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Month: September 2023

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument: It’s All About Heart

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument: It’s All About Heart

First Starting Out

Unlike many of my fellow classmates when I was growing up, I was never encouraged to take piano lessons. It wasn’t surprising. My mother had few fond memories of her own experiences. She had been taught by a Sister Francis, a member of the convent school she had attended. I even remember the Sister’s name, sadly for less than reputable reasons.

As many would nod their head in shared commiseration, it only very rarely went well. The dreaded click of the metronome accompanied what my mother could only consider as her private torture. Periodically, an incorrect key would be met with a sharp thwack on my mother’s hands by the sharp end of a ruler. My mother did well in her Royal Conservatory tests. Still, the experience evoked no unceasing love for the piano.

Image of a clarinet (Source: lmaresz from Pixabay).

I spent elementary school and high school in the band, playing the clarinet. For a short time, I even played the baritone horn. It was a different section of the band I wanted to explore. So, why not, I thought.

Growing a Love of Music

Yet, there was no true love drawing me to music. I could certainly play. Plus, I learned the very basics of music theory. Still, that was that. Other loves pulled me a away from music and I didn’t look back—until now.

Now, is about three and a half decades later and again, I’ve heard the faint call of music. I have two friends who are naturals, both gifted musicians. Music entered their lives at a young age, there remaining and becoming central to their identity. They both have a feel for the music.

Image by Sabine from Pixabay.

All I can say is perhaps knowing them encouraged me to listen once again to music, but with a different ear. And all of a sudden, I heard the delightful arrangement of notes. The melodies had a lovely ring to them now. It’s something from which I’d grown distant.

I initially began taking singing lessons, which was fine. Although, nothing beyond a perhaps innate discipline drew me to practice. I have a passable voice. Still, I felt no pull. Then, I thought, maybe I could play a musical instrument. I pondered the guitar or piano. Eventually, the latter won out.

Taking the First Steps

My first step was to purchase a keyboard. I was restricted by the amount of money I wanted to spend. In the end I settled for a 61 key keyboard and opted to save money and follow lessons from the internet and books.

Every night, I unzip the bag I’d bought for my keyboard and happily practice. I’m lovingly tugged by a genuine wish to learn. At first, it was simply a delight to finally have an understanding of just what exactly are all those black and white keys. More and more, I’m witnessing the breadth of this instrument.

Image by Elisa from Pixabay

If you’re at all interested in trying to learn a musical instrument, realise it’s never too late. Whether you’re twenty through to ninety-something, it’s always an option. Whether a guitar, piano, violin, bagpipes or anything else, your first steps are crucial.

Those first lessons leave us saying, “ah, that’s how it works!” We’re often left acknowledging how learning to play an instrument wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. As well, it’s vital for us to just take our time. There’s no rush, no examinations for which to prepare, nothing.

Learning to play piano, a door opened into this vast world. “Middle C, you say?” Ah, I get it. For violin, it can simply be an initial introduction to the bow. There’s more to that thing people push to and fro when playing.

Those maybe branching out into the guitar will get an initial lesson on frets, strings and one or two chords. There’s some rhyme and reason to where they place their fingers while holding a guitar. Regardless of the instrument, these are the first steps toward understanding the language.

Learning the Language

As any musician will contend, music is indeed a language, some even say a universal one. Daily, we’re able to grow our lexicon, expanding a knowledge of chords and notes. And when instructors speak of muscle memory, it’s true!

There are times when I’m trying to play something I’ve learned and I can’t quite get it right. Then, I almost force myself to not think about it, allowing my memory and intuition to take control. Miraculously, it works! It’s magical.

My mother assured me once that I had “an ear” for music. I’m not sure what that means exactly. All I know is I truly enjoy learning. The tinkle of the piano notes makes sense and every step I take, every new method I learn adds to my knowledge. Each moment I practice, I touch, sometimes ever so fleetingly, that true zen of music. It’s all about heart.

Image by Desiré ???? Dazzy ???? K-e-k-u-l-é from Pixabay

Exploring the Orcan River of Placentia

Exploring the Orcan River of Placentia

During the summer when tourists are visiting Placentia, some may wonder why the channel connecting the two arms—Northeast and Southeast—is named Orcan. From where did that come? My only response would likely be, “good question.” There’s no definitive response. Still, there are historical characteristics that are suggestive of why. Regardless, the Orcan River is an interesting and unique feature. Let’s take a look.

Image: Location of Orcan River (Source: Google).

Physical Qualities of the Orcan in Placentia

When thinking of a river, we’d usually assume it to be a large natural channel of water emptying into a larger body which, in this case, is the Placentia Bay. However, this is not how the Orcan River functions. Rather, it’s a channel connecting the northeast arm and southeast arm. These are two landforms extending from the harbour, appearing to be like two arms reaching inland.

Image: Location of Arms (Source: Google).

Due to the movement of the tides, the ocean water enters the arms with the water in Orcan River flowing inland. Then, as the tide is going back out several hours later, the water reverses, flowing back out towards the ocean. As a result, it does appear to be a “river,” but one that daily reverses its flow.

Origins of the Name

The name itself carries a degree of mystery. We know the name “River Orcan” was used on a map drawn in 1747. However, the origins of the name remain unknown. The name must’ve been of some import at the time. Although, currently, we can only guess and point at possible reasons for the use of the name Orcan.

Image Map by Emanuel Bowen circa 1747

(Orcan River can be seen in the lower right).

Certainly in the fifteenth century in England, there was reference to a Monastery of Orcan. This was located in France, near Noyon. But also located in a different part of France is the Chateau du Bois Orcan (Castle of Orcan Wood). Clearly, the name Orcan carried some meaning at the time. Could it be that someone from that part of the world noted something reminiscent and elected to give it the name Orcan? Perhaps one day, we’ll know.

Historical Function of the Orcan

Over the centuries, the Orcan River has played a central role for the Placentia beach.1 Initially, the Basque arrived in the sixteenth century to fish. This involved fishing as well as processing the fish. The cobblestone beach serviced quite handily for salting and drying the fish.

From 1662 to 1713, the French were stationed in Placentia, to them known as Plaisance. While in Plaisance, they built three major forts. Vieux Fort was on Mount Pleasant. Fort Louis was on the Jerseyside Beach ad Castle Hill was atop Castle Hill.

Naturally, all transport was by water, with the Orcan River functioning as a major highway of the region. The Orcan would’ve featured prominently in order to transport all supplies, from foodstuffs to cannons.

Later, in 1713, the British had won Newfoundland following the War of the Spanish Succession. Having done so, they established their main garrison in Placentia. Much like the French before them, the Orcan was used in a similar manner. Eventually, they built Fort Frederick which was located on the Orcan river, near where the gut opens up into Northeast Arm and the Orcan.

Orcan River in Modern Times

In 1960, a breakwater system was built along the Orcan consisting of a boardwalk. Yet, it could not function to prevent the flooding that had always been a problem. With the arrival of 1993, a steel wall was constructed along the Orcan with the goal to reduce flooding in Placentia.

The new steel wall was a major endeavour and involved altering the flow of the Orcan. The river was essentially narrowed. Much of the road that now follows the Orcan was previously a part of the original course of the river.

In the early twentieth century, the Wakeham Sawmill was built in Petite Fort in Placentia Bay. Although, in 1942, it was moved to Placentia. It was originally situated on the Orcan River along its previous course. This was purposefully done as the logs could be moved on the water and then collected through a trap door in the sawmill.

With the changes made to the Orcan River given the construction of flood wall, the Wakeham Sawmill now sits on dryland, along the road located alongside the Orcan River.

Image of Wakeham Sawmill

The Orcan River: A Part of Life

Still today one can find several boats anchored along the Orcan River. Along its course, one can see an assortment of birds—cormorants, sea ducks, gulls and even the odd seal, pursuing their life’s needs. Periodically, one might even catch the Atlantic herring coming inshore to spawn. The multitude of opportunistic gulls that appear, make it abundantly clear this has taken place.

