Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 31 was the last day of the Newfoundland Railway

This weekend is the 58th anniversary of the last run of the Newfoundland Railway. Newfoundland became the 10th province of Canada at midnight on March 31, 1949, and at that time the Newfoundland Railway ceased to exist. By April 1, the trains running through Riverhead and Gaff Topsails were part of the Canadian National Railway.

The passing of the Newfoundland Railway may have been in name only, but there are few people who don't remember the Railway with pride and sadness. The Railway was a major achievement for a small nation such as ours, and it was part of our national identity for decades.

To remember this celebrated part of our heritage, Rattling Books is holding a Wake Sale. From now until midnight on Monday, April 2, 2007, you can save 40% on the audio edition of Robin McGrath's captivating novel Donovan's Station.

Set in Newfoundland throughout the early twentieth century, Donovan's Station perfectly recreates the time when the Newfoundland Railway was at its height.

The sound of the train is so soothing in the evenings. I never guessed when they first put the tracks through that I could feel that way about it. Mr. Reid used to say that before the railway came, travel meant coaxing a jaded nag over the bogs and barrens or tossing about in a fog in a stinking jackboat, with as good a chance of drowning as of reaching your destination. I suppose a great many people agreed with him, which is why they turned out in such numbers for that first run. I know that for the fishermen, who had no work betwen September and Christmas, the work on the railbed was very welcome.
- Donovan's Station
Construction began on the Newfoundland Railway in 1881, and the line was completed in 1894. The longest narrow-guage line in North America, the Newfoundland Railway carried passengers across the Island for 75 years. Passenger service was abandoned in 1968, replaced by a bus service, but many people still recall the slow, comfortable train ride with fondness. Folded into Canadian National Railway with Confederation on March 31, 1949, the Railway continued to carry freight until 1988, when the line was abandoned completely, and the last train crossed the island, taking up the tracks as it went.

Learn more about the Newfoundland Railway.

John Steffler among speakers at University of Guelph's “Last Lecture” April 4

News Release
March 30, 2007
Last Lecture for Graduating Students

John Steffler, parliamentary poet laureate and award-winning poet and fiction writer, will be among the speakers at the sixth annual “Last Lecture” for graduating students April 4 at the University of Guelph.

The event gives members of the class of 2006 the opportunity to come together to reflecton their experiences and achievements during their time at the University. This year’s theme is taken from the Shakespearean quote: “This above all: to thine own self be true.” The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Rozanski Hall with president Alastair Summerlee sharing some words of inspiration. Graduating student Kira Kumagai will also give a talk, and a reception will follow.

“The Last Lecture is a unique opportunity for graduating students to look back on how their entire experience at Guelph both inside and outside the classroom has shaped them to be the citizens they are now,” said Jennifer Maddock, leadership education and development adviser in Student Life. “We want students to leave inspired by the words of our speakers and to move forward in their lives with a sense of promise for the future.”

Steffler earned an MA in English from the University of Guelph in 1974 and went on to publish five award-winning books of poetry. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book. Named Canada’s poet laureate in December, he will spend the next two years encouraging and promoting the importance of literature, culture and language. Steffler is the third poet to hold the post since its inception four years ago.
Kumagai, who will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Arts and Science, has been selected as the student lecturer. During her years on campus, she has been involved in a number of projects, including implementing a service-learning program on AIDS in India in which students spend a month volunteering in the country. She was helped out with Project Serve, an annual one-day volunteer event, and planned an international project that had students spending Reading Week helping with hurricane Katrina relief. She is also a recognized student leader and a member of several campus committees, including the University Centre Board, the Peace Week Committee and the Student Volunteer Connections Conference.

For more information, contact Jennifer Maddock at 519-824-4120, Ext. 54362, or maddock2@uoguelph.ca.

For media questions, call Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

N.B. John Steffler's classic of Canadian Poetry The Grey Islands is now available as an unabridged audio edition from rattlingbooks.com, narrated by John Steffler with additional cast and soundscape recordings.

Newfoundland Railway Wake Sale: 40% off Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath


This weekend is the 58th anniversary of the last run of the Newfoundland Railway. Newfoundland became the 10th province of Canada at midnight on March 31, 1949, and at that time the Newfoundland Railway ceased to exist. By April 1, the trains running through Riverhead and Gaff Topsails were part of the Canadian National Railway.

The passing of the Newfoundland Railway may have been in name only, but there are few people who don't remember the Railway with pride and sadness. The Railway was a major achievement for a small nation such as Newfoundland, and it was part of our national identity for decades.

To remember this celebrated part of our heritage, Rattling Books is holding a Wake Sale. From now until midnight on Monday, April 2, 2007, you can save 40% on the audio edition of Robin McGrath's captivating novel Donovan's Station.

Set in Newfoundland throughout the early twentieth century, Donovan's Station perfectly recreates the time when the Newfoundland Railway was at its height.

The sound of the train is so soothing in the evenings. I never guessed when they first put the tracks through that I could feel that way about it. Mr. Reid used to say that before the railway came, travel meant coaxing a jaded nag over the bogs and barrens or tossing about in a fog in a stinking jackboat, with as good a chance of drowning as of reaching your destination. I suppose a great many people agreed with him, which is why they turned out in such numbers for that first run. I know that for the fishermen, who had no work betwen September and Christmas, the work on the railbed was very welcome.
- Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath
"Eighty-four years is time enough for one life," Keziah Donovan muses as she waits for death to re-unite her with her "own sweet man". Stricken down by a paralytic stroke, Keziah's body is immobile but her mind is on a journey through a life that spans two centuries. Carried along by her rich inner narrative, the reader travels through the disease, labour, and progress of tumultuous times and the equally turbulent events of personal history - births, marriages, deaths, and mysteries.Set in rural and urban Newfoundland, this novel is alive with its landscape and language. In Keziah Donovan, award-winning writer Robin McGrath has created an unforgettable story-teller with a voice so authentic and distinctive that it compels the reader to sit and listen, and rings in the ear long after the book is put down.

Read by the following (in order of duration):
Janis Spence as Keziah Donovan
Andy Jones as Father Roche
Elizabeth Pickard as Elizabeth (Lizzie)
Merrill Francis as Dermot

Reviews:

Mesmerizing...Keziah Donovan should take her rightful place beside [Hagar Shipley and Mary Bundle]. - Jodi DeLong, Halifax Herald

Janis Spence, the main narrator, gives both a wistful quality as Keziah Donovan looks back on her life from her deathbed. Other readers portray supporting characters as they write letters or diary entries. These narrators sound as if they're talking to themselves while they write, with pen scratches in the background. The whole cast gives a quietly human performance.
- AudioFile Magazine

Donovan's Station by Robin McGrath was shortlisted for the Caribbean & Canada Region of the Commonwealth Writers Prize 2003.

