters need to do better at pronouncing words in other languages. One announcer pronounced Michaëlle Jean's last name as "gene" when it is closer of "john". I did not catch whether they mangled her first name. There are two dots over the "e" . This is a diaeresis which affects the pronounciation. The "e" is pronounced separate from the vowel preceeding it.

It is often counfused with the umlaut, also two dots, in German. The diaegresis has a different function than the umlaut. In English, we have largely dropped such marks (diacritcs) for pronouciation, which means you just have to learn the right prounciation for such words like naive. It should be written naïve. I can remember when I was taught to write English words using the diaeresis such as preëmptive and coöperation. But no more. Now we might write them pre-emptive and co-operation to help indicate the pronouciation.

This concern for accents, or diacritcs, may seem picayune but I think it is disrespectful to not write foreign language words with them. It os incorrect and in some languages makes the words hard to know how to pronounce. I know in Spanish if you drop the diacritic you may have an all together different word and meaning.

I am guilty of being lazy and drop the accents when writing. It takes time to insert them using the numerical keys and the codes. On Blogger this is even more troublesome as it does not recognize this method of printing the accented letters. The only way I have found to do it is to print the accented letters on the word processing program and then copy and paste them into the text on blogger. If anyone knows how else to insert the accented letters, which is easier, I would appreciate knowing.

I have digressed again. Here is a video of excerpts of the CBC broadcast of his visit. His unscheduled stop at the Byward Market to purchase some souvenirs turned into a walkabout which everyone seemed to enjoy, especially the President, (except the security people around the President. You could see the stress on their faces). He got a beavertail to eat and come Canadian cookies for his girls.

Here is the Whitehouse slideshow of the visit to Canada.

I hope President Obama returns for a visit with his family as he promised, " when the weather warms up." Canadians are certainly very open to being gracious hosts on such a visit.

Here is a lovely picture of the President and Governor General.

Obamamania Inflicts Canada

Today is the day. President Barack Obama is coming for a visit. He is coming to Ottawa to briefly visit with Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

From what I hear is that Otttawa is abuzz with excitement. In spite of there being little chance to actually see or hear from the president people are flooding into the city, hoping for a glimpse of Saint Obama or at least to say they were there in the same city. Apparently, bus loads of people are coming from across the province and from several other provinces. There will be thousands gathered in front of the Parliament Buildings.

The CBC is broadcasting most of the day all about the visit which will be quite short. These broadcasts always remind me of a sermon and the writing of sermons. An allotment of time has to be filled so the classic sermon formula is used. "Tell them what you are going to tell them. . . . .tell them. . . . tell them what you told them." Try not to make more than three points. Fill in the spaces with anacdotes (parables) and quotations (or pictures ) from visits past of American Presidents when interpersonal relationships with Prime ministers were not always as friendly..

Canadians have embraces President Obama as their own. They have not felt this way about a President of the US, since President Kennedy. Canadians may be even bigger admirers than Americans. Only 4% of Canadians feel negative toward him. Even when he was in the Primary race survey's showed that Canadians of all parties from the New Democrats on the left to the Conservatives on the right would welcome him as leader of their party.

It will be an exciting celebratory time in Ottawa today, even with the snow falling and colder temperatures than Washington. They are gathering on the steets as I write this. His arrival is a couple of hours away. I have heard people interviewed who went to Washington for the inauguration. Some had even taken time off work and gone and volunteered in his campaign to become President. And now, they have followed him to Ottawa. I guess they qualify as Obamamaniacs.

Did you know President Obama has Canadian relatives. It seems he has relatives everywhere.
They are the parents of his half sister's husband.

It is too bad President Obama is not bringing his family to Canada. Canadians would like that. I can envision motorcades similar to the one's when I was a youth of the Queen's visit with people just lining the streets.

