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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.

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Source: Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Every now and then, we’re faced with some misfortune. Sometimes it’s just a trite bother and largely forgettable. At other times it’s significant enough to shift the very understanding we have of our world. Nothing’s the same now.

Well, believe it or not, when we feel adrift and lost, one of the best things we can do is turn to gratitude. You may ask why on earth would we be giving thanks for some grand obstruction to our lives? It feels more counterintuitive and nonsensical than anything else. Aren’t we supposed to be wondering, angst-ridden and bereft, why is this happening to us? In answer, no. Now, it really is the time to be grateful. Let’s take a look.

Feeling Like the World Is Against Use

When we’re thrown to the ground by some unexpected misfortune, our primary focus is on what’s gone wrong. Our heads are swirling with the fact we may have just lost our job. Maybe the one and only love of our lives is now gone. For some of us, the good health we always thought we enjoyed is apparently now thing of the past and so on.

As we know, misery loves company. We’re already feeling bad and so, soon enough, we identify yet more reasons our life is not going well. Like a row of dominoes, our feelings of misfortune gathers steam. So, we’re livid with that person who cut us off and then stole the parking space that should be ours. We so desperately wanted to enjoy that meal, but half-way through, we started to suffer indigestion. Typical. Our spouse put the garbage out too late as we watch the truck rumble off without our garbage.

Needless, to say, these aren’t the real problems. Although, they further our dejection and frustration with life in general. How can we make it stop? Gratitude, you say?

Where Gratitude Comes In

How does that fit? It doesn’t even seem to make sense. Our minds are focussed on everything that’s gone wrong in our lives. But now, it’s an opportunity to forcefully alter our perspective and turn everything on its head. It’s a matter of searching through our life and finding everything that’s gone well—small or large.

Source: Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay.

Start simple. That perfect cup of tea we had yesterday morning was superb and steeped to perfection. The sun just came out briefly this afternoon as the clouds cleared, a beautiful blue sky in its wake. Three days ago, we successfully made the bread we’ve been dying to try. We knew it’d be tricky, but we did it. And we recall walking down the lane a few weeks ago, those pink and purple crocuses pushing through the snow were a sight to behold.

At other times, when someone did something entirely unintended, a light of goodness has shone upon us—a random act of kindness for which we’re now immensely grateful. Otherwise, it could’ve been the time that person tried to help us find the earring we’d lost. In the end, even though they failed in doing so, we’re grateful for them trying. We were still grateful for the intention. All of these feelings of gratitude illuminate something of crucial importance in our lives—connections. And, in my opinion, that’s what being grateful is all about.

What Is Gratitude?

What we’re doing when we show our gratitude is simply focus on all those myriad connections that inherently bind us to our world. In actual fact, by being grateful, we shed critical light on the vast array of intangible guy wires—connections—supporting us. While always present, they’re just out of sight most of the time.

Each of the actions for which we’re grateful, every one is an intangible guy wire giving us support. In their own way, those connections are always there, yielding its support and strength. They hold us up when we’re about to fall. It’s just that we don’t always realise or recognise the presence of those connections. It’s at that moment it dawns on us we’re not standing on our own. And in fact, we never have been.

Making Connections

Once we finally recognise the connections supporting us, it helps to bolster and enhance the links we have with the people in our lives. Again, feelings of gratitude which are a reflection of the connections in our lives are of benefit. They help us realise those relationships have always been there for us.

Being connected (Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay).

We’ve now been given reason to further strengthen them. So feelings of gratitude encourage us to seek our the family members and friends who’ve always supported us, the ones with whom we feel a true connection.

Feeling gratitude naturally motivates us for the same reason. It’s more a matter of celebrating the connections giving us strength. Now is the opportunity to take the actions we’ve always dreamed of doing.

Gratitude is about acknowledging the goodness in ourselves. And secondly, it’s about recognising there is goodness that comes from outside ourselves. Again, that’s simply because our essence—who we are—is reliant on the host of connections that link us to our world.

A Nod From Religions

Much of this is nothing new. Individuals who practice Judaism begin their days with Modeh Ani. This is a short Hebrew blessing giving thanks to God for life. Christians meanwhile give gratitude to their God by stating blessings.

We are interconnected (Source: Image by John Hain from Pixabay).

Finally, Buddhists recognise gratitude as a concept of origination. As far as they’re concerned, everything is interconnected. Awareness of our interdependence and interconnection is a reflection of gratitude for the web of life that sustains us. These are the intangible guy wires supporting us when we utter words or thoughts of gratitude.

Gratitude is Central

Gratitude must always play a central role in how we conduct our lives. It’s about being thankful for the vast plenitude of connections at the heart of everything we do. Gratitude is about who we are.

Many Faces of Poverty

Many Faces of Poverty

Although the finer nuances of food insecurity have changed, its grip is as tenacious now as it was centuries ago. And much of that tenacity is due to an age-old adversary—poverty. It’s a looming presence for far too many.

Very few can deny the increased cost of living. According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2023, an expected 5-7% rise in food prices in 2022, turned out to be a 10.3% rise. That’s substantial. It’s the general public who are being forced to contend with these changes.

Even in 2022, people were forced to pick and choose food purchases that were less costly. Other items were simply left off the list. Along with food, other necessary costs such as rent or mortgage, phone, internet and fuel also demand our attention. Simply put, there’s just not enough money to go around.

Yet, food is the one place where we can pinch a little harder. However, as the last resort, some have had to overlook their pride and, cap in hand, ask a food bank for assistance. Everyone needs to know there’s never been any shame in having to do so.