Listen to a clip from the unabridged audio edition of Donovan's Station narrated by Janis Spence.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mary Dalton March Poet of the Month on CBC Words at Large website


Mary Dalton has been the Poet of the Month for March on the CBC Words at Large website. The feature contains an interview, a selected list of books, a photo and an audio clip of Dalton reading for Shelagh Rogers.
During Poetry Month we will post the odd poem by Mary Dalton in this space so stay tuned.
In 2005 Rattling Books released the unabridged audio edition of Mary Dalton's celebrated book of poems Merrybegot narrated by Anita Best with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn. It is available from http://rattlingbooks.com.

Happy Birthday Milton Acorn

To celebrate the birthday of Milton Acorn here is a poem he wrote.

Live With Me On Earth Under the Invisible Daylight Moon
Milton Acorn

From: Dig Up My Heart: Selected Poems 1952-83. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1983. p.98.


Live with me on Earth among red berries and the bluebirds
And leafy young twigs whispering
Within such little spaces, between such floors of green, such
figures in the clouds
That two of us could fill our lives with delicate wanting:
Where stars past the spruce copse mingle with fireflies
Or the dayscape flings a thousand tones of light back at the
sun—
Be any one of the colours of an Earth lover;
Walk with me and sometimes cover your shadow with mine.

Milton James Rhode Acorn was born in Charlottetown on March 30, 1923 and died there on August 20, 1986.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Excerpt: The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Bob Bartlett, setting: March 12, 1914


In this excerpt we continue The Last Voyage of the Karluk: An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 as related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audio edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books).

“March 12 we got away again at dawn. McKinlay, Mamen, Kataktovick, Kerdrillo, and his family and I went ahead of the others, with lightly loaded sledges, and, on account of improved ice conditions, made such good progress that at one P.M. we landed on Icy Spit, on the northeast side of Wrangell Island. It is perhaps easier to imagine than to describe our feelings of relief at being once again on terra firma, after two months of drifting and traveling on the ice. We had had a hard road to travel much of the way from Shipwreck Camp, but fortunately, since the big storm in the days following the departure of the advance party, we had had continuously fine weather, with good daylight and exhilarating temperatures in the minus forties and fifties.

As soon as we landed we began building an igloo. There was plenty of driftwood scattered all about and Keruk gathered up a lot of it and built a fire, so that by the time the first of our three igloos was built she had some tea for us and the rest of the party who, coming along easily with light loads over our trail, arrived an hour and a half after we did. We were overjoyed to find the driftwood for, although we were pretty sure of finding it, yet we were a little dubious and it was a great relief to my mind to know that fuel was assured.

We could see a good deal of the island from the spit, which made out from land some distance into the ocean. Waring Point lay far to the east of us and Evans Point to the west. The geographical names on Wrangell Island were derived from the names of the officers of the U.S.S. Rodgers who explored the island in 1881. On a clear day like this it was not unusual to be able to see for seventy miles. The northeast side of the island, on which we now were, sent several low sandy spits out from the land, thus forming lagoons which of course were covered with ice. Near the coast were low mountains and valleys, with higher peaks in the interior beyond. Here and there on the beach were dead trees that had drifted ashore, with the roots sticking up into the air; we also found planks and other lumber. Everything was snow clad and white, only a degree less cheerless than the frozen ocean itself.

The next day Munro, Chafe, Breddy and Williams went back with all the dogs and sledges to the last camp on the ice, fifteen miles from our landing-place, and brought in all the supplies we had left there. While they were gone I sent Kerdrillo nine miles across the lagoon to Berry Spit, to see if he could find any traces of the mate’s party or the Mackay party. He took his rifle with him to look for game. When he came back at nightfall, he reported that he had seen no traces of either party and only one bear track and one fox track. This was an indication that there was small chance of getting a bear on or near the island, because there were no seal holes within twenty-five miles from land; we had seen some near the big rafter, about forty miles out. Later in the season, as the ice broke up nearer the land, the seal would work in shore and of course the bears would follow. I asked Kerdrillo what he thought the chances were of there being any caribou or reindeer on the island. It is not an uncommon thing to find caribou on islands in Hudson Strait, which have drifted on the ice from the mainland, and there were, I knew, both these animals in plenty on the Siberian coast. I wondered, too, whether there might not be Arctic hare on the island. Kerdrillo said he thought there was so much snow that caribou and reindeer would be unlikely to staty where it would be so difficult for them to get food and he did not believe any were to be found.

The next day, to verify his opinion, I sent him out again, giving him tea and pemmican, so that he could have a full day’s march and make a reconnaissance into the interior. About dark he returned and reported that he had seen no traces of caribou, reindeer or hare and very few signs of foxes. Later on , however, h thought ptarmigan would visit the island. He had seen one bear track, which he thought was about three days old, probably of the bear whose tracks he had seen on the previous day.

The story is told of a student who, when asked to name five Arctic animals, replied, “Three polar bears and two seal.” If these varieties were to be all we should find on Wrangell island, we should still be able to sustain life, if only we could get enough of them. I should have liked, however, to know that caribou and reindeer, too, could be had for the shooting.

We now made a snow shelter and started in on the fourteenth to dry out our boots and stockings; we had plenty of firewood. Keruk looked after this work. Maurer’s and Malloch’s feet still troubled them and Mamen’s knee was a constant cause of suffering, so that I was glad that they could now have an opportunity to rest. From the moment of our departure from Shipwreck Camp we had been constantly on the move during every minute of the daylight. The weather, though cold, had been exceptionally fine and clear; in fact we had not lost an hour on account of bad weather and had been inconvenienced for only one night by open water. As a consequence all hands were in need of a little rest. The dogs, too, were in a reduced condition, for though they had had plenty to eat they had worked very hard and I wanted them to get what rest they could.”

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Excerpt: "The Lure of the Labrador Wild" by Dillon Wallace, setting: late March 1904


The following excerpt is from Dillon Wallace's classic story of the fateful canoe trip which Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard and George Elson made into the interior of Labrador in 1903 (The Lure of the Labrador Wild originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York) .

The unabridged audio edition of The Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace narrated by Jody Richardson is available from rattlingbooks.com.


