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People Are Never Who You Think They Are

People Are Never Who You Think They Are

Madrona cast her eye around. He’d been there since they’d started work in the park. This’d be their last day and so, she was hoping she’d see him. But she’d better get to work. The attendant wasn’t always in the best of moods.

She was glad to be able to get onto this work assignment. Anything would be better than staying inside the prison. Maddie had gotten into a fight two days ago. It had been bloody, but because she clearly hadn’t started it, they hadn’t taken away her privilege of the work assignment—thankfully. A few other prisoners had spoken up on her behalf.

Life inside Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

Maddie was just defending another woman who clearly didn’t know the ropes, so to speak. “If you’re gonna survive inside, you gotta know the rules of the game and always, always show respect to your fellow inmates. Don’t look at anyone. And trust no one,” Maddie had stressed with her afterwards.

“Hey Maddie, have you got any extra trowels?” Maddie looked up and gave Pettie a thumb’s up. “Thanks. I can’t seem to find mine.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a couple extra here.”

“Oh, great. It’s looking really great now, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. “Many hands make light work, my nan used to always say,” Maddie said. Pettie wasn’t on the work assignment, but she worked with the nursery who was sponsoring the work at the park. Before she put her head down to work, Maddie quickly cast her eye around to see if he was around. And across, by the fountain, she saw him pushing his trolley towards the benches. She smiled, relieved he was here.

Maddie worked steadily, but as soon as the time struck 10:30, she hurriedly put everything away before making her was across to see him. She’d only learned his full name a couple of days ago—Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Apparently, he was named after his father who’d fought in the first world war, someone whom Spencer held in very high regard. And the Bartholomew was from great grandfather who’d done the family proud in some manner. Spencer hadn’t elaborated on that just yet. But she loved listening to the stories he’d tell.

They’d been working there for almost a few months. The nursery was essentially refurbishing a place where there used to be a store. Maddie thinks someone said it was once an old Woolworth’s store.

When she first started working here, that’s when she’d met him. He always wore a hat, like men used to wear in the old days. It’d fallen out of the trolley he always pushed. She’d picked it up and given it back to him. He used to proudly say all his worldly possessions were in that trolley. From that moment, they’d become fast friends.

At her dinner break, she’d always go and sit down by him and he’d tell her stories. They’d be spell-binding, speaking sometimes of the well-to do folks back in England, from where he obviously must’ve come. There’d be stories to of an old fisherman whose life had transformed when one of the daughters of a lord had fallen in love him and she with her. Every day she came to work at the park, Maddie would look forward to meeting him. Although, he seemed to be limping a bit just now. Maddie hoped he was okay. She’ll have to ask him.

“Hey there,” she said as she walked over to his bench. She through herself down onto the bench and gave him a small peck on his cheek. “What’s wrong with your leg, old man?” He smiled.

“Oh, it’s nothing, my sweetie. Just a bit of old age. We can’t last forever can we?”

“Well, no. But you’re all right, aren’t you?” He nodded his head, a smile on his face.

“I think this is our last day here. I’m not sure, but I heard one of the women who works for the nursery saying so.” She sat down and started to eat her sandwich.

“I’ll be sorry to see you go. Still, like everything, I’m afraid nothing lasts forever. Not even us.”

“Yeah, I know, but …,” Maddie said.

“No buts about it, my girl. Besides, as they always say. It’s always darkest before the dawn. Never forget.” Maddie offered him a cookie which he gracefully accepted.

“I’m not going to be able to see you any more,” Maddie said, putting her head down. She looked up at him, sorrow in her eyes. “And I’ll only get out in a few months or so.”

“Well, the most important thing is that you’re getting put soon. We met one another and now we can both enjoy knowing we have a loyal friend. I thank you again for sticking up for me when those young fellows were making my life a misery. I’ll never forget.”

“O, it wasn’t a problem. Believe me, I’ve seen worse,” she said, rolling her eyes. “They had no right.”

“I’ve always known the importance of knowing you have a friend on whom you can count to be there when you need them. I know, in my heart I can count on you.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” she said, her hand gesticulating with assurance and determination. “The minute I get out, I’ll get a job and wherever I live, you’ll be more than welcome there, I can tell you that! Then, if you want to come to the park here, you can, but then you can go home afterwards because you’ll have a home!” Maddie said, beaming, her hands clasped together. Spencer smiled at her confidence. “And I’ll work to get a job somehow. I’m not saying it’ll be all fancy living or anything like that. But I’m determined to try.”

“That’s wonderful. Life is full of second chances. If we look, we’ll always find them.” Maddie nodded her head.

“Well, for me, I’ll never steal anything again. I used to make a living from that,” she said, laughing. “And I’m off the drugs, now. I’m sure of it. Thanks to you. When you told me about your grandfather working in that mine and what he put up with, I thought, no, I can do it.”

“Well, we can look back at our forebears and take a bit of the strength their lives left behind. Oh, I have no concerns that can do anything, once you make up your mind.”

“No question. Anyway, I better get back to work. I’ll pop by before we go.” She held his hands, her eyes sparkling and fixed on him. He smiled again.

“You better get going, you silly girl.” She through her things in the bin and ran off to finish her work.

When they got done, Maddie looked up, but couldn’t see Spencer. She put everything away, ready to be put back onto the truck. Then looking up again, she spotted him coming out of the toilets. She hastened over to the bench and sat down next to Spencer.

“Well, that’s it for us.” Looking over the grounds, she smiled. “It looks so beautiful, now. Mirabelle took a photograph of it before we started and then now, again, and it’s miraculous.”

“Well, I was sold as soon as you put these benches here,” he said, patting the bench.

“Yeah, it’s like night and day. It’s hard to believe the change.”

“You should all be proud of yourselves.” She smiled brightly at him.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

“And I just learned there’s another place where we’re going to be working. It’s on the other side of town, though.”