Food Banks Help Fight Food Insecurity

One of the major methods to address the immediate impact of food insecurity is through the use of food banks. In Newfoundland & Labrador, these can be found in larger centres such as St. John’s as well as smaller ones, including the Placentia Area Food Bank — Serving Branch to Ship Harbour.

Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are having to rely on the food banks. Often at the final minute, when there is no other hope, many are forced to request an emergency hamper. Some have found the need to rely on a food bank on a regular basis.

Again, there’s no shame in having to do so. In fact, many of the people calling for help are not unemployed. They may have families to support. Whether for those who are single, couples or a family, it’s simply a matter of their income not going far enough.

The Real Issue

However, as many know, food banks are merely the symptom of the true problem. The real issue is down to money. This lies at the heart of many of the dilemmas plaguing us, food insecurity being one of them.

Source: Nicola Barts .

When looking at the data, we find that in Canada as a whole, 63% of those regarded as food insecure receive social assistance. The story is likely the same in Newfoundland & Labrador. That means the majority of people finding it difficult to put food on the table are on social assistance. None of this is surprising.

Most on social assistance are there simply because what they earn in their jobs is inadequate to actually make a living. No doubt, in an effort to address the cost of living, the province increased the minimum wage on 1 April 2023 to $14.50. Then, on 1 October, 2023, it will rise to $15. While an increase to the minimum wage is welcomed, it still falls short of the $18.85 an hour which is considered the living wage.

Reaching this living wage is an immense obstacle for too many in Newfoundland & Labrador. Concerns regarding problems tied to poverty and the grip it has on much of the population need to be addressed.

Hidden Poverty

Something called the “poverty line” is a useful barometer for overall well being. Let’s take a basket filled with the goods and services needed to live a fruitful life—healthy food, appropriate shelter, clothing, transportation and so on. The cost of these items are linked to the average cost in the community where we live. This establishes the poverty line, one we are either above or below.

Although, poverty has a level of complexity. The problem is there’s something known as “hidden poverty.” This means you may actually be above that poverty line. However, one is thrust back given the additional costs for electric, child care, food and other basic necessities. So, poverty is the primary reason why people are held within the grips of food insecurity.

Along these same lines, in order to genuinely address the complexities comprising food insecurity, it’s necessary to also take into account the myriad costs, beyond our basic necessities, we encounter in life.

An Integrated Approach

Alongside food, we’re required to deal with a multiplicity of other costs such as health, housing, and so on. The lack of nutritious food is only one component of a much broader problem and this demands a more integrated approach.

And integration means it’s necessary to have people who can work to coordinate the various elements coming together to shape the vulnerabilities people experience.

So, when tackling food insecurity, at the same time, efforts must be made to ensure people are living in ideal housing. At the same time, it’s imperative their health is also being addressed.

These factors are all intimately connected. For instance, our food is closely linked with our health. Moreover, the quality of our housing is also equally bound to our health. When addressing food insecurity, it needs to be alongside other issues such as housing and health.

We’ve been down this road many times before. If we think of food as one arm, our finances may be the other. Health and housing are our two legs. We need to dedicate our attention to the well-being of the body, not just one of the arms or legs. Each are inherently connected to the other.

We need to dramatically change our perspective. If our intention is to improve people’s well-being, any money given must be used to address the whole.

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Homelessness is a condition we all agree is worth eradicating. Easier said than done, we may say. While in urban areas it’s signs are obvious to even those fervently disinterested. Although many do ignore its presence, it’s not easy to overlook that person sleeping on the bench along a busy thoroughfare. But homelessness leaves less of a trail in rural areas.

Plus, homelessness is a condition that easily disappears behind the more apparent ideals we hail regarding rural life—peace, comfort, an idyllic quality. In either case, homelessness is a social ill that can be rectified. Once it’s identified, there are methods to ensure its abolishment. Sometimes, people just need to know there’s someone there who can lend a hand.

Recognising Homelessness

For many, small towns are an unspoiled refuge, places seemingly far beyond the roar of the city. They’re places where those who choose to live there can enjoy many quiet moments of peace slipping by, little tread of the day remaining. Yet, it often disguises certain elements that fail to harmonise with that tranquility.

Homelessness, being one of these conditions, is therefore too often hidden from our view.

Harsh realities like crime and, in particular, issues such as homelessness are like splinters that can disrupt that serenity. And because they are “out of place” with the doctrines of rural life, they are less noticed.

Homelessness, for one, is certainly not a defining characteristic of small town life. Ask anyone in the myriad small towns that dot Placentia Bay, or small towns anywhere, for that matter, about the presence of homelessness and I can guess the response—“Huh?” they might say. “We don’t have homelessness here,” they would assert.

It is also a matter of homelessness not adhering to the visual keys with which urban homelessness has become synonymous—people on the streets or in missions. It’s hidden.

Homelessness simply doesn’t always accord with the idyllic reservoir of rurality. Thus, we may fail to see it. So, our goal is to find ways to shed light on these more malignant aspects of life. If left to metastasise, homelessness will go on to weaken the people who comprise the community.

What is Hidden Homelessness?

According to Statistics Canada, hidden homelessness sits within the rubric of those who are “provisionally accommodated.” According to the federal government, these individuals are using emergency shelter and other system supports because they have been unable to secure permanent housing, Hence, they remain functionally homeless.

