To be as free as a bird

To be free. Three words that are likely the most cherished to speak and perhaps more, to truly believe. In Canada, most of us would readily claim freedom as a quality or state of being that describes our lives. Still, like every word, when cast in a finer nuanced light, it reveals a few of the more jagged edges of the word—the restraints of our most hallowed freedom. So, how free are we?

However simple the word, freedom possesses a boundless depth of meaning. When we find it in the dictionary, the various definitions revolve around not being “restricted,” “controlled,” and “constrained.” Other explanations note how we are somehow “not being subject to” or “affected by” something or someone. It seems simple.

For many of us, to be free is a way of being that is thoroughly ingrained in us. It is virtually sacrosanct. In other words, not only is it sacred, it is something we feel should never be taken away from us.

Although, whenever we think of the many freedoms we enjoy, there is often a “yes, but” that follows in its wake. For many of us, this is an expected understanding of our freedoms, the invariable caveats. So, many of us are indeed free to wander along the streets and byways that traverse our various towns and cities. We are not deterred by the dangers that prevent many around the world from doing likewise. “Yes, but,” you may say.

True. Our freedom to roam is indeed sometimes contingent on the fact we do so in places where the dangers of crime are less apparent. Often times, there may be certain regions within a city more prone to such dangers and we feel less free to simply take a walk. Otherwise, in certain locations, with nightfall, people may feel more restricted by the fear of crime. They accept that yoke on their freedom.

Likewise, we are largely free to listen to whatever music catches our fancy, again provided we do so in a manner that considers others. Would others like this type of music? Would it be offensive to someone listening? Periodically, we do encounter restrictions. These often take the form of censorship, of which there are countless examples around the world.

But overall, any notion of freedom must just work in harmony with our ethics, morals, and values. Fundamentally, they act as the crucial lodestars guiding our lives and our freedoms. If something we are free to do fails to be in accord with our values or morals, we feel less inclined to continue. For instance, many vegetarians, less so vegans, may follow a diet free of meat and other meat-based products primarily due to its health benefits. Still, there is a large group who do so based largely on their personal ethics and morals.

Taking this into account, we are left with the difficult question. Our ethics, morals, and values may function in close concert with our freedoms. But who’s ethics, morals, and values?

This is where more recent restrictions to our freedom come to the fore. In recent years, many have faced the censorship imposed by social media outlets such as Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram. Facebook, for one, works in coordination with the United States government to guide what is being shared on the platform. As an example, freedoms to post are guided by beliefs that must follow the accepted line regarding such things like treatments, recoveries, or deaths related to covid.

Meanwhile, Youtube has prevented people from watching videos that supported treatments for Covid that included ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies rather than strictly through vaccination. Undoubtedly, our freedoms are being impeded, guided as they are by a set of ethics determined not by ourselves, but by organisations such as Facebook and Youtube.

Sometimes, we may even be encouraged to accept those restrictions given the efforts to ensure some other element of our safety is maintained or improved—our health or our online security. Maybe so. However, it is in our best interests to scrutinise such claims with a keen eye to our personal ethics, morals and values.

So, in general, how free are we? Perhaps it’s best to understand freedom as being somewhere on a sliding scale wherein on one side lies total freedom and on the other, complete restrictions. Ideally, most of the time, we’re somewhere in the middle.

Throughout our lives, we may experience efforts to nudge us onward or unreservedly thrust us toward further restrictions of our freedom. But freedom is something we must all hold very close to our hearts. After all, we must remember, to accept even the smallest constraints to our freedom can be a consent that is ultimately difficult to rescind.

Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre

Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre

Photograph of St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre at present. (Source: Lee Everts)

Everything old is new again. Those words perfectly reflect the situation for St. Luke’s Cultural Heritage Centre. Now almost a year old, the Centre has already demonstrated a needed role for hosting events in the Placentia area. Although not long ago, as many would recall, prior to being a cultural heritage centre, St. Luke’s functioned as a church. And since its inception centuries ago, this church has had a multifarious history, rich in details and complexity.

History of St. Luke’s

The most recent incarnation of St. Luke’s was a church built in 1905. However, it replaces a church built in the 18th century. And still deeper into the realm of history, this church was itself built on the site of the oldest Catholic church in Newfoundland. This original church was built in 1689 by the Récollets (Recollects) friars. However, there is an old map dated from 1662 that actually depicts a church built on the site where St. Luke’s is located. Yet, the church is potentially at least a century older.