“The time you have left will go by like that.” He snapped his fingers, smiling. Maddie smiled, but then her face became serious.

“But I won’t be able to see you. And I’m not sure, but will you be around in these parts when I get out?” He shrugged his shoulders.

“Who know’s what’s going to happen. As I said to you, what matters is we know one another now. What’s in the past doesn’t matter and frankly, what lies in the future doesn’t matter much to me either. Right now, I’m sitting in beautiful park chatting with one of my dearest friends, for you are.” Maddie put her head down. “Now, none of that.” She raised her head and he smiled. “You’re precious and you have so much yet to give to the world. I know that.”

“Come on Maddie. We’ve gotta get going,” one of the guards said, calling from the bus.

“Well, I gotta go now. Oh, it was the most wonderful gift I was given when I met you.” She gave Spencer a long hug. “I’ll never forget you. Thank you,” she said as she got up and then started to walk away. Maddie turned around again and gave him another wave, blowing him a kiss and then turned around and jogged to the bus.

Maddie ran her hand along the curtain. It was nothing special, but it was furnished and she at least had a roof over her head. She’d contacted numerous places to ensure she had a place when she left the prison. This one was the only one that got back to her. It was good, as it seemed they were in the business of providing at least a temporary home once someone left prison.

The goal was to see if she could find Spencer today. Although, who knew if she’d have any luck. Later, she set out, catching the bus across town to the park where she first met Spencer.

“Thanks,” she said to the bus driver, who’d clearly chosen well when deciding to go into public service. One the first bus she’d taken, the bus driver had clearly not chosen well. But Maddie shrugged her shoulders. Didn’t matter anyway. She walked to the park and headed over to the bench where Spencer always sat. She looked around, but no Spencer.

Image by Sharon Ang from Pixabay.

Maddie sat down on the bench and took out the books she was reading. She decided she might as well wait around for an hour or so because he might have just stepped away.

She had no luck on the first day and tried again on the next. But Spencer was also a no-show on that day.

“Excuse me,” she heard from behind as she walked away from the park bench. Maddie turned around and she saw a middle-aged woman walking and then running and then walking towards her. Maddie smiled.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” The woman caught up to her and then took a breath.

“Oh, my goodness. I’m not used to that much exercise,” she said, laughing. She was only a little over weight, but was obviously not in the habit of jogging.

“No worries. How can I help you?”

“Just to explain who I am. I used to watch you chatting with Spencer. I work in the shop over there.” She pointed across the street. “It’s a café and Spencer used to come over every now and then and use our facilities, so to speak. Anyway, I saw you here yesterday and now today and, well, I just wanted to tell you why he’s not here.”

“Oh, my goodness. Don’t tell me …”

“Yeah. I’m so sorry to say he passed a few weeks ago actually. You obviously were a good friend. You always used to chat with him.” Maddie lowered her head.

“O, that’s too bad, y’know. I was so hoping he’d still be okay.”

“I know. It’s always horrible to learn about things like that. He was such a fine man.”

“I know. He was full of stories and it always seemed so sad he was homeless.”

“Well, in the winter, he used to stay at the mission on Hanover Street. And when he came to the café, we’d always give him a cup of tea and a sandwich. But yeah. Hard times ‘n all.”

“Yeah, well thanks for letting me know.” Maddie headed home, her mind awash with memories of her friend. Maybe she’d try to find where he was buried and at least leave some nice flowers. She could secretly plant some crocus bulbs. He’d like that, she was sure.

Over the next few weeks, Maddie spent her time looking for work. She went to the library to prepare and print her resumé. She just decided to give it in to as many places she could find. One of them was bound to be looking for a worker.

Her family had always been on social assistance. It had always become a way of life. But she couldn’t wait to get off it. All that chatting with Spencer, it made her feel there was more she wanted to give to the world—more she could give to the world.

On Friday, she went to the post office to pick up her post. In the pile of mail, one seemed official-looking, but the other one was obviously from one of the places where she’d applied for work.

When she got home, Maddie, buoyed by hope, ripped open the letter from the potential employer. But the minute she spotted those well worn words, “We regret to inform you …”, there was little reason to continue. Maybe out of spite, she made sure to rip it into pieces before throwing it into the recycling.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said to herself. Spencer always used to say, it’s darkest before the dawn.”

She threw herself onto the sofa and opened the other letter she’d received. Reading it through, her heart began to resound in her ear, suddenly the world closing in on her. She read aloud: “I trust this letter finds you well. I am reaching out in my capacity as the Executor of the estate of Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. Following the fulfilment of all legal and financial obligations of the estate, it is now time to proceed with the distribution of remaining funds to the designated beneficiaries as per the deceased last will and testament.

Distribution Details

Total Funds Remaining in Estate: $113,478,012.83

Your Entitled Share: $1,000,000”

It went on about the distribution and how the funds would be transferred to her. But Maddie was in utter disbelief. Spencer was homeless. How could he have been worth so much money. She looked on the letter for contact information. This can’t be for real.

It had to be someone having a bit of fun at her expense. Maddie found the contact information and rang the number, not really sure of what to expect.

“Hello,” Maddie said. “Hi, my name’s Madrona Sykes. Everyone just calls me Maddie.” She laughed nervously. “Um. I think I just received a letter from Spencer Crispin’s estate and, I guess, I’m just ringing to see if this is for real. I’m not sure if you’d know anything about that. You’re Malcolm Digby,” she said, looking on the letter for the name of the Executor of the Estate.

“O yes. I’m Malcolm Digby and yes, I’m the executor of Mr. Crispin’s estate. Your question is more than understandable. I’m also Mr. Crispin’s lawyer and he made the changes to his Will only last month or so. But no, the letter you received is indeed genuine.”

