Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lake Nipigon Morning

Politics can make me crazy so I like to take time out to remember what is important. In this case, it's Canada. Yesterday was Canada Day and to mark the occasion, I uploaded the first batch of photos taken across the country and across the decades. You can see them here. I've lived in British Columbia, Alberta (including a town straddling the border of Saskatchewan), Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and now call Nova Scotia home. Every part of our nation is filled with beauty and places that inspire the spirit.

Today, I celebrate a morning along the shores of Lake Nipigon. The day promised to be hot but it was still very early and the heat had not yet overtaken the coolness of dawn. With the obligatory Tim Horton's coffee in hand, I made my way through the tall grass down to the rocky shore, arousing clouds of sleepy mosquitoes that were immediately drawn to the warmth of my coffee. Snapping the lid shut, I set it down on an adjoining rock and was left in relative peace to enjoy the sounds of nature awakening to a new day.

Everything was bathed in soft light and tinted with rose, aqua, and violet. The water was like glass, disturbed only by an occasional jumping fish. There were no cars or other human sounds. The air was fresh and scented with wet foliage, damp earth, and lake water. I took a couple of photos, but mostly I just sat there living the moment. It occurred to me that my presence here was part of a much larger circle. Things that seem important in the city have no meaning here. This is real. This is life. This is the Canada I love.

Within this peace, I find my home. To try and build upon perfection would only hide the beauty, like a talent hidden or a life unlived. In this moment, I am here forever as are you when you chance upon this place, this moment, this life. Sharing this home is what makes us family and respecting this home nurtures all mankind.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CETA: Dancing with the Devil?

If you read the articles hitting the Internet in the last few days, it would seem as if anyone who doesn't agree with the Canadian-European trade agreement, as presented in CETA, has a screw loose. Even our government Internet pages have been removed or changed to provide less information in some areas and what amounts to propaganda in others. This is disturbing in itself, but I'm getting used to such actions from the Harperist regime - but I digress. While the main focus has been on how Canadians can possibly cash in on this, not one article is mentioning what European companies have to gain and this puzzles me.

Let's look at Nestlé. This is a huge company that presents itself as the number one health and wellness company in the world. No, I'm not making this up. It says so on their website. However, I can't find one product in the Nestlé list that is not processed, so how can this be? Let's ask the former CEO and current Chairman of the Board of Directors, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (PB-L).

According to PB-L:
  • GMOs are healthy and organic food is not necessary.
  • Water is not a human right and should be marketed like any other foodstuff.
  • Nature is not good. It is pitiless and needs [corporate] intervention..
  • Working more for companies and for longer hours is good for you.
  • Companies should be able to claim and patent uses for common plants.
Okay, he might be a little extreme but what has this got to do with Canada? Well, how about the fact that this agreement means that European companies can bid on municipal contracts and must be awarded if they provide the lowest bid? I don't really want Nestlé operating my municipal water or governing my local farmer`s markets. Think that can't happen? Think again. The price for such 'generosity' is our freedom. 

Hitler didn't seem crazy to the people of Germany at the time of economic crisis.

What? I'm bringing Hitler into it? You bet and it is not a case of 'Godwin's Law'. Hitler had company in people like Stalin and Mussolini. All used the same techniques.This is about seducing people into being cared for by a few select companies working through government. Work will set you free. In case that's not familiar to you, it graced the gates of several Nazi concentration camps.These things creep up on us later but one thing remains true. If you give up your freedom for any kind of promise, you lose it forever. Just step back a moment and get an aerial view. New World Order is the stuff of crazy conspiracy theorists. Strong Globalization is the way of the future. Just remember they are exactly the same thing.

Some very interesting similarities in outlook:

Now I'm not saying that Brabeck is Hitler but the videos do have some strikingly common elements. Whether or not you find them disturbing is a matter of how you view them. If you find yourself agreeing with the philosophy, that's fine. Just remember that it did lead to something rather sinister last time. Will it again? There is no way to tell at this point but, for me, it's enough to know the potential is there. I'd rather not make this kind of mistake and centralize control to such an alarming degree. Do you think it's worth it? We are a nation of pioneers and hardy First Nations people, not peasants. Let's act like it and keep Canada for Canadians.