This is an image of Domingo de Luca’s Last Will and Testament (Source: Placentia Area Historical Society)

Domingo de Luca was a member of a fishing expedition hailing from the Basque country. At the time, the Basques were in Placentia. It was no doubt part of a regular trip they would have been taking annually to Placentia where they would come to fish in the sixteenth century. Misfortune has fallen on Domingo de Luca during the year 1563. He had grown ill and eventually, he was to lose his life. However, before dying, he made out a Will and most notably, he requested that his body be laid to rest in Placentia.

“I ask that if the will of God Our Lord were served to take me by this illness from the present life, that my body be buried in this port of Plazençia in the place where those who die here are usually buried.”

His Will is now the oldest known original civil document written in Canada. Clearly, this must have been a place where his fellow countrymen had been laid to rest. It also implies there was indeed a location, at the time, where the Basque were laying to rest their people. It is no doubt the same location where Basque headstones were later located in the cemetery surrounding St. Luke’s. It was a Roman Catholic church at the time.

In 1903, Rt. Rev. Michael Francis Howley published a paper covering the work he had done in Placentia at St. Luke’s Anglican church. His efforts were in part intended to raise awareness to the fragile nature of the stones and how, if left, they would soon be lost. He focussed on several headstones, the oldest of which dated to 1676. However, one would assume this to be the identical location where, just over a century earlier, Domingo was laid to rest. Those Basque headstones are now on display at O’Reilly House Museum.

Noteworthy Citizens

An image of Richard Welsh’s grave marker (Source: Lee Everts)

St. Luke’s cemetery has also been home to other noteworthy citizens of Placentia. One of the headstones belong to Richard Welsh, a well-known figure who hailed from New Ross, Ireland. In 1753, Welsh began what was to become a highly successful merchant firm in Placentia. The headstones also tell of people such as Sir Joseph Blackburn or Elizabeth and William Hobson whose memories are also affirmed in the cemetery.

Image of St. Luke’s Anglican church built in the eighteenth century.

Not long afterwards, the English royalty of the 18th century also left its mark when Prince William Henry (later King William IV of England) came to Placentia as a Magistrate. In 1786, he presented the church with a silver Communion Service and a Coat of Arms. While the Service is now at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, the Coat of Arms is still to be found hanging in St. Luke’s Anglican church.

Next Evolution of St. Luke’s

Given its wealth of history, St. Luke’s Anglican Church was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure in 2011. However, the actual parishioners for the church had been dwindling and in October of 2020, it was closed and deconsecrated. It was then sold to the Placentia Area Historical Society (PAHS) for one dollar.

In recent years, during the summer months, the PAHS has been offering tours of the Centre. In the past year, several events were offered, including workshops for seniors by the Placentia Area Development Association and it served as a workspace for Colleen Tamblyn, as archaeologist working on ceramics from Fort Louis/New Fort. She also did two presentations at St. Luke’s entitled “Archaeological Ups and Downs” as well as “Ceramic, Colour and Community.” The Centre was also used for a book launch by local author Lee Everts, an international harpist who did a performance, and individuals attending art classes and lectures.

Over the centuries, St. Luke’s has continued to evolve. Yet, from its origins some time in the sixteenth century as a place of worship for Basque fisherman thousands of miles from home to now, as a centre for cultural heritage, it is much the same. St. Luke’s remains at the heart of the community, a place where people come to express themselves, share and find some sort of peace.


Barkham, Michael M. 2014 “The Oldest Original Civil Document Written in Canada: The Last Will of Basque Sailor Domingo de Luça, Placentia (Newfoundland), 1563” University of Cambridge

Spirit of Rocks on Placentia Bay

Spirit of Rocks on Placentia Bay

As the sun sets, anyone driving along the Cape Shore highway north to Placentia couldn’t miss it. Like a glowing ember, it’s red rock warms the heart, giving way to wonder. It soundlessly beckons us to understand its deep history. When we do, it reveals a storied past that reaches to a time long before any human set foot on islands such as Merasheen or Red Island. These rocks that comprise the islands are not dormant and empty. Rather they are representative of the resonant spirit within our landscape.

Millions of years ago, the earth began to write the story of the land below Placentia Bay. No doubt, it was quiet at times. To be sure, there were no birds yet to punctuate the rare silences that defined the period. They had yet to come. For much of the time, however, it would have been a time defined by turbulence with roaring and explosive ejections jettisoned from the cracks in the earth. Molten lava would have seeped out, hotly glowing before it gradually cooled.

Each of the islands have their own identifying characteristics, the result of a unique story stemming from their origins. In very much more recent times, the islands came to be the home of many generations who plied their trade in the fishery, wood-cutting and gardening, the pillars of the time. Although, countless millennia earlier, these islands had a different story to tell.

