Total Pageviews

Friday, December 31, 2010

Running on Empty

There's a big old pine at the corner of my property, the only survivor of an ancient, original forest.  It is at least 200 years old.  The photo of it above shows only the top of this colossal landscape monument.  With only a few limbs remaining, it towers above all other trees to define the skyline at my end of the lake and can be seen from a great distance.  When I was about 10 years old, I remember a clear autumn day driving out here with Robie Tufts to collect birch bark (fire starter).  We stopped on the road to look at this tree.  Then in his eighties, even he could not remember it looking different from when he first saw it in the early 1900s and noted that despite its inviting branches, eagles that frequently perched on them, had never nested.  The giant bole of the trunk, covered with rough scaled bark shingles, each 3/4's of an inch thick, now weeps sap from pileated woodpecker workings, lightening scars, spikes and axe wounds inflicted long ago and at the base, massive limbs lost to storms lie rotting on the forest floor.  Yet it stands, alone, sculpted by the winds and the hands of time, doubtlessly to prevail long after my ashes mingle with its fallen limbs.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crash Into Me

After being snowed for 3 days, it was time to head for town to get supplies.  Water in Gaspereau, apples/pears at Bishop's, pressure wash out the snow packed in the wheels, smokes, live lobsters and more groceries in New Minas, then visit with my mother.  All along the way I took photos, some of which appear above.  I headed for home about 3:00 pm and was just making my way around the corner, about 5 km from my home when the vehicle began to slide, then slide sideways, gently touched the brakes, only to careen to the opposite side of the road at 35 degrees.  I was clearly headed for the ditch, but found myself looking for trees, boulders beyond it.  I was going about 40 km when I had come into the turn, but was picking up speed.  When I hit the snow wall on the road edge, it exploded over the front of the window - I then could see nothing.  Then in the twinkling of an eye - the vehicle flipped on it's roof.  Everything was suddenly silent and strangely calm, the vehicle was still running. 

Upside down, looking out at my dark little world, I remember thinking that I should turn the vehicle off.  I reached over my head, turned the key, tried to take the key out, but it wouldn't come out.  About this same time, I noticed I was quite wet, water was slowly filling the cab, covering groceries strewn everywhere around me, muddy lobsters showing signs of life, valuables like binoculars, cell phones, pocket knife, etc. etc. etc.  I immediately searched for and found my camera that looked muddy, but dry, functional and in good condition as the photo above attests.  Neither door would open from the inside.  The side door window on the driver's side that had exploded in fragments, blown out when the vehicle landed on its roof was my portal to light.  Once outside, standing there in the cold, covered in mud, soaked to the skin, I felt miraculously physically intact - but shaken.

Kind, kind neighbours came to my aid, scooped me up, warmed me, picked up the remains of groceries, took me home, called a towing truck waiting in my absence stayed there until it came.  All of them kept reassuring me.  The  vehicle can be replaced.  Good neighbours, friends and family can never be replaced.  For all of you, I am this night, very, especially thankful.  Thank you for your kindness, thank you for being there.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

All In a Dream - Winter On the Mountain

A significant accumulation of snow  had fallen over night.  The day began well with electricity intact, the tractor started, my neighbour kindly came up and gave me a hand getting the blower on.  Soon snow was flying everywhere off the driveway and the main road into the trees.  I plowed 2 hours, chilled, went home for lunch, warmed, then out on the road again.  The snow on the road was wet, weighed a ton and the tractor inched along chewing through it.  I was going down the hill by Porter's when it happened.  Crunch, doink, dong the gear box on the snow blower was gone, blown into pieces when the blower blades were stopped in their tracks by an iceberg of a big rock.  After several phone calls to the tractor dealer and a couple of hours later, the solution to fixing my "little problem" had gone from having to buy a complete new blower for around $2,500, to finally settling for a new gear box with installation for about $1,000.  Things were getting better, even if the weather wasn't cooperating.

Years ago, all of this would have consumed me for many reasons.  Now however, the old hermit man from the mountain, actually started to laugh after it had happened.  What are you going to do?  Part ordered, should be here by Thursday and installed before weekend.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Advocate - Light on My History.

Advocate Harbour is my father's home village.  To my father, all of Cumberland County was "God's Country" and throughout his life he kept going back, enriching his own family's life with the community of people he loved that lived between the forest and the sea.  The old homestead was in the village near Murphy's general store, across the street from the John Sheffield place.  Having sold the house and lands in the mid-1960s for about $1,000, he later bought the home built in 1888 by Captain and shipbuilder Joshua Dewis located above the Chignecto Park entrance in West Advocate.  

One of Joshua Dewis' grandsons was Rhodes Dewis.  Rhodes and wife Phyllis, lived a few houses down shore from us.  Rhodes was then in his eighties.  We quickly became good friends and before Phyllis and Rhodes sold their place to live in an assisted living facility in Parrsboro - before they parted, they gave me the wonderful gift of an oil lamp from the 1870s.  "It goes with the old house" Rhodes told me.  The lamp belonged to Rhodes' grandfather Joshua, builder of the famous ship, 'Mary Celeste.'   I treasure this lamp, that burns so brightly with the light of pure history and friendship on the wildest nights, when the power goes out - like it did last night....