“O, I see. I mean, I just don’t understand. I met him a few months ago and I thought he was homeless. And I just …”

“Yes. Sorry to interrupt. But in a way, he was homeless. For him, though, it was by choice. His business is still doing exceptionally well. He was in IT support and technology and I guess he’d had enough of it. He happily handed things over to his children and just decided he wanted to experience another part of life. He’d always remark on how it’s so common to miss the sheer richness of life from 40 floors up. So, in the latter part of his life, that’s what he was determined to experience and savour, I dare say.”

“Sorry. I’m at a loss for words. Y’know, it’s like everything’s upside down. Things for me aren’t in place anymore.” Maddie laughed nervously. “Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean I’m not beyond grateful. It’s just difficult to understand.”

“Well, I’m not surprised it was a shock. But there’s no question you made an impression on him, given his desire to add you to his will.”

“Yes, thank you so much. He was a beautiful person. No question. Thank you very much, sir. Good Bye.” Maddie put the phone down and picked up the letter and closed her eyes, still not able to comprehend.

Over the next few months, Maddie spent some of the time not always worrying about being able to afford things. Not that she went on a spending spree. It was more a matter of not always saying ‘no’ to things such as fresh vegetables which she could now afford. She’d always tended to avoid that section of the grocery.

She’d done as would be expected, sharing her new wealth with her family and friends. Maddie also made an effort to find Spencer’s grave, not to mention, secretly planting a few crocus bulbs.

And last night, Maddie’d had an epiphany. It seemed impossible to conceive of it as being possible. Still, she’d begun looking through the programmes at university. Fancy a member of her family actually going to university. Even finishing high school was an achievement. But she would attend adult basic education classes to get the grades to finish her high school and than apply to university. Her plan was to go into social work.

She got off the bus. “Thanks,” she said to the bus driver. Walking to the park she was keenly looking for it. It was only when she got a little closer that she could she see it, there, front and centre—the Spencer B. Crispin Memorial Park. She’d written myriad letters making the suggestion they name the park after him. Maddie hadn’t known it, but he’d been a big supporter to the community against homelessness and their various other efforts over the years. So, it wasn’t that difficult a sell. Afterwards, she’d given them a big donation, sort of a thank you. It was the least she could do.

Maddie stood there looking at the sign, thinking. People are often never who you think they are. Despite his riches, Spencer spent the latter part of his life giving honour to the men and women who lack what so many take for granted—a home. She clasped her hands together, “I’ll do you proud Spencer Bartholomew Crispin. I promise.”

Make a Difference in the World

Make a Difference in the World

To make a difference in the world is a sentiment many share. Some dedicate their lives to these words—firefighters, nurses, doctors, teachers and so on. For others, it’s a feeling that may only arise at some point in their lives. Regardless, I sometimes wonder what lies at the heart of this undoubtedly noble wish.

Idea of Altruism

One of the elements clearly apparent in this sentiment is sharing and giving. To make a difference requires we share or give something to that world. And in order to do so, the needs of the other must be placed ahead of our own. We’re guided by feelings of altruism, which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.”

Some might say that true altruism doesn’t exist. After all, that feeling of reward we experience after placing the needs of another before our own is just that, a reward. Still, the goal is not to seek that reward. I’ll feel good about myself, if I give to this person.

For those making a donation to a charity shop, no reward is expected (Source: Gustavo Fring at Pexels)

No, the goal is simply to give to another with no thought of a reward. In so doing, we lay the groundwork for making a difference in the world.

Sense of Oneness

So, to make a difference in the world, a feeling of altruism is good. In my opinion, another attribute that must play a role is a sense of oneness. It certainly helps. Oneness, by its nature, means our own needs merge with those of others. Interconnectedness is at the heart of oneness.

There is a need to focus on others beyond our self identity. Our self is essentially who we are as an individual, arising through individuation—our characteristics, attributes, finer nuances of our personality, as well as our consciousness. As both our conscious and unconscious “selves,” we develop into someone who is unique. It is who we are as people.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay.

With a sense of oneness, our sense of self diminishes and instead we focus on how we are joined as one. John Lennon understood it most keenly, describing oneness simply as, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together.”

When we do so, we form the groundwork for making a difference. Whatever we do, it will focus on the needs of all, for we are all together as one.

Something Bigger Than Ourselves

People are often defined by an inherent yearning for interconnectedness and sense of belonging. Whether to our families, community, circle of friends or to some sort of movement, we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves and are thereby strengthened.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash.

In other respects, we may be connected to something bigger than ourselves in terms of our spiritual transcendence. It may be to something tied to our beliefs, for instance, to nature, our religion, spirituality, or to a larger community. We may feel it gazing deep into a forest or for others looking upon an iconic symbol of their religion.

Finally, we may be connected to something bigger than ourselves in terms of our service to the world. For instance, the initiatives guiding the actions of some may be tied to a purpose to help those disadvantaged in their community.

In any case, when we belong to something bigger than ourselves, however that is accomplished, we feel more equipped and prepared to address issues that before seemed impossible to face. Dogged determination and courage are then our sacred vows.

Thus, there is no question any individual so prepared will be able to make a difference in the world.

Forgetting Our “Self” to Make a Difference

So, what always seems to be at the heart of these credos—the essence of altruism, a sense of oneness, or focussing on something bigger than ourselves—is to somehow forget our selves.

However defining and pertinent to us, our focus turns from our “selves” to a deep link to others. Once this is achieved, we are in a place where we can unite and indeed make a difference in the world.

For example, what happens when we organise a clean-up of the community. Our focus is not on our selves and our personal needs. Altruistically, we give with no conception of reward for our actions.

We may stand back and look in awe at the multitude of bags collected and feel a sense of oneness. Through our inherent interconnectedness and through a wish to serve, we have come together with a single goal in mind. En masse, we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash.

Ultimately, the multitude of bags collected, was the result. Together, our actions have allowed us to make a difference.