As I have been thinking about Obama's visit and listening to the complicated security arrangements I wonder if Obama has been briefed that in Canada heads of government are expected to take some of their security into their own hands. Chretien was particularly good at this. There is the time he grabbed a protester by the throat when he would not get out of his way fast enough. And of course, there was the time his wife Aline played defense when an intruder showed up at their bedroom door at the official residence. Our Prime Minister can be ambushed by comedy shows re even pied by protesters. "Only in Canada, you say!" We are not used to the heavy security American presidents get. The Prime Minister travels with a single RCMP officer. Perhaps, when the weather is better the Obama's will return as a family and move among us so we may treat them like much admired neighbours and not politicians.

Another thought. The President will be met at the airport by Governor General Michaelle Jean, our Haitian born representative of the Queen. That will make an interesting picture. I wonder if they will comment between themselves. ("We black folk have come a long way!") Probably not,
they are both too sophisticated for that. It is an image of change for sure.

The only event that seems to challenge for broadcast time today is the World Pond Hockey Tournament in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. How Canadian is that.

Roulston Lake

Site of World Pond Hockey Tournament, Plaster Rock, NB

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Memories, St. Valentine's Day

At the present moment in my Life, love, romance, lust are held in special drawers and slots in my memory.
They can be taken out occasionally and revisited, eliciting echoes of feelings once profound and now just deliciously familiar and cherished.

Perhaps, love, romance, lust for me will no longer be refreshed, although I would like to think they may with a new love interest. For the time being, I cherish the memories of great loves, wonderful romances and lascivious lust, I carry them with me as sacred trusts within my mind. They never leave me; although they are fainter than once lived. None the less they are wonderful for they are and were Life, lived as best I could not alone but bonded to another.

On this theme a poem for this day:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e e cummings

Friday, February 13, 2009

Charles Darwin

Those of us in the Unitarian Church like to lay claim to famous people as our own. There is a good case that Charles Darwin was a Unitarian, in spite of his being babtized in the established church. His mother was a Unitarian and he attended his first school at the Unitarian Church in Shrewsbury where he and his family lived. Here is a slideshow from Deutsche Welle of places in his home town which still exist today, including the Unitarian chapel.

He also spend a great deal if time with relatives place. There were the Wedgewood family of pottery fame. The Wedgewood family were Unitarians. In their country home children were given much more freedom of movement and expression than in Darwin home. His father was strict and wanted young Charles to become a doctor like himself. At the country home, Maer Hall, of the Wedgewood family Charles spent much time exploring the natural world, its flora and fauna, foreshadowing his life's work as a Naturalist. Within the dissenter culture of the Unitarian church Darwin experienced people open to science and other religions.

My sister's recent trip to the Galapagos Islands and the fact that Darwin and the Wedgewood family came from the part of England where my Grandparents grew up, The Potteries.,( the six towns that were the heart of the pottery, ceramic and fine china making of England.) peaked my interest in Darwin. My grandparents came from Stoke-on-Trent.

Darwin grew up in a life of privilege. He married his cousin, Suzanna Wedgewood, had children and lived the life of a country gentleman. In his day, science was a pursuit of the leisure class, the gentry, who had the time, money and education to do science. Darwin spent his life examining the natural world and writing about it. He also carried on a great correspondence. His life and thoughts are well recorded.

Darwin ,of course, is best know for his theory of evolution through natural selection, which is now the basic tool to understand the Natural World and the changes wrought in it through time.

Natural selection was very controversial in his day as organized religion felt threatened by this theory which explained how changes in God's creation came about. Perhaps, God was not necessary to explain the natural world. Darwin lost his faith as he got older and became a humanist and non-believer. This is why is is a great favourite among Unitarians as their are many among us who fall into this category as well as many liberal Christians and others. Within the Unitarian church all believers are welcome for we are best thought of as a community of seekers. Darwin would have been welcome among us even two hundred years late.

In time, most of the religious community came to accept Darwin's explanation of change in the natural world, through natural selection. It is essential to science and how science explains and knows the world.

Why there are those who reject Darwin's theory of evolution today I have trouble understanding.
For the believer surely the process of evolution can be viewed as the ongoing creation of the Divine. The idea that God created a static eternal world flies in the face of rudimentary observation of change in the World around us. Evolution is science; creationism is religion.

Darwin's life and thought continues to be fascinating to read and know.

