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Month: January 2023

To Find A Better Tomorrow

To Find A Better Tomorrow

She could barely contain herself, her heels echoed in the now largely empty parking garage. Clio made for her car, fumbling with the key to open the door. She slumped into the seat and put her head down against the steering wheel, breaking out in tears. Clio cried like she’d never before, it all spilling out. How could that woman have been so cruel, she said to herself. She had no right to say those things. And I just took it. I always let people walk all over me. She knows I do good work. I can’t take this anymore, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut.

Clio sat up and looked at herself in the rearview mirror, her face streaked with tears. Leaning over, she grabbed some tissues out of the glove compartment. After wiping her eyes and nose, she started the car and began to drive out.

The snow-covered streets were largely empty. She reckoned most had taken the day off to get a head start on their weekends. It was beginning to snow again and so, she thought how some would be happy they’d left the day before. Pulling into a parking spot in front of a café she spotted, Clio got out of her car. Why go home right now? She was in a horrible mood and really needed to just let off some steam. Anyway, her boyfriend would only be home later in the evening and she just wanted to be alone right now anyway. Her life was in a mess. That’s all she knew for sure.

She walked into the café and realised, there was no one there. She checked the door for the hours to make sure they were still open. But yes, they’d only close at 6 tonight. Checking her watch, she realised she still had a couple of hours. There was only one person working and he was sitting and reading at one of the tables. He looked up and smiled when she came in. She thought he was likely happy to get some company.

Walking over to the counter, she looked at all the luxurious foods, a temptation for even the most disciplined. She smiled at the attendant. “It’s hard to choose.”

“Yeah, there’s quite the selection. But take your time.” He seemed content to wait while she chose.

“Well, I think I’ll choose the cranberry cream cheese streusel. I thought I’d treat myself after the day I’ve had,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Ah, something sweet always makes us feel better,” he said. “Are you eating in?” She nodded her head.

“Yeah. I think I just need to relax, forget the day. What a fool I’ve been,” she said, her face half way between a whince and a smile.

“That bad, eh?” he placed her tart on a plate. “Did you want anything to drink with that?”

“Yeah, y’know, while I’m at it, I think I’ll have a hot cocoa.”

“Sure, go ahead. I’m getting the feeling you deserve it.”

“Y’know. I think I do. There are just those moments when you need to, I don’t know.” He smiled.

“You need a sympathetic ear and to somehow know everything’s going to be okay?”

“Yeah. I think that’s about it,” she said nodding her head and laughing. “Whether that’s the case is another story, of course.” She smiled and took her cocoa.

“You can just go take a seat, I’ll bring your streusel over when it’s finished heating.”

“Thanks.” She went to take a seat by the window. Already feeling better, she shuffled off her parka and watched as the plough went past. Stirring her cocoa, she blew on it and then took a sip. Her mind was awash. How much she just wanted to be done with it. She’d worked at that company for a little over ten years. And she knew that woman was just trying to show her up, trying to make her look bad. Newly graduated, most likely and knowing all the right people. Anyway, she was sure everyone knew the work she was able to do.

“Here ya go,” he said, placing her streusel on the table.

“Thanks.” He’d already turned around to leave, but she called him back. “You seem like a sensible guy. What would you say to someone who’s had enough?” He looked at her, his face appearing like he was thinking. He came back and pulled up a chair.

“Do you mind?” he said.

“No, not at all.” She took a bite of her streusel.

“Well, it all depends on where you’re at. How do you feel?” Her face looked perplexed. “I mean, is this something that’s gonna blow over by Monday and it’s all good? Or, is this something that’s been simmering for a while? So, that’s what I mean. It depends. The solution’s gotta fit the problem, if you know what I mean.” She turned her head, thinking about what he’d said.

“Y’see, I don’t think it’ll blow over. It’s kinda ongoing and I don’t know,” she said, her eyes focussing on some people walking by outside. “I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve had it. But what can I do? I’m really sorry to be bothering you about this. I feel like such a fool,” she said hurriedly.

“Why do you keep calling yourself a fool? There’s no need to say that. You did what you did and like everyone else, you’re just trying to make the best of things.” She looked down and stirred her cocoa, its steam billowing upward.

“Yeah, I know.”

“I get the feeling, it’s a bad habit,” he said. She looked at him guiltily, raising her eyebrows.

“Guilty as charged,” she said, her voice low and barely audible.

“Besides, if you keep saying that about yourself, why the heck d’ya think everyone else isn’t gonna join in?”

They sat silently for a moment. “People always say you’ve gotta believe in yourself. But I guess, I’ve never been very good at that.” She looked at him askance, her eyes mainly on the window. “All my friends, they’re married with children and everything’s just wonderful for them. Here I am with nothing.” She mindlessly shifted some crumbs around the streusel on her plate.

“Hey, first of all, you have no idea whether your friends’ lives are so perfect. I’m sure if they were here right now and we could asked them, they’d beg to differ. And second of all, I’d really question whether you’ve really got nothing. What are the things you enjoy doing?” He stared at her, his eyes warmly waiting for her response.

“I make stained glass ornaments and frames for a hobby.”

“Do you now,” he said, smiling at the admission. “How long have you been doing that?”

“Oh, just for about ten years. I usually give them to friends. It’s just a hobby.”

“Well, that’s just it. Would you say you’re proud of your stained glass hobby?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, shifting forward on her seat. “I love doing it. I’ve just started writing things in calligraphy and other lettering, too.” She waved her hand to emphasise. “Then I frame it with the stained glass.” He smiled as she described the process and some of the poems she planned on using.

“So, talking about believing in yourself, it sounds like you’ve got every reason to do so.”

“Do I?” She looked at him, sheepishly. He laughed.

“I’m afraid you do.”

“I know. It’s just I start feeling better and there’s this voice in me that almost says, I don’t know …” He held up his hand for her to stop, as if to say, leave it to me.

“It says, ‘Whoa … wait a goddamned minute! Where do ya think you’re going so fast?’ Doesn’t it?” She glanced at him and lowered her head. “And you, dutifully, get right back into place. ‘How dare you step forward, thinking you’re doing anything of any use or value. You get back!’ That’s what it says, isn’t it?” She looked up at him, nodding, her eyes moistening. “Listen, you’ve gotta know, you’re not alone. But when that voice tells you to sit bloody back down and know your place, ya know what you’ve gotta say?” Her eyes were focussed on him, not sure exactly what he was going to say. “Well, you’ve gotta say ‘no,’” he said, his finger pressed down on the table, emphasising his point. “And know with all your heart, you mean it!”

“No,” she said, clasping her cocoa between her hands and taking a sip, all the while looking out the window.

“That’s right,” he said, his voice quiet. “I get the feeling you tend to be at odds with yourself. You kinda think you’re doing everything wrong and that’s how it’ll always be.” Their eyes met. She glanced away. “It’s not a problem and nothing to be ashamed about. Not at all. It’s just it seems when a part of you stands forward and states, yes, I’m a somebody, another part of you hastens forward and hushes you, ‘sshhh, no you’re not!’” Her eyes remained on the passers-by. No one came in, though. She was pleased. “You’ve gotta not listen. You are somebody. You said yourself, you’re good at your work. What do you do?” She looked at him.

“Oh, I’m a law clerk at one of the law offices and so, we do research and other bits for the legal team.”

“But you’ve also got this work you do on the side, your stained glass.” He looked out the window for a moment and then caught her eye again. “Y’know, geez, even if you didn’t also do the stained glass, the thing is, you have no reason to think you’re a nobody. What are you doing always comparing yourself to your friends anyway? They’ve got their lives and you’ve got yours. Sure if there’s something you’d like to change in your life, go ahead. But don’t ever think you’re somehow less than anyone else. Your life is just different. Plus, as I said, I know if you spoke with any of your friends, they’d be sure to tell you, ‘no, everything’s not all right.’”

“Yeah, well, I’d love to just tell the people at my job to shove it.”

“Well, what’s stopping you?” Her eyes focussed on him. “I mean, I’m not saying quit completely. Not yet, at least. But maybe there’s a way you can have your cake and eat it too. That’s all I’m saying. You’ve gotta believe in yourself. Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past. Forget about it. Past failures and mistakes, forget ‘em. And regrets, ditto. Forget em.’ You’ve got the courage and determination. So, do it.” They remained, eye to eye, and then he smiled. “So, hey, why don’t you think about it and I’ll go warm up your streusel because I get the feeling it’s probably all cold again.” He got up taking her plate to the front to put it in the microwave.

She looked outside as she heard the light whirr of the microwave. Maybe, she thought. Maybe he was right. Looking outside, her perspective changed from what was going on outside to her reflection and she smiled.

He came back and placed her streusel on the table. “Thanks. For the streusel and everything else, too.”

“My pleasure.” He looked up at the door and smiled. “Gotta go soon.”

“Oh, yeah. Here I am holding you up.”

“No worries. Take your time.” He smiled and turned around, waiting at the front.

Clio ate her streusel, almost luxuriating in every bite. Somehow, it tasted that much better. She felt like she’d had a great load lifted from her shoulders, weight she hadn’t realised she was carrying. She walked to the front, zipping up her jacket.

“Y’know, coming in here was one of the best decisions of my life, I think. I have to thank you for everything you said. It’s meant the world to me.”

“You’re very welcome. It was the least I could do. And just remember, you’ve gotta believe in yourself. You can do it.”

“Thanks. And I love your T-shirt. Everyone can do with a smile. You’re like one of those mysterious helpers in the fairy tales.”

“Maybe so. I never thought of it like that.” She smiled again and then walked to the door, turning around one more time to wave. She hurried to her car, feeling like she had a new lease on her life. It was such a relief.

When she woke up the next day, she couldn’t wait to get to work. Clio’d decided that night before she ’d closed her eyes, sleep beckoning her, that she was going to quit her job. She couldn’t believe she’d do something so radical. But she knew she’d saved enough money to allow her to not work at all for a year, provided she didn’t fly off on any vacations. She knew she wouldn’t and she’d put everything into her stained glass work. Oh, she knew the money would never be as good as what got at the legal office. Still, she’d be free. And why not try.

Clio placed her hands on the steering wheel and remembered how she felt last week, when she was sitting in this parking garage alone. But she felt a thousand times better now than she did then. She’d handed in her resignation, working until Friday. Looking around, Clio couldn’t help but smile broadly.

The first thing she knew she had to do was go back to the café and maybe he’d be working again. She’d realised she hadn’t even asked his name. After finding a parking spot nearby, Clio walked to the café.

“Excuse me.” The young woman smiled, looking up at her. “Hi. I was here last Friday and I was wondering who the man was who was working.” The woman looked at her with a frown.

“Last Friday. Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes. I’m absolutely sure.” The woman looked at her frowning.

“Well, the only reason I know you can’t be right is because we were closed on that day. I think we were closed from Wednesday, right through to Tuesday of this week.”

It was Clio’s turn to frown. “It was definitely last Friday. The man who helped me, really helped me and I wanted to say thank you.”

“Ma’am, one of the fellows who worked here, he owns this place, he was killed in a car accident and we’d closed for his wake and funeral. So, that’s what I mean. It couldn’t have been last week.”