People sometimes need to sleep in their cars. (Source: Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

These individuals may be staying with relatives or friends—couch surfing. Sometimes, we’d find them living in their cars or trucks. They are “hidden,” as they do not take advantage of homeless supports or other services and are not adequately housed.

Who Can Help

Identifying those in need of assistance is one of the most difficult tasks when addressing hidden homelessness. However, most people who are encountering problems regarding homelessness are likely going to avail of some form of social assistance.

The Placentia area, Cape Shore, Whitbourne service providers who offer resources for families would be one of the sources of assistance. Regardless of their needs, people would be reaching out to these types of organisations.

No doubt if people are challenged in their attempts to find affordable housing, there are likely other problems tied to food or employment. Thus, organisations offering services such as employment assistance and food banks play a central role.

Another key service provider would be ones tied to mental health and addictions. People who are homeless are more susceptible to mental health problems. These organisations are likely also going to be assisting people encountering problems finding housing. Finally, organisations focussed on housing will clearly be a central player in the issue of difficulties identifying permanent housing.

The Personal Touch

The various reasons homelessness has remained invisible are true. Yes, homelessness has countered the pastoral facade that encompasses many rural communities. And yes, homelessness is largely hidden from the general view in rural areas.

However, it becomes apparent that one of the primary rationales for the concealment of homelessness in rural areas is simply because there’s no one who can provide any assistance.

The organisations above certainly offer a more informed glimpse of rural homelessness. However, organisations such as those who deal with housing or homelessness are not the only ones needed. What’s needed is a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW), someone who can offer more of a personal touch. This is someone on the frontline whose sole goal is to assist people with their attempts to locate permanent housing

Housing Outreach Worker

Since November 2021, the Placentia area, Cape Shore and Whitbourne area has benefited from the efforts of a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW). Notices were placed in the various communities to make people aware of the services offered by the HOW. Gradually, people began to get in touch and avail of the HOW’s services.

As soon as the word had gotten around the HOW was in place, people appeared daily requesting assistance. So, it seems one of the primary things necessary is to ensure someone is able to offer guidance.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The HOW who currently works in the Placentia area, Cape Shore area and Whitbourne area is also there to offer assistance for the clients who’ve availed of the services. Sometimes, it’s just a quick chat on the telephone. A lot of times the programmes need to be deciphered. It’s essential as it conveys a genuine interest and concern in making certain their problems are being solved.

Turning the Tide on Homelessness

It may appear simplistic to state that all we need is to ensure someone is there to provide assistance. And not only just assistance, someone is required who can show compassion and be genuinely interested in solving homelessness. In the end, though, perhaps all people need to solve one of the most burdensome problems is time.

Time is needed to patiently identify the heart of the problem—what is necessary, who needs to be contacted and so on. Time is required to follow-up with the various services and organisations needed to get someone housed. Time is also necessary to speak with those being helped to assure them, very simply, they do indeed matter.

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Birdseye View of the Placentia Health Centre (Source: Lee Everts).

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 ongoing investment in healthcare.

Placentia stands as part of a strong healthcare network. Recent changes, however, are adding tension to the healthcare system. The goal will be to hold onto a system buoyed by a rich heritage of healthcare.

Early History

As early as 1698, health was already a concern for residents. At this time, there was apparently a hospital located in Placentia near a lime kiln used for the construction of forts and fortifications such as Fort Louis.1

A first edition of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, in Spanish (left), and a copy printed in 1714 in Latin and English (right). ( Source: Wikipedia).

As the years progressed and following the War of the Spanish Succession, Placentia was ceded to Britain from France in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Placentia became the military headquarters and 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, 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—births, deaths and so on.

Health in the Twentieth Century

Nevertheless, more needed to be done. Hence, it was the Commission of Government2 who, having taken office from 1934 to 1949, recognised the need for a greater investment in healthcare. Charged with reviving the ailing the economy of the Dominion of Newfoundland, one of the initiatives of the Commission of Government was intended to rectify health inequities across the island.

The Commission of Government borrowed a scheme used in Scotland—cottage hospitals. They were ideal as they could be used to service a population that was widely dispersed. One of the first cottage hospitals was situated in Argentia. However, when an agreement was made with the United States to permit their use of the land for a military base in Argentia, the community and everything else, including the hospital, needed to be moved and resettled.

Photograph of the Placentia Cottage Hospital (Source: Anonymous).

The hospital was then moved to Placentia. Hence, 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.

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 MV 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.

Entering the Modern Era

Since the early 1940s, the Placentia cottage hospital remained as a sentinel for the provision of health for the Placentia area. However, change was on the horizon. 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.

Then, two years later in October of 1998, the bricks and mortar of the old Cottage Hospital were taken down. Nonetheless, its memory as a place where residents could seek health care has remained safely housed in the touching stories of residents.

Current Health System

Despite its rich background, the current healthcare system for the Placentia Bay area, as a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, is beset with challenges. Top of the list are wait times for various surgeries. In a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at 60%, Canada topped the list along with Norway in terms of wait-times for medical care.

Photograph of William H. Newhook Health Centre (Source: Eastern Health).

Other challenges also stress the system. Nowadays, Emergency Rooms (ER) are closing in rural centres in Newfoundland and Labrador. It places a strain on the health system. The William H. Newhook Health Centre closed in Whitbourne, forcing residents to either go to Carbonear, St. John’s or Placentia. First and foremost, it’s an additional burden for these residents who are distraught at the loss of their Health Centre, as well as for the receiving ER.