Mattawa and Black History

It being Black History Month, I am still reading a little in this area, particularly Canadian Black history. I just stumbled on this story of Canada's first Black mayor, Dr Firmin Monestime, who became the mayor of Mattawa, Ontario, a couple of hour drive from here on the Ottawa River.

Even today, one would be startled to see a black person on the street in Mattawa which is largely a French Canadian town with a history in logging (It is 125 years old this year) and even a more ancient history as the confluence of the Mattawa River and the Ottawa River. This was the place where the early explorers and fur traders travelling west from Montreal would turn west onto the "little river", the Mattawa, to canoe deep into the nation's wilderness.

The Monestime Family

Dr. Monestime came to live in Mattawa out of a series of lucky events for him and the town. He was from Haiti, where he had been a prominent doctor. Under the Duvalier regime in Haiti he decided to leave his homeland and chose to come to Quebec City, as he only spoke French. He requalified as a Canadian doctor there.

He was on his way to Timmins, north of here, with another doctor with the idea of opening a practice in this gold mining region. They stopped off at Mattawa for lunch and a resident recognized him. He had been his doctor in Quebec city. The town had just lost it's doctor and this fellow convinced Dr Monestime to stay and open a practice in Mattawa.

To make a longer story short he married an interesting woman who was a Russian refugee from Nazi Europe . They had four children. Dr. Monestime had a successful practice caring for the medical needs of this small town. He also founded a Nursing Home in the town, which he wife ran and his daughter administers today.

Dr. Monestime was elected and served several terms as mayor of Mattawa.

You can read a longer version of this story in this article from the North Bay Nugget newspaper,

The Main Street of Mattawa

I have been to Mattawa a few times. It is a small community in a very picturesque setting. If, years ago, I had come here I might have settled in the Mattawa area. While the town is only 125 years old Europeans have passed through here on the historic fur trade route for nearly 400 years. From the Ottawa River paddlers on this ancient "trans Canada highway" turned left into the Mattawa River to travel to Lake Nipissing, at the site of North Bay and then down the French River to the upper Great Lakes on the way west and north. Nearly every year some paddling groups retraces this ancient route, some going as far as the Rockie Mountains or even north to the Arctic Ocean.

One of the things to see in Mattawa is the studeo of the artist Clermont Duval. I am very found of his paintings of the north land.

Canoe on the Mattawa

This painting of a red canoe I love. I really should go and purchase a print of it. This is the same type and colour of canoe I own. It used to be in as good a shape as this one. I bought it brand new when I was 17 for $150. They now cost you at least that amount per linear foot. This is the prospector model, 16 feet, cedar strip canvas covered. It is a classic.

The Black Three Legged Wolf "The Admirable Violent"

I love Duval's painting based on a tale. Quite often they are mystical in nature involving animals, quite often the noble wolf.

Here is the written explanation of the painting:

" A boy, lost in dense bush during sub-zero temperatures, is found the next day, to everyone's astonishment, alive and well. All he can get across is “A black dog...missing a leg.
Months later, while poaching, the boy's father shoots a black wolf at the stroke of midnight. Upon closer inspection, he noticed the wolf had only three legs, in addition to a gold chain with the medallion bearing the initials 'R.B.' and an inscription: Nature Holds Man's Life.
Could this animal be his child's saviour? Who is R.B.?
The truth shall remain a mystery, but tonight an ex-hunter gently rocks his child to sleep, fingering the gold medallion around the child's neck, and with both sorrow and respect, remembers this “Admirable Violent”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Wonderful Gesture

Actress Salma Hayek, who I have long admired for her beauty and presence on the silver screen, just raised her stature with me for a remarkable gesture while in Africa promoting the efforts of the UN on behalf of children in Sierra Leone. She breastfed an under nourished child.

In the scheme of things in the life of this child, this matters little but for a woman, whose career is largely enhanced by her personal beauty to do this is symbolic in many ways.

Women's breast are more than adornment to entertain man. They have a real and vital purpose.
They are the very source of "the milk of human kindness."