“…On Sunday, March 27th, I was sitting in the cosey post house wondering where George and the others were, when suddenly George appeared from out the snow that the howling gale was whirling about. My long suspense was ended. The body had been recovered in good condition, George said. Wrapped in the blankets that Hubbard had round him when he died – the blankets he had so gaily presented me with that June morning on the Silvia – and our old tarpaulin, which George had recovered farther back on the trail, it had been dragged on the Indian sled forty miles down over the sleeping Susan River, and thence out over Grand Lake to the Cape Corbeau tilt, where the men had been compelled to leave it the day before owing to the heavy snowstorm that then prevailed. From the tilt the men had gone to to Tom’s house at the rapid to spend the night, and George had now come down to the post to relieve my mind with the news that the body was safe.

It was arranged that the next morning George and Duncan should take the post dogs and komatik, drive up to Cape Corbeau and bring the body down. The morning was calm and fine, and they started early. It was a strange funeral procession that returned. The sun was setting when they passed over the rapid where Hubbard that beautiful July morning had sprung vigorously into the water to track the canoe into Grand Lake. How full of hope and pleasurable anticipation he had been when we paddled through the Little Lake! Over the snow and ice that now hid the lake the seven dogs that were hauling his corpse strained and tugged, ever and anon breaking into a trot as George and Duncan, running on their snow shoes on either side of the komatik, urged them forward with Eskimo exclamations or cracked their long whip over a laggard. No need to urge any one of them on, however, when they came in sight of the post. Darkness was falling. Knowing that their daily meal was near at hand, the dogs broke into a run, and with much howling and jumping swung around the point and up to the buildings.”

To be continued.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poetry: the Next Latte

Just because World Poetry Day is over, don't forget:


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Celebrate World Poetry Day & Ken Babstock reading in St. John's

Today is World Poetry Day (March 21 was first declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO in 1999).

I'm going to celebrate by attending a poetry reading by Ken Babstock , Poet and Poetry Editor for House of Anansi Press. See below for details cribbed from WANL's (Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador) Newsletter.

Winterset Nominee Ken Babstock to Read at Memorial
Acclaimed poet Ken Babstock will give a reading at Memorial University in St. John’s on Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m. Babstock is the author of three books of poetry: the critically acclaimed Mean, which one critic called “the yardstick for a certain generation of poets,” Days into Flatspin, winner of a K.M. Hunter Award, and most recently Airstream Land Yacht, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Governor General Award and is a contender for this year’s Winterset Award.

The reading takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Room A-1046 in the Arts and Administration Building atrium at Memorial’s St. John’s campus. Everyone is welcome. Free parking in areas 1A and 1B.

A map of MUN’s campus is available at: http://www.mun.ca/campus_map/index.php
What are you going to do?




Monday, March 19, 2007

Excerpt: The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Bob Bartlett, setting: March 10 (ish), 1914


In this excerpt we continue The Last Voyage of the Karluk An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 as related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audio edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books).

**********************

The next morning, therefore, I sent McKinlay, Hadley and Mamen back to bring up the bear meat. The rest of us sledged supplies along the shoreward way, Kataktovick and I walking on ahead to blaze the trail. We had a continuation of the fine weather and low temperature. I suppose it was about forty or fifty below zero. We sledged a good part of the supplies along to the new camp on the big floe and built igloos there. The next day we continued the work, Kataktovick picking the trail. At first it was rough going but after a time it became a little better and we moved all our supplies ten miles nearer the land, returning to the igloos on the big floe for the night. We found that at one of the temporary caches along the way two bears had destroyed a case of coal oil and scattered two tins of biscuit over the ice.
It was hard luck, after getting the oil so near the island, to have bears to contend with in addition to the elements, especially as our dogs were not trained to follow a bear, so that there was no use trying to go after them. A polar bear has a very acute sense of smell and can scent a human being in plenty of time to get away from him, and as a bear can go faster than a man it can escape easily, unless the hunter has dogs trained from puppyhood to follow a bear and round him up, the way the dogs of Greenland can do. Of the bears that the McKinlay party shot the meat was simply cut off the bones, to have no useless weight to carry and some of if was cached on the ice, with the skins, and the rest brought with us. We expected to be able to get it later on but never did because we did not go back over the trail again, and we expected to get more bears on our way to the island.

On the tenth we kept up the task of sledging the supplies forward. We worked from daylight to dark, some with pickaxes, others with sledges with light loads, for the going was rough. The Eskimo built the igloos and by night we had all our supplies up, Munro, Mamen and myself getting in with the last load just at dark.

The going was was bad nearly all the way along here. Kataktovick and I were off at the first crack of dawn picking the trail for the others to follow with their pickaxes and their lightly loaded sledges. It was necessary for us to make fairly good loads, for a white man can not handle a sledge as deftly as an Eskimo can and we had not enough Eskimo to drive all the sledges even if they had been free from the work of trail-making and building igloos.

We made about seven miles during the day. Sometimes we had to get the sledges up on a ridge fifty feet high with an almost sheer drop on the other side. When we came to such rough places we would harness all the dogs to a sledge and all of us who could get a hand on it would help push the sledge. When we got the sledge up to the top we would run a rope from it to another sledge down below and as the first sledge went down the other side it would pull the second sledge up.








Sunday, March 18, 2007

Collect Poetry Buttons from Rattling Books: iPoet uMuse

Collect Poetry Buttons from Rattling Books.
Anytime you purchase a Poetry title between now and the end of April we'll send you a Button. And we've got some good 'uns.









Saturday, March 17, 2007

Brick Books Author Jan Conn touring Atlantic Canada


Jan Conn - author of Jaguar Rain

Jan Conn’s new book Jaguar Rain: the Margaret Mee Poems (Brick Books 2006) is written in the voice of Margaret Mee (naturalist, explorer, and painter of flowers in the Amazon between 1956 and 1988). Jan Conn has published five previous books of poetry, most recently Beauties on Mad River: Selected and New Poems (2000). She is a Research Scientist at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, in Albany, NY, and Associate Professor in the Biomedical Sciences Department at the School of Public Heath at SUNY-Albany. Her current research is focused on the populations of malarial mosquitoes in the Brazilian Amazon.

Fredericton - Monday, March 19 - University of New Brunswick, 8 p.m. reading with Ken Babstock in the Alumni Memorial Lounge.

Halifax - Tuesday, March 20 - at 8:30ish, at the Shoestring Reading Series at the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street (just next to the Shoe Shop). For more information, call David Rimmington at 902-488-9643.

Antigonish - Wednesday, March 21 - Evening reading at St. Francis-Xavier University. More details to follow.

St. John’s, Newfoundland - Friday, March 23 - evening reading at 113 Bond Street.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Excerpt: The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Robert Bartlett (setting: March 5-9 1914)


The following excerpt is from The Last Voyage of the Karluk An Epic of Death and Survival in the Arctic, 1913-1916 as related by her captain, Robert A. Bartlett and here set down by Ralph T. Hale (published in 1916 by Small, Maynard and Company, Inc.; unabridged audio edition narrated by Frank Holden published by Rattling Books).