“But I was here and this beyond lovely man served me. He had on this T-shirt with this smiley face on it. He was about 6 feet tall. Dark brown hair. Almost shoulder length.” She showed with her hand. Clio was confused by the growing look of befuddlement on the woman’s face. “I guess I just don’t understand. You look utterly perplexed,” she said, growing more confused with the entire conversation.

“It’s … it’s just because you’re describing Ric or Cedric. He owned the place.” She moved her hand around, as if showing the place. “I mean, it couldn’t have been last Friday you were here. Not if you met Ric and it sounds like you did. It was his wake and funeral.” She looked away, uneasily. “Maybe you’re just mis-remembering. You must be mis-remembering. I mean, as I said, it’s Ric you’re describing, but … he’s gone.” Clio hung her head down, not sure what else to say.

“Thanks. It was likely the week before and I’m just confused.”

“Yeah, it’s easy to do. I do it all the time,” the woman said, notably relieved. Clio nodded her head again, smiling politely and then left. She didn’t know what to think. It didn’t make any sense at all.

She walked outside and looked across the street for some reason. And he was there. It’s like everything else receded, sound faded and he was all she could see. He smiled and then held up both his hands clasped together towards her, as if in celebration. She smiled, as it seemed like it was another nod of approval. Just one last message that she was on the right path. She blinked and the sounds of the street and the bustling pedestrians returned. She looked up again, but he was gone.

Clio opened her car door, throwing herself in and resting her head back. She closed her eyes. Well, she knew she’d entered a new chapter today. What she’ll do is dedicate her next piece to Cedric as a thank you. It’ll hang on her wall as a reminder. She put on her blinkers and pulled out, looking all around, wondering if she’d see him again. Although, she knew she wouldn’t.

Maybe we all do have our helpers when we need them. It’s just we don’t always realise it when we find them, do we. But they do exist.

What’s In a Name? Toponymy of Placentia Bay

What’s In a Name? Toponymy of Placentia Bay

Derived from the Greek word topos meaning “region,” toponymy is simply understood as the taxonomic study of place-names. These may draw on historical or geographical information, as well as etymological information or the history of words.

Generally speaking, we encounter either habitation names or feature names. Habitation names are centred on places that are inhabited such as a village or a town. We can all think of numerous examples of habitation names, like the community where we live. Whereas feature names are tied to a natural or physical feature, say the name of a nearby pond or river. In somewhat more detail, the names may be hydronyms if linked to water, an oronym if a relief feature or finally simply places of natural vegetation growth as in a meadow or grove.

Naming Places

Names are given for myriad reasons. Often, it is espousing a sentiment such as one referring to hope as in the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. In other instances, the reverse is true. In places such as Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland and Labrador, the name was intended to warn of the treachorous waters along tne coast. It as a name of foreboding intended to prevent ships from meeting with any misfortune.

Image of edicarian fossils at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, NL (Source: Wikipedia).

Sometimes, a place-name may be given in honour of an event, however regrettable. A place-name can often describe a piece of landscape or it may memoriolise some event that occurred there, such as Wounded Knee Creek. This is in honour of the Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota of the United States.

How do Place-Names Change?

A place-name will naturally change given shifts in the cultural, political or social context. A natural alteration occurs with a social change. The people who are inhabiting a region may change. Hence, a natural transition often takes place. For instance, a name is given in the language of the dominant groups inhabiting an area.

However, that dominant group may change and this may be accompanied with a name change. Placentia is a good example. When the area was populated with the French, it was known as Plaisance. However, when the English took over, it was then referred to as Placentia.

Image of Cape Spear (Source: Wikipedia).

Through what is known as “phonetic transfer,” a name can sometimes change. Phonetic transfer is simply a situation where individuals will develop a new word based on how it sounds. A good example may be from the eastern Avalon. The original name of the region south of St. John’s known now as Cape Spear was originally Cabo Esperança, in Portuguese. They were one of the first nations to establish their presence in Newfoundland.

The name meant “Cape of Hope,” and likely espoused the feelings of the explorers when they first landed. In later years, for the French, when they arrived, it became Cap d’Espoir, still meaning Cape of Hope in English. But then finally, based simply on phonetics, it became modified to Cape Spear in English. Its original meaning was lost, but phonetically, it was still linked to the original name of “Esperança.”

Another interesting name is the current Bay D’Espoir. One of the ways it is pronounced is actually “Bay Despair” which, in meaning, is a reverse of “D’Espoir.” The one is despair while the latter means hope in French.

We can understand Bay D’Espoir phonetically leading to Bay Despair in an English-speaking mind. However, there’s an interesting twist. It just so happens that on an early map from 1743, the name actually appears as Bay du Desespoir which is in fact the French for “despair” in English. So, it’s up to us to ascertain how the name has been altered.

Expected Names

Many of us can spot the names linked to a particular culture. Be they the names of monarchs, notable individuals or ones touched by religion, the place-names are often granted with respect and honour.

Some communities are named for practical reasons, such as Placentia Junction. It was no doubt a junction on the rail line that ran to Placentia. The meanings would accrue afterwards as people formed a community there.

For the places around Placentia Bay, some are more practical then others. Other place names are brimming with feelings. Regardless, a plenitude of sentiment and meaning helps to forge their place in the memories of inhabitants and their descendants.

Around Placentia Bay

Placentia Bay, in particular, is festooned with a rich concoction of names that touch on the unique characteristics and nuances of place. Together, they bring to life the medley of attributes that have given unique highlights—colour and texture—to this part of Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ll just touch on a few interesting names around the bay.