Photograph of Merasneen (Source:

We would have to close our eyes to imagine the maelstrom of geological events that defined the time. Owing to an explosive past, Merasheen Island and the Ragged Islands are composed of something called Hadrynian basaltic (751-833 Million Years Ago — Mya) rock. That simply means it was a rock formed from the solidification of molten rock. It’s an intermediate composition between dactite (a volcanic rock formed by rapid solidification of lava that is high in silica and low in alkali metal oxides) and rhyolite (the most silica-rich of volcanic rocks). Combined, they are known as rhyodacitic.

This merely reflects the ongoing and vigorous nature of the earth as it regularly spewed the molten rock that formed these islands. Added to the rocky mosaic on Merasheen were metamorphosed (transformed by heat or pressure) into silica-rich sandstones and shales. The island’s landscape is characterised by its relatively high relief and steep cliffs. Its shorelines are also less jagged due to faults and folds that followed a more NNW-SSE trend, the general orientation of the island. Nowadays, all is quiet, but it belies a highly boisterous past.

A little to the southeast of Merasheen lies Red Island, aptly named for its firey-coloured landscape. Millions of years ago, the region danced to the roar of molten lava surging from below. Eventually, a plume of lava known as a pluton or outcrop, would cool and over time, plate-tectonics, the jigging of the landscape, would expose the island on the surface.

These plutons were composed of granite resulting in Red Island’s vibrant hue. The plutons have been dated from the Devonian period, around 416 Mya to the Carboniferous period (318 Mya). And since people began to occupy the islands, it has naturally come to be known as Red Island. Elements of other islands, namely Bar Haven and the Ragged Islands also owe their origins from the depths of the earth. The rocks of Red Island also fractured in a particular manner along right angles, thus yielding its steep, but low cliffs and rolling interior.

In time, what changed the story was an ice age. Millions of years later, around 25,000 to 10,000 years ago, glaciers trailed over the landscape. With them, they readily carried their burden of rock, or ice-contact sediment known as till that was carried by the glaciers from many distant sources. This led to a range of formations, some of which were drumlins (an elongated hill or ridge of glacial drift), flutes (long ridges on the ground parallel to the glacier’s movement), and crag-and-tail (a plug of hard rock like granite with a “tail” of softer material in its lee) features. These formations are spread out over Placentia Bay’s bed, now hidden below its vast undulating waters.

Walking amongst the rocky outcrops and rolling hills affords us with an opportunity to pause and absorb the depth of time which surrounds us. We may touch the granite of Red Island or any of the other islands and surging within us is a feeling of deep respect and awe that resonates in our hearts. It is almost incomprehensible the time from when these rocks first began to form. Millions of years seem beyond our comprehension of time. Yet, here they sit. They offer distinct evidence of the timelessness that surrounds us. It is palpable. For a moment, running our hands along the various ridges and indentations on the rock or simply standing before a towering cliff, we feel the energy the silent rocks emanate. And for just a moment, we feel a connection with something that is much greater than ourselves. An eternal spirit.


Brushett, Denise 2008 “Late Wisconsinan Glacial History of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, As Interpreted From Seabed Geomorphology and Stratigraphy,” Master of Science Thesis, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL

Catto, Norman 1998 “The pattern of glaciation on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland” Géographie physique et Quaternaire 52 (1), 1-24



Beauty. Its complexity is equally mesmerising, mysterious and charming. We may look at an opulent sunrise with its rich canvas of purples, pinks and golds and utter in awe how it is undeniably the epitome of beauty. At the same time, we may spot an individual, striking in their appearance and remark how this individual is really quite beautiful. What exactly do we mean when we gasp, extolling the breathtaking beauty of someone or something?

Mathematics of the Golden Ratio

For some, the notion of beauty has been very specifically defined over the millennia. It’s been known to some by the Greek letter “phi,” while to others, as the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion. Mathematically, it came down to a very special number that occurs when one divides a line into two parts. Here’s where it gets interesting. The long part of the line divided by the short part is equal to the whole length divided by the long part. That special number is 1.618 or phi.

For some, in a meticulous and defined way, it is a proportion that will never fail to yield an incomparable beauty, be it in art, architecture, music or in nature. The proportion can be found in the Pyramids of Giza, certain pieces of music such as Erik Satie’s Sonneries de la Rose+Croix, Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” Michaeolangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” as well as the simple and magical shell of a snail. Some very specifically used the Divine Proportion in their work. For instance, Salvador Dali employed it when painting “The Sacrement of the Last Supper.” Not only was the canvas very close to a golden rectangle, the multi-panel window is a dodecahedron whose “surface area and volume are simple functions of the Golden Ratio.”

