Archive for the ‘Personal Stuff’ Category

As everyone in Atlantic Canada knows, this has been an unusual fall. It was fairly innocuous and pleasant until Post-tropical Storm Noel hit in November, immediately followed by a mix of rain and snow (I wish it had been a bit less post and a bit more tropical). Then winter hit a “little” early, with frequent flurries and temperatures that rarely made it above -5 C. Then we got this week’s weather. Things started warming up until today it broke plus 10 in places, a fair amount of rain fell, then it cleared up this afternoon and was amazingly sunny, with brisk (to a Newfoundlander) winds and temperatures staying above zero.

The nice thing for me was that the storm gave half decent waves along the Atlantic coast, so I rushed to Peggy’s Cove after work. Except for the wind blowing sea spray directly onto my lens when shooting straight at the waves, it was perfect. I finished around 4:40 pm, then drove back to town. Things had become strangely calm, with very little traffic, almost nothing open (except video stores and movie theatres, of course). The sense of calmness and serenity was wonderful.

I went home, downloaded some of the images from the Cove, and present them as one view of an Atlantic Canadian Christmas. Happy and peaceful holidays, and may your New Year’s resolutions be little ones.

Looking Out the Entrance

Looking Out the Entrance
The Gulls were really active, since the waves had stirred up the ocean.

In the Cove

In the Cove
Bad waves almost never make it into the Cove. Today there were 4-5 metre waves outside the cove and pounding on the entrance.


Tip: Don’t shoot directly into the wind, unless you like spray on your lens…I wanted this shot so much I tried it anyway.

Broken rock

Boroken rock
The large flat rock near the centre was broken off the ledge in the foreground. I estimate that it weighs on the order of 120 metric tonnes.




Best Viewed Large. Note the chunk gouged out of the rock in the foreground. This comes from Noel in November. There was a lot of damage in the Cove.


Along the Coast

Along the Coast
The entrance to the Cove is just beyond the little red shack. This coast is full of rock ledges and often has a lot of wave activity.

 The Evening Light

The Evening Light
I know it is cliche, but the light was very nice.

Again, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and Happy Quanza, Hannukah, and Chinese New Year (coming soon). Given the recent weather, I’m just as happy with a warm and dry Christmas.

a quickr pickr post


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I have certain views on this Scottish idiosyncrasy , and as a result I think I have one (1) golf picture on my flickr site. Imagine my bemusement when I was invited to add my image to Great Golf Pictures, and I am now a Great Golf Pictures Award Winner! I think it is honest to say that the picture below reflects my feelings about this. Have a nice day, and keep golf in the family.

Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker

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A few weeks ago I took a two hour cruise (therefore no Gilligan-type problems) on a ketch that turned out to be more colourful than usual. We sailed from Lunenburg Harbour out to the Ovens and back (this is on the Southwestern Shore of Nova Scotia). The wind was light but steady, and we made fairly good time.

It reminded me of how much I like sailing. Maybe I’ll get a boat.

Romantic Sunset
Two retirees enjoying the light.

Heat Shimmers
Sailing Dory reaching back into the harbour.

Cirrus Streamers

Captains Courageous
Sailing as far into the wind as possible in order to round the lighthouse.

Clearing Battery Point
Clearing Battery Point on the return leg.

Final Run
Sailing towards the berth.

Wake of the ship and the Moon.

Twilit Silhouette

a quickr pickr post

Master of all she surveys.

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Recently my best friend Heather told me a little about a children’s book called Bridge to Terabithia. I was home sick for much of this week, but today I ventured forth and bought a copy. When I was at page 57 I tried calling her to thank her for ever so gently hinting that it was worth reading, but she wasn’t at home. That was an hour ago.

I just finished it.

Thanks, Heather.

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About a month ago I needed to break away from school and work. I rented a car and wandered south along the coast. I was hoping for some nice pictures, but the weather and sky didn’t really cooperate. However, I made the best of things and kept my eyes open. Here are a few of the things that made the trip worthwhile.

First I drove towards Peggy’s Cove, hoping to get there before sunrise. As I passed a lake, I saw the dawn blazing on the clouds and reflected on the lake ice.

Cold Reflections of Dawn

When I made it to the Cove it was mostly cloudy, but the sun peaked through nicely three times, allowing me to shoot these.

The first image was sunrise through the clouds.

Prospect's  Sunrise

The second was when the Cove became sunny for a few minutes, and there were little ice pans from the upper part of the bay.


The third and final sunny image was a silhouette I saw as I was leaving the cove.

Steel Dawn

As I drove around the Bay I stopped at Northwest Harbour, a picturesque little harbour surrounded by hills, and well known for its colourful boats. However, what drew my eye that day was the quietness and the calm of the water.