Some of the names most likely originate with the individuals who first settled the community or other noteworthy community members. Patrick’s Cove, on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay was apparently named in honour of a son born in the community whose name was Patrick. In other locations, such as St. Lawrence, Parker’s Cove on the Burin Peninsula or Arnold’s Cove, also on the eastern shore of Placentia Bay, the individual being honoured has now been lost in time. Nonetheless, the names still help to add the flair of culture to a place.


Argentia is another name with an interesting origin, one that touches on the history of the place. Originally known as Little Placentia, it was taken as the younger sibling of Greater Placentia, a few kilometres away. It spent several centuries using this moniker. It could be perceived as a somewhat self deprecating name and so, it’s not surprising community members sought a change.

So, with the arrival of 1904, the idea was to be recognised in a way that would speak to the unique characteristics of the region. The understood explanation was Father John St. John, the local priest, looked to the silver that had recently been discovered in Little Placentia. Then, using the Latin version, “Argenti,” the name Argentia was born.

However, how the new name developed can potentially have an additional detail. When we consult a map from 1762, we see a bay near Little Placentia named “Argent B.” The “B” is a reference for “Bay.” At the time, the British were in control of Newfoundland following decades of turmoil versus the French who once occupied the region, officially, from 1662 to 1713. It was following the Treaty of Utrecht that Britain was given control of the island of Newfoundland.

This is noteworthy because “Argent” means silver in French. Thus, it was possibly a name that was well known in the community when the French resided there. The name may have been adopted by the English speaking inhabitants who lived in Little Placentia from 1713 to 1904, when the name changed.

Decades later, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, a silver mine was actually established in the area. The mine didn’t meet with any great success. Still, as in the past, silver was clearly regarded as a unique attribute in the region. When choosing the new name of the community, it would’ve been understandable to use this quality.

We can only wonder if “Argent Bay” was still a known quantity and whether that also helped in deciding the new name of what would become Argentia.1

Distress Cove

A little further south along the Cape Shore, we encounter St. Bride’s. It too has an interesting journey from its original name to the one at present. On a map from 1875 it’s actually labelled as Distress Cove. Apparently, it was found on other maps as La Stress, presumably when the French controlled Placentia. However, a year later, in 1876, a Reverend Charles Irwin is said to have considered the name a far too unpleasant one. Vested with the authority of the church, he bestowed the community with the name it currently possesses, St. Bride’s. It was no doubt in honour of St. Brigit of Kildare, Ireland.

Comby Chance

Come By Chance is another name that urges us to learn more of its origin. When the region was being settled by Europeans, Come By Chance was known by another name—Passage Harbour. It was so named by John Guy in 1610 when he led others to settle in what eventually became known as Cupids.

In 1706, a Major Lloyd, an English officer was in the region and actually referred to it as Comby Chance. Comby is a name originating in Devon, one of the places from which fisherman coming to work in Newfoundland often hailed. Other than this information, it is a guessing game for the name Comby. However, given phonetics, it’s easy to see how Comby, over time, would have become Come By Chance.

Mere & Jean or Mer aux Chien?

Another interesting name is from Merasheen Island, located in western Placentia Bay. It’s an interesting name and there are in fact, two explanations for its existence. One relates to settlers, one named “Mere” and the other named “Jean.” Over time, their names apparently merged and became Mereasheen.

Photograph of Merasheen (Source:

An alternative explanation holds that the island was initially known as Mer aux Chiens. This allegedly reflected the fact that around the island was an ocean or “mer” in French of the seadogs or seals. Dogs in French is “chien.”

Either explanation could be true. Both add a whiff of charm to the story of the community’s origin.


Oderin is another island in Placentia Bay that came into being in a common manner. The region was mainly populated by the French initially when that particular power governed. This would be officially from 1662 to 1713, although it is highly likely, some of the French preceded the arrival of the state in this part of the world.

Oderin was one of the communities that must’ve been settled by the French. Their choice for the island’s name was after, Audierne, a town in France. Perhaps some of the settlers hailed from this French community.

Following the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession between Britain and France, the British established an outpost on the island. The French inhabitants naturally departed, being replaced by English-speaking ones. Naturally, the name of the island changed for the English-speakers, as the phonetics of the name transformed Audierne into Oderin.


Placentia is believed to have also been named after another community in Europe. The Basque were the first to fish in the region. They came from a place now known as Plentzia in the Basque Country in the north of Spain. However, this community was originally known as Plasencia de Butron which was gradually shortened to simply Plentzia or Plencia. The name Placentia derives from “placere” the Latin for “please” or “pleasant.”

Photograph of Placentia, NL (Source: Tom O’Keefe).

In 1662, when the French took control of Placentia, they renamed the community. The meaning remained that same, but it was translated to Plaisance, meaning “pleasant” in French.

This remained the name of the community, until it was again ravaged by the War of the Spanish Succession. Following the war in 1713, the Treaty of Urecht gave control of Plaisance to the British. In so doing, the name changed yet again. Not veering very far from it’s original meaning, it became Placentia.

Volcanic Born

For Red Island, we need to take vast strides into the past. In so doing, we arrive at a time when the region was forming, experiencing volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. During what is termed the Acadian Orogeny or mountain building period, various plutons surged to the surface. Plutons are formations of magma that have been thrust through the sedimentary rocks at the surface. When cooled, they form igneous rock.

Photograph of Red Island (Source: Unknown).

One of these plutons formed in Placentia Bay and following millions of years of erosion and weathering, the result has been Red Island. It’s no small achievement. Comprised of granite, an igneous rock, it bestows on Red Island its iconic colour. Pink, along with grey, white and black, are the most common colours of granite. It’s a simple name, although one that reflects a very deep and tumultuous history.