Throughout the year, the gulls are a mainstay along the shoreline of the Orcan River. They sometimes rest along the rocks situated at the base of Mount Pleasant. Otherwise, they’re joined by the crows on the landwash, gorging on the shellfish stranded there in the sand when the tide is out.

Image: Gulls and crows on the landwash (Source: Lee Everts).

Like the boardwalk that follows the coastline, the Orcan River is part of the identity of the Placentia area. Since the time people settled in Placentia, the Orcan River has provided an important mode of transport. At the same time, whether on a brilliant sunny day or a sombre foggy one, the Orcan river offers a striking backdrop.

While the Orcan River was clearly vital in the past, it remains a distinct feature of the Placentia area.


  1. Until the communities of Dunville, Freshwater, Jerseyside, Placentia and the unincorporated area of Argentia amalgamated in 1994.
Finding the Silver-Lining

Finding the Silver-Lining

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Sidney roughly folded the clothes, throwing them into his bag. He didn’t have a lot of time. Charlie said he could help him move, but he’d told him not to bother. His head shot up when he heard the sound of a car on gravel. Gently pushing back the curtain, he realised it was just the neighbour pulling into their driveway.

Carefully, he wrapped a few photographs he wanted to keep, placing them in the side-pockets. She’d not miss them anyway, likely wouldn’t even notice they’re gone. He zipped up the bag and put it on the bed next to the other things he wanted to take.

Frannie had gone out to a restaurant with some friends, so he’d decided to make his move as soon as she’d left. Quickly checking his watch, he knew she’d be home soon. He’d better get moving.

Scanning around the room to see if there was anything, his eyes rested on a photograph Charlie must’ve taken of them. Sid picked it up, looking at the laughing faces. His eyes moistened. If he remembered correctly, it was taken soon after they’d first been married.

Where were they, he thought. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping to urge the memory. Then, it came back to him and he smiled. Yes, he distantly remembered the day. He seemed to recall they’d been on a camping trip in British Columbia. They’d gone with Frannie’s brother, Charlie and his wife. It’d been wonderful.

He stared at the photograph, his mind roaming the memories regarding his life with Frannie. Most would’ve considered them the perfect couple—beautiful home, two cars, annual vacation. They even had a dog for a while, but she’d passed away a year ago or so. Sid had been in banking until he’d packed it all in about a decade ago for a new life working as a Park Ranger. Commuting every day, he loved where he now worked.

Frannie was still in banking. She’d just been promoted in the bank where she worked. downtown. Their friends had laughed at their various work places, commenting how they couldn’t be more disparate. Still, it hadn’t been a problem.

When they lost their second baby, everything had changed though. It was another miscarriage. Sid had grieved the loss, but recognised maybe it just wasn’t to be for them. But for Frannie, it was different.

It was like someone had flipped a switch. He’d tried to empathise, as it was no doubt hard for her. But she’d just become angry and there was no hope to try to explain anything. Suddenly, there was no end to the hateful comments she’d make about him. It seemed like nothing he could do was right any more. He flinched when he thought of her words.

You’re such a loser. You’ve always been a loser. There’ll never be any hope for you. Why do you bother?” Then he remembered what she said about his father, that Sid was exactly like his father—had always been. “You’re no good….” It’d been a year of unrelenting abuse. He closed his eyes, a hollow feeling growing within.

As far as Frannie was concerned, he was never enough of anything. Sid shoved a photograph of him accepting another award from the city into the side of his bag. He’d been damned proud of the work he’d done and he wasn’t about to leave it.

And it was when she threw the little solid wood award he’d been given for organising the tree-planting that he knew. He can’t take this any more. Still, he looked at the photograph. Maybe there’d be a way to get her to understand.

Sid heard the clock chiming, jarred from his reminiscing. Coming downstairs, he was alerted to headlights in the driveway. Hurriedly, he grabbed the two bags, hoisting them onto his back and left the bedroom. He thought was too late. He’d thought for sure he had until nine. That’s when she always left the restaurant.

Maybe he could dart out the back door. Suddenly, the front door opened and he thought, Christ, this is all he needs now. He braced himself, holding his breath, his body tense. In walked Charlie.

“G0d, I thought it was your sister.”

