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Month: June 2022

A Different Set of Circumstances

A Different Set of Circumstances

Imagine learning from your landlord that the rent is going to be rising. You’re told, “Sorry, if you can’t pay, you’re going to have to find another place.” You think, but where? You’re left in a total state of shock. There’s no way you can afford the rentals around here. You stare into nothingness, no idea of what you’re supposed to do now.

And then imagine going to the refrigerator to find something to eat. Your son just got home from school and he’s hungry. It’s supper time. Of course, he is. You’d love to give him something wholesome to eat, but all that’s left are some beans and half a loaf of bread. That’s going to have to do.

Besides, when you later open the refrigerator’s door, it’s like some cavernous maw–empty and barren except for opened containers of relish and mustard waiting to enhance food that will likely never appear. There’s the second half of a sandwich you were keeping for tomorrow. Not much more.

Think about it and try to place yourself in this different set circumstances. It’s difficult to do so. But too often we take for granted we’ll never be in such circumstances. Still, we never do know. As many of us know, there are too many struggling to find a secure, safe and comfortable home. They’re either bogged down with a rent that’s increasingly difficult to meet. Others are left taking advantage of the goodness of a family member or friend who’s offered a couch.

For those struggling to make ends meet and choose between paying bills and food, they have additional troubles. Should I buy some food and not bother with the heating bill. Surely, they’ll give me a little grace. Throughout the year, finding healthy food to eat is a problem for too many.

Luckily, there’s some hope. In places such as the southwest Avalon, also including Whitbourne, there is hope. We’re lucky to have a Housing Outreach Worker who can assist people with their need to find a home if they find themselves in dire straits. For others, they may have a home, but it needs upgrades. And the red tape required to do so may be insurmountable. But the Outreach Worker can help. Her office is in the Placentia Chamber of Commerce in the Placentia Mall. Her name is Lillian Mulrooney and she can be reached at 227 5334.

The Placentia Area Food Bank provides emergency food hampers on Monday-Friday, from 9-5. You can ring 213 5333 and leave a message regarding your need for a food hamper, as well as your MCP card number. For those who happen to need food, there are two other places to check. One is in the doorway of the Placentia mall (near Stepping Stones). There is a glass case where people often leave food. Another is by the town square. Leave some food if you can or feel free to take some if you need a little help. We all do sometimes.

Together, we can make a difference!

Welcome to the Music of Life

Welcome to the Music of Life

Musical instruments have always been somewhat of an unknown quantity to me. With a shrug of the shoulders, it was generally neither here nor there. Myriad keys that apparently vibrated something and then, like magic, sound emerged. And indeed it was nothing less than enchanting when someone would begin to play. Yet, that was the extent of it.

Just Starting

For several years, through elementary and then into secondary school, I contentedly played the clarinet in the school band. Then, for a different perspective and often comforted solely by an ongoing series of whole notes, I briefly switched to the baritone horn for one semester. None of it was done with any heartfelt endeavour, I confess. But something had clearly touched my heart.

For, here I am, decades later deciding, with a heartfelt mixture of determination and certainty, buoyed by spirit and hopeful intention, to learn to play the piano. It’s strange because I had always professed to dislike the piano when I was younger. It seemed to somehow lack drama. Plinking away at “Mary Had a Little Lamb” seemed to invariably invade my mind when I thought of the piano.

A Spellbinding Drama

Although, I realised, it’s just the start. As time progresses and with practice, the piano, like any instrument, will become a symphony of spellbinding drama, all with a deft helping of skill and finesse.

And whatever instrument happens to take our fancy—for some the guitar, for others the fiddle or the accordion, whatever it may be—it’ll be a matter taking small steps. Of course it won’t sound like anything grand and entrancing immediately. But time is our ally in this endeavour.

First and foremost, it’ll take time and practice. A little bit here and there will do. But learning to play a musical instrument doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s something in which we’ll need to invest a little time and then it’s a matter of practice, practice and practice. It just calls on us to marshal ourselves and manage our time a little.