Size Doesn’t Matter

And make no mistake, when we’re thinking of making a difference in our world, there’s no need for it to be a substantial one.

Some have the opportunity to make an enormous difference. If that opportunity arises, please don’t hesitate. We’ve heard of various stories recounting such tales, such as those who have donated an organ to a complete stranger.

Yet, it needn’t be so enormous. It can be as small as offering a smile or paying someone else’s parking ticket or bus fare. The fact of the matter is doing so, we make a difference in another’s life.

No matter how small, it can be life-changing.

Some Final Thoughts

Many of us seek to make a difference in this world. As we can see, several things are at work in our lives, laying the groundwork for us to do so. Most importantly, we have to remember it doesn’t always need a lot of thought or planning.

Go about your day, and you’ll no doubt encounter numerous opportunities to make a difference in the world. It may be that major decision to go through with the decision to foster a child. Perhaps it’s the decision to come together with other like-minded individuals and build low-income housing. Otherwise, it may just be a split-second decision to smile at that homeless woman who’s always at the corner panhandling. Fact is, it all makes a difference.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.


Anonymous 2023 “What is Altruism? Does it Really Exist?”

Anonymous 2023 “Belonging” Ideas in English

Anonymous 2023 “The Self” Vaia

Rosengren, Curt 2017 “How to live a meaningful life: Connection with something greater than yourself – part two” Aliveness & IMPACT

Saavedra, Justine, 2023 “How To Make a Difference: In People’s Lives, The Community, & The World” Berkeley Well-Being Institute

It’s All About Making Connections

It’s All About Making Connections

Image by Madalin Calita from Pixabay

For many of us, the connections we make are the most invigorating and vitalising aspects of our lives. We think of our family members—both two- and four-legged—friends, as well as those strangers with whom, for whatever reason, we made a meaningful connection.

In some instances, those connections are made with other elements of nature, our inherent union with it it energised and strengthened. We may enjoy a walk along the coast with the waves rushing on and offshore thrilled by the sound of its rustle and swish. Some may simply enjoy puttering around in their garden during the early morning—that’ll do.

But what happens when we lack this vital anchor of connection in our lives? Well, we’re often left lonely and adrift.


Loneliness is very complex. An online dictionary defines it as “being without company” while another regards it as “Dejected by the awareness of being alone.” The latter is likely more on the mark. I think we can all agree there is an element of perception that is crucial in determining if we are “lonely.”

Finally, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as the emotional distress we feel when our inherent needs for intimacy and companionship are not met.

One site described several causes for loneliness that included the death of a close friend or family member, illness or disability and working alone.

Loneliness can be either transient or chronic, differing in the length of time it is experienced. Transient being shorter periods while the latter being counted sometimes in years. It is more a state of mind, completely disconnected from our physical surroundings.

Some emphasise how it’s possible to still feel lonely despite being surrounded by people. You could be an elderly person living alone, a single parent taking care of youngsters, or a teenager navigating growing up. For whatever reason, you may be assailed by a feeling of unwanted isolation: loneliness.

I could be oversimplifying the idea of loneliness. Still, it seems to be associated with a lack of deep and meaningful connections.

To be connected is one of the most wonderful experiences. And it is here where the concept of oneness is key, for connection and interconnectedness play an integral role in oneness. Can this way of thinking and being not feature in helping to prevent us from feeling lonely and alone?

Inherent Connection in Oneness

What does it mean to connect? Again, a look at the dictionary brings up words such as “linked together”, “associated”, “unite” or “meaningfully related.” One of the most beautiful forms of a more intense connection is commonly known as “oneness.” It’s a sentiment accessible to one and all, whether in a crowd or alone, for hours on end for just a moment.

Kristine Klussman offers some examples of oneness.

  • The awe and significance or insignificance you feel when gazing up at the stars.
  • A silent, sudden awareness that strangers on the subway are really your brothers and sisters.
  • The realization that others have many of the same dreams and heartaches that you have.
  • A sense that you are in sync with the universe, and breathing through the lungs of the earth

These are only a few, but I think you likely get the picture. They provide us with an idea of how it’s possible to feel intensely connected with the universe, with one another, or with some element within ourselves.

And that’s the thing. When we do, the feelings of loneliness have less of an opportunity to gain purchase. Why? Because we feel utterly connected to one and all.

Loneliness may thrive and strengthen when we are deprived of meaningful connection. Although, to be filled with a sentiment of oneness is the essence of meaningful connection. Once this occurs, sentiments such as loneliness lose their hold on our hearts.

It’s not going to happen immediately, the thought of simply running out to catch a beautiful sunrise and that’d be it. But what is essential perhaps, is maybe gazing at that gorgeous sunrise and reminding ourselves of our innate connectedness with the universe. Yes indeed, we’re all in this together.

That innate connectedness is always there, it’s just we don’t always remember that.


Klussman, Kristine 2023 “Find The Meaning of Connection Through Oneness”

Madeson, Melissa 2023 “How to Overcome Loneliness According to Psychology”

Modglin, Lindsay and Deborah Courtney 2023 “What Is Loneliness? Causes, Effects And Prevention”

Sometimes It’s Just a Matter of Waiting

Sometimes It’s Just a Matter of Waiting

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash.

Misty gazed at the open road ahead of her thinking how it may well be very different for her now she was out of work. It’ll remain to be seen how much of an “open road” lay ahead for her. She still felt irritated by that man. But for better or for for worse, it was all over. She drove along, finding a little joy in the empty road. It was Thanksgiving weekend and so everyone who had some place to go was no doubt already there. She shifted a little, getting a little more comfortable in her seat.

Misty was sure most of the people at the office where she worked probably thought she was mad. Although, no one could say he didn’t have it coming. The writing was on the wall. Anyone with eyes to see would know she and her boss were not on the same page, as it were. They weren’t even in the same book, never mind the page.