March 4, at about four P.M., we finished working through the rafter and came out on the smoother ice on its landward side. Mamen, Kataktovick and I spent the day sledging supplies across from the camp on the farther side and when the road was finished we all went back for the last load. It was not until eight P.M. that we had all our supplies at the new camp and we had to do the last of the work in the dark; the Eskimo had built three igloos while we were sledging. It had taken us four days to get across a distance of three miles. From the shore side it was easy to see the basis of the formation of such rafters. A storm causes the moving ice to smash against and slide over the still ice and the pressure of the “irresistible force meeting the immovable body” throws the ice into fantastic, mountainous formations that are as weird as that astounding picture of Chaos before the Creation that used to ornament the first volume of Ridpath’s “History of the World.”

At daylight on March 5 I sent Munro and a party back across the three miles of raftered ice to meet the McKinlay party who were about due back from Shipwreck Camp. Munro and the others could guide and help them across the difficult road we had made. While they were gone I took Kataktovick and laid out a trail towards the land for the next day’s march. Now for the first time since we left Shipwreck Camp, we got a view of Wrangell Island; it was high and we seemed almost under it. The air was exceptionally clear and the land looked close to us.

Munro and his party did not get back until long after dark. They had reached our last camp across the raftered ice and not finding McKinlay and the others there had continued on the back trail, hoping to meet them. They went on as far as they could go without being compelled to stay out all night, and then came back, because they had no sleeping-robes and would have had a poor night of it, besides being obliged to build an igloo. They were wise in knowing when they had gone far enough; Munro showed his usual good judgment.

Our progress in to the island was retarded by the necessity of keeping along with us as large a quantity of supplies as possible. This meant relaying supplies, because the going was bad and made sledging difficult, with the small number of dogs we had. On the sixth, as soon as the first streak of light appeared, I sent Munro and his party back again to meet the McKinlay party, while I took Kataktovick and Kerdrillo and went ahead towards the island, road-making with our pickaxes. Munro had told me that when he first saw the three mile belt of raftered ice, he never thought for a moment that we should ever get through it. Any novice certainly had a right to feel discouraged; it was as tough a job as I ever tackled. We now picked our way – I might almost say pick-axed our way – across the ice from our last camp for a distance of seven miles until we came to a large, heavy floe, which would make a good place for a new camp; here we threw off the light loads which we had brought on two of the Peary sledges and returned to camp. At half past four the McKinlay party came in, convoyed by Munro and his party. McKinlay and his companions had gone clear back to Shipwreck Camp and brought in six cases of dog pemmican, sixteen cases of Hudson’s Bay pemmican, thirty gallons of gasoline, and some hatchets and snow-knives. They had left at the first camp from Shipwreck Camp four cases of Underwood dog pemmican and ten tins of Hudson’s Bay pemmican, for they already had too heavy loads to bring them.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Excerpt: "The Lure of the Labrador Wild" by Dillon Wallace, setting: mid March 1904


The following excerpt is from Dillon Wallace's classic story of the fateful canoe trip which Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard and George Elson made into the interior of Labrador in 1903 (The Lure of the Labrador Wild originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York) . In 2005 Rattling Books released an unabridged audio edition of The Lure of the Labrador Wild narrated by Jody Richardson.
Douglas's story made it plain that the weather conditions on Grand Lake had been fierce enough to appal any man, but as there had been no snow since Friday night I could not understand what Tom was doing at the rapid on Sunday, and with Mackenzie's consent I had Mark immediately harness the post dogs and drive me up to his house. I arrived there considerably incensed by his inactivity, but I must say that his explanation was adequate. He asked me if I had been able to see anything of Grand Lake, and made me realise what it meant to be out there with a high west wind of Arctic bitterness drifting the snow in great clouds down its thirty-seven miles of unbroken expanse. There was no doubt that the men had done the best they could, and after instructing Tom that, if more provisions were needed, to obtain them at Donald's at my expense, and receiving from him an assurance that he would again start for Hubbard's body as soon as the weather would permit, I returned, mollified, to the post.
It was on this day (Sunday, March 13th) that I received my first news from home and the outside world, Monsieur Duclos, who had been on a trip north, bringing me two telegrams from New York. They conveyed to me the comforting assurance that all was well at home, being replies to the dispatches I had sent in December. Received at Chateau Bay, they had been forwarded to me three hundred and fifty miles by dog teams and snowshoe travellers.
Tom Blake started on Monday morning, the 14th, and Tuesday at noon joined George and Duncan at Donald's. On Wednesday the three men began their march up the Susan. The weather continuing fair, they made good progress and had no difficulty in finding the site of our last camp. Hubbard's body, with the tent lying flat on top of it, was under eight feet of snow. Near the spot a wolverine had been prowling, but the body was too deeply buried for any animal to scent it, and in its quiet resting place it lay undisturbed. It was fortunate that it had not been placed on a stage, as I had suggested; for in that event it would undoubtedly have been destroyed.
Continuing on inland, the men recovered the photographic films, the sextant, my fishing rod, and other odds and ends we had dropped on the trail as far back as Lake Elson. Tom and Duncan praised George unstintingly for the unvarying accuracy with which he located the things. With the country and smaller trees buried under a great depth of snow, and no landmarks to guide him, George would lead the other men on, and, with no searching about or hesitancy, stop and say, "We'll dig here." And not once did his remarkable instinct play him false.
"Tis sure wonderful," said Tom, in telling me about it. "I ne'er could ha' done it, an' no man on Th' Labrador could ha' done it, sir. Not even th' Mountaineers could ha' done it." And Duncan seconded Tom's opinion.
(To be continued. )
















Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Andy Jones Business Card (front face)


Andy is heading to Tasmania on Friday on a special mission: Performing his show To the Wall at the Ten Days on the Island Festival. Check our myspace page for event listings.






Paddy's Day Special on Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes


Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
with a title from Newfoundland's Irish Loop
Wednesday to Friday
30% off both the MP3 CD and the Digital Download
of Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes
Listen to a sample HERE.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Author Blog: Shore Pebbles from David Weale, Holy Land


Holy Land

According to Roman Catholic dogma a graveyard is holy ground because it has been blessed by the Church, but take a single step outside that anointed territory and you are on ground that is unholy. Indeed, the rod the church holds over the heads of the faithful is that if they don’t behave appropriately they will be buried without blessing in unconsecrated ground, where the harvesting angels won’t be able to find them. It is a powerful story, and I know that for a very long time it was one that both buttressed the authority of the church, and provided comfort and assurance to the dying, but like so many other old stories, the days of its usefulness have passed. It needs to be replaced, or at least greatly revised.