Other rural areas across the country, Manitoba and British Columbia are reeling from the same closures. So, this is definitely not a problem restricted to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unquestionably, there is a lot of room for improvement for health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. The situation at William H. Newhook Health Care centre merely serves as a representation of what can happen in any of the communities, such as Placentia.Hilda Whelan, the mayor of Whitbourne says they’ve just been exceptionally lucky no deaths have resulted from the closure of the Health Care Centre.

Not so for others apparently. When the Canadian Institute for Health Information on “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes” for Newfoundland and Labrador, the province did not fare well. While Canada as a whole rated 65. Newfoundland and Labrador scored an 87, well below average performance.

On a Final Note

The health care in the Placentia area surroundings has been in existence officially since 1698. Undoubtedly, the heritage of health in the Placentia area is deep and interesting, one firmly etched into its identity. In the 17th century, the investment in health was a top priority. The goal is for it to remain an integral part of the landscape in the years to come.


Antle, Sarah 2022 “Patience running out in Whitbourne, as emergency room remains closed for 7th straight week” CBC NL

Canadian Institute For Health Information 2023 “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes details for Newfoundland and Labrador”

Kulkarni, Akshay 2022 “Emergency rooms in rural B.C. were closed for equivalent of around 4 months in 2022, data shows” CBC

Modjeski, Morgan 2022 “Emergency room closures in rural Manitoba a growing concern after patient dies being turned away” City News Everywhere

Savoury, George 1975 The Cottage Hospital System in Newfoundland (St. John’s : Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Simmonds, Matthew 20122 “The 2012 Field Season at Fort Louis, Jerseyside, Placentia” Provincial Archaeology Office, 2010 Archaeology Review, March 2011 Volume 9

Wilhelm. Henrike 2023 “Frustrated Whitbourne residents protest ongoing ER closure — and promise more rallies to come”


1. The source for this information is unknown. Although it is reasonable to assume that forts would contain hospitals to address the needs of their soldiers.

2. The Commission of Government was appointed by the British government which took control of Newfoundland in 1933. Economically, Newfoundland was in dire straits. The general feeling was that Newfoundland needed to take a rest from responsible government for the moment.

Ageing Into Nature

Ageing Into Nature

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

For some of us, the physical changes that accompany ageing are just a part of life met with a shrug of the shoulders. The tick-tock of the clock as the years slide by, a distant yet comforting beat of our lives. The growing laugh-lines or the salt and pepper, gradually growing more the former, are rarely noticed. They are simply one more of the expected changes that go along with life.

For some, however, this shift in time is like the grating of an oversized door opening to places they’d rather not go. Of course, some would cock their heads to the side wondering, what’s the problem? It’s only natural, isn’t it? Well, yes, it is. But maybe that’s it. It is only natural. Perhaps in the end, nature may just play a central role in the dilemma.

We have a troubled relationship with nature. Some insist we’re a part of it and some do not. Some assure us we control nature while others feel otherwise. Therefore, could it be the difficulties we encounter with growing older are tied in part to our distance from nature?

And so, is it possible that since some of us don’t feel tied to nature, we’re not about to follow its rules? Which is to say, many of us aren’t about to grow old “naturally.”

A Part of Nature or Maybe Not?

We definitely have a difficult relationship with nature. We live lives increasingly separated from nature. More and more of us reside in urban areas, distant from the groves, meadows and meandering streams and rivers with which nature graces the landscape.

It’s known that around 4.3 billion people across the world—that’s more than half of us—now reside in an urban area. More often than not, our lives are framed, day in and day out, by a world structured by steel and fiber-glass, buildings perched on even the smallest piece of land. So, the many facets and peculiarities of nature are certainly not a part of our day to day lives.

Potted plant on the ledge. Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Yet, many would insist they are indeed a part of nature. And yes, even for those living in the hearts of our largest cities, that potted plant perched on their kitchen ledge may be a signal of their union with nature.

Still, there are those who would insist they are not bound to nature. The question would never arise. And being so distant from nature, it’s finer nuances and subtleties elude them.

But those who feel disconnected from nature also consider it merely yet another facet of life, one needing to be controlled.

Controlling Nature

Some would point to the rise of Christianity in western society as the point where we diverged from nature. We then rigorously followed the words of the Old Testament. Thus, every Sunday, we were reminded how humans were made in God’s image, granting us dominion over all creatures, great and small.

We then took many things in hand. As a result, we’ve had a significant impact on the environment. One of the most pronounced effects on nature is our role in speeding habitat loss. Our actions often simply destroy a habitat.

When a new housing project is started, trees are removed wholesale. Most likely, countless animals previously lived in those trees or used it for obtaining their food. It doesn’t matter, as we’re in control and reign supreme. We also fragment a habitat. So, the area once used by a creature is no longer valuable in its entirety since a development was placed in the middle.

Another action indicative of our control is linked to our emission of air and water pollutants. Chemical pollutants bioaccumulate, increasing in concentration within the animal’s tissues and then they’re transported throughout the food web.

A goose exploring a bag or garbage. Image by G J Whitby from Pixabay

Plastics can be yet another form of pollutant. Floating in the currents through our watersheds, plastics are often ingested by wildlife, mistaken for food. Sadly, animals eventually die since their stomach is full of material it can neither digest nor break down. Otherwise, the plastic is caught on the animals appendages, thus incapacitating them and leading to their death.

Through these impacts, we play a controlling role in nature. It would seem we possess a relationship with nature that places us at the steering wheel.