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,”

Albeit superlative in their excellence, can these works of art and other examples represent the full extent and broadest understanding of beauty? No one would question the immaculate beauty of a snail’s shell nor any of the other scenarios where the Golden Ratio has been admirably employed. Still, there is an element of beauty that still defies the mathemetical boundaries established by the Golden Ratio.

One of the various definitions of beauty is “a beautiful person, especially a woman.” That may seem straightforward. Although, this particular definition has led to interpretations that have ironically paved the way to discontent and sadness. What has happened is many of us have standardised our interpretation of what exactly is a “beautiful person, especially a woman.” Magazines, celebrities on film, advertisements and any number of multi-media sites flood our lives with images of the ideal woman and man. We are overwhelmed by an imposed interpretation of what is beauty. A man must be tall and strong. A woman must always appear young, be slim or possess an hourglass figure, with features such as a narrower facial shape, high cheekbones, longer eyelashes and fuller lips. How many match up to these specific ideals of beauty?

But there is hope. Other definitions of beauty provide a hint of how we can free ourselves from these rigid and society-driven definitions. The dictionary also defines beauty as a “combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind.” Those are the moments that punctuate our lives and they can be found in numerous situations. That sunrise we witness is captivating, a sign of beauty we feel deep in our hearts. It takes our breath away. There is the beauty which brings us to our feet as we watch a master musician magically bending melody and rhythm. At other times, we may watch a dance that magnificently blends heart-resounding beat with a soaring and swirling sashay. These events touch our hearts and are ones coming from within us, a part of our very spirits.

Likewise, when we think of those society-driven images of beauty thrust in our faces, we again must look within. We could be looking at an individual who defies all the standards of beauty as defined by society. Still, when we momentarily close our eyes and listen to their words, we hear a voice speaking words of kindness, joy, and compassion. And then, when we re-open our eyes, we are witness to a man or woman who, by their words, have been transformed into images of magnificent beauty. But in order to do so, we needed to delve within to find the true nature of beauty. It is there in our hearts. Make no mistake.



It would’ve been sixty years come February. Maisie was standing by the big kitchen window staring into the darkness that still loomed over the world, the edges of the hills and trees not quite visible just yet. She tugged her tattered old sweater a little closer over her shoulders, as she thought of a wedding anniversary that didn’t really matter anymore. She’d just lit the stove in the front room, but the warmth of the fire hadn’t yet penetrated the early morning coolness.

Her husband, Lucky came into her mind, a lot these days. A knot would always tighten around her chest with those thoughts. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago he was bustling around, getting the fire started, busy doing all sorts while she prepared the breakfast. A hint of a smile touched Maisie’s lips when she thought of his actual name, Lucas or Lukie. Since he was a child, it’d become Lucky on account of his extraordinary luck at getting out of scrapes. He just had an unmistakable charm that never seemed to fade. She stiffened now at the thought of how that luck just ran out a couple of months ago.

Maisie was usually up before dawn, but today has traditionally been a day that the family would come together to await the sunrise. Oh, every year, without question, Lucky loved to celebrate the winter solstice. It was just something that he had done since he was a child and the tradition had easily nestled into the heart of their own family.

Now, even though Maisie loved her grandchildren and family, more than life itself, she was still definitely not in the mood to watch the sun rise. Why bother. It’s just … Lucky had always spoken about letting in the light of the new season. But what light?

The various routines and rituals of her days offered her a few hand-holds that helped her get through life these days. But somehow her world had acquired one of those dull echoes, like when all the furniture and the pictures on the walls have been removed from a room. You can feel the difference. She remembered being angry when Lucky had died, been taken away from her. Seething almost. Now, no. Now, it was like after a party is over. Everyone’s gone and decorations are limply hanging on the walls. No sound.

She looked around, as she’d heard some bumps and creaks, others bustling and getting ready.

“Gran! You’re up!” Lukie, Maisie’s grandson, called out as he came bouncing into the room. Lukie had been named after her Lucky, gifted with the same extraordinary luck and charm. He always seemed to have a skip in his step, like a boisterous and bubbling stream plugged into the world itself.

“Where’s Ravvy? Is she up yet?” Maisie asked.