Winter Forest Friends

So many forest friends have been looking in on me today, after last night's little storm.  These pictures show some of the regular cast of characters that always appear at my place looking for treats before and after inclement weather.  I only feed the wild critters after the temperature has dropped to around zero and they seem to know this.  My best friend 'Tip' the cat and I spend rich hours when I am here in daylight and at night watching the natural world around us.  As you can see - I am never alone, except in my thoughts....

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I am Nature!

In the absence of a sense of place and a basic knowledge of an area's history, the human experience is to believe that it was always the way it is now.  True seeing, true understanding cannot be actualized by passive observation of the moment, without reflecting on the history from which this moment has been derived and sourced in nature.  I believe that synchronicity of the 'human' experience can only be attained and dimensioned to greater proportion through an understanding of the inseparable bond between natural and human history.   In this place, one can say: "I am nature."  

With time, we become aware that just when a picture comes in sharp focus, and is most beautiful; as through a kaleidoscope, the wheel must turn, new colours are added and the picture is changed.  Not necessarily for the worse, or better; more often than not, just different from what it was before.  So too it is with the colourful seasons of change  - we have no choice in the matter.   The point here not to miss, is that original colours from the beginning are still there, still visible for those with eyes to see and a mind to ask.  Too often we miss the open window back in time in our seeing.  

I think about all of this stuff for some reason, every time I drive through Windsor....

Canadian Gothic

Title:  Maple Sugar Ready For Eating
Hand painted postcard photo taken by Reuben R. Sallows

Living in harmony with nature. 

Through my work, and throughout my life it has been my privilege to meet and know many of the province's  outstanding conservationists, naturalists and scientists, watchers, keepers of organisms with both greater and lesser station.  At the age of eight when I started out in the 1960s, it was difficult to get good resource books living in Wolfville, even on conspicuous beasts like birds.  Such books were certainly not of high information or visual quality, nor did they command the interest of the buying public like they do today.  But then - such was the state of what was known and accessible in the absence of digital technology. 

Most birders that I grew up with and certainly my best mentors, had like me necessarily, in the absence of good books, cut their teeth watching birds, listening to birds, shooting birds, stuffing birds, finding bird nests and spent a lot more time in the field than all but the most dedicated birders of today.  "Seeing" was different back then and accordingly the information valued was also not the same.  In the 1960's and 1970s, outstanding optical equipment to observe birds was not available like it is now.  Without the micro view through exceptional binoculars, birds had to become bigger fixtures of geographic reference, anchored more as living, vital players to their environment for the viewer, performers in a theatre of order, complex beasts, in a mosaic of habitats with functional points in plant communities, constituents with the same vital, specific, identifiable roles - as familiar perhaps, as the people immersed, anchored to the architecture of their town, the rich soils, forested mountains to the north and south, the Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy.  Living in harmony with the land and sea.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas With The Crows

Title:  "Chums" - old man and bird

Title:  A tame crow and a lovely girl
Photos By Reuben R. Sallows (Courtesy University of Guelph)

Nothing quite like the good company of forest friends on Christmas Eve and sharing a bit of grog!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Old Time Christmas Cards

Merry Christmas from the wild and winds of Black River Lake!  Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Time, Place and Condition

When I studied art history in a course I took at Acadia in the 1970s, a text book stated that art was a reflection of "man's time, place and condition."   I still ponder the wisdom of this statement today. 

Recreation and leisurely time were reserved for the wealthy until about 1900 and only after did the concept of the "holiday" became a marketable commodity to the middle classes.  At the beginning of the last century, cameras were still relatively rare and certainly not very portable, or affordable.  Local photographers however recorded the people, landscapes and points of architectural interest that purveyed a face of who they were, what they were, and where they were to the world outside - through selling postcards to residents and the new tourists for pennies apiece. 

Over the past decade, I have collected hundreds of cards, most of them bought on eBay from diverse locations such as Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Italy, Britain and the United States (among others) where cards originating in Nova Scotia were sent to family and friends between about 1900 and 1915.  If these photo images are in themselves invaluable, many of the messages on the back are equally insightful to the province's people and the times in which they lived.  Wars were being fought far away, and the widely separated rural towns, villages of the province and people were joined to the outside world only by horse and wagon, ships and trains that were the arteries for trade and commerce. People in rural areas depended on the bounty of natural resources from the land and sea, lived and died, often with only a postcard received well after an event had happened to commemorate another major life chapter in passing.  It is this rich, fragmented visual and written history that fascinates me today and the connection between our province's people, the land, water and sky and a value system that is now gone forever.

Iskus the Weasel

Most every winter I have lived in the woods, I share my woodshed with a weasel.  Beauty, terror and bloodshed are embodied in this mammal perfectly evolved to live in a challenging winter environment of snow and cold.  Equipped with disproportionately large feet (see first photo), weasels can move over and under snow with blinding speed and ease, literally swimming under and through it, popping up in the most unexpected places in their ceaseless pursuit of the small mammals such as voles (Red-backed Vole in second photo), chipmunks and squirrels, upon which they feed.  Similar to some bats, weasels have modified bifurcated structure of the external ears for improved capture and precise location of the slightest sound.  Hearing enhancements combined with outstanding vision and a connoisseur's nose for searching out living protein have made each encounter with a weasel an unforgettable event in my life. 

The Mi’kmaq word for weasel is "Iskus."  One of Glooscap's three lessons that he taught all creatures of the earth, was how to catch a weasel.  To read a short humorous account of this legend go to: For an interesting Mi’kmaq legend about how two weasel women, or "Skusi'skwaq" find and marry their 'star' husbands, check out: