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Spring — From Green Budding Leaves to Exploding Stars

Spring — From Green Budding Leaves to Exploding Stars

Photograph of the Milky Way

With the coming of spring, we feel the deep connections that innately bind us to the gentle and gradual changes our world magically undergoes. We witness the beauty of our many plants patiently waiting as spring nears. In silence, they remain poised with a buoyant energy ready and eager to be released. Come spring, their buds soon turn a vibrant and rich greens as they begin to flourish and grow. Likewise, the birds flock to our various feeders or peck at seed strewn on the ground. This they do, even while they pair up, readying to rear the next generation—endless hours of feeding, comforting and protecting. But amidst this discourse with nature, let’s take a moment to turn our heads skyward. And when we do, we note how, like here on our small planet, there are many things happening at springtime in the galaxy1and the universe beyond.

Throughout the year, armed with a telescope, we gaze heavenward and spy on countless stars—Pleiades, Cassiopea or Andromeda. However, during the spring in particular, we are privy to a true spectacle. At this time, when we peer beyond the Milky Way, our home galaxy, we can spy a vast cloud of galaxies known as the Realm of the Galaxies, a dramatic name that expresses the true grandeur of our universe.

The Realm of the Galaxies is also known by its more practical name, the Coma-Virgo galactic cluster. It is a name borne of the fact the Realm of Galaxies spans the borders of the constellations of Virgo and Coma Berenices. Just to orient ourselves, what is known as the Local Group is essentially the term used to describe where we live—our neighbourhood, so to speak.

We’re part of the Milky Way galaxy, but just around the corner, we’ll find the Magellanic Clouds and Andromeda galaxy. All are members of the Local Group, which is big, containing a little less than forty galaxies. Although this may appear immense, in the Realm of Galaxies, the Virgo Cluster alone boasts about 2,000 galaxies. The Virgo cluster of galaxies is around 60 or 70 million light years from the Milky Way (a light year is understood as the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year is approximately 9.46 trillion kilometers). While the Milky Way contains maybe around two billion stars, by comparison, the Virgo Cluster likely holds trillions of stars. It’s mind-boggling.

The Virgo Cluster is home to several startlingly beautiful groups of galaxies, two of which are a part of Markarian’s Chain. Near the middle of this chain are two other galaxies, known as Markarian’s Eyes. Still further away, around 320 million light years, is the centre of the Coma Cluster. While it is difficult to conceptualise, it is absolutely heaving with galaxies, perhaps as many as 10,000 or more. At its centre is a cloud of gas, heated by extremely high temperatures. The majority of the galaxies within the Coma cluster are ellipticals, with an abundance of dwarf and giant ellipticals (a dwarf galaxy is a small galaxy of about 1,000 to several billion stars while an elliptical galaxy is shaped like a stretched-out circle).

We look up and are in awe of the pageant of planets and stars before us. For many of us, the sheer size and the distances of these seemingly boundless galaxies defy our understanding. They are breathtaking. And strangely similar, when we look around at the various plants, trees, and animals that come to life during the spring, here on our home planet, they are equally extraordinary and captivating in their complexity.

Whether the tiniest bud of an alder surrounded by spruce and fir or a massive star going supernova somewhere in the Virgo cluster, they are a reflection of spring. Both occupy two extremes of the gallant spectrum in our universe, ultimately unified, together as one.

1. Any numerous large-scale aggregate of stars, gas, and dust such as the Milky Way.




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.

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.