“Yeah, she’ll be ready. I heard Mom and Dad, too. I think they’re right behind me.” He was getting himself organised, pushing chairs into place, all business-like. “You’ve gotta sit by me and Ravvie, Gran. Remember that’s what Papa always said. I bet Papa will be watching, too. Won’t he gran?”

Lukie had that way of speaking, his words and ideas tumbling out non-stop, his mind no longer able to contain them as they flowed.

“Yes. I expect so, love,” the words almost sheering against her heart. She turned as Sam, Maisie’s son walked into the kitchen.

“We’re almost ready”he half spoke-half yawned, smiling at his mom as he gave her a hug. It had been a difficult time for her and Sam wasn’t sure how she was going to do this morning. He squeezed her shoulder before going to pour a cup of tea that his mom had made for them. Guinie his wife followed holding Ravvie’s hand who partially walked and danced alongside her mom.

“G’morning gran,” Ravvie sang out to Maisie, her arms opening wide, ready to give her gran a bear hug that always seemed to bely her four years of age.

“Good morning, Love” Maisie responded with a smile, her arms open, ready to receive Ravvie.

Everyone settled into the big chairs around the solid wooden table, Ravvie draped over Sam’s arm, with everyone holding one another’s hands. No one sat in Lucky’s chair, the sweater he always wore outside still hanging on its back, almost expecting its wearer to stride in at any moment.

Sam exchanged an anxious look with Guinie, rubbing his thumb over his mom’s hand. Lukie on Maisie’s other side merely looked up at his gran and smiled, his eyes sparkling as he squeezed her hand.

Gradually, the hills in the distance and the shapes of the trees began to emerge from the darkness as the light of the distant sun began to brighten the sky. A few clouds could be seen hanging in the sky, like an honour guard awaiting their monarch. The colours began to change, the golden centre surrounded with a velvety orangey crimson red.

And then at some point, the sun must have edged past a cloud and everyone took an intake of breath as a brilliant starburst of rays suddenly exploded into the sky, the individual shafts of light remaining in place, as if time itself had stopped. They all watched, mesmerised by a sky that was alive with colours, no one speaking just yet, afraid to break the spell of the sun.

Maisie’s mind was suddenly thrust back decades, before Sam was born, when she and Lucky had first moved back to his family’s farm house. A spark of a genuine smile edged into the darkness that had surrounded her these past months. At this moment, years ago, when they watched the sun rise at winter solstice, Lucky had sighed and smiled, “That’ll mark the coming of the light,” he said looking at Maisie. “It’s the end of the darkness, for sure. Oh it fills you with hope, doesn’t it?” he rubbed Maisie’s leg. They had been going through some very hard times, in those days.

“Well Dad would’ve loved that entry, wouldn’t he ma,” Sam remarked.

“And Papa was here!!” Lukie added excitedly “Right Ravie. He was!!” Ravie smiled and nodded her head vigorously, the two of them laughing, loving the thought of it.

“Yes” Maisie said, ruffled Lukie’s hair, smiling at Ravie. “It did feel like he was here, didn’t it – that he came?”

Sam smiled, his eyes moistened, a tear rolling down his cheek. “Oh Ma” he said, as he rubbed her shoulders. “He never left did he? He never went anywhere.” He leaned over and gave his mom a kiss and a hug.

“Yeah, it’s just at times like the solstice, we’re reminded of that, eh” Guinie added, smiling at both Maisie and Sam.

Like the dance of the planet and the sun at winter solstice, everything paused for a moment and no one moved from their seats. The sky continued its transformation as the ever brightening gleam of the sun continued to further lighten and shape the new morning.

After a moment, Sam got up, depositing Ravvie on the chair, squeezing his mom’s shoulder as he walked to the counter. “So, who wants some tea?” he called out as he began to fill the kettle.

For Maisie, well, she smiled as she felt that old charm filling the room. “Yes,” she thought, “her Lucky had never left, had he.” And with that, a new day of hope began.

With a Full Heart

With a Full Heart

For many of us, Christmastime is signified by the hallmark of holiday lights, Christmas trees, delicious smells of cloves and cinnamon, and the distant tinkling of bells. A rich time of the year, one that finds us typically visiting shops, large and small, to dizzyingly purchase a cavalcade of items we’ve excitedly chosen to gift our family members and friends.

Still, we close our eyes and smile thinking back to the time when our parents or grandparents lived. We sigh as we remember them telling of how they were delighted having received perhaps a simple rag doll made by some member of their family. And that was it. Sometimes they didn’t receive anything at all. But it didn’t seem to matter.

