Thursday, May 31, 2007

Trees for tourists

There has been some discussion lately on local radio about how the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill (arguably the reason why there is a Corner Brook, or at least, why Corner Brook can boast of being Newfoundland's "Second City") can not harvest upwards of 25% of its trees because they are in areas that have become increasingly popular with tourists. The mill has had to import wood from other places because the goverment has been telling them that they don't want to ruin the aesthetics of the landscape for tourists. Given the increasingly competitive market for newsprint, which is mainly what the mill produces (do you read the The New York Times? The paper most likely came from Corner Brook), the mill is upset that it can't get to its own wood.

The mill has asked the provincal government to create a resource strategy that would clarify some priorities so they can plan for the future but the government is being a little vague, side-stepping the real questions with broad statements about supporting all industries and economic sectors, etc., etc..

It will be very interesting to see what will happen now that a major economic player like the mill has bumped up against everyone's new favorite belle at the ball, the tourism industry.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

close your eyes slowly and offer a delusion...I mean...donut

I have been think a lot about validation lately. The House Museum project has been totally funded by me (and my family). I used up the vast profits from my percent for art project to get it started and, despite my efforts otherwise, it is, to date, an unfundable project: too Canadian for US foundations, too American for Canadian agencies. But so what? I don't have to answer to anyone else's ideas about what is acceptable, I have free rein. But....but...

Besides the money thing (and that isn't to be overlooked lightly), grants bring with them a certain amount of validation: we think what you are doing is worth something--money plus our seal of approval. I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud for not having that kind of validation. I mean, anyone could do anything and call it art! Oh, wait.

Perhaps it is all just part of a larger issue I have with seeking other people's approval. I know I am much too attached to the good side of that, judging from how sharply I feel the negative side of it. I don't know. Would I feel less like just one person doing my thing in a little house on the edge of a big rock in the north Atlantic if I had a letter and a cheque from some institution?

Any kind of fairy tale will do, apparently.

Friday, May 25, 2007

the key to all mythologies, etc.

I have lifted this from another blog that I have been reading and loving for its topics as well as its title: Casaubon's Book. Anyone who names their blog after George Eliot's Middlemarch is ok with me. I invite you visit her blog and visit often.

She is currently trying to reduce her family's energy footprint by 90% and is challenging others to try as well. Here is what she has to say:

"So here are 5 reasons to participate in the 90% reduction challenge.

1. Because we need to make be be the finale of seem. Instead of seeming to act, instead of talking about things like raising mileage standards on new cars, we need to deal with the reality that most of the cars have to come off the road. Instead of talking about biofuels as though they are meaningful substitute for oil, we need to start talking about feeding people in an increasingly hungry world. Much of what is happening now seems to be action, but isn't. The lie that we can keep things basically the same, only with windmills needs to be killed and buried, and the truth brought forth, with all its horny feet.

2. Because what we are doing is simply rational preparation for what is to come. Dave Pollard's analysis of the economic impact of further rises in gas prices is really important the fact that we've absorbed 3.50 gallon gas is no indication that we can continue to absorb price rises. I think Pollard's conclusion is an important one, and should remind all of us that we *will* be making massive cuts in our energy usage sooner or later. But sooner is better for the earth and better for us - voluntary cuts are a lot less painful than mandated ones.

3. Because with great power comes great responsibility. We're rich. If you use a computer and can read this blog, the odds are excellent you are among the richest 10-15% of the people on the whole earth. Yes, I know you don't always feel rich, but you are. So making major, voluntary cuts is not impoverishing yourself - it is balancing the scales a little, making things a little more just.

4. Because in order to keep up our lifestyle, we're doing things like this:,1518,484661,00.html, and that's just plain wrong. Does anyone think that the damned war wasn't about the oil anymore? The less of it you buy, the less incentive you give the bastards who orchestrated this to keep killing them.

5. Oh, and it helps stop global warming too ;-)."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a thing rarely encountered

(updated 5/26/07)
We travelled under a cloud. A four-day car (and ferry) trip and all of it rainy. At the end of eight hours in the car with two children, getting to our motel room and watching HGTV wasn't quite enough to keep one happy or sane. Yet, we made it safe and sound and so I am very grateful. And this morning, I awoke to...not snow (that was yesterday)...but brilliant sunshine. I did the only logical thing: laundry!

I had another tearful reunion with my washing machine today. After three years of use, I never, ever take for granted the notion of tossing in a load of laundry at the last minute while in NYC. On the other hand, no electricity has its benefits, such as the upper body work-out that only three loads of laundry can give, and the chance to do laundry while day dreaming and gazing at the lovely Blomindon Mountains. Still snow covered, which is partly why we are still having temps below 10C (that means below 50F).

But I can't complain. I love cold weather, I love the chance to see spring transform the landscape not once but twice this year, and I love my adopted home here in Gillams.

I had some lovely pictures of our laundry and even an arty shadow shot that was all about fully enjoying that thing so rarely encountered of late: sunshine. Alas, dial-up service seems to make uploading photos a lengthy procedure. I will try another time.

PS. Just to be clear, most people in Newfoundland have all mod cons. It's just that, when we had the basement dug under our house, the contractor advised us that our "septic system" could not withstand regular use of a washing machine as well as toilet flushing and showers. So I purchased a hand agitated, non-electric washing machine made by a Mennonite in Pennsylvania. I love it and it does a great job, but I do suspect that nearly all other Newfoundlanders have a septic system, not a "septic system" and therefore avail themselves of a regular washing machine. But hey, everything in life is a trade-off...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I am not busy. You?

At F&L's dentist appointment the other day, the dentist was asking me about homeschooling (after I explained why we were able to come to an 11am appointment), and one thing leading to another, I remarked that I bake most of the bread we eat because, you know, I have the time to do it. The hygenist laughed and said, "That's the first time I have ever heard anyone say they have enough time! People are always talking about how busy they are!"

It got me thinking. I mean, we are busy. Homeschooling is one of the biggest misnomers of all time--we are not home very much--enough to make bread but I figure it out around everything else. But why is everyone is going around talking about being so busy? It is pretty safe to say that everyone is busy. It is a given of modern life thanks to all our time saving devices. So why even talk about it? Sometimes I think people are actually bragging about how busy they are--as if a full schedule is a way of determining one's importance. Who knows, maybe the opposite is true.

I also have been thinking about this after seeing the movie, "Into Great Silence" (see post below) that documents the lives of Carthusian monks who live in near silence and spend most of their time in prayer. And because I spent the better part of three days in a Zen sesshin a few weeks ago where I sat zazen for upwards of 14 hrs/day. During the movie and during the sesshin some of my thoughts were spent in wondering if this kind of thing--long periods of silent meditation--were worth anything at all to the rest of the world. Or was it only valuable as a personal experience? And if so, does that have any value to the rest of the world? I have no answers--three days of meditation left me with more questions than answers! But it made me decide to stop talking about how busy I am and start talking about my time in a different way.

I have decided that I am not busy.

I have time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

SABLE: Does the World Really Need to Know?

I have a friend in Omaha, NE, who could support himself as a clipping service for people. He clips'n'saves newspaper articles on a range of subjects for various friends. For a long time I didn't bother to read the New York Times since I knew he would save any articles that might interest me. Then he got a real job and the clippings have, understandably, dwindled a bit in number. Yesterday, however, he sent along a clipping from his hometown paper, the Omaha World Herald. It is a story about a widower who discovered "Skeins and skeins of (yarn). Shelves and Shelves full." It belonged to his wife and he found it after her death. I can't find a link to the actual article, dated 4/16/07, but here is the quote that really got me:

"Nathan said he found skeins of yarn on every shelf of every closet he opened in his Omaha home. He found it in big garbage bags. He found it in plastic bins..."

Apparently the yarn, patterns, needles, etc., were valued at about $5000. He donated it to the local Girls Club so they could teach young women and girls to knit.

Ok, a happy ending for all that yarn. But knitters...let this be a lesson to you! I made Dan promise not to go public with the extent of my yarn stash after I die. Now that I think of it, he really didn't give me a straight answer on that.

Last Harvest

I was listening, very casually, to NPR last weekend and suddenly I hear some guy talking about sprawl and suburbs and going out and really talking to the people who live there about what they like about it...and I think, 'damn! he stole my project!" As it turns out there is room enough for the two of us (he is not a knitter for one thing). His name is by Witold Rybczynski and he is, among other things, a writer. He has written a book called Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-first Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway.

I have only read about the first 50 pages or so, but it is an interesting take on the changing look of suburban development in the US. As a resident of Sunnyside Gardens, I can atest to the success of living in a walkable, mixed use community centered around common green spaces. If this is the future of development, as Mr. Rybczynski seems to be suggesting, then that is a good thing.