Related news:
Tragedy in Bangladesh garment factory
CUPE in Geneva asking UN to stop Canada's water privatization

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beauséjour: Beautiful Place to Live

Old cars left to nature's care near Beauséjour. Photo: ©2013 Alexandra Lucas
The town of Beauséjour, with or without the accent, is directly translated from the French as beautiful place to live. If you are not a prairie person, you may have some doubts about that statement and assume the first settlers were just desperate and grateful to find fresh water nearby. Why would anyone want to live in Manitoba without, at the very least, the perks of Winnipeg shopping as compensation? The answer is simple. It's stunningly beautiful. The town itself is very small - only 2700 people. It's part of a larger rural municipality called Brokenhead, named for the river than runs through the area. Nearby are the sparkling lakes and sandy beaches of Whiteshell Provincial Park. The scent of jackpine is in the air and there are places to explore that leave you feeling as if you've stepped into a painting by Tom Thompson.
Into the deep autumn woods along the Brokenhead River. Photo: ©2008 Alexandra Lucas
This part of Manitoba straddles the line between the rugged Canadian Shield and the open prairie. If you had been here a million or so years ago, you would have been standing on the edge of the first part of North America to permanently emerge from the sea. Under your feet even now is exposed Precambrian rock formed 500 million years ago. On one side of you is the deep boreal forest, teeming with wildlife. On the other is the flatland that stretches more than 1200 kilometres west to meet the Canadian Rockies.

Is it really that cold in the winter? Are the summers warm?

Yes, it can be cold. The record low is -52°F, without windchill, but an average winter day isn't that frigid. For anyone who has not experienced frozen nostrils, it can be a little disconcerting at first but it won't stop you enjoying the outdoors. The summers are very warm and temperatures climbed to over 100°F one year but that was usual. Nearby beaches are a favourite weekend destination for many in the area, including those from the 'Peg. It's only about an hour's drive from the city.

So what brought people here?
Credit: Library and Archives Canada/C-006605

The years from 1890 to 1910 saw many immigrants arrive from Eastern Europe, the area referred to at that time as the Austrian Empire and what we know today as Poland, Germany, and Ukraine. Jewish settlers arrived from Galicia and Bukovina. They were granted homesteads through the Dominion Lands Act (1872), usually 160 acres for a fee of $10, and they would be awarded a Land Patent after certain improvements had been made within a specified time period. Within three years they had to clear from 15 to 50 acres of land, build a residence, and plant from 10 to 30 acres of crops with what they managed to bring with them in wooden trunks from the old country. Given the climate, it meant very hard work. Home was often a sod-covered hole in the ground until the land was cleared and planted. Did I mention the hordes of mosquitoes? After all this work in very little time and with two witnesses to testify to its completion, they could then apply for the Land Patent. That's how this community was built. The photo at right shows Galician settlers in a community to the south.

Beauséjour was home to the first glassworks in Western Canada, supplying bottles and containers made from the fine silica in the area. Its location is now a heritage site.

Beauséjour Today

Agriculture and tourism are the cornerstones of the region's economy today. Its proximity to Whiteshell Park and cottage country make it an ideal getaway for a weekend. It's home to the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships, the Double B Rodeo, Shades of the Past Classic Car Show, and The Great Woods Music Festival. If you are looking for a more romantic weekend, try Getaways Romantic Retreat. Yes, they know how to have fun in the woods.

Brokenhead River. Photo ©2008 Alexandra Lucas
After a day of hiking in woods, relax at Getaways Romantic Retreat. Photo ©2008 Alexandra Lucas
Beauséjour has come a long way from its humble beginnings but has retained pride in both its heritage and in its contribution to building Canada. If you have the opportunity to visit, you won't be disappointed. It's another gem in this vast nation we call home.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brain Doodles and Loveless Letters

Yes, I have my moments, but fighting among ourselves when there is so much at stake does not make sense to me. There is no doubt that our taxes are too high but the amount going to help families in need doesn't amount to a hill of beans when compared with subsidies going to the oil industry and other major corporations. If we want to get angry about something, maybe it should be at the lack of consideration for the people of Canada. Maybe we should be angry about our vulnerability to foreign nations like China through badly structured trade agreements and irresponsible foreign worker/indentured servant laws. That's where billions of your tax dollars have already gone, and will continue to go - settling secret lawsuits. Our middle class is rapidly disappearing so before you slap on the old bumper sticker, just remember that under the current Harperist regime, tomorrow those 'poor people' are going to be you and your kids. United we stand and divided we fall. End rant.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Trudeau on the Tragedy in Boston

Now that the Liberal leadership campaign is over, it's time to get on with the business of damage control until the present government is just a nasty part of history. Congratulations to Justin Trudeau. While I had some serious problems with his lack of policy during the campaign, he is making up for it now and I'm more than willing to keep an open mind.

While Trudeau was preparing for an interview with CBC's Peter Mansbridge, the horrific events in Boston were unfolding. His response to Mansbridge was sincere and what I, as a Canadian, needed to hear. No, we do not need a culture of fear. Harper's subsequent criticism of Trudeau's comment was just more proof to me that Harper spins everything to his own end. Moreover, the idiotic remarks from Harperists about Trudeau 'making excuses' for bombings confirms my thoughts on the state of our nation. It is the hands of some nefarious people who are either incapable of basic comprehension or they are betting that Canadians are just that stupid. Se laisser manger la laine sur le dos. Think sheep that are not only lied to and exploited but also lose the ability to help themselves in the end. 