Whole New World

I know for me, when I think of learning to play, it feels like I’m entering a whole new world. Where before, it was a mess of black keys and white keys, now, while it still largely is, it’s now a lot more of a tidier mess. I can look at a piano and proudly say, “ah, that’s a C and that’s an F.” It’s an elementary distinction. Still, it’s a lot more than I could’ve done a month ago. I look forward to learning more.

Some say that we’re smarter as we gradually acquire knowledge of our instrument. Although I can’t say I’m smarter, there are a few new bits of information I’ve now got tucked away inside my brain. They’re like puzzle pieces that I know will in time be inserted in their rightful place.

Stressing Confidence

Others note how playing an instrument relieves stress. One is calm and at peace. It’s true. For my own experiences, the one thing I notice is how time appears to move quite rapidly. If I say I’m going to practice for an hour, before I know it, that time is gone. Clearly I am not worried about time or anything that was troubling me. For those moments, we disappear into another world.

And it’s also wonderful when I finally seem to manage positioning my fingers to play a chord. It seemed rather tricky at first. The person teaching the online course I’m taking referred to our “muscle memory.” As I focus, trying to hold my hand in a particular way, at first it seemed impossible. Yet, I was astonished that it actually worked. So, whatever is the next lesson, I’m increasingly confident that, with a little effort, I’ll be able to do it.

Patience & Memory

Not only does learning to play a musical instrument help our muscle memory, it apparently helps our memory overall. I was able to download a host of chords with the key’s coloured to let us know where we are to hold our fingers. It seemed daunting. However, memory, assisted ably my practice will allow me to gradually absorb the information. Before too long, I’ll be knowledgeably pressing keys that in previous months were absolutely unknown to me.

When I embarked on this journey, I knew it was not something that would happen overnight. The goal will be to invest the time to make it a success. So, to learn to play a musical instrument is undergirded by the idea of patience. Throughout, I’m sure I’ll be spurred along by momentary victories as well as all the myriad frustrations. However, I’m sure, whenever I experience those frustrations, I’ll work towards transforming them into victories.

A Spark of Creativity

Some also assure us that our creativity will be beautifully sparked by our newfound skill and talent. It makes sense. As we learn more and more, the knowledge of the various keys and chords become second nature. Then, bolstered by our growing confidence, more and more, we’ll start to explore. After all, we’ll feel the urge to express ourselves, adding a little extra spice to a piece simply because it feels right to do so.

Learning to play a musical instrument requires commitment and determination. But more then anything, the will and passion to do so is essential. Most of us would agree that music is an expression shared the world over. Regardless of its origins, through its enchanting and embodied rhythms or its heart-pounding beat, it’s capable of reducing us to tears as easily as rousing our spirits to sublime heights.

And to know we’re even just a modest part of such an endeavour is reason enough to try.

Rocks as the Sacred Embodiment of Time

Rocks as the Sacred Embodiment of Time

Many who have wandered along the beach in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador have encountered a rare gift. Sitting down for a rest, we gaze around and are confronted with a magnificent mosaic of colour and pattern. Leaning down, we pick up a rock and examine its rich colours, contours and interesting textures.

Most often we lay it back down, simply intrigued by the display. Sometimes, we pocket it, a memoir of beauty, retained to hold the memory of the moment. But little more. However, if we focus more keenly, we realise how rocks hold secrets. For they are the sacred embodiment of time. More importantly, they hold lessons, ones we can glean if we heed.

A Matter of Time

Many of us understand time in cycles tied to seconds and minutes. Often we find ourselves speaking with someone on the phone, assuring them it’ll only take half an hour to reach some destination, a friend or a shop. Rushed for time, we beg for someone to give us “just a sec” and we’ll be able to get something done. Our conception of time matches our lives, the daily round of time in which we live. It makes sense.