Some Final Thoughts

Learning the name of a place often opens a vast treasure chest of history and story. It’s possible to learn which of the noble citizenry demanded remembrance by virtue of their names being used for some element of the geography.

We’re able to pry open unknown segments of a community’s history simply by virtue of its name. Who was living there and from where did they come? What were the meanings with which they arrived and eventually settled? What were the odd secrets nestled in its past?

Ultimately, we learn more of the place or feature. Whatever the motivation for the name chosen, it eventually becomes a distinctive facet, a taken for granted spirit of place.


Archival Moments 2018 “Looks like a good Christmas on the Cape Shore”

Anonymous 2023 Twelve Mile Circle — An Appreciation of Unusual Places “Placentia is Not a Flat Cake”

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2023 “Toponymy”

Britannica 2023 “Toponymy”

Wikipedia 2023 “Patrick’s Cove-Angels Cove”

WorldAtlas 2023 “What is a Toponym?”


1At the very least, this suggests silver had been discovered in the area centuries before it was discovered again at the end of the nineteenth century.

Zoning Out “In the Zone”

Zoning Out “In the Zone”

Have you ever been somewhere when a family member or a friend gently nudges you saying, “hey, you look like you’re a million miles away.” It’d be true. We’ve all had those moments, I’m sure. Our minds go somewhere—nowhere, at times, it seems.

You’re “spaced out” some may say. Although, a more candid term might be “zoned out.” We might still raise a brow. But perhaps there’s nothing wrong with being zoned out every now and then. It may just be of some value.

A Bit of Deep Thinking

Most of us can identify with the experience. We’re doing something and then, unexpectedly, for a few moments, we disappear. When we re-enter the world, we’re not quite sure what happened. Our minds were largely blank, at the time, absent of thought. Our eyes may not glaze over or do anything so dramatic. Still, where do we go?

It’s almost surreal at times. Sometimes, the sensation is best described as a mental version of white noise. We’re no longer conscious of words or any distinct language whatsoever. I dare say we’re drawn inward. Are we just “staring into the distance” or “staring into space,” two common descriptions of the tendency?

Sitting and thinking for awhile. (Source: Image by Sam Williams from Pixabay)

In this instance, I think we’re going to other places, perhaps even darker ones. Maybe we’re more deeply thinking about something. The thoughts we have roaming around in our heads require us to disengage for a few moments with the rough and tumble world. Something may be on our minds and is manifested as stray abstracted thoughts.

Maybe it’s not so uncommon. Researchers have discovered that we do indeed spend part of our lives “offline,” so to speak—13 percent of the time, in fact. Given our overall secure way of life, it’s possible to take a break from life for a spell. After all, there are few lurking dangers to assail us while we’re incommunicado.

How About Some Meditation?

By zoning out, might it pave the way to a meditative state? Most wouldn’t necessarily choose to think of meditating as “zoning out,” per se. Still, it’s simply a matter of saying that, much like in meditation, zoning out involves a degree of dissociating. With meditation, it’s termed “clearing your mind.” So, in either case we’re again going “offline” for a while. Maybe it’s just a matter of taking the same path, but reaching slightly different destinations.

While there are various types of meditation, the one many of us would most likely enter unthinkingly tends to be of the more basic type. Our minds aren’t really wandering from thought to thought. It’s just paused and as in meditation, directed towards an object in front of us or in our minds.

Calm and quiet. (Source: Image by Lars Nissen from Pixabay).

As a form of meditation, we derive an array of benefits. These include everything from improving both our focus, as well as our immunity. Physiologically, we also change. Our hearts and breathing slow and our level of stress diminishes. By doing so, our health benefits and we may witness improvement in things such as a lowered level of anxiety or a reduction in things like sleep disorders or pain. Zoning out in a manner that leads to a meditative state clearly has its merits.

Being Present

Also, aren’t we often told of the importance of being present? Maybe part of zoning out is about being present. For instance, when we zone out, we’re very much “there.” In other words, the notion of what will happen in our future and the concept of the past is virtually non-existent in our mind. In this respects, we’re again benefitting from being zoned out.

I laugh, thinking of how, in a kinder and gentler manner, when we’re zoning out, we’d be commended for actually being present. That’s a lot better then some quip suggesting we, “Come back to Earth.” And don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with allowing our minds to wander about things done in the past or those planned for the future. It’s just not a good place to dwell too long.

A Creative Expression

Ongoing research is examining the changes in our brains that occur when we’re half asleep and the effect on our creativity. Undisturbed by the majority of external stimuli, we’re able to journey down pathways often untrod when we’re thinking too much.

Creating new worlds with words. (Source: Image by laszlo zakarias from Pixabay).

Might this also happen while we’re wide awake? Possibly when we’ve just zoned out. And when we do, some actually go to a place somewhat more constructive. Many value the moments they zone out as opportunities to develop ideas for writing, or no doubt, for some other creative expression.

All this leads one to wonder, does zoning out offer a way to get “in the zone” where our energy, skill, and creativity are highly focussed? Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s led to its own share of delightfully unexpected discoveries and brilliant creations.

Zoning Out On the Run

At other times, we zone out when performing some repetitive action such as running, biking or walking. When we’re casually walking or biking, our minds may begin to dissociate. A part of our brains no doubt always remain alert for changes in our surroundings. The idea is not to become oblivious of what’s going on around us. But on an easy trail, we often disappear and zone out.

Just me and my bike (Source: Image by renategranade0 from Pixabay).

Much of the time, we closely attend to our breathing—inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. We do so intently and I’m sure many would agree, in such cases, we almost do enter another realm of our minds. If we are dissociated, very intensely centring our attention, is this the groundwork needed to get “in the zone”? So, ultimately, zoning out might just be one of the stepping stones towards reaching a place where time disappears and highly focussed, we’re at one with what we’re doing.