Because I was raised Protestant, and grew up believing that Catholic’s were credulous and superstitious, and that they were all going to hell no matter where they were buried, I was little affected by their graveyard mythology; however, I did hear a lot about another, similar concept called “the holy land,” and as I reflect on conditions in our world today, it strikes me that it has become an even more obsolete and dysfunctional teaching.

The holy land I learned about was nowhere near where I lived. They said it was on the other side of the world: where Abraham trekked with his children and his goats because of a promise from Yahweh; where prophets with musical names like Ezekiel and Obadiah received urgent messages directly from the divine; where Abraham‘s descendents, under the resplendent and charismatic King David, slew the evil, unbelieving Philistines; and, most importantly, where Jesus lived and died, and was raised up from the dead. Compared to all that Prince Edward Island seemed terribly ordinary, but when I became an adult I began to recognize the danger lurking in that old, holy-land narrative. One day it dawned on me that by designating certain locales sacred we had effectively desacralized the rest of the planet, including the place I lived.
I also couldn’t help noticing that the place called the Holy Land by the three major religions of the West was, and remains, the most dangerous and ravaged landscape on the planet. Hmmm?
When I was in high school I had a teacher who traveled one summer to the Middle East to visit the shrines and holy places declared sacred by his faith, and the next year he spent one whole class showing us the slides from his trip, and rhapsodizing about all the amazing sights he had seen. His face was shining as he spoke, and we were all duly impressed, and glad for the break in routine, but as I think back on that time it occurs to me that neither that teacher, nor any other, ever attempted to open our minds and hearts to the sacredness of the landscape in which we all lived. And if they had, we probably would have resisted the notion, having already been instructed that the holy land was someplace else.

In North America we have scoured and trashed much of our landscape, and stretched long tentacles of exploitation around the entire globe. Like a fox in the henhouse, or vandals in a temple, we have pillaged and ransacked, and created a great, global mess. Bulked up with the steroids of powerful technology, inspired by a largely uncritical view of progress, and directed by old religious beliefs that promoted anthropocentrism, and undermined reverence for the earth, we embarked on an immensely short-sighted journey of despoliation. The hand-wringing litany of what we have done to our habitat is a long one, and, like most everyone else, I am tired of hearing about it. I also dislike the feelings of fatalism and powerlessness it sometimes evokes. But I am not without hope; and it’s not because I believe in some new technological quick-fix that is just around the corner. Putting more and more sophisticated tools in the hands of deranged people, who are captive to old stories, is hardly a solution. The reason I am not without hope because I know what great storytellers we humans are, and because I believe we are capable of a new narrative that will get us off this blundering course.

Stated simply, we need to author a new mythology; one that honours the earth and expands the old concept of holy land in such a way that every square foot of landscape, every drop in the ocean, and every creature (including ourselves) is regarded as sacred -- something to be treated gently and reverently, and experienced as a source of wisdom and communion. That is what we must do, and even as I write I know there are millions of soulful men and women world-wide who are joined in a powerful, unofficial alliance, all working together to create a different consciousness, out of which will emerge a new, redemptive storyline. Historically, our great, religious stories have separated us, and sent us clanking off in one righteous crusade after another, but the creation of a new storyline, in which we are all members a single family, living on the holy planet Earth, can point us in a new direction.

It simply is not possible to build a new world with old stories; or, in the words of a not-so-old old gospel song, “No you can’t get to heaven in an old Ford car / cause an old Ford car can’t go that far.” There are many intelligent people in our society who say we should respect all spiritual traditions, and in this country it is considered politically incorrect to be critical of the religious beliefs of others. But why should we honour and perpetuate beliefs that promote fear and hatred of outsiders, and that proclaim that certain parts of the earth, and certain of its inhabitants, are more sacred than others? I might respect my old stove for what it has been in its time, but when cracks begin to appear in the sides, and hot coals are spilling out onto the floor, I know what I must do do.

So long as old, short-sighted, religious narratives prevail, and continue to shape the world-view of hundreds of millions of individuals, it really doesn’t do much good to clean up rivers, or reduce smog emissions, or teach courses on the environment, or promote eco-tourism, or sign multi-lateral agreements. The disorder arises from a place so deep that none of those things can touch it. It is in ourselves, and our dysfunctional myths about who we are, and what is good for us. It is, in a word, a spiritual problem, and any measure that does not address that is a mere palliative.

We can pass all the laws, impose all the penalties, and initiate all the programs we like, but so long as our political strategies, our economic policies, and our educational views are based on those old “chosen people,” and “holy land” narratives, the despoliation of the earth, and the exploitation of many of its inhabitants, will continue. One thing alone is required: that we make for ourselves a new Abrahamic emigration to a renewed holy land consciousness.

And the next time anyone asks you if you have been to the Holy Land, it might be a good idea to tell them, with your face shining, that you were born there.

*****************************
David Weale writes his Shore Pebbles from Prince Edward Island. He is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, the unabridged audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books and the print edition from Acorn Press.









Friday, March 09, 2007

Newfoundland's Ken Harvey wins Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize


Harvey wins $15,000 Writers' Trust fiction prize
JAMES ADAMS
From Thursday's Globe and Mail

The former self-described "bad boy of Canadian literature, battling against colonial complacency in the CanLit status quo," Newfoundland's Kenneth J. Harvey, was awarded the $15,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize last night at a ceremony in Toronto.
Harvey, 45, won for his 2006 novel Inside, beating four other nominees, including Peter Behrens, whose novel The Law of Dreams won last year's Governor-General's Literary Award for fiction. For more than a decade, Harvey's name has been synonymous with audacious self-promotion -- to flog Skin Hound, a novel about a serial murderer, for example, he inserted tiny slices of his skin into promotional copies of the book -- as well as unstinting support of the country's independent publishers, most notably with his creation in 2001 of the annual ReLit Awards.

Excerpt: Vikings of the Ice by George Allan England (#4)

CHAPTER III
NORTHWARD HO!

The day arrived on which Cap'n Kean bade me go aboard - March 8, 1922 - and with my ditty bag, a battered suitcase, and no few misgivings, I embarked.

In the cabin I found men lying, smoking, sleeping in unlikely places. The steward - a thin, worried-looking chap with a sandy moustache - stretched out on a hard bench beside the table, was snoring like the Seven Sleepingers of Ephesus. The cabin looked a bit more cheery than erstwhile. A coal fire roared in the glowing bogey, and a certain warmth had begun to dispel the clammy cold. Nobody had much to say, but everybody stared. Who and what was I, anyhow, and what did I want? A writer, eh? "My glorianna, dat'm a quare t'ing, dough!" It passed comprehension - was "fair beyend ahl." Why the devil should anybody want to write - or read - anything about "de hard rowt o'swilin'?"