Rocks obey a much longer cycle of time. For us, once we go beyond these conceptions of time, we invariably lose track. It ceases to make sense. Months and years are marginally concievable, but anything beyond seems infinitesimal. But for rocks, they’re formation is a process on the scale of millions of years.

Given the region where I live, our rocks stem from a violent time of volcanic eruptions, heaving rocks, something that took place hundreds of millions of years ago—the Cambrian and Ediacaran Periods, between around 488 and 630

million years ago (mya). Go around the world and the story will be the same. Such a span of time is incomprehensible to us.

The Span of Time

And yet, if we touch those rocks, running our hands over their surface, in so doing, we are essentially compressing time. Those millions of years sit in our hands at that very moment. So a nigh unlimited past coalesces into a present. It’s like our lives. No matter what has occurred in our past. Eventually, when we look in a mirror, all that past coalesces into what we see before us. For rocks, the roaring overflow of magma and crush of the rocks is over. Gone. For us, we are left with the silence and peace of the here and now.

Similarly, rocks broaden our conception of time. We pick up that rock along the beach. Having looked at the qualities of coarse grains flowing through the rock, inter-swirling with finer compositions, we ponder. And we recognise that the changes we’re looking at must’ve occurred over a vast amount of time.

Change Takes Time

We look back a mere ten to fifteen thousand of years to a glacial period when kilometres of ice glided over places such as Newfoundland and Labdrador. In doing so, it left evidence of its presence in the erratics1 or striations2 left behind. We may look at a landscape in which these formations and many more speak of actions in the past. What we realise most extraordinarily is how it didn’t happen overnight. For rocks, it often took upwards of thousands of years.

In our own lives, we realise how change takes time. Maybe there’s something we’re hoping to alter in our lives. Perhaps we’ve just taken a new job. It’s possible some of us are trying desparately to stop smoking, under- or over-eating, drinking alcohol, beginning a new relationship. There may be any number of shifts to our lives. They all take time. Like those rocks do over the millennia, over a much shorter span of time—weeks, months or years—we will take the time and magically evolve, transforming into a quintessence of beauty.

Time in a Transforming World

Rocks also provide an obvious indication that the world was once a very different place. Some rocks possess linear layers of fine and then coarse grained inclusions. These are what geologists refer to as sedimentary rocks, evidence of processes such as erosion, weathering and precipitation. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago, rivers may transported grains of sand, depositing them in some location, perhaps a delta. Over time, these gradually hardened through lithification. So, in the present, we encounter these rocks with little knowledge of the immense pressure from those above that were required to create them. We are at peace, looking around us as the birds sing, the water gently lapping along the coast.

In much the same way, we need to take a moment to appreciate how the world in which we exist is far different from how it was in the past. What we experience in our present are mere reflections of how things were in the past. Similar to rocks, they offer hints of what took place in their past. However, it is just that, it is simply an important reminder of from where we come. No more or no less. It is no longer who we are in the present. Like those rocks, we go forward, creating a new entity or self, developing and transforming throughout the beauty of time.

Rocks are subtle in how they have been woven in the warp and weft of time. Nonetheless, it is there if we gaze deeply enough. Still, they are lessons that can provide a map for us to navigate our way into the unknown and innermost recesses of our future.

1Rock pieces that differ in composition, etc., from the rock surrounding it, having been transported from its place of origin, esp by glacial action.

2Striations are lines which were ground onto rock surfaces by glacial ice moving over them. These often give a sense of the direction and orientation of the overlying ice.

Growing Connections

Growing Connections

Anyone who’s ever spent a little time in a nursing home or senior’s residence, speaking with residents has no doubt had a chance to delight in the pleasures of the past. As we all know, times were often hard. But there were sprinkles of joy throughout. And nestled amidst the myriad elements speaking of the often this foreign way of life, are valuable lessons we can apply to our lives in the here and now.