Sunday Reflections

When I made it to Mahone Bay I found this little park on an island with a path around it. The bay was pretty calm, and the overcast sky had little clouds below the main deck reflecting on the bay. Just looking out on the bay would reduce your blood pressure, and I came away fairly relaxed.

Cold Lunch

Then I drove up the side of the LaHave River, which is about the size of the Humber River in Western Newfoundland, and which usually freezes up every winter. As I drove along I saw a rainbow conglomeration ice fishing tents and shacks on the water, which I had never seen home in Newfoundland when I grew up; we’d just cut holes in the ice and wander back and forth between the holes, and occasionally we’d make a fire on the ice to keep warm. In this case there was a seemingly semi-animate tree observing the activities of the strange hominids who would willingly sit on the ice for hours in temperatures near -15 C.

Huorn perplexed by human recreational practice.

Further down the river I saw an iceboat, which I had only seen once before. It was scooting along in a brisk breeze at about 60 kph, and I was driving along the river road at the speed limit trying to keep up. Then I found the boat’s home base and parked, trying to get a non-blurred image whenever the boat came close enough to shoot. It looked like a lot of fun, but when I fall out of a boat I’d rather fall into liquid water, and I’d also prefer my watercraft not to have three huge blades attached. However, these boat can easily exceed 100 kph, and if you like speed, they have plenty of it.

Breezing along at 70 kph.

While I was sitting in the car and shooting (to avoid the cold) I noticed a Merganser Duck in the water near the shore. It wasn’t looking at me, so I carefully egressed the vehicle and tried to get closer. I wasn’t careful enough, and he lit out like a bat out of a Persian Hell (i.e. cold), but I did get this snapshot.


Finally I headed back, and one of the sights that I enjoyed on the way home was of the shore-fast ice in the upper bays.

Tied up for the Evening

Finally I came back into town relaxed and refreshed, except for a sore posterior from sitting in a care for over eight hours. Despite the bad lighting I saw some unique things, hiked around a bit, and just enjoyed the day. Maybe I’ll get out again before the spring breakup, and maybe conditions will be nicer this time.

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John, Taylor-Hood, a friend of mine, recently posted some place names in Atlantic Canada comparing interesting pronunciations versus spellings of local placenames, and asked about other strange or interesting cases. I had a few minutes of fun doing this (Newfoundland has an amazing variety of names that are interesting for many reasons) and threw in a few bad plays on words in the process.

Then I noticed that he had a number of First Nations place names (mostly Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) in his list, and I tried to come up with a number of Aboriginal place names in Newfoundland that might have weird and wonderful sounds. Off the top of my head I could come up with none. For Labrador there were a number of names that came to mind, mostly because they have weather stations that I use. They are mostly Innuit with possibly a few Montagnais or Naskapi names. These include Makkovik, Cape Kiglapait, Cape Kakkiviak, and Sheshatshui (pronounced shesh-a-sidhe, I think). For the Innuit names pronounce every vowel, and if you say the words fast it usually comes out fairly well, and at worst people don’t have a lot of time to catch the errors.

The fact that I knew of no Beothuk names, lest alone Mi’kmaq names, on the Island disturbed me. The history of the Beothuk’s interactions with the European settlers, and the consequent destruction of their people by a combination of distrust, displacement from their coastal hunting and fishing areas, violence, and European disease has haunted me since I was a child. Because of the minimal interaction between the settlers and the Beothuks, I would have expected that only a few names would survive, but I remember absolutely none. Regarding the Mi’kmaq, they came to Newfoundland as scouts and hunters for the settlers, and they are basically the only Aboriginal people in significant numbers remaining on the Island. On that basis I should have been aware of at least a few names, but again I came up empty.

I went of Geonames Canada (just google it), and tried Beothuk with no luck. Then I tried Micmac and got half a dozen places in Newfoundland and Labrador; a Hill (actually a mountain when you walk down it), a brook, a river, a lake, and and island. Then I tried Eskimo and Inuit and found a few points in Labrador. Finally I did a bit more searching on the web.