So I was heavily handicapped from the start, and found myself accepted only under suspicion.
Doctor Hollands arrived, a Kentish man who was to have charge of the health of a full 160 men; heavy responsibiity in the far icefields where no hospital facilities exist. Arrived, too, Cap'n Kean, somthing of a fashion plate in a fine felt hat, well-cut overcoat, and white collar. A fine old sea dog: proud, virile, dominant. One of the real "fore-now" men, which is to say, the genuine old heart-of-oak breed of mariners, now, alas, dying out.

Gloomily the old Terra Nova lies at her sno-muffled wharf as night comes on [says my notebook]. On deck, sealers are carrying shovels of live coals to start a fire somewhere, in preparation for a "scoff," as a feed is called. Sparks are eddying from the aft-galley funnel,. A stockish man, lumped down on a bench in the galley, is intoning a come-all-ye. No sleeping accommodations, or any of whatso kind, have been made for me. I have just dumped my "fit-out" and myself into a kind of little hellhole aft of the main cabin. This hellhole is partly occupied by the rudder stunk, partly by several rough black bunks. A tiny place it is, with a sign branded into a beam: "CERTIFIED TO ACCOMMODATE ONE SEAMAN." Here I am awaiting developments. Everything is dim, dark, smoky, glum.

To be continued.

George Allan England's tale of sailing to the ice with Captain Abram Kean on the Terra Nova in 1922, Vikings of the Ice, being the log of a Tenderfoot on the Great Newfoundland Seal Hunt was published in 1924 by Doubleday. Rattling Books will release an unabridged audio edition of Vikings of the Ice narrated by Frank Holden in the spring of 2007

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Excerpt: Vikings of the Ice by George Allan England (#3)


We continue George Allan England's tale of sailing to the ice with Captain Abram Kean on the Terra Nova in 1922.Vikings of the Ice, being the log of a Tenderfoot on the Great Newfoundland Seal Hunt was published in 1924 by Doubleday. Rattling Books will release an unabridged audio edition of Vikings of the Ice narrated by Frank Holden in the spring of 2007.

One could write half a book about St. John's: but what we're after now is seals. So I shall record nothing but what bears directly thereon.

Very directly bearing thereon was Bowring Brothers' establishment; for Bowring Brothers is a famous firm of seal hunters, and the Terra Nova, on which I was to ship, belonged to them.

I found Bowring Brothers' place of business comfortably old-fashioned, quite in the British tradition, with open fires, ancient desks, a one-handed English 'phone, maps, samples of seal oil, pictures of steamers, lots of "clarks," and the general atmosphere of 1848. Eric Bowring extended a cordial hand and reaffirmed his permission for me to go "to the ice."

He introduced me to Cap'n Abraham Kean, scheduled to command the Terra Nova. The Cap'n looked a splendid type of seaman and a famous ice master:ruddy, hearty, hale, with shrewd blue eyes, a grizzle of snowy beard, a bluff manner, the vigour of a man of fifty, for all his seventy years, and a full half-century of seal killing to his credit.

"The Admiral of the Fleet," they call him in Newfoundland. And well he deserves the title, for he has come in "high-liner" more often than any other captain, and knows the icefields as other men know their palms. Many decades he has commanded ships plying into the Far North, "down the Labrador," and has never lost a passenger. A skipper in the Royal Naval Reserve, a former member of the House of Assembly, a writer and lecturer, he understands more about seals and sealing than any other man alive. I thought myself fortunate in being assigned to his ship, and so indeed the event proved.

My optimisim faded somewhat as, in the bitter cold, transfixed by the slashing wind, I betook myself to the snow-sheetd wharf behind the Bowring establishment; penetrated narrow, white-washed runways already populated with sealers, and went aboard the Terra Nova.

There indeed for the first time I beheld her, one of the nine scarred, time-bitten old ships of the 1922 hunt. The harbour was grinding white with heavy ice. Beyond, snow-swept hills soared to a pitiless gray sky of storm. Gulls volplaned and screamed. Wharves swarmed with types of men unknown to me, strange men, ominous and wild, with never a friendly glance or word for the outlander. Winches cluttered and roared; steam drifted.

As I set foot on board rather horrific prospects dawned. Earlier visions of brass-buttoned officers and cozy cabins faded. My notebook records:

As far as being a slave ship is concerned, this one looks the part. The Australian convict ship Success is luxurious by contrast. This veteran of the ice is dark, dingy, coal-dusty, and dirtier than anything I have ever seen; with snowy decks, rusty old hand pumps; a stuffy and filthy cabin, extremely cold; tiny hard bunks, a dwarf stove, a table covered with smeared oil cloth; everything inexpressibly dreary and repellent.

A few minutes' exploration, with nobody offering me a word of welcome, showed me I had no sybaritic cruise ahead of me. Dejection gripped me on my way back to the hotel. Why not be frank about it all and say I had a bad case of cold feet?

Walking along Water Street, St. John's busiest thoroughfare, I had good opportunity to see the kind of men I was to ship with. For already the town was filling up with "greasy-jackets." i.e., seal hunters.

Along the soppy sidewalks they were clumping, girt with belts and sculping knives. The pavements clicked under the tread of their huge "skinny woppers," made of sealskin which had been tanned by Esquimau women - tanned in the primitive way, by being chewed. I marvelled at the thick soles of these waterproof boots: soles studded with "sparables," "chisels," or "frosters," as various kinds of nails are called. Open-coated, with rough trousers held up by "hippers," or nails doing duty for suspender buttons, groups of these hardy Vikings gathered at corners or stood peering in at shop windows that displayed sealers' outfits or stuffed whitecoats. By the men's glances at the city dwellers or "carner boys," no love seemed lost between them. The city folk looked equally disdainful of the "bay noddies," or outport men.

And here just a word of explanation and - if necessary - of apology to the reader. In the course of this narrative it will be necessary to dip heavily into dialect. The sealing gear, clothing, food, the hunt, the weather, all of life in fact, as named by sealers, will involve strange unfamiliar words. The Newfoundland language is one unique and apart from any other. And without using it no adequate picture of the seal hunt can be painted. Rest assured that I shall try to explain every term; and if you forget the meaning, you have but to turn to the Glossary in the Appendix.

To be continued.














Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Excerpt: The Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace (setting: early March)


The following excerpt is from Dillon Wallace's classic story of the fateful canoe trip which Wallace, Leonidas Hubbard and George Elson made into the interior of Labrador in 1903 (The Lure of the Labrador Wild originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York) . In 2005 Rattling Books released an unabridged audio edition of The Lure of the Labrador Wild narrated by Jody Richardson.


Early in February the doctor said I might try my feet on the floor. The result was the discovery that my knees would not bear me, and that I should have to learn to walk all over again. Recovering the use of my legs was a tedious job, and it was not until February 29th that I was able to return to Northwest River. After leaving Kenemish I never saw the unfortunate young doctor again; for he died on March 22nd.


Back at Northwest River I was able to stir things up a bit, and bright and early on Tuesday morning, March 8th, George, Tom Blake, and Duncan MacLean, composing the expedition that was to recover Hubbard's body, at last left the post, prepared for their difficult journey into the interior. I regretted much that my physical condition made it impossible for me to accompany them. Their provisions were packed on an Indian flat sled or toboggan, and their tent and other camp equipment on a sled with broad flat runners that I had obtained especially for the transportation of the body from some Indians that visited the post. At the rapid they were to get Tom Blake's dogs to haul their loads to Donald Blake's at the other end of Grand Lake. After that, the hauling was all to be done by hand, as it is quite impossible to use dogs in cross-country travelling in Labrador.

In the course of the afernoon snow squalls developed, and all day Wednesday and Thursday the snow fell heavily. I knew the storm would interfere with the progress of the men, but I hoped they had succeeded in reaching Donald's, and were at that point holding themselves in readiness to proceed. What was my disappointment, then, when towards noon on Sunday Douglas and Henry Blake, Tom's two young sons, came to the post to announce that their father was at home! He had made a start up Grand Lake, they said , but the storms had not permitted the party to advance any farther than the Cape Corbeau tilt.

Douglas had accompanied the men to Cape Corbeau, which point it had taken an entire day to reach, as the dogs, even with the men on their snowshoes tramping a path ahead, sank so deeply in the snow that they could hardly flounder along, to say nothing of hauling a load. it was evident, therefore, that the dogs would retard rather than accelerate the progress of the party on Grand Lake, and when the Cape Corbeau tilt was reached on Tuesday night it was decided that Douglas should take them back to the rapid. On Wednesday morning the storm was raging so fiercely that it was considered unsafe to go ahead for the present. George, moreover, complained of a lame ankle, and said he required a rest. So Tom came to the conclusion that if he remained at the tilt he would be eating the "stock of grub" to no purpose, and when Douglas turned homeward with the dogs he went with him. George and Duncan were to stay at the tilt until the travelling became better, Douglas said, and then push on to Donald's and wait for Tom there.
To be continued.

March Hare tonight in St. John's, Newfoundland

Through the Looking Glass
St. John’s, Wednesday March 7, 2007 Martini Bar on George (above Peddler’s) 8:00 p.m. Host & Emcee: Nick Avis
Agnes Walsh
Emiko Miyashita
Larry Small
Susan Gillis
Matthew Byrne
Boyd Chubbs
Anne Ferncase
Lorna Crozier
John Steffler

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More details on Women's Work Festival Schedule

(the following details reproduced from the Town Cryer's website)

Co-produced by RCA Theatre, She Said Yes! and White Rooster Productions, Women’s Work is a festival of new play readings by women, tributes to women pioneers, and dessert in celebration of International Women’s Week..

After the success of last year’s first Ladies of Misrule, presented by RCA Theatre, White Rooster and She Said Yes! decided to augment that celebration of women pioneers in the arts by hosting a festival of today’s women playwrights. The three theatre companies have now joined forces to present a four-night festival of work by and about women, with all proceeds from the door going to the Naomi Centre.

In preparation for the readings, each playwright receives a dramaturgical session with a full cast and an experienced director/dramaturge. The Play Reading Series is scheduled for three nights from March 5-7, 2007 at 7 pm nightly at the Eastern Edge Gallery. On March 5, Sex, the war of by Lois Brown, and Connecting Rooms by Florence Button of Carbonear will be presented featuring Kay Anonsen, Robert Chafe, Sandy Gow, Brad Hodder, Ruth Lawrence, and Sara Tilley.

On March 6th, Family, or, 63 Steps by Agnes Walsh will be read by Robert Chafe, Amy House and Ruth Lawrence.

Then on March 7th, The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland and (Labrador!) by Sara Tilley will feature Mary-Lynn Bernard, Robert Chafe, Sandy Gow, Ruth Lawrence and Sherry White.

As the gala finale, the 2nd Annual The Ladies of Misrule will be held at 8 pm, March 8th at the Masonic Temple on Cathedral Street. An International Women’s Day celebration of women pioneers in the arts of Newfoundland & Labrador, our uppermost Lady of Misrule, Gerry Rogers, will host a gathering to pay tribute to several pioneers. Kay Anonsen, Tessa Crosbie, Sheilagh Guy Murphy, Amy House, Katie Pittman, Joan Sullivan, Simone Savard-Walsh and others will salute the work of writer Cassie Brown, music hall entertainer Biddy O’Toole, poet Len Margaret, traditional singer Bride Judge and others. To add decadence to our celebration, we will be offering a luscious dessert buffet.

For more information on the Women’s Work Festival, contact Ruth or Amy at RCA Theatre at 753-4531.

Women's Work Festival, March 5-8th, 2007, St. John's, Newfoundland


Women's Work Festival, March 5-8th, 2007
New plays by women, tributes to women pioneers, and dessert in celebration of International Women's Week.
Reading Series - 7 pm nightly at Eastern Edge Gallery
Featuring:
Sex, the war of by Lois Brown.
Family, or, 63 Steps by Agnes Walsh.
The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland and (Labrador!) by Sara Tilley
Closing Gala- The Ladies of Misrule - 8pm, March 8th, Masonic Temple
For more information call the Hall at 753-4531

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Grey Islands by John Steffler: unabridged audio edition coming soon



Coming very soon from Rattling Books:

The Grey Islands
by John Steffler

narrated by John Steffler, Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins

unabridged audio edition
160 minutes duration / 2 Audio CDs
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-0-0
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-0-3

Watch this site for further notice.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Excerpt: Vikings of the Ice by George Allan England (excerpt#2)


On my northward trek aboard the Rosalind I acquired a little advance information about seal hunting that just a trifle moderated my ideas concerning brass buttons and smart little staterooms.

"Not much real danger of your ship sinking in the ice a few hundred miles from land," a St. John's merchant explained, "though once in a way it does happen. The sealing ships are built of greenheart and oak, to meet the ice pressures. Of course, " he sank the barb, "we've had some pretty appalling disasters. Sometimes sudden blizzards catch the men on ice, far from the ships, and wipe them out by the dozen and the score. I should advise you not to wander more than two or three miles from the Terra Nova, especially if the barometer's down."

"Oh, I don't think I will - not over three or four miles, anyhow," I hastened to reassure him.

"Well, then, the chances are you'll come through alive. That is, if your ship doesn't burn or blow up. Seal fat is enormously inflammable, and the men are wonderful careless with fire and blasting powder. As a fact, not one of our sealing ships is fit to go to the icefields. They're all worn out. The Terra Nova was condemned years ago. I've heard it said that a good strong man with a pair of stout boots could kick a hole in her boilers anywhere. Still, I don't want to make you worry."

"Certainly not!" I agreed, relighting my pipe, which had gone out.

"As for the men - oh, you'll get along with them all right. Rough? Well, rather! But treat them free and easy and call them 'Uncle,' and you'll have no trouble. A hard crowd, that! Most of them never wash or shave, on the sealing racket. They butcher all day and come in off the ice a reek of blood and grease; but you won't mind that. Dirt doesn't hurt them and neither does hardship. Why, they're half seals themselves! They'd die with decent treatment. The tough trip just fattens them. They come back with hides four inches thick - and so will you!"

Thus indeed it befell. I did!

The next Newfoundlander to encourage me - a carpenter - had been sealing many years.

"Goin' swilin', is ye, sir?" he asked. "Me dear man! Ye'll be rale hearty. If y'r luck's in, ye'll take no harm. I was on de Florizel, time she an' ninety-four men was lost. 'Tis a wonnderful fine racket. I'd like to be goin' in collar meself, agin, wid me rope an' gaff an' sculpin' knife! I'd like to year de ole cry: 'Starburd over!' an' year dem whitecoats bawlin'. I would, so."

*************************

And so continues the beginning of George Allan England's tale of sailing to the ice with Captain Abram Kean on the Terra Nova in 1922.

Vikings of the Ice, being the log of a Tenderfoot on the Great Newfoundland Seal Hunt was published in 1924 by Doubleday.

Rattling Books will release an unabridged audio edition of Vikings of the Ice narrated by Frank Holden in the spring of 2007.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Shore Pebbles from Author David Weale: Dream of Lights


Dream of Lights

There was a period in my late forties and early fifties when I made a gallant effort to come to terms with my dreams. I even kept paper and a pen by the bedside, and often in the night I would turn on the light and jot down notes for the next day when I would write out the dream in full. Eventually I wearied of the practice, but by that time the account of hundreds of sensational, often bizarre nocturnal excursions had been filed away in a large binder. Some of them were dark and horrific, and I would sometimes wonder how I could be more frightened in a dream than I ever was in waking life, and whether the terror I experienced was my own -- the emotional residue of some forgotten childhood trauma -- or whether in my dreams I was somehow tapping into a terror that belonged to a dimension of myself which extended beyond the bounds of personal life experience. I do recall that in a number of these frightening dreams there was the suggestive presence of descending stairs or ladders, and in one a manhole cover of some kind that opened to a ghoulish underworld where emaciated figures gestured pleadingly.

Who were those pathetic sewer-dwellers, looking up at me in such misery, and how and when did they become stranded there? They seemed to believe I possessed the power to liberate them, but I felt such a powerful aversion to their pain and helplessness that my desire was to get as far away from them as I could, even though there was another part of me that felt I should embrace them. I am an introspective person, and there are days I fancy I know myself quite well. But do I really? After a dream like that one I am humbled. How well can I know myself when I am unable to recognize the strange cast of characters inhabiting my inner life? Are they aliens, invading from outside? Or, lifetime inmates, begging for emancipation, or perhaps just acknowledgement? Or are they all just actors in a play? But whose play? My own, or another’s?
My dreams make me wonder about my facile, daytime assumption that I am living my own life, for many of them suggest I am more interpreter than author, and more audience than actor.

Happily, there is a sweet side to all of this, for there also have been many ecstatic, liberating dreams: the kind I hated to wake from. In those the limitations of everyday life would disappear and it was possible, not only to do things I couldn’t ordinarily do -- like flying -- but also to roam through fields of wonder and delight that were, in everyday life, strictly off limits. I attempted at one point to master the art of lucid dreaming, hoping it might enable me to prolong, or even direct, those ventures of lightness and joy, but it never worked for me, and now I just take them when they come, and am grateful for them.

Time, like identity, is often a casualty of the dream state, and one night I had a dream that was recapitulated in waking life years later. In the dream it was night and I was a boy, returning to my home across an open, rolling landscape that didn’t correspond to any place I knew in the everyday world, but was remarkably similar to the fields of Entry Island that I visited for the first time just last year. As I walked I was singing a beautiful Christmas carol that also was unknown to me. Suddenly, the air was filled with tiny, brilliant pinpricks of light. They weren’t far away, like stars, but were just above me, and all around me, in the air itself. I’ve witnessed something similar during daylight in winter, when the air is crowded with tiny flakes of frost that sparkle like diamonds in the sloping sun, but in the dream it was night. The spectacle evoked a feeling of great gladness, and when I awoke the euphoria remained for some time. It was one of the most memorable of my recorded dreams and when I spoke of it to friends I recall stating that it was the only full-fledged epiphany I had ever experienced in a dream-state. Certainly I never expected to experience anything like it again.

Ten years later I was returning to my home on the Five Houses Road in the company of my second eldest son, Josh. It was a cold, clear winter night under a brilliant moon, and all the branches of the trees and shrubs were covered with a thin layer of ice from the freezing rain that had fallen earlier in the day. As we passed by a large lilac bush Josh let out his breath in astonishment. “Look at that,” he exclaimed. The moonlight was deflecting off the branches of the bush and as we moved by, changing our angle of vision with every step, the result was a scene of thousands of tiny points of light, sparkling and winking above and around us. When we stopped the flashing stopped, but as soon as we resumed walking the air was filled once again with the same magical light-show.

We retraced our steps a number of times, filled with amazement at a sight so rare and exquisite. Both of us said we had never seen anything quite like it before, but that was not entirely true. Later, in the house, I told him about my dream of lights, and how remarkably similar it had been to what we had just witnessed. He, of course, didn’t know what to make of that, nor did I, except for a hunch that occurrences which appear to be separate and unconnected, aren’t, and that a moment is no small thing, and not really a moment at all.
*****************************
David Weale writes his Shore Pebbles from Prince Edward Island. He is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest, the unabridged audio edition of which is available from Rattling Books and the print edition from Acorn Press.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More Buttons from Rattling Books







We're going mad with the button designs. Thanks to Mike Mouland.