Fear of Ageing

In this light, we can turn our attention towards ageing, a process governed largely by nature. Though we may try, ageing is something over which we ultimately have no control.

Initially, we can recognise some truly have a true fear of growing older. Known as gerascophobia, it can affect people of all ages. As an age-related anxiety order, it may involve changing behaviours to impede growth. It’s a serious condition.

People also develop a fear of ageing for some genuine concerns. Some fear the loss of their cognitive ability while others out and out fear death.

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

As people age, it’s not surprising the fear of death may strengthen. It may be simply because we have loved ones we’ll be leaving. Maybe there’s a loved one for whom the elder is still caring. So, a fear of death is understandable.

But overall, ageing is a component of nature, something many of us seek, with more or less success, to control.

Departure From Youth

All things being equal, as we naturally change with age up to, say, 30, we’re okay. But that’s usually when we begin to show signs of age. We are departing from the world of youth. This also has a significant role to play in our dance with age.

Our difficulty with our increased distance from youth is staunchly connected to our western society. It is a world that worships youth, with many, at all costs, desperate to hold onto the charms of youth.

Fountain of Youth, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) (Source: Wikipedia).

For millennia, we’ve been steadfast in our search for the fountain of youth. In past centuries, the search for youth has had its place in the manifesti of the most stalwart explorers. In modern times, the story is much the same.

Anti-ageing is a billion-dollar industry. We are presented with non-stop images of youth and vivacity as the pinnacle of life. Youth is the eternal goal, with its rich and voluminous brunette, black, red, and blonde hair, not a grey hair in sight. Don’t forget all those lithe and firm figures.

So, once we reach 29, with 30 looming, for many of us, we’re keen to apply the brakes. That’s when things get a little more tricky.

Tightening the Reigns on Age

This cavalcade of beliefs and ideals thrusting towards us with monumental power forces us to unthinkingly accept these truths regarding the virtues of youth. To be young and to remain so, is the fundamental goal. Given the strength of these pursuits, it’d seem we have but a faint hope of accepting the varied intricacies of nature—to just let it be.

So, like many components of nature we organise, arrange, and manage throughout our lives, many seek to do so with ageing. Like clockwork, once we’ve reached adulthood, ageing takes on a new meaning for some.

According to the wider society, every additional wrinkle or grey hair is met with a fount of lament. If at all possible, it’s quickly then extinguished. In North America, the anti-ageing industry was worth USD 17.44 billion dollars in 2022. And researchers pin it to be at USD 60,95 billion by the end of 2027. It’s astonishing, but it tells us just how many may not want to age “naturally” and let it happen.

Thinking back to our relationship with nature, is it possible that our response to ageing, a natural phenomena, is much the same as our approach to other aspects of nature—no worries, we can control it.

Is there a chance that because we won’t accept our place in nature, we’re resistant to growing old naturally. Nature is something we make an attempt to control and it’s done so to a great extent by virtue of the gargantuan anti-ageing industry.

However, though we try to wrest control of nature and bend the rules of age, we’re never able to do so. We continue to age.

Let It Be

Thus, despite our most strenuous efforts to control nature in this regard, we seem to ultimately fall short. Yes, we are constantly thwarted by our search for the fountain of youth and the boons it would achieve.

We spend an immense amount of time contesting with nature. From the dandelions with which we annually do battle, to those rivers incessantly overflowing to countless other situations. Likewise, we undertake personal battles with nature.

If we were able to push past the dense thicket of ideas foisted on us regarding the virtues of youth and accept the word of nature, what would happen? We would be ageing into nature and willingly accepting our role as a part of time.

We would accept the natural changes that accompany the progression of time. If we truly accepted our place in nature, there would be no need for cosmetic surgery to remove the wrinkles. Why? Because as we age, our skin naturally wrinkles. Similarly, there’d be no need to visit the hair salon in order for our grey hairs to be dyed blonde, brunette or red. Why? Again, because it’s the sort of thing that happens naturally.

Accepting Our Place in Nature

Personally, I’ve always found a quiet poetry and a certain kind of magic in the words “when I’m old and grey.” Although, if we continue to fight the marvels of nature, the anti-ageing industry at our lead, fewer and fewer of us will even be able to utter those words.

No question, ageing is accompanied by an increasing number of aches and pains. To be sure, it has its challenges. Yet, it has its benefits and maybe it’s time to place more attention on those rather than on our looks.

Enjoying a lovely walk with the dog. Image by Manfred Antranias Zimmer from Pixabay.

What also comes with those complaints against age is a degree of resoluteness and strength. Anyone who has made it to the age of eighty, when those complaints often arise, can safely know their experiences have equipped them with the ability to contend with whatever challenges they may face. Embodied in those words is a degree of time, knowledge and experience.

Fundamentally, these are the genuine gifts of nature.


iA customs document containing particulars of a ship, its cargo, and its destination

Sense of Place — Finding the Home in “Home”lessness

Sense of Place — Finding the Home in “Home”lessness

Eradicating homelessness is in our hands (Image by Mona Tootoonchinia from Pixabay).

Homelessness is a challenge for us regardless of where we live, whether in a bustling city or a peaceful village. Homelessness just looks different. In any case, it’s critical to find long-term shelter for those seized by the merciless grip of homelessness. Although, the idea is not only a lack of housing. In order to achieve a rewarding life, people must somehow develop a sense of place for the locations where they live. This paves the way towards transforming house into home.