Learning From the Past

Where I live in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador, shared words have highlighted the joys and woes of lives lived decades ago. They touched on harvesting the bounty of gardens and the berrypicking trips amidst the lengthening shadows of August and September. Along with fishing and purchasing food stocks in the autumn, these actions helped to ensure a secure source of food over the winter.

In hearing these words, the concerns of the past invariably merge with present ones. The reminiscences of routines and traditions from previous years are inherently intertwined with current and widespread ideas and concerns for food security. How can such connections inform our understanding and ability to address food security and related community sustainability?

Challenges to Our Food Security

We’ve become increasingly aware of our food, from where that food comes and in general, the notion of food security. The Food Security Network of Newfoundland and Labrador’s concept of food security mirror’s that of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It states how food security “exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate food to maintain a healthy and active life.” The issues that surround food security are undoubtedly complex.

Right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, these issues gather around sometimes intractable concerns. We’ve the lowest number of farms, we only have a 2-3 day supply of food if the ferries are delayed, we import 71% of the food we eat, 13.4% of households are food insecure,1 more than 26,000 (or 5% in the province) rely of food banks, our province has the highest rate of heart attacks in Canada, we generally eat fewer veggies and fruits, and we have the highest rate of diabetes in the country. Many places around the world may not share these specific difficulties, but they will likely have their own share of challenges.

Responding to Food Insecurity

However stubborn and grave the problems, solutions can still be found in initiatives that begin close to home, extending outward to encompass the wider world. So, closer to home, my experiences when speaking with seniors spoke of how the daily routines of gardening and food gathering, such as berrypicking, sought to achieve what we now regard as food security.

A community garden. By ricky-from-left-field –, CC BY 2.0,

At present, if we peer behind homes in Placentia or other communities, we often spy gardens that offer the fruits of labour—beets, potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and so on. Around Newfoundland and Labrador, a host of communities have also chosen to plant a community garden. To do so is a potentially an enriching, motivating and educational endeavour. Going to our plot at the community garden, we’ll meet friends, exchange ideas, and maybe even learn a new trick.

Harmonising Food System

Food First NL has also identified a five part food system that must work in harmony. Consisting of production, distribution, access, consumption and disposal, it is essential for us to ensure all components of this system are working smoothly and in harmony. If some element of distribution is impeded, for us, say the ferries are blocked by high wind, then the access to the food will be affected. Likewise, in some other part of the world, perhaps the distribution of the food has been negatively affected. Then, consequently, so will the access to that food. As you can see, our focus needs to be guaranteeing all elements work together. If so, our relationship with our food is then sustainable.

Before doing so, there are many things we’d need to improve in the province and country as a whole. We need to improve our support for farmers to make it a viable way of life. We need to strengthen our controls on the use of pesticides, the cost of feed and fertiser, seeds and more. There is a lot of room for improvement.

Still, there is always hope. Much as people have done in the past, residents and visitors to the community can have an increasingly assured access to safe and nutritious food. Alongside such efforts, for the community in general, by maintaining the heritage of gardens, we are collectively working to enhance different elements of the food system. We’re taking a further step toward food security and by extension, the sustainability of communities.

A Way to Sustainability

Invariably, food security and sustainability work hand in hand. As enshrined in the Sustainable Development Act (SNL2007 CHAPTER S-34) for Newfoundland and Labrador, sustainability refers to “the capacity of a thing, action, activity or process to be maintained indefinitely in a manner consistent with the future use, enjoyment and development of natural resources.” When we work towards food security by planting and growing our food, we can also help make certain that subsequent generations have access to the food they need to survive and thrive in their community.

The reminiscences of seniors who may now live in places such as the Lions Manor Nursing Home are perhaps reminders for us all. Their words signal that efforts made decades ago hold the key to current concerns. It is in our interest to cultivate the growing connections between past and present, for such connections can yield both the sustainability and contentment of our communities.

1Food insecurity means a household has an insecure access to adequate food due to financial constraints.