So, her actions weren’t so surprising. Misty smiled when she thought of what she’d called him—a stuck up loudmouth with more money than sense. She’d explained in detail why he was being such a fool and before he could sack her, she’d quit. She was livid. It was the first time in her life she’d ever said anything like that. Misty thought, it may be the first time she’d really ever stood up for herself. And boy, did she do a good job. Sure, she hadn’t a clue what she was going to do now that she was out of work. But there was no sense worrying about it now.

Misty had tended to be quiet and unobtrusive. Everyone had always called her the little mouse in the corner. That’s where her little spot was located, all of them with their own space separated by a sea of dividers in a windowless room. The place had no heart. Besides, folks had always told her she was wasted there. Well, enough of it all.

Spotting a gravel road going off to the left, Misty thought, why not explore a little. There were little spots of grass here and there on the edge and so she knew it wasn’t a well-travelled road. It was beautiful, the trees were fairly dense, some spruce, some larch and bits and bobs of everything else.

Image by Olavi Anttila from Pixabay

She was lost amidst the beauty of the woods with its motley shades of green, stumps of trees partially shrouded with a mantle of moss. Through the trees she could see the sun shining on what must be a lovely meadow.

Just up ahead, she spotted a car off to the side. Seemed strange that anyone should be stopped along the road. Misty hadn’t expected to see anyone. Pulling in behind the car, she could see there was a driver. Guessing at the hat, it was likely an older gentleman. “Hello, sir?” The man was just staring ahead and only after she repeated her words, did he notice her.

“Oh, sorry, my dear. I didn’t quite catch what you were saying.”

“That’s all right. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. You’re stopped and so I just wasn’t sure.” He smiled at her, his eyes red and glazed.

“Not to worry, my dear.” She looked into the woods, but she wasn’t quite sure why he was there.

“I don’t mean to pry, but is there anything with which I could help you? I there something wrong with your car. I might be able to help you.”

“O, no dear.” He paused for a moment and then looked up at her. “It’s no matter. I’d planned to go to the meadow … you can probably see it just on the other side of the trees.” he said, point towards it. “There used to be more of a pathway there, years ago. More people used to use it before.”

“Yeah, so it’s kinda grown in more,” she said, looking at the woods.

“I was going to take these,” he said, showing her the bouquet of flowers.

“O, they’re beautiful. May I ask what’s the occasion?” she said, smiling at him. He looked at her and then quickly glanced away, like he was somehow ashamed or embarrassed about something.

“Well, it’s nothing. I was going to lay then at the big rock.” He looked towards the meadow. “There it is,” he said, pointing. “It’s not easy to maybe see from here, but that’s where I used to always meet Abigail.” His eyes sparkled as he told Misty.

“Who’s Abigail?” Misty said, even though, with heavy heart, she was fairly sure she knew who she was. “Is she your wife?” He nodded and smiled, his eyes moistened.

“Yes. Yes. Well, was.” He looked down for a moment, wiping his eyes. “When we were first courting, that was always a favourite place. She passed away just this past August.”

‘O, I’m so sorry for your loss.,” Misty said, her eyes meeting his. “So, you were going to take the flowers and place them near the rock where you used to meet the love of your life.” He nodded, looking away. “Hey, it may not be as meaningful, but why don’t you let me take the flowers to the rock in the meadow?” He looked at Misty and then turned to look at the meadow. “I can at least place them there in Abigail’s memory.” He looked again at Misty. She could see he was giving it some thought.

“Well, okay, if you don’t mind. It’d be most kind of you.”

“It’d entirely be my pleasure. I even have my hiking stick in my car and that should help me get through any tangles I might find. She went back to her car and grabbed her hiking stick. Coming back, he’d gotten out of his car. He was a tall fellow, but he’d clearly dressed for the occasion. “My, don’t you look smart. Abigail would be most pleased.” He smiled, bashfully lowering his head with a touch of a smile.

“Here are the flowers. You take care going in there.”

“Not to worry. I’m a volunteer with the Wilderness Rescue Team and so I know more than enough about being careful,” she said, smiling at him.

“Just so you do.” She took the flowers, wading into the brush. Walking, Misty realised she could actually make out where the path to the meadow had once been. So, that made things a little easier. At one point, she turned around and waved to him, realising she hadn’t even introduced herself and asked his name. Then she thought how names aren’t always as important as many might think. Making it to the meadow, it opened into an expanse of wildflowers interspersed with an array of bushes, some floral, others not.

After the day she’s had, being in the meadow was like a moment in heaven. She raised her head to the sky and twirled around. She could see what drew everyone to this place. Giggling, she made her way to the rock where budding love had blossomed however many decades ago. There was a little overhang on the rock where she placed the flowers. She took out her phone and took a photograph so she could show him. He’d be pleased.

When she made it back to the road, he was waiting. She smiled at him.

“O, that’s a beautiful spot,” she said.

“Yes indeed. It was a very popular spot decades ago,” he said.

“And here,” Misty said, taking out her phone. “I took a photograph for you,” she said showing it to him. He took the phone, smiling, eyes glazing over.

“Thank you so very, very much. My Abigail will be so very pleased. We loved this place,” he said squinting as he looked up into the sky, sunshine cascading down. “Thank you.”

“Come here,” she said, opening her arms to give him a hug. “You can’t believe what a horrible day this was before I met you. But y’know, if it hadn’t been so horrible, I wouldn’t have been here to meet you and give you a hand. So, thank you for all you’ve done for me. Funny the way the world works.”

“That’s why we never do know in the end. Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting and the most unpleasant of days will yet transform.”

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.

Last Will and Testament of Domingo de Luca

Last Will and Testament of Domingo de Luca

This is a photograph of Galeon La Pepa, a Basque ship that may resemble La María del Juncal (Source: Anonymous).