But what exactly do we mean when we talk about sense of place. Generally speaking, a sense of place refers to the attitudes and feelings individuals and groups feel towards a place. In its simplest form, sense of place refers to a piece of space that has been made meaningful. That place may be where we work, recreate or indeed live—our home.

Yet, there are challenges. Homelessness is something readily visible in our cities. As soon as we extend our view into the rural areas, homelessness is far more difficult to identify.

Regardless, holding to the importance of sense of place, the idea is to not only re-house, but also re-place people as part housing services.


Homelessness in Canada is not something that’s a “here or there” phenomenon. It’s estimated that every year, more than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), homelessness is defined as “the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.”

A sad reality in our cities (Image by paulaquiyahora from Pixabay).

In cities, it’s easier to identify homelessness. Iconic images of men or women asleep on public benches or over grates are sad reminders of the harsh challenges of the lack of housing people have been forced to face. A form of homelessness often witnessed in rural areas, known as hidden homelessness, is a little easier to overlook.

Taking a Closer Look at Hidden Homelessness

Homelessness in rural parts of the country is readily disguised behind the cherished elements of many small towns. This type of homelessness is often referred to as hidden homelessness. In these circumstances, people may be in interim housing, temporary housing, say in a hostel or rooming house, living with others such as a friend or relative, or in institutional care, for instance in a health institution or group home. All of these qualify as a form of homelessness.

In 2014, around 2.3 million people said, at some point in their lives, they’ve suffered from hidden homelessness. For the majority, it was something they experienced for at least a month to a little less than a year. Just under 20% experienced it for a year or more.

There are some who are more likely to experience hidden homelessness. According to Statistics Canada, this might include those who’ve suffered from childhood maltreatment, if one has a disability, or those who have a poor sense of belonging to their community.

As an example, in places around Placentia Bay, hidden homelessness is the primary form of homelessness encountered. I’m a member of the Community Connections Housing Coalition in Placentia. We focus on challenges to housing experienced by people living in an area encompassing much of the southwest Avalon and Whitbourne. Our Housing Support Worker is always busy with several ongoing cases. As soon as one is completed, there are others waiting. And the situation here is mirrored, I’m sure, in other parts of the world.

The goal is to find houses for people facing housing challenges. We all know the most important stage is ensuring people have some sort of shelter. These are the nuts and bolts of the issue. Still, there’s more.

Equally important is to not only ensure they have a roof over their head, but they’re also on a path where they can develop a sense of place. The key is to not only be re-housed, but re-placed.

Place of My Own

Most of us know a house is not the same as a home. The former is defined by bricks and mortar, flooring, wiring, heating, water and such. But a home is imbued with a sense of place—tried, true and close to the heart. So, the idea is to develop a sense of place tied to our home.

Locations may not always evoke positive feelings. Certainly, a sense of place may work to exclude others. For instance, in a home or place of work, one person may regard some quality as a binding force, an element of their sense of place. Although, for another, they consider that element to be a force of opposition. However, my focus here is more on sentiments an individual or group feels will positively tie them to place.

So, we’re after understanding a home as possessing a sense of place. A sense of place is not something one can order from a store and then simply await its arrival. Fortunately, it would appear that some of the things we need to help create a sense of place are really quite sensible and straightforward.

Creating a Sense of Place

In order to forge a sense of place, one of the first characteristics for which we can search is a feeling of confidence. Many people who rent are always wary of their rental fees rising or in some cases, of eviction. It would be a comfort if individuals could be confident this would not occur. Given that comfort, they would be able to explore the deeper and finer refinements of their homes in order to develop a sense of place.

Another element contributing to our sense of place would be the ready access to nutritious and enjoyable food. Being forced to wonder where one is going to find something to eat is an all consuming concern. Such a challenge will provide an incessant drag on any positive feelings individuals may be developing regarding their homes.

Words of live by (Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash).

Another stepping stone towards a sense of place requires an individual be able to harness and cultivate a positive mental health and well-being. So often, we may be able to obtain shelter, ideal in every way. Yet, again a person can be brought down by a nagging poor sense of self, one ebbing on depression. All of these components work together, a vicious circle of despondency, perhaps driving people further into depression. Again, if we become all consumed by our poor mental health, there is little chance to explore meanings that can invigorate and bring to life to a sense of place.

A social network begins with a friend (Photo by Jay-Pee Peña ?? on Unsplash).

Part of what can provide a lifeline in these situations is a social network. Oftentimes, simply chatting about the challenges we are facing is sufficient to place them at bay. Sometimes, this is long enough for us to devise methods by which we can extricate ourselves from the tricky situation in which we’ve found ourselves. Again this alleviates the challenges we are facing. In so doing, it permits time to delve into the ideas and sentiments tying us to our homes.

Another basic necessity that would be seemingly miles from a sense of place would be making sure something like sanitation is in good order. Sanitation? Well, we all know how we’d feel if our toilet were not working or our shower or bathtub cannot be used. We’d be miserable. It’d be a challenge for anything useful to blossom regarding the values, meanings and beliefs infusing a place. Frankly, you and I both know, we likely wouldn’t care.

Peaceful contentment (Image by Pexels from Pixabay).

Finally, I think nature has a role to play in helping to bring to the fore sentiments that can ripen into a sense of place. And when I use the term nature, it can mean anything from a secluded view of the sea, our only companions the gulls wheeling in the sky to our favourite potted plant on the window ledge in the kitchen.

So, we’re seeking an enriching relationship with the living creatures—plant, animal, or fungus—with whom we share this planet. This can help to forge the favourable bonds we cultivate with our homes or even areas near our homes. In so doing, a sense of place enters its early stages of creation.