Worth Our Time

In any case, we must value the time we’re able to spend offline. We have to admit, one of its virtues is the opportunity to take a break from the goings on of life. In this instance, it may be our bodies that are taking the lead and checking us out for a moment. Take a break and zone out for a while.

At other times, zoning out takes us to other places where we hone in on some goal, be it in writing, running, or some other activity. We’re comfortably in the zone where different rules apply. There, our accomplishments seem to have been granted by divine authority alone.

So, every now and then, we zone out. Still, it’s never all for naught, for every now and then, we may get a much needed break. Alternatively, with our hearts and minds focussed, we may land up “in the zone,” laying the cornerstone for some master work.


Cherry, Kendra 2022 “What is Meditation?”

Warriner, Katie 2023 “How to get in the zone and stay there”

Sharma, Swarnakshi 2022 “‘Why Do I Zone Out So Much?’ | How To Stop Zoning Out”

Frazier, Matt 2023 “The Simple Art of Meditating While You Run”

Argentia and its Spirit of Place

Argentia and its Spirit of Place

Travelling to Argentia, you’ll find a heavy industrial park established on the rocky shores of Placentia Bay. Well-travelled roads criss-cross over beaten down gravel and paved areas. Warehouses are interspersed over the region or situated along the shore. The pulsing heartbeat of fast-paced business is a reflection of its life-giving energy. Looking around, you’d think nothing remains of the community that had existed there for hundreds of years. But you’d be wrong.

Taking A Step Into the Past

Demasduit was a Beothuk woman. This image was crreated in 1819 (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the centuries, many have passed over the Argentia peninsula. There’s no doubt the touch of the Beothuk could be found on the undulations of the landscape. The first Europeans to arrive in the Placentia area were Basques by the 16th century. Although, there’s little to indicate they traversed the Argentia peninsula. Much like the Beothuk, only our imaginations can conjure their presence now.

When the Europeans settled in Argentia, it became known as Little Placentia. It developed into a thriving herring and salmon-fishing port. Originally from places such as Ireland, Scotland as well as Britain, the people of the region made a living fishing and tending their gardens.

Silver was discovered there in the late nineteenth century. While nothing much arose from the discovery, it will hold lasting memory. In 1904, in honour of its silver lode, Little Placentia’s name was changed to Argentia. 1

Life no doubt went on over the next years, much as it had in the past. By the census year of 1921, Argentia’s population had risen to 477 from 392.

U.S. ships and aircraft in Little Placentia Sound, Argentia, 1942. (Source: Wikipedia).

It was with the arrival of the Second World War when Argentia radically changed. The coming of the Argentia Naval station utterly transformed the community which would soon disappear below a military base. Heavily engineered roads and airfields soon transformed the region. By 1941, gone were the meadows interspersed with clapboard houses surrounded by gardens. It was warehouses, barracks and office buildings that came to define the landscape.

It was this way for decades. At least a couple of generations of Newfoundlanders made a living care of Uncle Sam. By the late 1960s, Argentia had begun to wind down. Then, with the arrival of 1994, it all came to an end. The United States pulled out, eventually leaving the area for the Port of Argentia.

Although it took some time to gather speed, the Argentia Management Authority, now the Port of Argentia, took control of the area. Ably, they transformed it into a well-oiled business. To this day, the Port of Argentia welcomes businesses to take up some real estate in the industrial park.

The Presence of Argentia

Despite the absence of community of Argentia on the landscape, it exists powerfully and quite poignantly for many of the former inhabitants and descendants. Collectively, they feel a spirit of place, one nestled in their hearts and minds.

In distant Roman times, the landscape was replete with sacred places where people could commune with a particular spirit. Now, in a more secular world, it is the meaning of the place that stirs individuals. A spirit of place is regarded as the unique, distinctive and cherished aspects of a place. In this sense, places such as Argentia have a spirit imbued by the lives that had been lived there for well over a century.

Talk of Argentia evokes feelings that, for some, may cast their minds back to a time only distantly remembered. However, the spirit of the place is nurtured through a collective memory. Together, members of the community quilt together memories of Argentia. And it remains vibrantly alive through story, music, paintings and so on.

These are all expressions that share, strengthen, and invigorate the spirit of place. Elements of place such as memories and meanings flood into the mind. This spirit of place is strong, capable of transporting people to another time. A rock is no longer just a rock, for instance, but the place where children of the community may have met to play ball. At a particular contour of the land was perhaps the former location of a home. Most importantly, thoughts of these places will further fortify the connections to place, even if that place is now confined to collective memory. Moreover, the connections amongst the people will be enhanced.

Connecting is meaningful in all respects, drawing on sentiments such as love, respect, kindness, and compassion. (Source: Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay).

Connections are life-giving. Myriad elements can suture those connections—memories of a laugh, a particular song, a poem, someone’s quirky personality, features in the landscape, maybe even memorable pieces of furniture. All those remembering will nod their heads and smile knowingly. It’s powerful and transporting.

In so doing, those connections are sometimes a subtle and at other times potent sign of belonging. To feel one belongs within a group is something for which many strive. If attained, it quietly affirms things such as acceptance, understanding, comradery and support. They are all sentiments individuals who feel a deep sense of belonging can take for granted. To belong is a deeply moving feeling.

When one goes to Freshwater Community Centre, the walls are covered with pictures of homes and other buildings that were, at one time, a part of Argentia. The buildings had to be destroyed in order to make way for the United States Naval Base. However, those pictures are conduits to a past with which all who feel a sense of belonging will be able to gather meaning. They kindle feelings of affiliation, love, and respect, all contributing to Argentia’s spirit of place.