Domingo de Luca was a humble storekeeper aboard La María del Juncal, a Basque ship stationed in Plazençia, now Placentia, in 1563. It’s prime purpose was to harvest cod. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

However, de Luca was not favoured by fortune and became gravely ill. When he eventually passed away, the Will he left behind indicated the unquestioned presence the Basque have played in the history of the Placentia area.

Crossing the Ocean

The Basque followed in the footsteps of the seaworthy Vikings. In and around 1,000 CE, the Vikings had already done the honours of reaching what is now North America, no surprise for a sea-venturing culture. All the chronicles of the Vikings have been recorded in The Saga of the Greenlanders.

Norwegian Bokmål: Leiv Eirikson oppdager Amerika  Leiv Eiriksson

discovers North America (Source: Wikipedia )

As expert shipbuilders, the Vikings had already reached Helluland, likely Baffin Island and the region around Nunavut. They’d journeyed further south near central Labrador to find Markland. Continuing, they travelled further south to Vinland, which was most likely the Gulf of St. Lawrence, L’Anse aux Meadows and perhaps as far south as New Brunswick. However, despite reaching North America, knowledge of their travels did not spread very far in Europe.

Summer on the Greenland coast circa year 1000 by Carl Rasmussen Source: By Carl Rasmussen –, Public Domain, Wikipedia)

Only centuries later was this treasured knowledge able to circulate. It was in 1497 when John Cabot made the groundbreaking news that new lands lie west of Europe. News travelled fast.

As a result, it’s certainly no surprise the Basque were in Newfoundland by the sixteenth century.

Leaving a Will

By the 15th of May, Domingo de Luca had realised his illness was serious enough that he best dictate a short will to the ship’s notary, Joan de Blancaflor.

As part of his will, de Luca included the usual information regarding his debts and receipts. He also made certain to appoint the ship’s master and another individual to function as his executors.

Image of the Will belonging to Domingo de Luca (Source: Sabino Laucirica).

However, the most noteworthy inclusion in his will was one statement—his “body be buried in this port of Plazençia in the place where those who die here are usually buried.”

This clearly indicated several things about the Basque. They had been evidently present long enough for there to be a place of worship present in the region. Furthermore, others had already been laid to rest in Plazençia. Moreover, they had been visiting long enough for the Basque to feel comfortable being left Plazençia. And in all likelihood, that it was a place of worship ensured the Basque, it would be acceptable to be laid to rest in that location.

Evidence of the Basque

Prior to the writing of the will, we had known of the Basque presence based on headstones that had been left. The earliest was dated to 1677. This was found in the cemetery surrounding the late St. Luke’s Anglican Church, now St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre.

Image of a Basque headstone found in the cemetery surrounding

St. Luke’s (Source: Christopher Newhook).

Although it became an Anglican church in 1714, when it was first founded in the 16th century, it was as a Roman Catholic church. After the British were given Newfoundland, following the Treaty of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, the denomination of St. Luke’s changed to Anglican.

Image of the Treaty of Utrecht

When Domingo de Luca died, Plazençia was merely a location valued for its resources. However, in 1662, Plazençia or Plaisance as it became known to the French, had drawn the attention of the French state for its function in their economy. In so doing, it played a role in expanding the control of the state, thus helping to establish what would become North America.

And it’s in this context, the will of Domingo de Luca must be regarded. It established that the Basque were indeed the first Europeans to lay claim to the vast resources of cod in Placentia Bay.


Barkham, Michael M. 2014 “The Oldest Original Civil Document Written in Canada:

The Last Will of Basque Sailor Domingo de Luça, Placentia (Newfoundland), 1563” Unpublished paper.

Pigeons — Contented Nomads

Pigeons — Contented Nomads

Image by Sandeep Handa from Pixabay

I always knew there were pigeons where I live. For as long as I can remember, they’ve been a constant fixture near the lift bridge where one enters the Placentia beach.1 They’d roost there, periodically lifting off, flying in a circle and then returning to the bridge. Sometimes, I’d spot them on the boardwalk, ambling along the shore of Placentia Bay, pecking at the various wild grasses they’d encounter.

Things soon changed, though. One day, a pigeon appeared in the front yard where I live. It was then followed by others. I’d always put out a few seeds for other birds—crows, starlings, sparrows, juncos and the lot. So, that’s what must’ve drawn them. It was a surprise, but to me, it was an unexpected spectacle to enjoy.

However, eventually, there’s one thing I came to learn. Some people really don’t like pigeons. It’s not even a dislike grounded in some annoying activity perpetrated by the pigeons. The ill will was just there. And the sentiment is not uncommon. I wrote a book focussing on eight of the animals people tend to dislike, one being the pigeon. I’m sure many would be happy for pigeons to return to their wild origins and never look back.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the pigeon is going anywhere. Besides, it’s not entirely fair. If we take a closer look at pigeons, we’d see they come with a rich and substantial history. Much of that time has been spent without hesitation, helping other species, namely our own.

Origins of Pigeons

Every pigeon we encounter, from the ones flying around Placentia, to those streetwise denizens of the cities around the world, are all the feral descendants of the rock dove (Columba livia). It’s a member of the family Columbidae, which has numerous members of pigeons and doves, Columba livia, being one of them.

Columba livia likely came from southern Asia around a million years ago. Over time, they found their way to new homes in North Africa, parts of coastal Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Central Asia.

When in the wld, Rock Doves commonly perched on cliffs (Image by Aidan Semmens from Pixabay).

Then, fairly recently, they made it to North America. There’s reference to pigeons from the early seventeenth century in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in Canada. Apparently, the settlers were complaining about the eagles who’d taken a liking to the local population of pigeons.2

One thing we know for certain, rock doves have been actively evolving. There are now well over 300 breeds of domestic pigeon, including the feral pigeon, all of whom originated from the rock dove.3

Pigeons Lending a Helping Hand

Columba livia has undergone many biological changes through various forms of unconscious, artificial, and natural selection over the centuries.