Update April 22: While he may not have been my first choice for leader, Trudeau may have been my next choice for Prime Minister until he voted to defeat the NDP motion to stop FIPA. It was a short honeymoon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nothing Says Spring Like Maple Syrup and Don Messer

Maple syrup. Photo: LadyDragonflyCC*Bring on Spring
Today it's officially spring! The sun is warm and the snow is beginning to melt. In some places, the ground is already muddy but there is sweet anticipation in the air. The sap is running and it's time to make maple syrup!

How do you know when it's time? Daytime temperatures are over 40°F or 5°C and the nights are below freezing.

One year, we decided to tap the old sugar maple in our backyard. It was a big tree so we used more than one tap, emptying the pails every day until we filled a large bucket. At that point, I did something stupid. Oh, I filtered it through a clean cheesecloth into a huge kettle and that was fine. The problem began when I decided I could use my kitchen stove to boil it down. After all, it was warm and the windows were open so what could go wrong? Nothing, as long as turning the entire house into a sauna is what you want. Lesson learned, although it may be worth trying if you need to remove wallpaper at any point. The photos below give you an idea of just how much steam we are talking about here.

Definitely take it outside. If you have a fire pit, just add an old oven rack adjusted for height with bricks or rocks and carry on. If there is a city ordinance forbidding open fires in your yard, then by all means haul out the barbecue but have plenty of fuel on hand. This is going to take awhile. The ratio of sap to finished syrup works out to something like 40:1 but it's an exciting project for the whole family. Kids can check the sap in the buckets and help empty them. Let them taste it from the tree and see if they can detect any sweetness. Then there are preserving jars to prepare and, of course, that first taste of perfect maple syrup drizzled over fresh snow.

If you've never tried this, you should consider doing it at least once. With some luck, you will hit a jackrabbit year like we did and have a pantry stocked full of maple syrup in no time flat. After a couple of week's work, we had enough syrup for our family for two years and that included giving a lot away to friends and neighbours. It was also a nice way to say thank you for the Christmas goose that made a surprise appearance at our door later that year. All in all, not bad for one old tree.

Sugar shack near Elmira, Ontario. Photo by Ian Munroe
Steam fills the woods like fog. Photo by Ian Munroe
Keeping the fire burning for syrup. Photo by Ian Munroe
If this is not your year to make your own syrup, have a look for a sugar shack in your area that hosts pancake breakfasts, horse-drawn sleigh rides or tractor rides and take the kids or grandkids for a treat they will never forget.

What has all this got to do with Don Messer? Maybe you remember Don Messer's Jubilee on CBC. Alright. Maybe you didn't watch it but your parents or grandparents probably did and Maple Sugar on Don Messer's fiddle is pretty sweet. This made my day and I hope it makes you smile, too. Enjoy the spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Coronation has been postponed or "Put Down the Banana"

Okay, so maybe you think that last post was a little one-sided. Justin Trudeau did not come out looking as well-coiffed and charismatic in my writing as he does in person. You have a point, so let me explain why I wrote it that way. It's the truth.

He is probably a decent guy with dreams of his own and I would never take that away from him. Honestly, I was one of the first to support his efforts when he called for change. After all, that is what is driving most of Canada right now. We are fed up and angry with the way things are going and perhaps this blog is my bitter disappointment showing. I waited for the fervor and excitement to die down a bit so real issues could be discussed and I could make an informed decision. It was not to be.

His Facebook Page says things like the young people of Idle No More have energy but need leaders to channel that energy. Really? I think First Nations have leaders who have managed to do that very nicely already. Perhaps he meant 'control' that energy and not embarrass us in front of the U.N. on silly things like food, healthcare, and education standards. Or perhaps he meant he loves the energy of young people but their ideas are stupid and pointless without a powerful leader to tell them what they should be doing.

Either way, the message is the same.

Way back while I was still feeling hopeful, I added a suggestion on the page that maybe some policies would be nice, some direct answers on issues that concern a lot of Canadians. I was told by one of the women in charge of the page that we just have to trust Justin to make those decisions for us. When I suggested that maybe voting is about choosing a representative who listens and acts on the wishes of the people, she replied that she certainly had no idea what the best decisions might be and that's why we have elected officials.

"They are supposed to make decisions for us because they know more."

Did she mean deciding all those icky, thought-demanding things like trade agreements maybe? I wonder if she realizes this was the case presented back in the early 20th century against women attaining the right to vote. Sorry, Justin. No matter how engagingly you work a crowd, I am not going to pick up the banana. There's just too much at stake. You demanded an extension for the Leadership race because your supporters didn't bother to register. Maybe you need to show them where the little clicky thing is... just sayin'.