Image of Garden Gate (Source:

In Garden Gate, a recent book by Darrell Duke, he paints a picture of the host of challenges the people of Argentia experienced when the United States arrived. The story evokes the feelings generated by what had occurred—injustice, tragedy, sadness and resolve. Magically, it is able to gently buttress the spirit of place for those who feel a connection and belonging to Argentia.

Even for those not connected, Mr. Duke’s story triggers many of the same feelings it does for those who have a connection to Argentia. These are sentiments with which many can identify. After all, around the world, people have lived through similar circumstances as befell Argentia in 1940. While it may not nurture the same sense of belonging, it will certainly bolster a sprit of place.

Argentia in the Present

While the Argentia to which Darrell Duke refers is long gone, in many ways it isn’t. A community often exists by virtue of its address, the buildings, fences, and roads leaving a tangible footprint. But overall, our communities are truly built from the shared meanings, beliefs, and memories that at one time may have animated the host of walls and clapboard. Even though there is no built presence of Argentia, it will continue to boast a lively presence in both heart and mind.

The spirit of the place is in the hearts and minds of its former inhabitants. In reading a poem regarding Argentia, listening to a story or song, we are touched by its spirit. These are elements defying our five senses and yet there is a spirit that will enliven a place we will always know as Argentia.


Cherry, Kendra 2021 “What Is the Sense of Belonging?”

Relph, Edward 2007 “Spirit of Place and Sense of Place in Virtual Realities” Technè 10 (3), 17-25

1This derives from the Latin argentum which is also the origin of the chemical symbol for silver—Ag.

Acknowledging Our Place in Nature

Acknowledging Our Place in Nature

Pansy growing in a sidewalk Image by Palle Knudsen from Pixabay (plant in sidewalk)

Living within a town or city, a landscape defined largely by steel, glass, and asphalt, it’s difficult to even contemplate a bond with nature. A bevy of straight lines, sharply-defined rectangles and squares seem a million miles away from streams gushing over moss-covered rocks. When we close our eyes and are asked to picture nature, it is the latter that floods into our minds. But amidst that manufactured world, are we so far from nature? In fact, are we ever very far from nature?

Human Versus Nature

Of course, our next question is what exactly is nature. Usually we recognise nature as the plants, animals, geological processes, weather, and the physics of our world, the ones that involve the transformations of matter and energy. It seems simple enough. Although, it has its complications. What often unites the various definitions is an insistence that nature is not associated with humanity. We’re on one side; nature’s on the other.

That’s a critical component to the various definitions. One from the 1660s stated how nature is “the material world beyond human civilization or society; an original, wild, undomesticated condition.” We hear that again and again. For instance, there’s another stating how nature “refers to the ‘natural environment’ or wilderness—wild animals, rocks, forest, beaches, and in general areas that have not been substantially altered by humans, or which persist despite human intervention.” You get the picture, I’m sure.

Birds on the seashore. Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Our resistance to nature is also apparent elsewhere. Some look to the Christian religion as being responsible for our perceived role as master of the natural world. From Genesis 1:28, we’re told “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” It’s impossible and unreasonable to lay it all at religion’s door. Still, religion no doubt laid some of the groundwork for our inability to see ourselves as part of nature.

Our Fraught Tie With Nature

So, here’s the problem. How can we be a part of something over which we’re intended to have dominion? That’s at least a part of our problem. We feel this push and pull. Some of us seek to be overlords of nature, thrilled at our ability to improve and control nature. Look at the debates that surround genetically modified foods. For a variety of reasons, we’re tinkering with nature. Some are vehemently opposed to us doing so while others insist the benefits outweigh the risks.

Still others of us simply cherish the inherent and balanced bond we have with nature. It is awe-inspiring in its glory, something that contributes to our well-being. Whether we’re regarding plants or animals in our landscape, the nightsky or even images of nature, we derive sense of serenity and happiness and peace. We acknowledge and experience the benefits of being close to nature. Yet, still many of us often resist

Turtle balancing a bubble on his nose. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Maybe part of our problem also sits with a lack of humility. We are a very adaptable and ingenious species. We know how to survive. Over the millennia, we’ve done so exceedingly well. Where we’ve encountered problems, we’ve readily set about trying to find ways to overcome the obstacles with which we’re presented. Hence, we’re left to think we’ve got this relationship with nature sorted.

Without question, we’re uncertain about which way to turn. Many of us yearn to embrace our place in nature. We feel we are beholden to nature as an overarching lodestar for our existence. In opposition, others look to the myriad inventions and scientific discoveries they feel place humans at the very least en par with nature and more often than not, in the driving seat. But is there a middle ground where these two apparently disparate visions regarding our tie with nature can meet?

We Are Nature

Where did it all begin? None other than in the stars. As in the stars, all life on planet earth, including humans, is composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. We are comprised of the very same elements as every other living creature on earth. So, it’s a simple equation, then. Evidence would suggest we can consider ourselves a part of nature.

But there’s another hurdle. Remember those definitions of nature. Problems arise because of our tinkering. All those miraculous inventions that have radically changed our lives were wonderful and life-altering. However, according to some, it’s those “alterations” and “interventions” that push us further away from being a part of nature.

Busy As A Beaver

Although, in terms of “alterations” of a landscape, we have to recall, we’re not the only species who are busy at it. Beavers, for instance, offer a good example of a creature who does a lot to alter its landscape, creating and intervening.

A beaver hard at it. Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay.