Then we squint our eyes and wonder. How is it we’ve arrived at a time where the norm for most on Christmas day is a sitting room strewn with torn wrapping paper surrounding a vast array of gadgets, toys, bottles, and clothes? Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’d want people to not bother giving things to their loved ones. But it seems all that stuff is ruling our lives – finding it, buying it, using it, and then forgetting it. Is it possible for us not to immediately look to the shops as the source of the heartfelt pleasure we hope to evoke?

For too long, we’ve been inundated with ads for countless items of every sort. Buy this and you’ll be able to make the perfect meal. Purchase something else and our hair will be forever ideally coiffed. What about this item? It’s sure to be the most comfortable pair of shoes you’ve ever had, we’re ever so earnestly told. And so on. We see the ads on television, in magazines and newspapers. Often, they’re things our friends and family have purchased throughout the year. We are told how we would be happy if we only had such and such an item. We are assailed with messages of how critical these bits and bobs happen to be. At the same time, we’re incessantly informed of how we’d be sporty, an adventurer of all time, sophisticated, articulate and so on, if we were to use a particular bit of stuff. Throughout our lives we are battered with these words.

All this is couched in the often blatantly consumerist society in which we work and play. Consumerism is defined as the idea that increasing the consumption of goods and services purchased in the market is always a desirable goal and that a person’s well-being and happiness depend fundamentally on obtaining consumer goods and material possessions. Sound familiar? We live in a world where a vast assortment of items are produced, one that is guided by a mantra of planned obsolescence and non-stop advertising. Ultimately, the idea is for us to be convinced our lives would never be the same if we didn’t have them.

It works. Check out any shop on Boxing Day in Canada, now Boxing Week. Black Friday, an entity that was once solely followed by our friends to the south, now exists worldwide. It’s been joined by Cyber Monday. Just to get a break from all that spending, it’s followed by “Giving Tuesday,” sort of a repentance for all that shameless bowing we’ve conceded to over the past two days.

I don’t know how we can pull ourselves out of the spell spun by many businesses to embrace consumerism. Although, I am put in mind of an old Christmas favourite, one that seemed to perfectly capture what seems to be the true moral of the story.

We always watch with glowing eyes as the Grinch masterfully puts into play his devious plan, ever witnessed by Max his loyal and obedient dog. Poor Max is clearly torn by his loyalty to his friend, the Grinch, and what he knows to be dastardly wrong.

The Grinch expertly steals all the toys, baubles, the “Checkerboards, bizilbigs, popcorn, and plums!” But while racing up Mount Crumpet to roar with devilish delight at how he’d ruined their Christmas, he looked down and what did he see!

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,

Was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!

Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling. ‘How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!

It came without packages, boxes, or bags!’

He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

Unquestionably so. The Who’s were still coming together, holding hands and singing with resounding enthusiasm at the coming of Christmas. It didn’t matter. The torn wires hanging limp, the trees empty of ornaments and all the gifts gone were meaningless. The Grinch watched with amazement and awe.

There’s something to heed in the Grinch’s story. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with finding gifts in shops. Every now and then, we’ll find just the right thing. Still, we must remember how there is no need to be beset with a high fever to purchase countless “fuzzles, tringlers and trappings.” Christmas will always come with none of these added extras, all the same. It is with our full hearts that we welcome this beautiful and majestic time. Merry Christmas!

A Time to be Grateful

A Time to be Grateful

Author Melody Beattie reminds us that … “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” It’s a simple thought of kindness and at this time of the year, such words and thoughts warm our hearts … unquestionably, they signify the spirit of the season!

Placentia Bay Health

Placentia Bay Health

Although the Placentia Health Centre is a relatively recent addition to the landscape of the Placentia area, it emerges from a long history of healthcare. Undoubtedly, it reflects an enduring heritage of health.

In Early Years

As early as 1698, there was apparently a hospital located in Placentia near a lime kiln used for the construction of forts and fortifications such as Fort Louis. As the years progressed, Placentia was ceded to the British from the French in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. It is possible that, at this time, the military continued to provide medical services. However, as more people settled in the Placentia area and on the Islands of Placentia Bay, health became a personal or community responsibility.

Thus, around Placentia Bay, care and maintenance of health was approached using a mixture of beliefs, home remedies and knowledge derived from past experience. This art and skill of healing was often equal to what the medical profession would offer years and decades later in hospitals. Certain people within the community would have been regularly called upon to provide medical assistance for injuries, birth, death and so on.

Nevertheless, more needed to be done. Hence, it was the Commission of Government who, having taken office from 1934 to 1949, recognised the need for a greater investment in healthcare. Charged with reviving the ailing economy of the Dominion of Newfoundland, one of the initiatives of the Commission of Government was intended to rectify health inequities across the island.