Here are a few that I know or suspect refer to the Beothuks:

  • Red Indian Lake (the Beothuks were the Red Ochre People, and the not so politically correct term Red Indian refers to the tone of their ochre-adorned skin)
  • Western and Eastern Indian islands (Fogo)
  • Indian Cove Island (Bay of Exploits)
  • Ochre Pit Hill (Terra Nova National Park)
  • Oche Pit Cove (Conception Bay)
  • Indian Lookout (Trinity Bay)
  • Indian Harbour (near La Poile)
  • Indian Bay Pond, and sadly
  • Indian Burying Place (Baie Verte Peninsula)

As to actual Aboriginal place names in Newfoundland and Labrador, here’s what I came up with after a cursory search:

  • Beothuk
    • Aguathuna (possibly derived from aguathoonet meaning grindstone). On the Port au Port Peninsula, it was named in 1911 by Archbishop Howley, who though it was Beothuk for white stone. Still, this is not a place name given by the Beothuks
    • Shannoc Brook (Beothuk name for Mi’kmaq) Joseph Jukes, Geological Surveyor for Newfoundland from 1839-1840, believed the brook was named this way
  • Innuktitut
    • Kaipokok Bay (“frothy water”)
    • Makkovik (“two places”?)
    • Nunatsiavut (“our beautiful place”)
    • Sheshatshui (“narrow place in the river”)
    • Torngat Mountains (from “turngait” or “spirit”)
  • Mi’kmaq
    • Meepaeg Resevoir
    • Ebegunbaeg Hill
    • Kepenkeck Lake
    • Kikupegh Pond
    • Awachanjeesh Pond
    • Kaegudeck Lake
  • Other Aboriginal Languages
    • Wabush (Innu for “rabbit ground”) western Labrador
    • Wabana (Abanaki for “east land”), named by Thomas Cantley of the Nova Scotia Steel Company in 1895 on Bell Island in Conception Bay

The names labelled Mi’kmaq were done so based on the fact that they are inland from Hermitage Bay in the Bay D’espoir region and personal supposition. Many of the Mi’kmaq still in Newfoundland settled in this region, and I’m guessing that European settlers didn’t explore into these regions much until the latter half of the 20th century. By this time it was more usual to allow native place names to be accepted by white Newfoundlanders and Canadians, so these inland features in the Bay du Nord region kept their Aboriginal names. However, all I have at this point is names on a map that resemble Mi’kmaq names from Nova Scotia. Some of them may be Beothuk.

In summary there is a scattering of First Nations based place names in Newfoundland and Labrador, with more in Labrador due to lesser and later European intrusions. The Moravian missionaries were also more accepting of the native cultures in Labrador. For the Island, if the names near Bay D’espoir are Mi’kmaq, then my supposition that their names would be more common than the Beothuks seems to be born out.

The saddest aspect is that I could only find two placenames with a good possibility of Beothuk origin. One of them may be the Beothuk word for Mi’kmaq, and the second may be the Beothuk word for grind stone. Only one of them may have been given by the Beothuks. Without Demasduit and Shawnadithit, we would have known almost nothing of this people, their language and their culture. But as long as we do remember, something of their culture will survive. For those who aren’t aware of this, if you take our provincial flag and rotate it 90 degrees clockwise, it is the design of a Beothuk pendant that used to be on display in the old Newfoundland Museun and is probably in The Rooms. It is the main reason I like the flag, and reminds us to avoid our ancestors mistakes, and to do what we can to remember the people who lived on and loved this land before we came.

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After a series of long shifts at work, on Christmas Eve I went for a walk along Spring Garden Road, a popular street with small coffee shops, diners and restaurants, and a very eclectic mix of stores. It was surprisingly quiet that day; coincidentally, the news mentioned that there were fewer people visiting Bethlehem on that day.

Anyway, people seemed fairly relaxed and quiet, and there was no real hint of frenzied shopping. One image that caught my eye was a velour-clad Santa Claus playing his beautiful saxophone with a nice jazz beat. The song was “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus” which brought a smile to my face, since it had probably done the same thing to Santa! Then he played some more traditional songs, and he was excellent; Santa’s a great musician, which probably helps when he chooses violins and tin whistles for the kids.

Jazzy Santa and a Merry Christmas to All!

Then I headed towards St. Mary’s, the local Catholic Cathedral. I was hoping to shoot some stained glass before sundown, but it turned out to be too cloudy for my purposes. Also, I was disappointed to hear no bells, and there was no sign of Bing. However, there had been some decorating going on. A wall hanging showing three wise men and shepherds caught my eye, and I tried for a shot, even though it was a bit blurry to shoot without a tripod.

Camel Postehaste

I had heard once that the pillars and arches of the great Cathedral in Chartres were designed to give the feeling of a great forest, with the pillars and arches evoking the massive trunks and branches of the sacred grove that had previously existed on the site. St. Mary’s also has a feeling like this, and as I was leaving along one of the aisles I looked behind me and saw this small Christmas tree between two of the massive pillars.