“No, man. I thought I’d come around to see if you needed any help. You said you were likely going to do it tonight.” He took one of the bags from Sid. “How are you?”

“All right, I guess. I confess I’m wondering if I’m over-reacting.”

“No, geez. I heard what she was saying to you a couple of days ago. She doesn’t realise I heard, but she’s completely flipped. As I said, why should you put up with it? You’re too soft. I mean, she seriously needs help. It’s been close to a year and we both know from where this is coming.” Sid looked at him. “I mean it. What she said to you was harsh, man. I mean, you’ve got a heart of gold. But I wouldn’t put up with it. I think everything from when we were growing up has come home to roost for her. I really don’t know. I mean it was bad, but geez, I survived. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Everyone deals with things their own way. Anyway. Come on, we better get going.”

“Yeah,” Sid said as he looked around.

“Don’t worry. You’d know best, but it’s not like it’s forever. She just needs to have some time to herself, I think.” Charlie opened the front door. “Did you leave her a note?”

“Yeah. I put it on her pillow.”

“Good. Come on. I’ll take this one in my car and I’ll meet you at home.”

“Yeah. For sure. Thanks, man.

“Not a problem.”

Frannie opened unlocked the door. Sid must’ve gone somewhere since his car was gone. She wishes he’d tell her he was going somewhere. He never tells her anything. Throwing her things onto the chair by the door, Frannie went into the kitchen to check if anyone had rung the line in the house.

Anyway, she was tired, so she thought she’d just change into some of her house clothes and then go watch a little television. Maybe Sid’ll be home then. On her way to her closet.

She spotted something on the bed and went over to take look. Maybe it was a note from Sid about where he’s gone. She picked it up and reading it, the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Putting it down, she was livid. How dare he? O, the poor baby. Run to her brother for protection. Christ!

Sitting on the bedside, her leg tapped nervously. Anger swelled up inside her, she just wanted to throw something. Picking up the cushion, she whipped it at the mirror across the room.

Frannie picked up her phone and rang her brother. I’m sure she’ll get some song and dance about how much he’d been suffering. From what?! From nothing!? He just wants attention. He always wants attention.

And her brother. “Give me a break,” she said. “I mean, trust the two of them to get together. My brother also just craves attention. It’s always been that way.” Determined now, she was going to just ring him to ask what the hell was he thinking.

Ringing the number, she waited.


“Charlie. It’s Frannie.”


“Don’t ‘uh-huh’ me like you don’t know what’s going on. Is Sid there? Let me speak with him.”

“Uh, I don’t think that’s a great idea right now.”

“What? Whaddyamean you don’t think it’s a ‘great idea right now’? What are you his keeper, now? It’s not like he’s scared of me.

“No, it’s not that. I don’t think he’s scared of you. I think he just needs get a break from you for a while.”

“What do you mean? I haven’t done anything.”

“Come on Frannie. Even you must know the things you’ve said to him.

“I haven’t done anything.”

“Really? I mean, I was there when you said he’s no good or a waste of space. You likely didn’t realise I’d heard, but there ya go. How long do you think someone wants to be told they’re useless?” Charlie waited for her response. “I assume by your lack of response that you get what I’s saying. Well, he’s not here anyway. So, maybe ring back tomorrow.” He waited for a moment. “Anyway, bye.”

Frannie put her phone down, staring around the room. All the anger she’d felt had ebbed and now she just felt empty. Charlie was acting like she was some kind of bully. “I’m not a bully,” she said to herself. Her eyes moistened as she stared into the mirror.

Over the next few days, Frannie grew more and more irritable. She’d hit out at a few of her colleagues at work and was actually reprimanded by their manager. Her manager was pretty good and so had just suggested she take a few weeks off.

Because Frannie was never the sort to waste time, she took the opportunity to clean the house from top to bottom. She was scrubbing the laundry room floor.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Charlie said. Frannie only heard him now. “You didn’t hear me calling, so I started looking.”

“O, hi. Yeah, I was just really going at it I guess. So, I didn’t hear you come in.” Charlie sat down on the bench.

