Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Sign of Times Gone By

The wooden bridge spanning the Magaguadavic River at Flume Ridge
If you were to ask me about my earliest memories of trips that I took as a young child with my dad, there are three that would stand out: The night that we went to Deer Island to pick up the Bruce & Jack (my dad's 3rd boat), The trip that he and I took to visit my aunt Josie and uncle Elmer in Rhode Island where I managed to get lost the first time I walked away from the house and discovered that all houses look the same in a subdivision when you are about eight years old; and last, but not least, my first trip over this bridge to Phil Duffly's hunting camp.

Phil was a teacher who worked with my dad in the 1970's at Rothesay Junior High School. I would be lying to say that I remember the exact date of the trip - though it had to be in the early 1970's as I was no more than six or seven years old. One evening in the early fall, after school, Dad and Phil packed Blaine, Phil's son and me, into Phil's old, I want to say white but the years leave that detail foggy at best, station wagon and began our trek from Rothesay to Flume Ridge on what was my first hunting trip. The same drive today would be a matter of no more than a few hours but in the 70's the drive was a bit more of a trek given the nature of rural New Brunswick highways at that time. Of course when you are seven or eight and excited and covering new territory time has a way of being distorted.

I clearly remember Blaine and I bouncing around the back seat of the car, as we drove down the paved sections of highway, excited to be on this great adventure with our fathers. Darkness fell and we made the turn onto gravel roads. Here the bouncing stopped and both of us in back focused on the road - made more mysterious and adventurous in the wake of cars passing the other way and throwing up dust that swirled across our path. There was also the chance encounter with wild life to be on the look out for as well. I recall jumping several times with excitement as a deer crossing the road was caught in the dusty yellow light of our headlights.

The last, and most seared memory of that trip was our arrival at the camp and the meal that we had just before turning in for the night. After unloading all of the gear and getting it stowed in the various dedicated nooks and crannies of the camp, Phil and Dad pulled out a loaf of bread and a container of molasses. Now for those of you that are not connoisseurs of molasses allow me to explain that there is no finer version of molasses than Crosby's Molasses, one of the oldest family owned businesses in New Brunswick. The bread was thick sliced and Blaine and I were set down to a plate with molasses poured in the middle and several large chunks of bread with sliced strong cheddar cheese on the side - a meal truly fit for adventurers of our stature.

The only other recollection that I have of that trip is that the following morning Phil killed a pheasant that we cleaned and cooked that evening; and that the rest of the trip was spent adventuring with Blaine in the woods and along the river next to the camp while our fathers spent their time working on odd projects that hunting camps of that ilk require in order to remain at all serviceable. It was almost twenty years later that I crossed that bridge on my first trip into my in-laws camp.

The Flume Ridge Bridge still welcomes our family adventures today
The bridge now figures prominently in our visits home as my children watch for it closely as we wind our way over the back roads into the camp - rather than taking the main route over pavement we often opt to take the back way into the area that sees a fair amount of gravel road travel and makes it seem that we are moving further from civilization - in reality the hamlet of Brockway is a ten minute trip by car if the need for basic supplies arises.

The photographs are two of a series of random shots that I took during a quad ride while visiting the in-law`s camp in the summer of 2009. The number of camps in the area has increased significantly, the nature of the area has changed as people have developed summer camps over the older hunting camps that previously dotted this portion of the river. While these aspects have changed over the years the old bridge that was part of my earliest father/son adventures remains as a welcoming reminder of that early trip on each of our family pilgrimages to "Nanny & Pup's Camp." On a melancholy note, I was saddened to learn that "Duff's Camp" washed away in the flooding of the Magaguadavic in the winter of 2010 - it washed down stream until it was hooked under the bridge which miraculously survived the flooding and will again greet us as we continue our family adventures to "The Flume."

Late Note: I have happily discovered that I was mistaken earlier in reporting that the camp had been washed away - several other camps were but Phil's was simply picked up and turned on its axis. I will have to see if I can get a picture of the old place to post when we make the trek into the in-laws camp next week.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Meal to Remember

"The Moment of Truth"
Meal time, that time of the day when one takes a break and sits down to break bread, or in this case mussels, with family and friends. So, what is so special about this meal you ask? Ok, you did not ask but it is my blog and to caption this with a title like "Son Eats....Again" would be anti climatic and leave little else to say given the nature of the image. When I go through old family photographs of major gatherings - read Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter - the majority of the photographs are taken around the dining room table with everyone either consuming the cook's offering or sitting around afterwards. What is it about eating that makes for such a plethora of photos? I am sure that there is a sociology or anthropology paper buried in this phenomenon somewhere.

So, back to the photo at hand - what makes this meal more memorable than others. First of all let me predicate this explanation with the fact that Malcolm has inherited traits from both his mother and me; his eating preferences are most definitely those of his mother. Introduction of new food is something that is usually laborious and time consuming and requires a fair amount of negotiation. Also, Malcolm, being a typical teen, has grazed his way through his teen years and spends more time looking for the next meal than pondering the last. This is one meal however where he both tried something new of his own free will and accord, liked it very much and refers to it often when the subject of trying new foods is brought up. While sitting at the cafe we hypothesized about what it would be like to live in a coastal town like Dieppe while watching several of the other students on the trip with us try, and subsequently spit out the offending mollusk; another aspect of the meal that Malcolm relives with some relish.