Era of the Cottage Hospitals

While one of the first cottage hospitals was situated in Argentia, because of the resettlement of the community in order to make space for the U.S. Military Base, the hospital was moved to Placentia. By 1949, thirteen of the eighteen hospitals were built. These included hospitals in Old Perlican, Markland, Burgeo, Harbour Breton, Come By Chance, Stephenville Crossing, Bonavista, Norris Point, Grand Bank, Placentia, Brookfield, Gander and Botwood.

Photograph of MV Lady Anderson (Source:

Under the Commission of Government, nursing stations were also dotted around Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with the cottage hospitals, hospital ships provided floating clinics. For instance, the M.V. Lady Anderson serviced close to 75 settlements along the southwest coast of Newfoundland. Afterwards, it plied the waters of Placentia Bay where it was also used to transport patients to and fro the Placentia Cottage Hospital. Since the early 1940s, the Placentia cottage hospital remained as a sentinel in the heritage of health for the Placentia area. However, change was on the horizon.

In Modern Times

In April of 1986, the Lions Manor Nursing Home opened its doors. Ten years afterwards, the heritage of health in the Placentia area continued to evolve when the Placentia Health Centre was built. And then, two years later in October of 1998, the bricks and mortar of the old Cottage Hospital were taken down. Nonetheless, its memory has remained safely housed in the touching stories of residents. These memories and stories are securely and uniquely braided around this vital part of the Placentia area landscape.

Without question, the heritage of health in the Placentia area is deep and interesting, one firmly etched into its identity. And from the 17thcentury to the present, the investment of health remains an integral part of the landscape.

Handwrite a Letter to a Friend

Handwrite a Letter to a Friend

In this day and age, people are sending and receiving hundreds of emails and text messages! But you can be sure, nothing could possibly beat a good old-fashioned handwritten letter! It is filled with warmth, love, and care. The person who receives the letter will no doubt be overwhelmed by the spirit embedded in your letter. There is something far deeper when we can touch the very words another took the time to write.

The Saga of the Japanese Knotweed

The Saga of the Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

“Fleeceflower” or “September Mist,” are names that will certainly evoke warmth and beauty or the gentle and charming, mild, shadowy days of September. However, given the sheer tenacity and unstoppable nature of this plant it is often known by other more descriptive names like Mile-a-Minute. Meet the Japanese Knotweed.

Having arrived in Canada in the nineteenth century, it has gradually made its appearance in every province except Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It’s likely only been in Newfoundland since some time in the twentieth century, probably the latter half of it. While at one time, this persistent plant was welcomed. Now, a century and a half later, as far as some are concerned, the knotweed is virtually taking over. The mood has dramatically changed. Now most just want to be rid of it. Still, some say, well, just hang on a minute.

Origins of the Knotweed

If you’re looking for its origins, you need to cast your eye to, as you might expect, the slopes of a volcano in Japan as well as in other countries in the southeast of our great planet. Beginning in the nineteenth century, individuals with an eye to the so-called exotic encountered these plants and thought they would make a beautiful addition to the gardens in their home countries of Britain and the United States. One Philipp Franz von Siebold, a European adventurer discovered this plant carpeting the exterior of a Japanese volcano and proceeded to transport it first to Leiden in the Netherlands. He then gave a good-hearted gift to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Britain. Soon, anyone who was anyone gathered the Japanese knotweed into their arms throughout Britain as a popular ornamental plant and the rest is history. Likewise, by the late nineteenth century, this plant completed its journey to North America.

Here to Stay

The problem is that the Japanese knotweed has done exceptionally well in the numerous countries where it has now made a home for itself. The purple to green stems of this plant are hollow with raised nodes, giving it the appearance of bamboo (to which it is actually not related). These stems die back each autumn and in the spring, they go on to re-grow to a maximum height of around 3-4 m (10-13 ft) in a single growing season. They apparently accomplish this at up to 8 cm per day. That’s not bad. If they are continually cut back, of course, this will impede their growth expectations. But left alone, they’ll reach 1 metre in three weeks. The leaves are generally quite broad (5-12 cm/2-4 ½ in) and long (7-14 cm/ 3-5 ½ in). By Autumn, delicate and small cream or white coloured flowers begin to appear.

Regardless of their beauty, many focus on the difficulties of being rid of the Japanese Knotweed. Apparently, they’re gifted with a root system that is intended to withstand the worst.