Home Matters

When we engender a sense of place tied to our house—the roof over our heads—it has established a meaning for us. We’ve noticed it and thus, we now care and are attentive to how it alters and changes over time. We care what happens to the future well-being of this place, our home. It is now incorporated into how we define ourselves.

A sense of place is not something that is ready made upon entry to a house. It is something that must develop with time. Although, as noted above, there are certain attributes that can aid in the creation of a sense of place.

Thus, working towards finding houses for those who are homeless is only one stage in establishing a home. At heart is the critical need to pave the way towards establishing a sense of place. This will work to permit people to find a degree of comfort and contentment in the places where they live, places that will become, in time, their home.


Ali, Nadia 2018 “Understanding Hidden Homelessness” Homeless Hub

Gaetz, S.; Barr, C.; Friesen, A.; Harris, B.; Hill, C.; Kovacs-Burns, K.; Pauly, B.; Pearce, B.; Turner, A.; Marsolais, A. (2012) Canadian Definition

of Homelessness. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

Habitat for Humanity 2018 “Hidden Homelessness across Canada”

Relph, Ted 2022 “Placeness, Place, Placelessness”

Rodrigue, Samantha 2016 “Hidden Homelessness in Canada” Statistics Canada

Landscapes of Hope

Landscapes of Hope

Sunset (Photograph source: Welcome to All ! from Pixabay.

Many of us can imagine a gratifying landscape. It might differ in terms of its details—perhaps a burbling stream in one, a meadow of wildflowers in another. For others, it may have mountains soaring to the sky and for still another, it could possibly even be a night-scape of one of the largest cities in the world. They all have a certain beauty to them.

Regardless, these landscapes of hope evoke feelings that urge us into a dream of what might be. We can look at the world around us and derive a feeling of goodness or hope, making it far more gratifying or pleasant.

And sure, some of the places we may live and work are a far cry from pleasant. Hopeful isn’t the first word we’d choose to describe many of these places. Perhaps we live in a house with leaky taps, a few holes in the walls and so on.

Hope is defined as a longing or desire for something, along with the belief in the possibility of its occurrence. When we find those landscapes of hope, they’re inspiring and uplifting. They are the stepping stones to change, providing a blueprint for a desired future.

Creating Landscapes of Hope

There’s a lot going on in the world right now that can bring us down. There’s no need to belabour the point, describing the various concerns that are dogging our heels. Futile wars or the increased cost of living are but two.

We’re surrounded by the broken debris of a world that seems at times to be falling apart, spiritually and in a practical sense, too. Even if our lives are well-manicured and precise, jagged edges remain to tear into our spirits.

A comforting tonic to ease our troubles is often readily in view if or hopefully when we happen to see it. They don’t even have to be monumental, just enough to kindle sentiments in our hearts of a place we’d want to be. And it’s in our own best interests to see the potential snapshots of beauty or magic in the landscape.

Countless times, if we’re lucky, we’ll spot the little pockets of wonder all around. The obvious ones are maybe a glorious sunrise or sunset. Others are not so obvious, but they’re there. Helping to colour and bring light to the future, such vignettes, however small, can be distinguishing features of a landscape of hope.

And old forgotten cabin. Source of Photo: Mariya Tereshkova on Unsplash

We’ve all experienced it. Sometimes we walk by an area that, on first sight, leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps it’s a bit ramshackle. Especially if it’s a spot with an old abandoned cabin, maybe, with its doors hanging on rusty old hinges. We may see it every day on our daily ramble through the woods.

Otherwise, it could be a rough and tumble part of the woods, the trees mostly blown down after the last wind-storm. We look with sadness at the trees, buckled and bowed now.

In both instances, we can only offer a sad appraisal of these vignettes. Neither would seem even a fragment of a landscape of hope. Although, give it time. Dependent on our frame of minds, slowly but surely, it can transform.

Northern Flicker (Source of photograph: Wikipedia).

In our minds, the wood logs of the cabin can renew, the sound of hammering distantly punctuating our thoughts. We think of how it likely was when it was first erected. The rickety hinges are renewed in our minds, the rust fading.

Along the trail near all those bowed trees, there’s a snag of a tree. And in one of its several holes, we can just imagine a Northern Flicker flying to and fro. The world in its natural circumstances interently provides the ingredients for a rebirth.

Both of these form the nucleus of a landscape of hope, lightening our hearts and helping turn our perspectives towards visions of what could be. They are two of any number of vignettes that could form landscapes of hope. Through the power of our imagination, we transformed these depictions into what they could be in the days ahead. So, by extension, landscapes of hope can be touchstones for a future. They can be the initial steps toward shaping our frame of mind as we create the changes we envision.

Changing Ourselves to Change the World

In 1913, Mahatma Ghandi spoke the following words:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

This is simply to say, we control what happens in our world. We’re the ones who can create the landscapes of hope. These can then go on to inspire us to create a world in which we wish to live. It’s in our hands.

Zoning Out “In the Zone”

Zoning Out “In the Zone”

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

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

A Bit of Deep Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

How About Some Meditation?

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

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

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

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

Being Present

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

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

A Creative Expression

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

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

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

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

Zoning Out On the Run

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

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

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

Worth Our Time

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

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

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


Cherry, Kendra 2022 “What is Meditation?”

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

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

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

No Need to Stay On The Wrong Side of the Bed

No Need to Stay On The Wrong Side of the Bed

Image by Public Co from Pixabay.