While they may be the national animal of Canada, they’ve got a few Canadians riled with their “interventions.” Still, they’re just living their lives and acting to improve their surroundings. A central element of their landscape would be ponds and the lack of one is easily remedied with a hallmark component—dams. As highly skilled engineers, they set about downing trees and weaving the branches together to form a dam. Afterwards, any waterproofing of their invention is undertaken with the use of mud.

By damming a river, a beaver can make an immense impact on the landscape. Natural processes of flooding, erosion, sedimentation and so on all come into play. Such activity would readily be considered as an alteration of the landscape. Humans do much the same, albeit at a larger scale.

Not So Unnatural As All That

If we now recognise, we’re not the only ones, what of all our tinkering. Anyone entering a city would likely not consider it a part of nature—likely quite the opposite. After all, our towns and cities are largely comprised of metals, glass, and concrete. On first glance, we would say it’s so unnatural. Hang on, though. Of what are these materials composed?

A primary ingredient of our buildings is steel. It turns out, one of the central cast of characters making up steel is none other than iron ore, sometimes along with scrap metal or simply from the latter alone. It is a key resource we extract from Earth. It’s the fourth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Isn’t a primary component of many of our skyscrapers and townhouses an element of our natural world?

Similarly, take plastics. They’re often synonymous with the word synthetic. The word synthetic, itself is, by the way, often associated with being “unnatural.” However, a synthetic is merely stating something is the result of a synthesis. There’s nothing inherently unnatural about it.

Plastic rubber duckies ready to be raced. Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

So, plastics arrive in our world by way of a process of synthesis. And what are the main elements of plastics? Well, they’d be long chains of carbon compounds. Carbon, of course, is an element we humans know very well. Remember, that’s one of the elements derived from the stars above, from which we’re made. So, we can literally thank our lucky stars.

Given the similarities we share with our beaver friends, altering a landscape cannot prevent us from being a part of nature. Moreover, as we’ve seen, we share one of our main building blocks—carbon—with not only other animals. We also happen share it with the “synthetic” compounds of plastic or the ingredients of steel. Evidence would clearly suggest we’re a part of nature—even our cities would happen to be. So, what’s to hold us back from claiming a genuine place in nature?


Our definitions of nature insist we’re not included. Where do we stand now? Do you think it’s simply because we often suffer from a lack of humility? To put it mildly, there is no question humans are very savvy. We demonstrate ingenuity and great intellect and have overcome numerous adversities, solving countless problems we’ve faced over the centuries.

In a matter of seconds, we can plunder a forest that has been thriving for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The greatest creatures of the sea, the whales, survive mere seconds from the keen edge of a harpoon. We are the architects of brilliant structures across the centuries that leave of us all awestruck. Think of the Taj Mahal in India, the pyramids of Giza in Egypt or Westminster Abbey in Britain. There are numerous structures that are breathtaking in their beauty and brilliant in their structure. And then there’s the developments. Simply the fact it’s possible to now undertake a face transplant is a marvel alone. Although, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the spirit of Leonardo de Vinci, we have worked miracles with our creations Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay.

Although our capabilities may have led us astray. Generally speaking, due to our lack of humility, we are sometimes placing our own interests above that of others. To be humble, we need to more accurately perceive ourselves as a part of nature. We need to exhibit more modesty and seek to focus on the needs of others rather than ourselves. It’s not all about us.

Maybe that’s what has happened. By virtue of our successes and our ability to believe we have thwarted nature in the game of survival, we are less humble. Hence, to regard ourselves as equal to these creatures seems implausible. It cannot be.

The Human, Nature Divide

The debate regarding the relationship of humans and nature is a very old one. Although, I wonder if the question itself isn’t ironically evidence of the difficulty. The question is suggestive of a polarity—humans on one side, nature on the other.

Emma Marris, writer of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World states how humans are “already running the whole Earth, whether we admit it or not.” Maybe we think we’re running nature. Although that’s part of our problem. Making such a statement is based on the premise that we, as humans, are distinct from nature.

Our interaction may be as simple as blowing fluffy seeds from a dandelion. Image by Petra from Pixabay

Because some would argue we’re not running anything. We’re interacting with other parts of nature with varying expected and unexpected results. Like the beaver building its dam, there’s an impact. Similarly, humans also have an impact on our surrounding nature. That’s all. It’s sometimes quite substantial. But to note our actions are any greater than that of a beaver, relatively speaking, is somewhat arrogant.

Yes, we build great structures. A beaver dam will become dilapidated in a matter of years. Ours will just take a little longer. Ultimately, even a pyramid, bring comprised of rock will, over time, weather and decay. Like everything in nature, there will likely be very little of it in a few millennia.

Moreover, it’s like saying I’m running my body. No I’m not. There are trillions of cells along for the ride who are helping to call the shots. Anything we do in this world is ultimately a collective effort. We are a part of nature and all aspects of that nature have a say.

Some Final Thoughts

Maybe as a genuine part of nature, it’s a matter of appreciating we may not know as much as we think we do. It’s through our humility we do so. After all, before we came along, nature had been at this for hundreds of millions of years. It was through the miracle of nature that all living creatures, including ourselves, came to be. And we all know the human species, in particular, is a masterful creation. As we’ve seen, humans and beavers and myriad other creatures have aspired to great heights as a part of nature. We must all take a bow.


Biello, David 2013 “How Long Have Humans Dominated the Planet?”

Cohen, Steve 2021 “The Limits to Human Domination of Nature”

Green, Kristophe and Keltner, Dacher 2017 “What Happens When We Reconnect With Nature”

Thompson, Claudia 2021 “The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods”

Torres, Marco 2022 “Our Food Industry in 8 Words: “We Think We Can Do Better Than Nature”