To make matters worse for the individual trying to eradicate them, they are equally gifted with a tolerance for a wide range of soil types, pH, as well as salinity. And just in case someone thought a good reduction in temperature would do the trick. Their rhizomes, sort of a creeping root stock, can survive temperatures of -35 °C (−31 °F) while extending 7 metres (23 ft) horizontally and 3 metres (10 ft) deep. The roots are strong, too, with asphalt and concrete posing no great obstacle for them. So, not only are they a hazard to a gardener guarding their plot, buildings and roadways also must beware. And while some may utter a poetic remark regarding their beauty or at the very least their obvious hardiness, others have one word for them—invasive.

Get the Invaders

In fact, they’re considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be one of the world’s 100 worst invading species. One can understand the frustration. It’s a plant we haven’t been able to control and that’s often a sticking point for humans. However, it depends on how one views the world. Despite all the variations in the qualities of climate, soil or water that covers our beautiful world, if we think of the planet as a whole, there can be no invasion. Much as humans did in our early years, moving out of Africa, at the time, there were no designated boundaries to brand us as an invasive species. If there had been, that’s what we would’ve been. So, from this perspective, Japanese Knotweed have merely moved on (with our help) and the goal is to find a way to live with that reality.

What About in Japan?

Some may say they’re obviously from Japan, what do they do? Well, in Japan, nature herself takes care of it, for where the knotweed resides keeps it in check. First of all, growing as they do on the scree of a volcano naturally impedes their growth. So, while they may be lush and rich in places such as Newfoundland and Labrador, they tend to be much smaller in their native land. Japan also presents a slightly more hostile environment and so the Japanese knotweed must contend with large herbs such as Bamboo, in addition to various natural pest, soil fungi and plant diseases. They’re kept in control.

In certain parts of Britain, efforts have been underway to adopt some of these natural checks. The insect known as Aphalara itadori is one of about 186 species of insects that feeds on the Japanese knotweed in Japan. In Britain as well as the United States, they have tested a range of insects known to control the knotweed in Japan. Unfortunately, the findings discovered the insects may well become a danger to their own native plants. So, thus far, everything but the A. itadori have been rejected. However, while many pinned their hopes on A. itadori, Scotland, for one. has passed a law stating now it is illegal to introduce a non-native species. Obviously, we’re going to have get a little more creative in our solution to the Japanese knotweed.

If you Can’t Beat it, Eat it”

Some in Newfoundland are adopting the approach of many in Pennsylvania and have ceded defeat in eradicating Japanese Knotweed. Instead, they have decided it is better to wield knife and fork to at least come to terms with the unstoppable plant. If they are to a part of our diets, the general rule is to treat knotweed much as one would when using rhubarb or asparagus. The younger shoots are the easiest to use as they can be harvested by easily snapping or cutting them off at ground level when they are a mere few inches in height. They tend to send up multiple shoots during the spring and early summer, so tjat makes things a little easier for the knotweed aficionado. One word of warning. They are fairly high in emodin, a known laxative, so take care. Plus, they contain oxalic acids and anyone with or predisposed to kidney stones should probably give them a wide berth. Otherwise, they are a healthy option for food, not to mention for their medicinal attributes.

Japanese knotweed contain resveratol which is also found in grape skins and wine and they’re noted for herbal actions such as being antibacterial, antiviral, anti-spirochetal, immunostimulant, anti-inflammatory, central nervous system relaxant, brain and spinal cord protectant, anti-carcinogenic, vasodilator, cardioprotective, antithrombotic, hemostatic and astringent (see Stephen Buhner’s book Healing Lyme: Natural Prevention and Treatment of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections, published in 2005. An updated version is now available.). According to Buhner, Japanese Knotweed is useful against Lyme Disease given its ability to strengthen the body’s immune function.

It is also hoped to be able to play a role as an angiogenesis stimulant, being able to form new blood vessels (angiogenesis). As a result, it can play a role in the healing of damaged blood vessels, for instance with burns, chronic inflammations such as rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, and brain disorders like strokes and other forms of heart disease.

Leaving aside its value as a foodstuff or for its medicinal properties, Japanese knotweed also functions well geographically. With its substantial root system, it works wonders at preventing erosion. When the knotweed has grown, people have also discovered they function as a useful hedgerow.

So, it seems the knotweed does have some uses if we employ a little creativity and understanding. We had little to do with how it got to Newfoundland, but it’s here now. Like the multitude of plants and animals, ourselves included, who have moved around endlessly on this planet, they really have every right to be here. There’s nothing to lose, so you might as well fasten on your bib and enjoy what the knotweed has to offer.