By easily and selflessly feeding a child in distress, because she is able (she has a child of her own which is breasttfeeding) this beautiful woman reminds young women that breast feeding is a wonderful natural thing a woman can do. This is a message for young women in the First World to learn. I might add it goes of men as well, in our society that sexualizes women and their breasts. Perhaps, once they stop with the stupid cheap macho jokes they might recognize the lesson. As an admirer of great decolletage (I love this word) I have shared in this obsession like other men and perhaps more than most. I like to think I know this is a distraction and not in reality very important.

Perhaps, my having a sister who worked on behalf of LaLeche in support of breastfeeding taught me something. She even went to Bostwana one year on behalf of LaLeche League and the UN to promote breastfeeding. . . . . . .Yes! I had to learn that African women did not automatically know all about breastfeeding, in spite of the years I learned about breasts reading National Geographic Magazine.

More immediately, women of Africa and particularly Sierre Leone, are reminded that breastfeeding is the best thing they can do for their children. Culturally, they are pressured not to do it. And for years, baby food manufacturers have promoted the idea that using formula rather than breastfeeding is the more modern thing to do, making the problem worse.

One could dismiss this gesture as a stunt but after viewing these videos below I feel it was a selfless gesture to make a point about the importance of breastfeeding.

Symbolically, it also says that all children are our children. If we are able to feed and care for the World's children better, we in the First World should in all the ways we can.

To better understand the context of the breastfeeding and what Salma Hayek was doing in Sierra Leone watch the longer video below, from the TV show Frontline. She was there to promote the UN giving tetanus shots to mothers to protect their babies. The manufacturer of Pampers is donating a tetanus vaccine for every package of diapers sold. This has added up to a great number, which is beginning to make a difference.

I admire Salma Hayek for using her celebrity status to promote the care and feeding of children in Africa.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Day

I just got in from outside. Heidi needed her nightly trip outside before going to bed. It has warmed up to -4C and there is a " Winter Storm Watch" on. It seems there is some nasty weather coming; beginning with an ice storm, then some rain as the temperature rises to 8C. There is a full moon tonight and the snow glows white still. This may be the beginning of the end of the worst of Winter.

I can hear our local pack of wolves howling. I have not heard them since early Winter. With the crust on the snow from the light rain then cold temperatures of the other day, they may be more easily traveling around. I enjoyed listening to them in the stillness of the night. I resisted calling to them to see if they might answer. I just listened and took in the moment.

I wasn't the only one. Heidi my dog was on alert standing attentively listening to the call from her primordial genetic past. She too remained silent.

With a tug on her leash, I encouraged her to reluctantly return to the warmth of the house.

By morning, the weather may make everything seem less attractive outside.

(click on photo to enlarge)

Earlier today, some of the piglets reminded me I needed to go to the feed mill in Verner.

It was a lovely clear day: blue sky and white snow. This is the Sturgeon River at the point south of town where we cross the bridge on the shortcut toward the farming community of Verner.

Heidi anxiously watch me as I took some pictures. She seems like she was in a hurry to get going.

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This is our destination, the Coop Feed mill and grain storage facility. The snow is still very white and clean. That will end as the meltdown begins. This could be the beginning of the end of Winter although we could still have some very cold weather yet. It will be a month before we will know l we are into the Spring thaw.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Creek Circle????

I stumbled on this video the other day and was quite amazed by it. I was looking at the blogTO web site to discover the latest interesting things to do in Toronto. Maybe I have been living in the country too long?

It would be so nice to go and visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (redesigned by Toronto born Architect, Frank Gehry, or even the wonderfully remodelled Royal Ontario Museum ( by architect, Daniel Libeskind) and then stop off at a trendy restaurant or cafe for something yummy.

It also would be nice to experience the ethnic mix in the city. Living among people who look like me and share a rather narrow cultural outlook has gotten boring. . . . . .I must be suffering from Cabin Fever.

Back to the amazing phenomena in the video. What you are looking at is a thin circle of ice rotating in a a current.

This video is taken on a creek near were I grew up in Mississauga, Ontario. It is on Rattray Creek. As a teenager, I used to go birdwatching at the Rattray Marsh to view the migration of the song birds, warblers, in the Spring and Fall. It was a lovely marsh. For years it was fought over by developers and conservationists which resulted in the shrinking of the marsh so that it could be surrounded by expensive homes. I have not been back since.

This circle phenomena is not unique. You can find another video on YouTube even larger.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Africa's Anthem

My blogging friend, Donna, commented in my previous blog that she preferred Africa's Anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' Africa, (God Bless Africa), to the American Negro National Anthem. Donna has lived in Africa and has a love for that continent. Well I was not aware of this song so my ever present curiosity lead me to find out more about it.

Here it is.

I find it melodic and moving and can understand to use in Africa.

Here are the lyrics

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrica
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

English Translation


Lord, bless Africa;
May her horn rise high up;
Hear Thou our prayers And bless us.

Descend, O Spirit,
Descend, O Holy Spirit.

Bless our chiefs
May they remember their Creator.
Fear Him and revere Him,
That He may bless them.

Bless the public men,
Bless also the youth
That they may carry the land with patienceand that
Thou mayst bless them.

Bless the wives
And also all young women;
Lift up all the young girls
And bless them.

Bless the ministers
of all the churches of this land;
Endue them with Thy Spirit
And bless them.

Bless agriculture and stock raising
Banish all famine and diseases;
Fill the land with good health
And bless it.

Bless our efforts
of union and self-uplift,
Of education and mutual understanding
And bless them.

Lord, bless Africa
Blot out all its wickedness
And its transgressions and sins,
And bless it.

This song is to me a hymn, more so than an anthem. It is in fact a prayer. It has been used in communal and political situations such that it has taken on layers of emotion and meaning such that it is also considered an antiwar song. Given Africa's often violent history it is interesting how this hymn has become such a powerful anthem. (Perhaps, this is just my biased opinion of the nature of African culture)

This Anthem has become part of the South African National Anthem where it is combined with "Die Stem van Suid Afrika" (Call to Africa) the former Afrikaner Anthem of than country, symbolic of the effort at reconciliation in that country.

The video below begins by scrolling up some of the history of this unique National Anthem.
It also includes some lovely images of the beautiful country of South Africa.

I hope you have taken the time to enjoy this song of Africa.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Black History Month

February is Black History Month and is recognized in both Canada and the United States.

My 10 years of living in the United States, most of the time living in the heart of black inner city neighbourhoods in Boston and New Haven, introduced me to the anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing", recognized as the Negro National Anthem. I have come to love this song. It moves me deeply ( it can move me to tears) and I am not one to get terribly emotional about music. It is a wonderful lyric (It was a poem first) with a very emotive tune. At the point where it changes key I am deeply caught up in the song, singing loud and proud.

Besides having a good lyric and a wonderful tune a song becomes an anthem when it is sung by large groups in circumstances which add layers of meaning and emotion to the participants. This is how this song, through the years has become a National Anthem for African Americans. I have participated in many large gatherings singing this song, quite often one of only a few white participants. Below is a very emotional presentation of it on video. The images give some indication of the layers of meaning attached to it over the years.

Negro National Anthem

The lyrics for this song were written by James Weldon Johnson and the music was composed by his brother, John Johnson . It was first presented a a poem on Lincoln's birthday to honour Booker T. Washington. For the history of this anthem visit

I was disappointed that at the Inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States there was not an occasion for a great public singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" How emotional and wonderful it would have been to have nearly two million voices singing it. I am sure it was sung in black churches in the Washington area for this occasion. I have read in a couple of blogs that there were spontanteous singing of it in the crowd that day.

It did make a small appearance in the prayer of Reverend Lowery as part of the benediction. He began his pray reciting the third verse of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" ,without comment, but there must have been some among the black participants that recognized the words.

Below is a video created for Barack Obama using "Lift Every Voice and Sing" I included it below because I think it is interesting to see the difference in tone between the first and second video in this blog entry. How times have changed.

I hope everyone will find some time to learns something more about the historical contribution African Americans and African Canadians have made to our societies.

For Canadians there is a wonderful portal web site to begin to learn of some of this history in Canada.