“So, how’s it going?” Frannie shrugged her shoulders.

“Sure. I’m okay, I guess.”

“I confess I was driving by and was surprised to see your car here.”

“Yeah, well.” She put her scrub brush down and sat on the bench with Charlie. “I had a bit of a run in at work.” Charlie looked at her, frown on his face. “No, it was all my fault I’ve gotta admit. But my manager kindly said she thinks I need some time away from things for a bit. So, I guess I’ve just been given leave for a while.”

“Ah.” Both were silent for a moment, the sound of the spring birds filling the vacuum. “So, it’s not great right now.” Frannie looked at Charlie, her eyes moistening. She shook her head. He leaned over and gave her a hug.

“How’s Sid doing?”

“O, he’s okay—getting by and all that.” She glanced towards him. “He’s not loving it. It’s just as I said, he needed a break from you.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s happening.”

“Well, I think I do. I’m no psychologist. But I saw it happening when you had your second miscarriage.” She glanced at him. “Well, understandably, it just threw you for a whirl. Out of control. And we both know that’s not a place you like to go.” He met her eyes. “So, you kinda hit out. As far as you were concerned, someone was going to pay. And I guess Sid just happened to be in your line of fire.” Frannie looked away. “Think about it, I guess. Best be off. We’ll talk later, okay.”

Sid’s stomach tightened when he drove in, spotting her vehicle. He wanted to see her and yet he didn’t. Charlie had said he’d gone over and spoken with Frannie several times and he said, it might be worth going for a visit. Knocking on the door, he tried it and it was open.

“Hello,” he said, calling out. He saw movement at the top of the stairs. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she said, continuing down the stairs. She went out onto the back porch and he followed. This was his house, but he felt distanced from everything now. They sat down at the table. “Sorry, did you want something to drink? I didn’t ask.” He shook his head.

“I just thought I’d pop by to see how you’re doing.”

“I’m okay,” she said, smiling.

“Charlie said you’re off work for a bit.”

“Well, I’m headed back tomorrow.” He nodded his head, tapping his finger and looking around the back yard.

“The flowers are coming up nicely,” he said, knowing they were caught in the usual evading-the-issue pleasantries. She likely knew it too. But he wasn’t going to push.

“Yeah, they’re nice where you re-planted them.” They sat in silence for a few moments, Frannie looking around until their eyes met.

“Well, I better get going,” Sid said.

“O … okay.” Sid started to get up, not really sure what to expect, if anything. “Wait. I’ve been chatting with Charlie for a bit. As you may know.” she said, looking at him. “And I just wanted to say I’ve been going through a rough time. I know you know that.” Sid sat down again. “And y’know, I think I was msybe taking things out on you.”

“Yeah. It’s hard.”

“So … sorry, I guess.”

“Yeah.” Their eyes met. “I get it. And I’m really glad you’ve been able to mull it over—be more at peace with things. You’ve always been so hard on yourself—for no reason.” He wasn’t sure what else to say. But he wanted her to know he understood what she was saying. It was hard, though. “Well, I’d better get going,” Sid said, getting up.

“Yeah,” Frannie said, her eyes averted as she got up and followed Sid to the door.

“I’ll pop by again, maybe on Thursday. How does that sound?’ Sid said.

“Sure, that sounds good.” She smiled at him, Sid returning the smile. He wanted to give her a hug, but she was standing at the door and didn’t look like she’d be too keen. Maybe later.

Frannie watched Sid’s car drive away. She’d hoped he’d give her a hug or just give her an idea he was still interested in being her husband. She’d said sorry. She closed the door. “I mean, what’s the point?”

Frannie walked to the kitchen and brewed a cup of tea. Sitting down, she looked out the window and was astounded by what she saw. The darkened sky was bejewelled by collection of silver-lined clouds. Frannie got up, the sky was utterly beautiful—breathtaking.

Standing there gazing at the sky, her mind wandered. He didn’t say it was over. And he’d said he’d be returning. After all, he did say she’d see him in the week.

Frannie knew she’d been horrible. Charlie was right. But she looked at the sky again and smiled. Regardless, there’s always a silver lining.