The photo is taken at a little cafe on the Dieppe waterfront just after we completed our tour of the Castle that overlooked the beach landing zone that the Canadian forces attacked on 19-Aug-1942 as part of operation Jubilee - an operation that from a Canadian standpoint can only be viewed as an unmitigated disaster.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Country Girl

Kathleen would readily have added this little fellow to the menagerie of animals at our house. 
I have two entirely different children, gender aside. My son Malcolm was born and raised to the age of six on the East coast - he was and is a "Bluenoser" at heart. To give you an example of how hardcore an easterner Malcolm was - he refused to forgive me for bringing "him" out "here" for the first four years that we lived in the province. Kathleen, on the other hand, was an infant when we first moved West and while she has an emotional link with the East in her affection for loved ones back home she is the Albertan in the household. Nothing drove this home more than one day when she was about four years old and she and I were on a drive when she announced in a very matter-of-fact way that she wanted to be a cowgirl/princess when she grew up.

When it comes to going to farms Malcolm and Kathleen are diametrically opposed as well. Malcolm cares little for the way that farms smell; and now that he is old enough to look after himself he usually opts out of any family trip to anything remotely associated with livestock or farming. Kathleen will, on the other hand, will be the first one in the vehicle.

This particular photo is taken at the farm of Don (seen in background) and Brenda Ebbett; who live 20 minutes outside of town. It was a beautiful Saturday in March and in the company of a fellow teacher, Mike Marzotko and his daughter, we ventured out to Sunset House to pay a visit to Don's goat farm. We timed our arrival to coincide with feeding time. Kathleen is seen here displaying her true farm girl tendencies as she hugs this little fellow who she had already named "Yutie".

Thursday, June 30, 2011

When You Know They Get It

"You know what bothers me the most dad?"
                                                                                             - Malcolm Gillmor

Often, when I tell people that I am a senior high humanities teacher, this strange look passes across their face and they shake their heads sympathetically and tell me that there is no way that they could do my job. This is usually followed by some sort of pronouncement about the defectiveness of youth: their narcissistic self-absorption, their lack of respect for their elders, their past, the efforts of others on their behalf, that they are fortunate to have what they have - I am sure that you are used to the litany of youthful offenses. The funny thing is that I am pretty sure that my generation was accused of the same things, as was the generation of our parents and so on clear back to the cavemen.

While I will admit that there is the odd day, as a teacher and father, when I do question what it is that I am accomplishing with my students and I occasionally think that they might be better off with someone else facilitating their education, someone who is better able to get through to them in a way that they will better understand. Then there are days like the one in this photograph; days that make my job the most fantastic job on the planet.

As a Social Studies teacher I spend a great deal of time leading my students through a myriad of human conflict and its results. I have tried for years to paint pictures using words, images located on the computer, poetry from various conflicts and the like. I get my students, in Grade 11, to conduct the Peace Day Ceremonies at the school for the entire Junior and Senior High student body. While there is acknowledgement at the time on the part of the students that they have absorbed something from the proceedings I am still uncertain; not of their ability to absorb the information that I cause them to research and manipulate into the final presentation but if I have facilitated a long-term internalization of the sacrifice, suffering, loss and ultimate waste that is inexorably linked to armed conflict.

This picture was taken at Canadian Cemetery #2 at Vimy Ridge - it was originally established by the Canadian Corps in April 1917. Most of the original occupants were from the 4th Division. Battlefield clearing in 1919 greatly increased the occupancy of this cemetery with the last Canadian burial taking place in 1947. There are 2,966 burials, of which 72% are unknown - 693 of those interned are Canadian with 226 unknown. This photo was taken just after my son, who I should point out was also one of my students that has put on the above noted Peace Day Celebration, made one of the most profound and reaffirming statements that I could wish for.

Members of our tour group were walking aimlessly through the cemetery placing poppys, that had been supplied by our local Legion branch, on headstones of Canadian and Commonwealth soldiers when Malcolm walked up to me and said, "Do you know what bothers me the most Dad?" I responded in the negative wondering what was aching, hot or hungry when he continued, "It is not the number of soldiers that are buried here but the number that are unknown ...... it just doesn't seem right."

Malcolm continued on his way as I stood there totally overcome with emotion. It was the most reassuring moment of my life as an educator and parent. I had always believed that my students, and children did understand - but here in that Cemetery at that very moment I knew beyond all doubt that this was the case. On those days when I am cast back to wondering if what I do as an educator or parent is of substance; if this generation is capable of appreciating the sacrifices of their elders, if they can relate to the larger world and events that have taken place I think back to events like this and I am certain that youth have it in them to understand, appreciate and empathize in a way that causes me great hope for the future.

No that is not Photo-Shopped!

Images can be deceiving - here my son, Malcolm, works to create a photo-shop effect without the use of image editing technology. 

As a teacher I am reminded constantly that trends change quickly in society - especially within the lives of our youth. What is cool today is gone tomorrow. Hairstyles for instance - wow - if you do not believe me go to any school and look at pictures of their graduating classes - it is a testimonial to the fact that what is cool today can quite often be gone tomorrow - and in the case of some of those hair dos and don'ts one might breathe a sigh of relief.

The trend that is being demonstrated here is the art of photo jumping. The photo is taken in the courtyard of the royal palace at Versailles - the hunting lodge that Louis the XVI turned into an 18th Century Euro Disney for his courtiers. The structure and grounds are impressive and the French government is to be commended for its efforts at maintaining the palace and grounds as a national treasure.

Back to photo jumping - this is the art of getting another party to take a picture of you and/or you and your friends jumping. For this to work everyone's feet need to be off of the ground at the same time. The effect is to create a photo that looks like you have been photo-shopped onto a pre-existing image. I took many of these shots for a variety of my students while on the '09 Canadian Battlefields tour of France, Belgium and Holland. My reason for selecting this shot with my son Malcolm is because of all of the "jump shots" that I took on the trip, or was shown by laughing students, I found that this was the one that most looked like a person was being photo-shopped onto an existing photo.