Pigeons tend to occupy the backdrop of our lives, whether in our laid back rural landscape or our bustling and boisterous cities. Although, there was a time when their presence was more noted in our lives.

They’ve had their fair share of drama and intrigue. Around the world, in Mesopotamia, the Aztec world or in Ancient Greece, pigeons or their alter ego, the dove, played a central role. In Greek mythology, Venus is sometimes symbolised by a dove. Fittingly, her chariot is also depicted as being drawn by two doves.4

The first evidence of pigeons being used as a food source comes to us from Egypt in 3,000 BC where the remnants of a funerary meal, which included pigeons, were unearthed.5 Later, for the Romans, pigeons were a mainstay with many Romans keeping houses in order to raise pigeons for the table.6 Their guano was regarded as gold in ancient Egypt, Rome and into the Middle Ages.

Pigeons have been valued for centuries for their ability to carry messages. From the time of Julius Caesar to last century during our two world wars, pigeons have played a central role in ensuring all the major actors in the wars were in communication.

The Dickins Medal for the pigeon Royal Blue Source: Joseph Krol Wikipedia.

Pigeons always accompanied aircraft on bombing missions during the second world war. During D-Day, the paratroopers carried a pigeon they would release once they’d landed. Pigeons even received medals for their highly valued and honourable role in war.

In Modern Times

Nowadays, some pigeons are used in shows. Termed fancy pigeons, they are doted on and biologically manipulated to enhance their physical appearance. People spend large sums of money preparing their pigeons and then showing them at special events. Different breeds of pigeons are known for various qualities such as “pouters” or “croppers” which inflate their crops.

A blue bar Pigmy Pouter pigeon (Source: Jim Gifford Wikipedia).

Others choose to race their pigeons. In these instances, pigeons are useful in their ability to fly to specially identified locations. This is much the same as they’ve done over the centuries. Except now it’s just for competitory reasons. Many owners are simply driven by the thrill of the game.

And they take it seriously. They ensure their pigeons are in top condition with nutrients and medicinal and non-medicinal supplements to give the pigeons the added vigour they require to win. As would be expected, a lot of money is also illegally made in the betting too often accompanying the racing.

Our “Street” Pigeons

For most people nowadays, your everyday or “street” pigeons are just an expected attribute in our communities. They wander along the streets or fly from rooftop to rooftop, maybe alighting onto a bridge or wire. For the most part, they’re forgotten. That is until their actions are deemed undesirable.

Pigeons on a wire (Image by Şahin Sezer Dinçer from Pixabay).

Certainly, those street pigeons are mostly noted for their insistence on roosting and nesting along the ledges of buildings. They do so for obvious reasons. These features are closest to the cliffs their predecessor rock doves would’ve used in the wild. That and their propensity for perching on conveniently placed statues is largely for the same reason. Both of these habits are considered a nuisance. We erect any number of features to prevent them from coming to rest, for instance, pigeon nets or bird spikes.

A common perch for pigeons in communities around the world Image by Éva Zara from Pixabay.

Except for those who are lulled by the peace invoked when feeding the pigeons in a park, for the most part, that’s now how they’re regarded—a nuisance or pests. Even in more rural areas where I live, pigeons are often diminished by preconceived notions of their worth.

Love Me or Love Me Not

In all honesty, for some, pigeons are often respected, loved and even adored, but often only if they are of use. For some, of course, simply the presence of the pigeon, puttering around and coming for a hand-out is all that matters.

Perhaps one of the things we must bear in mind is how this small creature has been a superlative companion to our species in the past. Surely that must matter. Whether we recognise the great value of the pigeon or continue to level complaints about it, ultimately, it won’t matter.

Pigeons having a drink (Image by Tomasz Hanarz from Pixabay).

For the pigeons who are a part of our life, they’ve only ever remained with us, as they’ve been pleased with the food and care they receive—a “voluntary captive.”7 Freedom is always within easy reach. For those contentedly roaming along the streets of our cities and communities, they’ve already found their freedom, forever contented nomads.


1The Town of Placentia incorporates the amalgamated communities of Argentia, Dunville, Freshwater, Jerseyside, and Placentia which sits on the beach.

2Schorger, A. 1952a “Introduction of the domestic pigeon” Auk No. 69, 462-463.

3Jerolmack, Colin 2007 “Animal archaeology: Domestic pigeons and

the nature-culture dialectic” Qualitative Sociology Review

III (1), 74-95

4Allen, Barbara 2009 Pigeon (London, England: Reaktion Books), 60

5Allen, Barbara 2009, Pigeon (London, England: Reaktion Books), 91

6Blechman 2006, Pigeons – The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird (New York: Grove Press), 11

7Donaldson, John 1860 British Agriculture, containing the cultivation of land, management of crops, and the economy of animals. Illustrated with 240 plates of implements, animals, etc (London: Atchley & Co., Agricultural, Architectural, & Engineering Publishers), 667.

Finding Truth in Dreams

Finding Truth in Dreams

Chrys slammed the door behind her, the loud bang an oddly satisfying expression of her anger. Why had he told that woman about the file? He had no bloody business. She’d told him in confidence. Just to earn points, that’s what it was. She walked briskly onto the path, her steps determined and unyielding.

Chrys knew full well that’s what he was doing, telling their line manager so he could get into her good books. She had no idea why they called them line manager. Stupid. She rolled her eyes, the collection of spruce and firs silent witnesses to her ire.

I mean, it’s not like they were in some damned factory putting together some widget, for God’s sake. She couldn’t stand that woman, one of those upstarts fresh out of university climbing the corporate ladder. Vigorously, she waved away the cloud of insects clustering in the shade of a tree. She tripped, soon regaining her footing. “Damned bugs.”

Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

It had to end. That’s all she knew. Chrys had come to intensely dislike where she was working. It was useless. They worked to all hours with meeting after meeting. And her life was not that much better now that Marigold was gone. Thinking about the accident was like a sharp knife in her heart. It was still difficult to believe she was gone. She kicked at a rock propelling it into a bush.

Face stern and dispirited, Chrys walked along the path, extending her hiker’s stick just in case she ran into a stupid dog. That’s all she needs. After the last time, she thinks it was a couple of years ago, she never walked without some sort of pole. People are forever walking their dogs and more than half of them couldn’t control the bloody dogs if they tried. She swiped at some brush on the side of the path. The small dogs are the worst.

Keeping her head down, she walked past a couple of other walkers coming the other way. She never bothered to greet anyone any more. Sure, some might find it off-putting. Still, Chrys reckoned they’d only be saying hi because she was looking up. Otherwise, they wouldn’t say anything—obviously. So, why bother bugging them in the first place—better that way. She took another swipe at the brush.

“Excuse me.” Chrys heard a faint singing voice from behind. She turned around suddenly, scanning to see the source of the voice. There was nothing. She rolled her eyes. ‘I must be hearing things,’ she reckoned. “Excuse me.” This time she could swear she heard something. But it was up ahead. Chrys swung around and she just caught sight of something just off into the woods.

‘What is going on?’ she thought, walking to the place where the person had gone into the woods. Should she bother, was her first thought? Sounded like a kid, though. What if they were in trouble? So, she pushed the tangle of branches apart.

“Hello?” she said, trying to raise her voice. “Hello,” she said more loudly. She heard a giggle from up ahead. She walked a little further. “Hello,” she said, slight irritation entering her voice.

“Over here,” she heard, then more giggling. When her head swung around, she encountered the two little twin girls. Twins?

Image by Jacek from Pixabay (twins at sunrise)

“Wait a minute,” she said, her voice just barely a whisper. They were looking very familiar and all of a sudden Chrys realised at whom she was looking—herself. And Marigold, of course. They were dressed alike, as they always were. Their mother doted on them and had only stopped when they reached six or seven. It was her mom who named them after her favourite flowers—Chrysanthemum and Marigold.

The two of them were holding hands and skipping in a circle, first one way and then the other. ‘I must be dreaming,’ she said to herself. She couldn’t believe it. They were singing “The Rainbow Connection” at the top their lungs.

It hurtled her back in time. She remembered how she and Mari used to constantly sing that song. It was their favourite, accompanied, of course, by their total and unmitigated adoration for Kermit the frog. Their dad would play the guitar and they’d sing it at the top of their lungs.

Chrys’s mind returned to the present.

“You’ve gotta come join us,” the one sang out.

“Yeah, we know you you’d love to come. Right,” the one sang to the other. Both held their hands out, welcoming her to come.” Chrys stood there, unable to move, thoughts of what’s gone wrong in her life flooding to the surface. Feelings repeated in her ears—it’ll always be this way. There’s no hope. Give up. What’s the point.

But then, she looked up and met their smiling eyes which were just begging her to forget, to let it go. And like a break of sun through thick impenetrable clouds, finally Chrys couldn’t resist the urge to smile.

She walked towards the two little girls, herself and her sister from another time and clasped their hands. The three of them began to dance in the circle, all to the tune of “Rainbow Connection.” Round and round they danced.

Finally, when she unclasped her hand with young Mari, in her hand was a locket she remembers losing years ago.

Image by Esther Chilcutt from Pixabay

“Oh my God!” she said, startled. “I lost that years ago,” Chrys said, clasping her hands around the locket. She knelt down next to Mari who was beaming. “Mom gave them to us and I was so heartbroken when I couldn’t find mine and then … at the funeral, we made sure you had yours for wherever you were going.” She put her hands around her face, tears flowing. “I felt so torn apart. When I couldn’t find my locket, I felt for sure I’d lost you.” She hugged Mari, her hand tight around the locket.

Chrys opened her eyes, squinting at the light. She didn’t know immediately where she was. Upon looking around, though, she realised she was on the sofa near the big window in her front room. Putting her head against the cushion, she couldn’t help but smile. It was astonishing.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Chrys remembers vividly thinking in the dream how it must be a dream and not real life. She wondered if that’s what people call a lucid dream. She’d heard of those, when the dream is particularly real.

Regardless, Chrys felt like a new person. It was phenomenal. She remembers how she felt when she was dancing and singing. Laughing aloud she thought of the locket. Maybe now, she could finally forgive herself for having lost it.

Chrys went to go put on her jacket because she thought she really would go for a walk. It was like a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Grabbing her sunglasses, just in case it cleared up as they said it would, she placed them in her pocket. There was something else in the way. Pulling it out, she couldn’t at first believe what she was seeing.

There dangling from a chain was her locket. Chrys looked at it with complete disbelief. “It can’t be,” she said in hushed tones, plunking down on the bench by the door. “I mean, I thought I was dreaming. But here’s the locket Mari gave me.

She opened the locket to make doubly sure it was the right one. When she did, sure enough, there was a picture of Mari. That’s what they’d done for fun. Being twins, nobody would know that Mari was in Chrys’s locket and vice versa. So, does that mean I really did go for a walk and meet them? Because Mari sure as heck did give me a locket,” she said looking down at the locket. “It just can’t be.”

Chrys sat in the porch, trying to make sense of what had happened. Holding the locket in her hands, she remembered meeting her young self and Mari, thinking of how wonderful it had made her feel. She hadn’t felt that good in years, to be honest.

Image by Milada Vigerova from Pixabay

She got up from the bench, placing the locket around her neck. Chrys pondered, “I suppose, in the end, what does it matter whether it was a dream or reality or a little bit of both,” Chrys thought. Seeing her young self and Mari was like a sign. Everything was still the same and yet it was not. In its reconciliation was the peace for which she’d been searching.