Pagan Evergreen Among Christian Pillars of the Earth

Initially I found the image to be striking, with the small, fragile, yet brightly lit evergreen cone against the dark and massive grace of the unlit white pillars merging into the branching arches of the nave and clerestory. Then I started thinking about the multiple levels of symbolism in this image. The Christmas tree at the time of Yule has a long history as a pagan religious symbol before Christianity added it to their culture (as they have added so much from other beliefs and cultures, including the date for the birth of Christ). Yet here it was prominently displayed in the centre of religious authority for the Archdiocese of Nova Scotia, and probably is similarly displayed in almost every Christian church in the Western World. This made me think about how the incorporation of this symbol into the Church could have occurred hundreds of years ago, but would probably not occur now.

The way that the early Catholic Church absorbed and melded other beliefs with their own (as long as the other beliefs were not antithetical to the core Christian doctrine) helped them immeasurably to convert much of western Europe. While the motives of the Church were probably often not altruistic, the attitude of using similarities in belief and religious practices to get to a meeting of minds where possible, and in trying to maintain local cultures and practices where these did not contradict fundamental Christian beliefs, was encouraging. This was probably related to the Roman policies of the time, where peoples who had been annexed were allowed to maintain their cultures, and attain citizenship, insofar as this did not conflict with the security of the Empire.

It is a shame that this flexibility and ability to look for similarities rather than differences is not really practised any more by most Christian denominations. The rigidity of beliefs and intolerance of other beliefs in the Catholic Church started in the Dark Ages and continued until modern times. The reformation movements that produced the Protestant and other Christian denominations were sometimes tolerant and adaptable, but many were as rigid or even more authoritarian than the Catholic Church. In fact, the Catholic and Protestant inquisitions were primarily directed at heretics rather than witches, and were as dark a period in Christian religious history as the Crusades.

A fairly extreme example of compromising with local customs and beliefs was in Ireland, where the Irish Catholic Church had developed many beliefs different from the more Roman Catholic centre in York. These differences started after the Romans left England until the Irish Catholic Church came to a compromise with York and Roman Catholicism late in the Dark Ages. Part of the divergence was a willingness to compromise with local beliefs, and part was due to the long isolation from close links to Rome. Difference included allowing priests to marry, and monasteries and abbots had much more power than bishoprics and bishops. In fact, monasteries and abbots in one kingdom would occasionally war against those in other kingdoms. Also, they were willing to read and to collect any knowledge, in contrast to the self-imposed censorship of much of the church; this is one of the main reasons that so much knowledge during the Dark and Middle Ages were preserved in Ireland, and also why it was a fount of scholarship during the same period. The Irish church was also much less authoritarian and accepting of individual difference; for example Brigid was made an Abbess and accepted as such. Many of the monks and priests were not from the aristocracy, and there was a belief that ability and talent were as or more important than a birthright. The Irish were also the first to establish private versus public confessions, and to allow repeated absolutions (for example, on the continent if you stole, were absolved, and stole again you were excommunicated without the possibility of forgiveness).

The idea of coming together is currently being practised by some great people influential in religion and in the world in general. Ex-president Jimmy Carter is a good exemplar of this; he considers himself a Fundamentalist Christian, but he tries not to focus on arguments about differences in doctrine, but in coming together over the core elements that most denominations agree on. For example, he argues arguments about beliefs in Creationism versus Evolution are unproductive, and he will not argue with others about this. Instead he will focus on where his beliefs are identical with or can be reconciled with others. He also had great respect and admiration for John Paul II, and willingly met with him; while disagreeing with him on many areas of belief, he was able to work with the Pontiff on humanitarian issues. Carter was also able to work with integrity within the American constraint that matters of Church and State should be separate; while personally opposing abortion, he did not act to reverse Roe versus Wade. What he did do was to promote programs that encouraged safe sex and planned parenthood, and that made it easier for unplanned babies to be adopted or fostered. Rather than fight over whether abortion is wrong, he tried to prevent the problem and the resultant suffering from occurring in the first place.

John Paul II was one of the most conservative Popes in the Twentieth Century, but he also cared for and understood people regardless of their beliefs. When I was a teenager, I experienced the phenomenon of his link to young people, and his great energy. His influence on the events and people in Poland helped cause a peaceful revolution in Poland and eventually in the Soviet Republics that rivals Ghandi’s liberation of India. He made a major beginning in redressing old animosities with the Jewish faith, exemplifying what it means to hold your beliefs but to still come together with others with integrity.

Christmas is a time to come together, and the little tree in the cathedral gradually reminded me of this. Carter and John Paul II showed me that even strongly fundamentalist people can come together with hope and integrity. They show that people who are consciously fundamentalist and who act intelligently with integrity (rather than being blindly fundamentalist) can do a lot to bring the world together, and to exemplify the fundamental (and liberal) ideals of compassion, empathy, and courage.

Here’s hoping for a better New Year!

Votive Hopes
Votive Prayers

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