Of course, we all get up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes. As far as I can tell, my periodic irritability is not due to any difficulty I’ve had with any one or any thing—certainly nothing that’s obvious to me. I’m in my early fifties and so, it’s likely yet another time to expect an hormonal bonanza. So, who knows , maybe I can lay it at the door of “my time of life.”

Everything Going Wrong

But I sometimes do overthink things a little. As well, I’m fairly sure I allow the troubles from my past to edge a little too much into my present. And I’m certain my focus on the now slips every now and then, careering uncontrollably down with my already descending morale. It’ll always be a work in progress.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay.

At any rate, when I slowly roll out of the wrong side of my bed, I am weighted down with everything I feel is going wrong in my life. It’s a frame of mind, make no mistake. The cup is half empty, damn it. I’ll refuse to hear anything otherwise. That’s the nature of my mood, I’m afraid.

I go about robing myself in an array of perspectives coloured in shades of sorrow and melancholy. It’s important to emphasise, it is only a perspective. At any other time, the same idea or thought would be clothed in a far brighter and spirited manner. But not right now when the sky seems to be falling and nothing is going right in my life.

Is There a Way Out?

So, what to do? And I’m not alone in my dilemmas. Many of us are tripped up by periodic blues. Given the problem, how do we wrest ourselves from the doleful embrace? Sure, time is all that’s sometimes required. All we need to do is maybe have something to eat. I’m sure you’ve heard of this dilemma. Researchers have identified a tie between our blood sugar and our mood.

Sometimes we have little comments, ready and waiting, that merely compound the murkiness surrounding us. They’re the words potentially hurtling us towards a constant re-play of everything that’s gone wrong in our lives. We focus on how this always happens and how we’ll never be … fill in the blank. It never ends, until our fixated attention is somehow pried away from that mesmerising bottomless pit.

Following the Words of a Tunneler

For me, my sensibilities are shaken into place by a quote from a soldier. I’d been doing some research on the First World War and encountered this corner of history. When I looked a little more deeply, I realised it was much larger than I’d initially realised.

The soldier was a tunneler. I’d not be surprised if that doesn’t ring a bell, as they weren’t the most well known members of our past. Still, they hold an undeniably honourable place. Often it was miners who were enlisted to build the tunnels below the fighting that occurred on the surface—No Man’s Land. Three simple words that can’t quite capture the horrific reality of the place.

Tunneling is nothing new. Groups ranging from the Persians and Romans in 256 to the Vietcong in 1966 against the United States were adept at tunnel warfare.

The explosion of the mine under Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt, 1 July 1916 (Photo 1 by Ernest Brooks).

During the First World War, the idea was for their men to tunnel below the enemy and then place explosives in the mines. This was expertly done beneath Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt on the Western Front at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. It was this explosion that was supposed to have started the battle.1 At times enemy tunnelers would encounter one another below the surface and a skirmish would ensue.

The tunnelers had to keep a wary ear out for any mining that was taking place. Both sides of the war employed these tactics. As a result, those on the British side would employ various devices in order to hear. One such method involved forcing a stick into the ground and then holding the other end between their teeth. This permitted one to sense any vibrations resulting from the digging of the opposing side.

Understandably, the entire process was highly stressful. One would expect anyone involved to be of a dark humour. So, I was astonished when I read how the archaeologists had encountered the words scrawled on one of the tunnel’s walls. Given the circumstances, the words would seem out of place. Yet, amidst the maelstrom, William Carr was able to share astoundingly poignant and touching words. He wrote,

If in this place you are detained, don't look around you all in vain, but cast your net and you will find, that every cloud is silver lined. Still.”

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Bearing His Words in Mind

And it’s those words that always give me pause. While we may feel confined or imprisoned in whatever dilemma we’re experiencing, we’re not to worry. For within the darkness, there will always be a light shining through, William Carr assures us. So, hold fast, he says. His thoughts were clearly not on his own troubles. He only sought to ease the path for those who followed.

If this man was able to evoke such beauty and majesty while all hell was erupting overhead, then surely I can endure the tiny, by comparison, challenges with which I find myself contending. This is certainly not to imply that some of things with which we’re contending are of no concern.

What we’re facing may very well be on par with the challenges of William Carr—perhaps more. Still, his words are intended as a gentle push forward. Every now and then, we’re brought down by some one or some thing. At other times, as I’ve suggested, we have no idea why we’re feeling down. It just happens sometimes.

In any case, there may be a period when we’re feeling beleaguered and down. But hopefully, we can remember words such as those of William Carr. They remind us of our strength, courage, and fortitude. We recall how, with a little perseverance, we’ll discover a path out of the holes we, too often, have dug for ourselves. These words and phrases offer us leverage, the firm support we need to free our selves.

So, sure, maybe we’ve just gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. But there’s no need to stay there for long.


1Things didn’t seem to go according to plan, as the order for the explosion was given ten minutes before the infantry attack, thus providing the Germans with a heads up that attack was imminent.


BBC News 2014 “WW1 soldiers’ writing unearthed in Somme tunnels”

Herman, Arthur 2014 “Notes From the Underground: The Long History of Tunnel Warfare”

Mirror 2011 “Inside the lost First World War tunnels of the Somme”

Morin, Amy 2022 “ How to Stop Overthinking”

Science News 2018 “Link between hunger and mood explained”

Wikipedia 2022 “Tunnelling companies of the Royal Engineers”

Wikipedia 2022 “Tunnel warfare”